Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Quilt, A Gravestone, and an Elusive Ancestor

As Christmas is almost here I thought it would be fun to feature one of each: a quilt, a gravestone, and an elusive ancestor. In 1979 I made a Christmas quilt inspired by a Christmas card that I received. For years, I've been placing greens on the graves of my parents, grandparents, and other relatives, and my featured elusive ancestor is my 3rd great grandmother, Clarissa Vermont Miller.

In 1979 I received a "quilty-looking" Christmas card and immediately went to work making a quilt based on its design. Appropriately, I named my quilt A Christmas Card. Many of the fabrics I purchased at a local fabric outlet, especially the Ely and Walker prints that I used for the fruits, birds, and leaves. When it came time to put the first green and white border on, I miscalculated the measurement. So after sewing it all together I had to then take it all apart and re-cut some of the triangles or widen the seam allowance where necessary. I quilted around the motifs and in diagonal rows in all the blocks, 1/4" inside the seams of the triangles, scallops in the red borders, and hearts in the solid white borders. The quilt is shown here in 1980 at the American Field Service Quilt Show in Allendale, NJ, where it won Best in Show. The same year it won 1st place at the Quilt Show in West Orange, NJ. I consider this quilt "my applique masterpiece." At Christmas time I put it on the bed or drape it over the settle bench in the hallway.

For years, my aunt Midge and I would make our annual trip to the cemetery where our relatives are buried and place bouquets of greenery in front of all the graves. We'd also put a grave blanket in between her husband's grave and my parents' as they are buried next to each other. Now that my aunt is no longer with us, I am the one to continue this tradition. It's a feel-good thing to do during the holiday season.


My elusive ancestor is my 3rd great-grandmother, Clarissa Vermont/Vermount Miller. My great-aunt Leila once told me Clarissa was "lost at sea going back to France" to visit family. Interestingly, census records indicate Clara was born c. 1809 in NY, not France. She married Abraham Miller of West Farms, Westchester, NY, about 1827 and they had the following children: Edward, James, Clarissa, Abraham, Aaron, Ellen, Charlotte, Amelia, Caroline, Maria (my gr-gr-grandmother), and Mary Elizabeth. Abraham died between 1870 and 1880 as Clara, 72, was enumerated in 1880 living with her son Aaron in Brooklyn, NY. If she made this doomed voyage to France my guess is it had to have been after June 9, 1880, the date she was enumerated. I hope someday to find out what really happened to her but, in the meantime, she will remain one of my elusive ancestors.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Morgan's Farm and Museum

The last house I visited on the Essex County Historic House tour was Morgan's Farm and Museum in Cedar Grove, NJ. In 1985 it was the last operating farm in Cedar Grove and is listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places because of its agricultural history. The 14-acre site consists of open fields, a garden, a well-house, barns, ski-tow shed, Canfield Cemetery, and the Canfield-Morgan House which was built c. 1845.

The Morgans sold their vegetables and fruits from their front porch.

A typical traditional farmhouse with French windows in the front parlor.

A bedroom on the second floor with a small silk quilt.

A small desk with a lovely scrapbook in the corner of the bedroom.

Patterns, thread, laces, and a mesh bag are displayed on a small table in the same bedroom. 

Also in the bedroom is this early sewing machine on a table in front of the window.

Vintage hats and books at the top of the staircase. Other rooms on the second floor are used for exhibits and office space. 

Thanks for coming on this tour of Essex County NJ's historic houses with me. Hope you enjoyed it! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Force Homestead & Museum

The Force Homestead & Museum in Livingston, NJ, was also part of Essex County's Historic House Tour last weekend. Built in 1745, it is named for the Force family who lived in the house in the early 1800s. There is a fireplace in every room and an exhibit of wedding gowns on the second floor that are on loan from the Edison Foundation.

In 1777 Samuel Force purchased the house for his son, Thomas, who operated a sawmill across the street. 

This room has a lovely calimanco bedcover.  

 Unfortunately, I missed the story about the spread on this bed--I was chatting with a longtime friend :)

Here is a close-up of the little dress you see in the corner of the bedroom in the previous picture. 

The museum room houses this display of wedding gowns dating from abt. 1790 to 1944.

Livingston's Bicentennial quilt hangs in the stairwell of the Force Home between the first and second floor. It is currently covered with a layer of vinyl to protect it from sunlight. 

This is the block of the Force Home that I made for the quilt. It's in the lower right corner. You can see the vinyl in this picture.

I'll be posting photos of the Canfield-Morgan House & Museum in Cedar Grove, NJ, soon!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Grover Cleveland Birthplace

One of the houses on the Essex County NJ's Historic House Tour this weekend was the birthplace of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd & 24th President of the United States. Four rooms on the first floor were open to the public: kitchen, rear parlor, birthroom, and exhibit gallery.

When the house was built in 1832 it served as the Parsonage for the First Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, NJ. Grover Cleveland's father, Reverend Richard Falley Cleveland, was the minister of this church from 1834-1841.  The house is a designated State Historic Site and is the leading repository of Cleveland artifacts and political memorabilia. It has been maintained as a museum since 1913.

Grover Cleveland was delivered by a local midwife in this room on March 18, 1837.  

The quaint kitchen with its original wood floors was used for cooking, weekly baths, and children's parties. The cast iron pot by the fireplace had been used by Grover Cleveland's mother, Ann.

This 1850 sampler was made by Grover Cleveland's cousin, Anna P. Cleveland when she was 7 years old. It is displayed in the Rear Parlor.

Glass cases in the Exhibit Gallery contain Cleveland memorabilia from 1884 when he was elected President.

Memorabilia from his re-election in 1892.

An avid fisherman, Grover Cleveland often traveled to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. In 1886 the President passed through the small town of Ausable Forks, NY, stopping at The Graves Mansion on his way to Paul Smith's, one of the great 19th century Adirondack hotels.       

Grover Cleveland is buried in Princeton, NJ. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Colonial Christmas at The Jacobus Vanderveer House

Today a couple of friends and I went to A Colonial Christmas at The Jacobus Vanderveer House in Bedminster, NJ. This lovely Dutch house was built c. 1772 and c. 1813. During the Revolutionary War it was used by General Henry Knox who established a military encampment and training center on a nearby hillside.

This is the front of the house with its original windows.

Visitors were greeted by candle luminaries that were suspended from the tree in the driveway.

The main bedroom featured blue and white bedhangings with a fringed canopy. A pinecone garland decorated the mantel.

All the holiday decor was inspired by nature using materials found on the property and in nearby orchards. The mantel in the dining room was covered with dried leaves--and dates. 

Here is a date tree centerpiece on the table. 

I was in awe of the apple garlands decorating the staircase. The apples were strung with jute.

I can't imagine how heavy these garlands were to work with but they sure are beautiful.

The Federal Room fireplace was decorated with garlands of dried fruits.

Here's a close-up. There were raisins, cranberries, chestnuts, apricots and--you guessed it--more dates.

Driving home on one of New Jersey's country roads, we found these Osage Oranges and Bittersweet. We gathered a bunch and when I got home I promptly put them in a wooden bowl for a holiday decoration in our  house which was built in 1730.