July 1995

 
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Finger Lakes Weavers

Makers of Fancy Coverlets

in Pre-Victorian Times

by

Anne E. Brewer

In 1986 when I attended a workshop at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown entitled "Interpreting the Role of the Professional Weaver in New York State 1780 - 1860," I became aware not only of the kinds of weaving done and of the many intricacies of Jacquard weaving, but also of the importance of textile production in the general economy. While there we were challenged to identify the professional weavers who were working in our area of New York during the 1830s and 40s.

We are fortunate in our part of New York State to be near the Alling Coverlet Museum in Palmyra, the first place I began my research. At the Museum they honor Palmyra weavers, James Van Ness and Ira Hadsell, and other weavers who "signed" their coverlets. In their extensive collection of Jacquard coverlets, many of them had the name of the recipient, generally a newly married young lady, a location (either of the weaver or the young lady), and a date. Nothing else was given.

Back in Bath, I began to search the early newspapers, because these "fancy weavers" advertized for business. Sure enough, I found weavers working from 1836 to 1845 in Meads Creek, Hammondsport, Elmira and Penn Yan.

I also found coverlets in local museums, private collections and antique shops. None of these corresponded to the weavers in the newspaper ads. By searching census and cemetery records I was able to reconstruct bits of the lives of the young ladies who owned the coverlets and some facts as well as conjecture about the weavers themselves.

It was when I was searching the alphabetized Tyrone cemetery index for someone's genealogy, that I found a name to match the initials on a coverlet I had seen in Martha Treichler's home. Woven into the coverlet's corner is "MARIA STONE 1835 TYRONE H L." There, in the cemetery index was Henry LaTourette who died in 1841. LaTourette is a "weaving" name. The family produced weavers well known in Ohio and Indiana. One of the Indiana weavers was Sarah LaTourette who took over her father's weaving business, and is one of the very few women professional Jacquard weavers.

I began hunting in public records and books to expand the information woven into the coverlet. Maria Stone was born about 1820. In 1850 she lived in Pulteney with her husband William Stone, (a blacksmith), James and Lydia Stone (in their 60's), and their son Seldon, age 25. James and Seldon were farmers. by 1860, William and Maria had an adopted son Franklin Alexander (Stone) who stayed with them until Maria died in 1892 and William in 1893. They are both buried in the Thomas cemetery in Pulteney. If this coverlet was made for Maria she would have been about 15 in 1835 and either married to William, or her maiden name was also Stone.

Maria's coverlet is woven from indigo-dyed wool and natural cotton threads in a typical Finger Lakes pattern, "Lilies of France," with a border of apple trees and eagles. It was made, probably on a narrow loom, in two three-foot-wide sections to be seamed together.

Another TYRONE coverlet, pictured in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago catalogue, has woven corners inscribed "CHARLOTTE VAN DUZER TYRONE 1837". Charlotte was about 20 years old then and married to Isaac Van Duzer. They are both buried in the Tyrone Union Cemetery.

Charlotte's coverlet is woven in a pattern of diamonds separated by blocks surrounded with flowers. The side borders are facing horses and branching trees, and the end borders are pairs of steepled buildings between trees nearly identical to the side-border trees.

Henry LaTourette, born in New Jersey in 1785, was the son of John LaTourette, a weaver, and Elizabeth Bond of Bond or Bound Brook, New Jersey. John was the son of Henry LaTourette, a weaver, and Susan (Suzanne) Parlier of Staten Island. He was the son of Jean LaTourette and Marie Mercereau, both Huguenots who fled from France in the 1680's.

John LaTourette of Bound Brook had four daughters and five sons. Joseph went to Canada. John was a weaver and the father of weaver Sarah of Indiana. Abram, with David and Henry, who were weavers, moved to Lodi, New York, as young men, where David and Henry had a cloth manufactory for a short time. They lived around Hector, Valois, and Interlaken. Cousins, also in the weaving trade, were pioneer settlers of Broome County, New York.

In the censuses of 1825 and 1830 Henry LaTourette lived in Hector, Tompkins County. His wife Mary (Moorhead Vossler), whom he married in 1807, died on July 31, 1828, aged 37 years. She is buried in the Hector County Line Cemetery, with their daughter Mary Ann who died when 15 months old in September 1827. Son George A. LaTourette was buried in the Tyrone cemetery in 1843, either 16 or 19 years old. Daughter, Sarah Mary (Sally) married Charles Wolverton and lived in Tyrone and Bath where she died in her 60's on April 2, 1886. She is buried in Coopers Plains, New York. Henry, the probable weaver of the Maria Stone and Charlotte Van Duzer coverlets, is buried in Tyrone where he died in 1841, aged 55 years.

1995, Anne E. Brewer

Sources

Clarita Anderson, University of Maryland.

Mildred Davison and Christa Mayer-Thurman, Coverlets: A Handbook on the Collection of Woven Coverlets in the Art Institute of Chicago, 1973.

Pauline Montgomery, Indiana Coverlet Weavers and Their Coverlets, 1974.

Vital Records of Steuben, Schuyler, and Tompkins Counties.

 
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