Who Made This Quilt?

Have you ever wondered who made that quilt or who once owned that unusual fountain pen?  Are you curious about who pored over that set of books, wore the broach, treasured the beautiful photograph, or handed down that school autograph book?  Me too.   Even if you have a good idea of the provenance of an artifact, you’ll be surprised at the backstories that may unfold through diligent research, dogged examination, and just plain old good luck.

As an avid quilter and professional genealogist, I was struck by a photo in the Quilters Newsletter October/November 2012 issue that featured Civil War quilts (Experiencing the Civil War through Quilts, by Lori Baker, Vol 43, No. 5. P 52). 

The article associated with this particular photo details a traveling exhibit in 2012 at the American Textile History Museum (ATHM) in Lowell, Massachusetts of various quilts made during the Civil War era.  On page 54 of that issue is a quilt entitled Brother vs. Brother, a log cabin quilt, circa 1865 by Sarah Unknown of Anna County, Illinois. The photo is attributed to the Illinois State Museum where the quilt is held in permanent collection.    I have reason to believe that the Sarah in question is Sarah Reed, wife of Thomas Austin Reed.  The brothers in question were likely sons William P. Reed and Thomas A. Reed.

The only Sarah living in Anna, Union County, Illinois in 1860 who had 2 sons old enough to fight in the Civil War was Sarah Reed (U. S. Federal Census, Union County,  Anna, Illinois, 1860; head of family is Austin Reed, probably Thomas Austin Reed, 1850 census).  Following that lead, I found that the Reed family had migrated to Illinois from Tennessee between 1854 and 1856.  This is based on the same census data that indicates that daughter Sarah Reed, age 6 in 1860 was born in Tennessee about 1854 and the last daughter, four-year-old Zeilla Reed, was born in Illinois about 1856.

It appears then that this Reed family migrated from Anderson County, Tennessee between 1854 and 1856 to Union County, Illinois.   (U. S. Federal Census 1850 Subdivision 16, Anderson Co., Tennessee, family number 473  lists a Thomas Reed, age. 40 with family, Sarah, and others including William P. Reed age. 9 and Thomas A. Reed age 5.).  The 1860 census in Anna, Illinois indicates that William was 20 and Thomas was 15.

On the 13th of June, 1861 William P. Reed of Anna, Illinois, enlisted in Co. D., Illinois 18th Infantry regiment as a private.  He fought on the Union side and died at Fort Donelson, Tennessee on February 12, 1862 (http://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org).   If it was William who fought for the Union Army, his brother Thomas must have fought for the Confederacy.   Where could that have been?

In June/July of 1863 in Jonesboro, Illinois (very close to Anna, Illinois)  a Thomas Reed, age 20, single, born in Tennessee, was drafted in the 13th Congressional District, Capt. Phillips (U. S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865).  Could this be the same Thomas Reed of Anna, Illinois?

If so, it is possible that since his brother was killed at Ft. Donelson, Tennessee in 1862, Thomas Reed was reluctant to serve the Union Army once he became of service age.  Perhaps he left home and returned to Tennessee to family on his father’s or mother’s side there.  I am leaning toward service in Tennessee due to the recent migration and probable close family connections still there.

My research indicates that there were 7 Thomas Reeds and 4 Thomas Reads who fought for the Confederacy from Tennessee.  Of these, only one is a potential candidate for this Thomas Reed based on middle initials, age at date of enlisted, locations of companies and regiments, and the like.

A Thomas Reed joined Co. D., 59 Tennessee Mounted Infantry in summer 1862 as a private.  This unit was formed in Knox County, Tennessee which is slightly southeast of Anderson County.  Thomas’s enlistment was after William Reed’s death in February of the same year.  It is possible that Thomas could have been enumerated on the draft registration in Illinois in 1863, though not in actual residence.

While there is still ongoing research regarding the military records of both William Reed and his brother Thomas, there is sufficient evidence pointing to Sarah Reed of Anna, Illinois being thelikely maker of the Brother vs. Brother log cabin quilt, circa 1865.

I contacted Bonnie Styles, Museum Director at the Illinois State Museum with my findings and her reply was very positive:  Thanks for your wonderful note on your research related to the log cabin quilt from our collection.  I am copying Angela Goebel-Bain, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and the curator for our Civil War Era quilt exhibition. She has done extensive research on our quilts, and I’m certain she will be interested in your letter.   Thanks for sending this information!

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