Thursday, June 28, 2012

Separated at Birth - TRIPLETS!!!

Yesterday, just as I was getting ready to rush out to the International Rose Test Garden with my mother, who is visiting from Maine for three-and-a-half weeks, I received a message on Facebook from a woman from Ranson, West Virginia. It said, "Check out my profile picture. I'm blown away! Maybe you will be, too! Please message me."

Here is the profile picture from the sender of the message on Facebook
I thought, "What is this?" And frankly, in my haste to get out the door, I thought it was a picture of the quilt in my collection, thought to have been made by Mary Couchman Small. Or perhaps it was the one documented by the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search, made by Mary's daughter, Harriet. I replied to Sharon, thinking it was one of the two quilts I knew about, and asked how she got a picture of it.

The two sensational Album quilts from West Virginia were the subject of my "virtual" poster presentation for the American Quilt Study Group in 2010. I blogged about the two quilts when I couldn't attend the AQSG Seminar, and the blog about those two quilts may be found here.

These are the two quilts from my "Separated at Birth" blog
When I got home yesterday and started looking more closely at the picture sent by the woman from West Virginia, I realized I wasn't looking at the quilt in my collection. Then I pulled up the old picture of the two quilts together, from my 2010 blog post, and I realized I wasn't looking at the other quilt either. There was a third quilt! Needless to say, I was absolutely stunned.

Detail of quilt #3
Since I realized there were three quilts, e-mails and messages have been flying back and forth. I've been in touch with Fawn Valentine, author of the West Virginia Quilts book. I've exchanged several messages with the owner of the third quilt, and discovered that it had been kept in storage for many years and was pulled out just yesterday, when her daughter took pictures of it.

Another detail of quilt #3 
Another detail of quilt #3
Another detail of quilt #3
I asked about the quilting, and learned it is just the same as the other two quilts - extremely dense echo quilting. This morning, there were some more pictures that showed the quilting. These pictures are a little blurry, but one thing's clear - it's the same style of quilting.

Detail view of the quilt in my collection - look at the quilting!
Now that a third quilt has surfaced, there are many more questions to be asked. One of the tantalizing details I got from the owner is there may have been a connection between the maker of the third quilt and the Sperow family. That's the family that had the other two quilts, as the two I'd already discovered had descended through Elizabeth Jane Small Sperow, sister of Harriet Small, maker of quilt #1, and daughter of Mary Couchman Small, presumed to be the maker of the one I own.

As soon as I learn more, I'll post it here. Thought you'd all be interested. The fraternal twins are really triplets!


  1. This is so amazing! And how exciting to learn more of the relationships between the 3 makers! And what a small world that she pulled out this quilt, and knew of yours, to get in touch with you! Amazing!

  2. What a great story! Wouldn't it be wonderful to see them all hanging in one place...

  3. Hi I don't know how much was done to research the family history surrounding these beautiful quilts - is free this weekend. I found a grave for Harriet Small, daughter of William and Mary C Small Virginia in Champaign County Ohio, if it is her she died in 1863. If you go on Find a grave it is number 20642097. I also find it interesting that there is a 22 year old seamstress named Harriet (Namomi?) living with Elizabeth Small Sperow and her family in 1860. This could just be a coincidence but who knows. There is also a photo of Mary Couchman Small's grave stone on Katherine

  4. Maybe a vacation in west Virginia is needed! This is amazing! Keep us posted. Kathie

  5. Anonymous - your fact finds are just as amazing as the quilts..... sure hope besides hanging somewhere they are included in a book.... once we have the "whole" story....

  6. Amazing. It's one of those "hairs standing on the back of your neck " moments. Look forward to hearing more.

  7. The quality of these quilts is beyond amazing. Mother and two daughters at the same time? I just cannot believe the quilting itself was done by three different hands. (just an opinion)
    My husband came over to the computer to see what I was so excited about, he's never done that before.

  8. This is so exciting! Ever since you showed the pictures on Facebook yesterday, these quilts have been on my mind! Thank you for sharing! What treasures!

  9. This sort of "challenge" is common among quilting friends today -- for a group of women to make quilts together that follow a given set of rules. They may be almost identical (as in this case) or they may be more loosely similar. It's wonderful to see that when we participate in such challenges we're participating in a very traditional practice.

    It would be so great if one of the makers left some sort of documentation on the project -- letters, notes, diary entries, a newspaper article. How did they agree on the patterns, for instance? Where did the patterns come from? How did they acquire the fabrics? Did one quilter make three of the same blocks, or did each woman make all the blocks for her own quilt? Did they quilt each quilt together?

  10. I have done some more digging using - census records and family member trees(which don't all agree) therefore this is speculation.

    Mary Couchman Small (1800-1863) married William Small (1797-1880) in 1825. They had eight children, five girls and three boys.

    Susannah Ellen 1826 - 1901 marries David Ellis in 1845
    Henry 1827 - 1902
    Elizabeth Jane 1829 - 1911 Marries Isaih Brown Sperow
    Louisa Catherine 1832 - 1880 marries Swingle
    Mary Ann 1834 - 1911
    Harriet 1835 - 1863
    John Luther 1837 - 1880
    William C 1837 - 1892

    In 1840 Mary Small is living with six of her children, no servants, no slaves in Berkeley County, West Virginia

    In 1850 Mary, 49 is living with Louisa 18, Mary 16, Harriet 14, John 12, and Luther 12 in Berkeley County, West Virginia

    In 1860 Mary, 62 is living with George 33, farmer, Mary Ann 25, William 21, John 21, Sarah Couchman 9 and Abraham Aaron 6 in Berkeley County, West Virginia

    Harriet Naaomi Sperow, 22, seamstress, is living with her sister and brother in law - Isiah Brown Sperow 30, Elizabeth 31, George 4, Ida 3 and Mary 1

    Susannah Small Ellis is living with her family in Harrison, Champaign County, Ohio

    William Small appears to have been in a hospital in Augusta, VA in 1850 and 1860 and an insane asylum in Weston, Lewis, West Virginia in 1870 and 1880 - where he died.

    Mary Couchman Small died November 23, 1863 and is buried in the Green Hill Cemetery, Martinsburg, Berkeley, West Virginia.

    Harriet Small died September 21, 1863 and is buried in Spring Hills, Champaign county, Ohio. Daughter of William and MC Small of VA

    I believe that this is Harriet because her sister Susannah was living here in 1860. I don't know if this is the right William Small - but I couldn't find anyone else - he may have died earlier. Katherine

    1. Katherine & Bill, Here are several hypotheses to explore, suggested by situations of my own Small family living at the same time: suppose that in the 1860 census, Mary Small is living with her twin sons John & William Small and with her daughter Mary Ann (Small) Small AND Mary Ann's husband George Small and their children Sarah & Abraham Small. Since the previous census, Mary's daughter Harriet Small, unmarried, has moved to Ohio to live with sister Susannah (Small) Ellis, where she dies in 1863.
      The Harriet Naomi Sperow, seamstress, is not Harriet Small but Isaiah Sperow's unmarried sister. The family might have attributed the quilts to the wrong Harriet.
      The seamstress Harriet Sperow may have quilted all three tops, which she also made or designed and helped family members make.
      Perhaps more research can disprove or support these ideas...

      On Deer Isle, Maine, we are fortunate that many island families were Mormons starting in the early 1800s and kept detailed genealogy records, enhanced by information collected from interviews by a local doctor interested in genetic disorders of "bushy" inbred family trees of the 19th century.

    2. Thank you, Susan! I will add these notes to everything I've collected. It's good to have other theories. Eventually I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it.

  11. Excellent comments, everyone. Keep 'em comin'! I'm capturing all the comments and sorting through when I get a chance. With so many people who are interested in this whole story, I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it.

  12. Part 1
    My gg grandparents were Isaiah Brown Sperow (known as IB) and Elizabeth Jane Small. I will try to add more clarity than confusion to this discussion……….but I’m not making any promises. :)

    The following is from James Holland Sperow (grandson of IB Sperow), written around 1961 or 1962.

    "My name is James Holland Sperow. I was born on a farm located in Opequon district approximately seven miles North-East of Martinsburg, WV, in the County of Berkeley.

    My father’s name was George Henry Sperow and my mother’s name was Ruth Ellen Crowl. My mother died when I was nine months old. Consequently, I have no recollections of her. I have been told she was an especially good and religious woman. In my possession I have a small brass-bound bible that was given to her as a prize for answering 5373 questions in Sunday School work. I do not remember my father speaking to me about her."

    Continued later in manuscript:

    "My grandfather suffered a stroke of paralysis rather early in life and lost power of speech and in the last three years of his life was a practically helpless invalid. My grandmother was Elizabeth Jane Small before marriage and it is mostly through her care and kindness that my brothers and I were raised to maturity. While my brothers went away to school I was attached to my grandfather and saw his need for me so that further schooling was out of the question for me and I stayed and cared for him and my grandmother as long as they lived."

    So James Holland Sperow b. 1884
    His mother Ruth Ellen dies 1885
    Isaiah Brown dies 1907
    James Holland married by 1909(at this point must be living on farm that adjoins IB farm)
    Elizabeth Jane Small dies 1911

    As I know it and as stated above, after Ruth Ellen died George Henry Sperow apparently had little to do with raising his children, leaving the task to his parents IB & Elizabeth. George Henry Sperow remarried, had kids, and still lived in the area soooooo, I‘m not sure what to make of that. Actually I am, and it doesn’t leave a favorable impression of my ggrandfather upon me. As I child, I remember meeting one of George Henry’s children from his second marriage on several occasions, her name was Elizabeth Jane Sperow. Possibly named after Elizabeth Jane Small?

  13. Part 2
    Continued later in manuscript:

    "Isaiah Brown Sperow was the oldest son of George and Elizabeth Sperow. He was born on a farm located northwest of Martinsburg along the Potomac River. His parents later moved to a small log house near the village of Little Georgetown and lived there between the years of 1836 and 1849. He and Elizabeth Jane Small were married Dec. 14 1854. I have the original deed that was on Feb. 26 1859 for a lot bought from Jacob Harrison Rusler for $100.00 and described as lot #8 in the village of St. Vincents adjoining the town of Martinsburg laid out by John P. Kearfolt. Between the years of 1859 and 1864 he bought what was known as the Lydig farm, located 2 miles north of Martinsburg along Route 11. Having suffered considerable loss of crops he made sale of his farming implements on May 5, 1864 and moved to Fulton County, Ohio. Three years later he moved back to Berkley County and rented a farm from Mr. James H. Robinson near Hedgesville, being the farm later owned by his brother James K. P. Sperow. On Dec. 12, 1873 he purchased from his mother, Elizabeth Sperow, the farm located near Spring Mills containing 200 acres for $14,000, where he spent the rest of his life."

    OK, if you hung in with me this long, here is where we get to the good part!

    "His wife Elizabeth Jane Small as a young girl lived a few years with her Uncle Henry Riner (confirmed in 1860 census) near Nipetown where she learned to ride horseback and enjoyed riding any colt she could get a bridle on.
    During the years of 1852 and 1853 she spent some time visiting her sister and brother-in-law David H. Ellis and wife, living near West Liberty, Logan County, Ohio. I happen to have the diary she kept during her stay in Ohio and after returning to West Virginia."

    Unfortunately, I don’t happen to have that diary. :(

    So, I had my mother-in-law look up David H. Ellis in in the 1850 census (no, I’m too cheap to buy it until I retire and can spend time using it). David’s wife was Susan, age 23 in 1850. Looking at various family trees available on rootsweb, (that match those already mentioned) several list an older sister to Elizabeth Jane Small and Harriet Small, by the name of Susannah Ellen Small, born in 1826. Works for me!

    Other family trees in Rootsweb also list David H. Ellis’ parents (who are also buried in the Salem Cemetery,Champaign County, Ohio) as Abraham Ellis and Sarah Couchman Ellis. Note, Elizabeth Jane Small’s mother was Mary Couchman. Don’t have a clue how Sarah Couchman ties into this.

    Isaiah Brown’s account book makes at least two references, maybe more, to an H. N. Small and a Harriet N. Small.

    I believe that the picture of the head stone for Harriet referenced in a previous entry has a middle initial on that looks like N………but that could be what I want to see. I have a cousin that lives close to this area, so I’m going to see if that can be verified.

    As James Holland Sperow told it, the quilt in question was made by Harriet Small, sister to Elizabeth Jane Small. How he came by this information I can not say as Harriet died over 20 years before he was born. I would like to think that his grandmother passed this information on to him. James Holland Sperow received this quilt upon settling the estate of Ida Sperow and William Luther Sperow (Lute), children of Isaiah Brown Sperow and Elizabeth Jane Small. Ida & Lute apparently never married and lived on the farm of Isaiah & Elizabeth, at some point after Isaiah & Elizabeth died. Also, apparently Ida was set to get married at some point, which didn’t go over well with Lute. Lute somehow intervened and put a stop to it so that Ida would stay on the farm (apparently to look after him cooking, cleaning and such). Hey, I don’t make this stuff up! You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives. :)

  14. Part 3

    I have no reservations with the notion that the Harriet Small buried in Ohio is the sister to Elizabeth Jane Small wife of IB Sperow. As I find additional information I will provide updates.

    IB and his siblings:

    Isaiah Brown (IB) b. 1830 m. Elizabeth Jane Small d.1907
    George Oliver b. 1832 m. Mary Susan Riner d.1910
    Henry Valentine b. 1833 m. Annie R. Small d.1921
    Sarah(Sallie) Ann b. 1835 m. never married d. 1908
    Cromwell Riner b.1838 m. Catherine Elvira Riner
    d. 1911
    Catherine(Kate) E b.1840 m. never married d. 1908
    James K. Polk b. 1844 m. Sarah M. Speck
    d. 1907
    Peter Sylvester b. 1846 m. Bessie Miller d.1937

    Children of I. B. Sperow & Elizabeth Jane Small

    George Henry b. 1855 married Ruth Ellen Crowl 2nd wife Bertha Beard
    Ida Alvira b. 1857 never married
    Mary (Molly) Elizabeth b. 1859 never married
    William Luther b. 1863 never married
    Jacob Ropp b. 1866 d. 1875
    Sallie Hester b. 1868 married Robert Emmert Snyder

    Based only on the above info only I would offer the following “theory”.

    3 quilts and 3 nieces to Harriet Small

    Did Harriet make the quilts for her 3 nieces Ida, Molly and Sallie for their hope chest? If quilt #3 has a tie to Robert Snyder and Sallie Hester Sperow…….then maybe there is something there????

    1. Thank you so much for all the information. Please send me a note at: I would like to keep a record of who you are and where I can find you when I've got questions. Many thanks! Bill Volckening, aka Willy Wonky

  15. Loved reading all the comments and information about the quilts. Hope you put it all together somehow because I don't know how to save it all. I know there is no connection between the families in a school, because at the time there were no consolidated schools. Trying to find out if families could be connected through churches. We believe our quilt was made by either my great, great, grandmother, or her sister. They were Millers from Little Georgetown, in the same general area of Berkeley County as the others. We had numerous quilts made by them but very few are left. One is a triple Irish Chain supposedly made by the same women. There is also another applique quilt that was sent to a cousin in the 1970's. I don't remember much about it except it wasn't as fine as the applique we have and I believe it was mostly red. I'm waiting to ask my cousin about it because we haven't been close and her mother, my mother's only sibling has been in a semi-coma (she's 90 years old) since all this began and it just isn't the time to bring up the subject of the quilt. I'll be able to give more info when my sister comes back from Florida in the winter. In the meantime I will send you the information I do have, which is meager, about the Millers soon. SFW

  16. Bill, I am simply thrilled for you. This is proof that if you build it, they will come. Had you not publicized the original quilt so well and done presentations on it, you would have learned none of this. The minute I looked at that quilting, I thought, WOWSER! Good for you!!!