Hexagon or Mosaic Quilt

Ella Steele Stewart (1856-1936)
Fort Mill, SC
Gift of Mary Teal 

McKissick Museum Collection 2020.13.01

This technically demanding, expertly crafted hexagon mosaic summer quilt was made by Ella Steele Stewart when she was twelve years old. This two-fabric quilt, with its hexagons “fussy cut” is basted to paper templates and then whip-stitched together with tiny diamond shapes to set up a vibrant rhythm across the quilt’s surface. It is rather remarkable that the young Ella had mastered the skills required to make such a quilt, lavished as it is with hand quilting around each block piece and with an “X” across the hexagons. Intended for use during the warmer months, this quilt has thin cotton batting. It is a veritable showpiece of its maker’s abilities. Ella signed her name in pen on a small piece of fabric sewn to a corner on the back of the quilt.

Close Up Of Columbia Bicentennial Quilt

Amanda Stegall Allen (1874-1961)
Asheville, NC
Gift of Will Moreau Goins

Close Up Of Columbia Bicentennial Quilt

Unfinished Mosaic Quilt TopAttributed to Rebecca Pickens Salley (1832 – 1893) one of her daughters Emma Salley Evans (1869-1963) or Mary Boone Salley (1863-1941) Orangeburg County, SC
ca. 1875

Ella Steele Stewart (1856-1936)

Ella Stewart was born in Fort Mill, SC. One of five children, she was the daughter of Dr. James Harper Stewart and Mary Jane Poag. Her great grandfather, Joseph Steele, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1760, but by the early 1770s had settled in York County, SC. During the American Revolution, he commanded a company of cavalry under General Francis Marion.

Ella’s mother served as vice president of the Fort Mill Ladies’ Aid Association and her father was a physician and farmer. He died in 1863 when Ella was 7 years old. According to probate records, the Stewart family owned a considerable estate in York County, which was sold at auction after her father’s death. The estate inventory included two spinning wheels and a loom.

In 1867, Ella’s mother Mary married LeRoy Newton Culp and the family lived on Confederate Street in the heart of Fort Mill. Mary passed away in 1904 and was described in The Yorkville Enquirer as “active, energetic, and industrious.” LeRoy died two years later, the Fort Mill Times describing him as one of the town’s “oldest and best-known citizens.”

Ella served as the executor of her stepfather’s estate and per his will, she inherited his personal property and real estate. Ella and her younger brother William, both single and in their 40s, continued to live in the family home on Confederate Street. Shortly after William’s death in 1925, Ella moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to live with her niece. She died there of pneumonia in 1936 and is buried in the family plot in Unity Cemetery in downtown Fort Mill.

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