Monday, May 14, 2012

Sarah Furman Warner Williams

Phebe Warner Coverlet
By Sarah Furman Warner Williams
About 1803, 103 1/4 x 90 1/2"
For Phebe Warner Cotheal
Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Of the few early pictorial appliques with human figures, four American pieces are attributed to Sarah Furman Warner Williams (1771-1848). The Metropolitan owns the bedcover above, which for many years was attributed to Phebe Warner's mother, but in her 1990 catalog curator Amelia Peck reassigned it to Phebe's cousin Sarah. The quilt was donated in 1938 by Catharine E. Cotheal, Phebe's granddaughter.

Flight Into Egypt panel attributed to Sarah Warner Williams
About 1810-1830
Collection: Winterthur Museum

Notice the similarity in the scenes at the base of the trees with  flock of sheep.

is embroidered
 on the Phebe Warner coverlet

Nativity panel attributed to Sarah Warner Williams
About 1805
Collection: Winterthur Museum

The bedcover made for Phebe Warner has inspired quilters.

Copy by an unknown maker about 1930
in the Bresler Collection, Mint Museum

Phoebe by Suzy Miller
View details here:

Phebe's Quilt
By Di Ford

See an interpretation of this quilt by Georgann Wrinkle here:
And one by Deb K here:

The Henry Ford Museum at Greenfield Museum was given this bedcover with notes that it was made for Susannah Nexsen Warner Nichols by her Aunt Sarah Williams, about 1816.

This masterpiece burned in a museum fire in 1970.

Copy of the destroyed Warner quilt by Janet Locey

Janet worked from photos of the Susannah Warner quilt in Carleton L. Safford and Robert Bishop's 1972 book America's Quilts and Coverlets.

Details of Janet's copy of the Warner quilt

She fused the applique rather than turning under the edges. She made it for an American Quilt Study Group Study of bedcovers made before 1840 so was restricted in size.

There are other quilts attributed to the Warner family.

Quilt attributed to Ann Maria Warner dated 1822
in the collection of the New York Historical Society

In one corner is cross-stitched "AMW / 1822"
Gift of Mrs. Bayard Verplanck
Read more about this quilt here:

There is a lot more work to be done to connect these New York quilts and coverlets. Mrs. Bayard Verplanck donated many items to the New York Historical Society and other museums. She was a great-granddaughter of Phebe Warner Cotheal for whom the quilt at the top of the page was made. See some leads at the bottom of the page.
Portrait of Sarah Warner as a girl in 1781
 by William J. Williams

Attributing all these bedcovers to Sarah Warner Williams is tempting but maybe it's too much like attributing all the Baltimore Album Quilts to Mary Evans. Could one woman have done that much work?

We can find quite a bit about Sarah Warner Williams online. Her mother was Magdelen Walgrove (c. 1745-1814) a New Yorker who married twice, first to Samuel Godwin who died in 1768; then to George Warner in 1771.  Sarah was born that year. The family lived on a farm in New York City's Bowery according to the New York Historical Society, which owns an 1806 portrait of Magdalen.
The Bowery was still very rural in 1831

Sarah's mother was a daughter of George Walgrove "said to be descended from a younger branch of the Earl of Waldegrave family...." Their great-grandson George Warner Nichols wrote a short biography of Sarah's father, George Warner, an Englishman who migrated about 1765 with his brother Richard.

"They both soon became active business men, were sailmakers by trade, and kept a large and profitable establishment; first in John street near William, which afterward became the first meeting place of the Methodists; and afterwards at No. 86 Wall street. George soon refused to make sails for the British. He was too much of a patriot for that. During the early part of the Revolution he was captain of a military company, and while in New Jersey, was taken prisoner by the British and confined several years in New York before he was liberated. He and his brother married sisters...."

Vauxhall Garden in 1803

These New York images are from the New York Public Library


With her second husband Magdelen had three children: George James, Effingham H. and Sarah F. They lived at the corner of Fourth Street and the Bowery, a farm "considered to be quite out of town, some two or three miles beyond the city limits. The capacious and beautiful grounds belonging to it extended back from the Bowery to beyond Lafayette Place, and from Fourth street nearly to Vauxhall Garden. Some few now living will remember its beautiful garden, covered with splendid tulips, hyacinths and roses, and its orchard with all kinds of choice fruits and shrubbery."

George Warner represented the city of New York in the State Legislature for many terms. Sarah's brother George J. Warner, married Susan Nexsen (see the Henry Ford Museum quilt above, probably made for their daughter).

Sarah was married in the church on Wall Street

Sarah married in the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan in December, 1788. The Daily Gazette announced: "Married on Tuesday Evening last... Mr Azarias Williams, merchant, to the amiable Miss Sally Warner, daughter of Mr. George Warner, both of this city."
Azarias Williams was born in England in 1765 and had been living in New York for about two years when he married Sarah. In 1796 they moved to Concord in Essex County, upstate Vermont. Azarias  was a merchant in Vermont, postmaster, a judge and he built "a splendid mansion on his farm," according to the town history. "He lived in a style far above any other family in town, and, with his truly amiable wife, dispensed hospitality with a profuse and lavish liber­ality to all."
Sarah and Azarias had three boys born in Vermont, William Bugley born in 1790, Jacob,1805, and Azariah, 1808.
 "His mansion, together with much valuable furniture and household goods, was burned in 1825; after which, Mrs. Wil­liams resided in New York, in the former home of her parents, which was left her by her father, who died the same year."

Her grand nephew described the  New York Warner house as "the home of friendship, piety and kindly hospitality. After his death his daughter, Mrs. Sarah F. Williams, occupied it as her home for many years, and here resorted some of New York's best society and Mr. Warner's descendants and their families."

  Sarah and Azarias seem to have lived apart after 1825. "Mrs. Williams died in the city of New York, in 1848, and Mr. Williams in Concord in 1849, being in his 84th year." Azarias is buried in Vermont, Sarah in Manhattan.

Azarias Williams's grave in Vermont
Azarias was an early donor to the University of Vermont, giving a good deal of land in 1839. He is still honored with a Williams Professorship of mathematics at the school.

Sarah's grave is highlighted in yellow on the left in this map of St. Paul's Churchyard on Fulton Street in Manhattan. Her father and her brother were also buried at St. Paul's Chapel, the oldest occupied building in the city.
George and Effingham Warner's memorials
are now in the wall under the organ.

Saint Paul's looks much the same today
as it did in this mid 19th-century drawing,
 when it was a social center in the city. 
It may very well be the church in
Susannah Nexsen Warner's quilt made by her Aunt.
Rather than being a rural village,
 the scene might be New York City.

Well I could go on---but I wanted to bring up some other Warner family needlework in the New York Historical Society collection: a whitework, candlewick piece initialed "PC 1812" in the corner
With 2 shams

The donor of these whitework pieces is the same woman who donated the Ann Maria Warner quilt, probably Susan Van Wyck Andrews Verplanck, born about 1875 in Windham, Connecticut.

Some Genealogy on Susan:
She was a daughter of Laura Hoppock Cotheal Andrews (born about 1852) whose father was Henry Luigdon Cotheal, an uncle of Catherine Cotheal who donated the Phebe Warner quilt.
Catherine, whose father was Isaac E. Cotheal, had two sisters Elizabeth M and Anne R. according to the 1880 census in Fishkill in Dutchess County. Living with the girls and their father was Uncle Henry Luigdon born in 1812 to Phebe Warner Cotheal and Henry Cotheal.

That's probably enough......

See the pattern for Di Ford's Phebe quilt here:

More on Sarah's genealogy and family history:
Concord by J.E. Woodbury 

George Warner Nichols,  Miscellanies religious and personal and sermons, 1893
George is Susannah Nexen Warner Nichols's grandson.


Becky in VA said...

Fabulous post, with such quilts, history and so many links!

WoolenSails said...

Wonderful quilts and such detailed appliqué.
I will have to get the copy from our library, just checked and they have it. I love old quilts and the appliqués are fun to redo into smaller pieces.


gaye ingram said...

BB, this series surpasses even the highest expectations. And this post is among the best for educating me. Thanks again for putting quilts into history!

Rosemary Youngs said...

It was wonderful to find out so much more information on a quilt that I am working on. Thank you so much

suzanne said...

I'd swear I've seen another version of the 1930's Nile green Phoebe Warner quilt on exhibit some years ago at the American Folk Art Museum. I just checked and its not in their book Quilts: Masterworks from the AFAM. Maybe they thought it wasn't quite a masterwork. Interesting tho that there are two of them. Either the same quiltmaker (or a friend) made two or there was some kind of kit. Love the Phebe Warner quilt, don't love the Nile green, but nice try.

Pamela K. said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading each blog post. Quilt history is so rich and I find myself drawn to anything historical that I find,. Your reference to the Safford and Bishop book sent me to my book collection. I picked up a copy at an antique shop in Florida a few years ago and read it cover to cover. I'll have to go through it again, after reading this blog post.

Whitney Meer said...

Hi! I just came across this in my research for a course at NYU- I'd love to speak to you and learn more about how you learned so much about Sarah Furman Warner Williams!