Heirloom Coverlet With Dillon County Ties Donated To Museum
There was unaccustomed hubbub on September 1 at the Marion County Archives and History Center in downtown Marion. Four descendants of the Elvington and Goodyear families, early local settlers pre-dating 1800, were on hand with other interested parties to donate an antique, hand-woven, wool and flax blanket to the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia. Fritz Hamer, Ph.D., the museum’s Chief Curator of Cultural History, was in town to accept the gift.
Dr. Hamer called it an “impressive ancestral coverlet” and said that the state museum “would be honored to have this added to the collection.” He described it as “a rare and valuable piece.”
The artifact, estimated to possibly be 180 years old, is the work of Elizabeth Goodyear Elvington who was born in 1822 in what is now known as Kemper Community near Lake View, SC. Back then, it was Marion District, but when the border was redrawn in 1910, that area became part of the new Dillon County.
Elizabeth, nicknamed Betsy, was the second oldest of the ten daughters of John and Senith Goodyear. (Imagine that household!) In 1840 she married a nearby neighbor, Zadock Elvington. She was 18 and he was 23 when they began their 62 years of life together. They lived on a farm on the road from Nichols to Gaddy’s Mill, now called Rabbit Island Road, and that is very probably where the coverlet first was used.
The Elvington and Goodyear descendents at the presentation were Vicki Hamlin Warner, formerly of Mullins and the donor of the coverlet; Claire Lou Meares Baker of Fork; Mary Lois Webb Elvington of Nichols, widow of Dr. Randy Elvington; their son, Randolph Elvington formerly of Nichols; and Gayle Elvington of Lake View who is the present owner of the farm where Betsy and Zadock lived so many years ago.
They all descend from John Elvington (born about 1777, died 1860) who was Zadock’s father, and from John Goodyear (born about 1793, died 1873) who was Betsy’s father.
John Elvington was also the father of Zadock’s brother, Owen Elvington, who married Louisa Goodyear, Betsy’s sister. Thus brothers married sisters. The family members at the coverlet presentation were all direct descendents of Owen and Louisa, Zadock and Betsy having left no children.
In addition to the descendents and Dr. Hamer, Jo Church Dickerson of Kemper Community, plus Helen Belden Moody and Holly Moody of Dillon, officers of the Pee Dee Chapter of the SC Genealogical Society, were in attendance as well as R. Maxcy Foxworth, Jr., of Marion, Archivist and Director of the Marion Archives. They had assisted in investigating facilities able to properly house heirloom fabrics. Local photographers Helen Lane Wiggins of Little Rock and Diane Owens of Marion were there, also. Jane Britton of Columbia took pictures for the State Museum.
HISTORIC WAY OF WEAVING
Maree Dowdey of Columbia, an artist and a respected expert in antique textiles, estimates this coverlet to have been woven in about 1830, around 180 years ago. When it was pointed out that Betsy Goodyear would have still been a child in 1830, Dowdey commented about the culture of that era, “Since this is not one of the more complex patterns, I suspect it might have been made prior to her marriage and perhaps for her hope chest. This is only guessing, of course. Most girls were learning to spin, weave, and make quilts by the age of 8 and 9.”
Regardless of that statement, the untutored eye might consider this coverlet to be at least a somewhat complex design in plaid. It has flaxen or linen threads of a natural beige or off-white color as the background, and wool yarn making up patterned squares of blue, no doubt dyed with indigo. There is also black in the design plus some interweaving in a muted gold color.
Dowdey described further, “What you have is an overshot coverlet, sometimes referred to as a summer spread. The name is given because in weaving this type coverlet, when the loom is warped and weaving begins, the loom is tied up in such a way as to overshoot some specific warp yarns as the shuttle is passed from side to side.”
One of Dowdey’s first questions, before she saw the six-foot square coverlet, was whether it was all one piece, or whether strips were seamed together. The answer was there were three strips, each two-feet wide, apparently the width of her loom, sewed together to make the six-foot width. Then Dowdey explained that at least one of the strips or sections should not match the established pattern of the other two. “One or the other [of the strips] should be slightly offset (i.e. not follow across in a continuous pattern as if you were matching stripes or plaid). The majority of overshot coverlets are deliberately done in this way because the maker did not want to offend God because only He can make a perfect thing. It was thought to be an offense both in older quilts where the maker would build in a deliberate mistake, as well as the woven coverlets.”
That’s just how Betsy’s is seamed together. Two panels match. The third is slightly off. Apparently deliberately.
THE SECOND OWNER – AND THE THIRD
Cora Leigh Elvington (1880-1955) was Betsy and Zadock’s great niece who grew up just down the road from their house. She knew them well. Saw them often. Visited regularly. Like Betsy, Cora was born on May 26. That gave them something in common.
Cora went to Gaul Bush, the one-room schoolhouse nearby, then was off to Greenville Female College (which later became Furman University). In 1903 she married V.W. Williams and lived a long and productive life in Mullins, SC. She was given the coverlet, referred to it always as “Great Aunt Betsy’s blanket,” and used it for many years as a throw on the foot of one of the upstairs beds.
Then it descended to her daughter, Hallie Williams Hamlin (1911-1986). Hallie artfully used it as a wall hanging, like a tapestry, behind the sofa at the family beach cottage. Visitors were always told it was an antique and from the loom of Great Aunt Betsy a very long time ago. Hallie did not weave, but was famous for hooked rugs and Swedish afghans. She also cross-stitched and quilted bedspreads.
After 1986 and for the past 25 years, for the first time in its history, the coverlet was packed away in a blanket chest, unused and away from the light of day. Amazingly, it seems to have suffered little or no moth damage during all this time. The colors remain vibrant, the threads have stayed strong. Great Aunt Betsy did a lasting piece of work.
BETSY AND HER BOYS
Contrary to the trend of large families in the 1800′s, Betsy and Zadock had only two children, Owen and Joel, young men of promise and opportunity. But both died in the grievous War Between the States. Owen succumbed on August 1, 1862 in the Huguenot Hospital in Powhatan, Virginia where he had languished since June, and Joel died in a hospital in Savannah, Ga. on the 24th of August 1863. After that, for the rest of her days, Great Aunt Betsy did very little except rock on the porch. So said Cora Elvington who was told it by her mother.
There was yet another compelling loss. John Emory Goodyear, Betsy’s only brother, the only son amongst the ten Goodyear girls, was killed on August 29, 1862 at the Battle of Second Manassas in Virginia. General Lee was there, and Stonewall Jackson, both engaged against Maj. General John Pope of the U.S. Army. There were an estimated 22,180 casualties in that battle, and John Emory Goodyear was one of them.
It’s not an unfamiliar story. That war was devastating to a whole generation of Elvington sons, cousins, brothers and young fathers. Besides the loss of John Emory, Owen and Joel, there was John H. Elvington, the son of William, who was wounded at Second Manassas, then captured at Warrenton, Va., and after that sent back home to die of his injuries on 24 February 1863.
Nathan, son of Levi Elvington, was captured on 28 July 1864 in Petersburg, Va. and sent to the infamous Elmira, NY prison. He was paroled from there months later on 9 February 1865, but never made it home.
Could Giles Elvington and his family ever recuperate? All three of his sons died in the war. Count them. One. Two. Three. The first was Dennis who succumbed to typhoid fever on February 2, 1862, at the General Hospital, Culpeper Court House, Virginia. Next, Daniel was killed in action on June 27, 1862 at Gaines Mill, Va. the second day of the Seven Days Battle around Richmond. And Giles’ last son, David, was killed on July 31, 1864 at City Point, Va.
Eight young Elvingtons went to war, but only one came back. That one was the youngest of all, George Washington Elvington, just 17 when he enlisted as a private in Company L, 8th Regiment of the SC Infantry, Confederate States Army. He was the son of Owen Elvington, Sr. and Louisa Goodyear, and the brother of Sallie Elvington who married James R. Meares and thus brought that name and bloodline into the family.
George W. Elvington came home uninjured from the war and married Hannah Elizabeth Hayes, called Miss Lizzie. Cora Leigh Elvington, recipient of the coverlet, was their daughter, along with sons James Owen, Handford McIver, and the youngest, Robert Fulton Elvington who was born in 1884. He went to Wake Forest College and became a country doctor, beloved of many of his patients in the Lake View area. “Dr. Fulton” has one son yet living there, James William, and a goodly number of grandchildren both nearby and scattered, two of whom were at the coverlet presentation.
Great Aunt Betsy never got back her sparkle, so says family lore. Apparently Great Uncle Zadock endured long-term depression as well. The author W.W. Sellers, Esq., wrote a few words about him in his book, A History of Marion County, South Carolina, From Its Earliest Times to the Present, 1901. On page 173 Sellers remarked, “Zadoc Elvington still survives, and lives near the old homestead; has no children; had two sons, whom he lost in the war. In some respects he is a prodigy, which will not be further alluded to. He has made and has money, which it is said he does not much enjoy, except the satisfaction of knowing that he has it. He married one of the ten daughters of the late John Goodyear (all of whom, it is said, were good women and made industrious and frugal housewives).”
History has accorded us the identities, the married names of all ten of those Goodyear girls in the form of a deed recorded in Marion County Deed Book FF page 493, Cenith Goodyear et al to A. B. Walter, 30 July 1873 “heirs of John Goodyear and John E. Goodyear…” Signed: Cenith Goodyear, Sallie Grainger, Rebecca Bullock, Elizabeth Elvington, Beda Scott, Mary Grainger, Louisa Elvington, Cenia Williamson, Milly C. Elvington, Martha J. Brewer, and Candes A. Elvington.
The 1900 Census for Marion County, SC, Hillsboro Township, Page 119, #212/213, confirms Elizabeth Elvington as having been married for 60 years, and as having had 2 children, 0 living.
The little cemetery near their home place is testimony to their circumstances, because there are only two gravestones. One is for Zadock Elvington, born Sept. 25, 1817 – died Jan. 21, 1904. And the other says Elizabeth, Wife of Zadock Elvington born May 26, 1822 – died Oct. 18, 1902.
The enthusiasm about Betsy’s hand woven coverlet was palpable at the archives building when the group gathered. All except one were seeing it for the first time. It some ways it is quite ordinary, but something about the coverlet seems to inspire a feeling of connection and allegiance. One young man in Raleigh, NC, a descendent who had never before heard of Betsy and has yet to see the item, wrote that we should try to keep it in the local area rather than “losing” it to Columbia. “I get the sense that the importance of this coverlet is primarily within the locale in which it was made,” he wrote. He wanted it to stay “home,” but reluctantly, he knew it now needed to be preserved by the state museum which has proper facilities for doing that. But he had felt an immediate kinship, just knowing about the coverlet from afar. Some, even those not blood kin, sense a touch like this with the long ago somehow connects us with the people of the past. It stokes a feeling of heritage.
Jo Church Dickerson remarked, “I am in awe of Aunt Betsy, the blanket, and all who have kept it. . . You’ve no idea how it moves me. I think not just of old Aunt Betsy, but of whomever she learned that [weaving] from — her mother? That would be Senith Miller Goodyear. . . Who did Senith learn it from? Her mother? That would be who?”