The second of my Civil War Sampler quilt blocks is Star of the West.
This is another block where I simply picked colors I liked. I did not make any particular effort to connect the colors or prints to the story next to the pattern in Barbara Brackman’s Civil War Sampler book.
In this case, the story in the book happened to be about John C. Fremont. I guess you could say Fremont makes a good “Star of the West,” as he briefly commanded the U.S. Army’s “Department of the West” during the Civil War. He also held high offices in California and Arizona in the mid-to-late 1800s (definitely the Wild, Wild West indeed for those far-western states!).
You can read the stories on Barbara Brackman’s Star of the West blog post.
While I don’t have a lot to say about John Fremont, this caught my eye when skimming the blog post:
Star of the West (#1128 in BlockBase) is an old block with many other names, among them Clay’s Choice and Harry’s Star. Both names, according to Ruth Finley in her 1929 book, were tributes to Henry Clay, an earlier politician who also ran unsuccessfully for President.
Now, Henry Clay, I can work with.
There’s a reason why my entry for “Political Views” on Facebook says “Whig Party” and has for years. (I’m not even joking.)
When I think of Henry Clay, a few things come to mind, and I’ll take them in chronological order.
One of them is simply that I can hardly think of Henry Clay without thinking of John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster, because, all being important political contemporaries, they always found themselves in the same chapter of whatever K-12 American History book.
The second thing is a reminder of my time working at Dayton Metro Library. We had a few letters written by Henry Clay (at least two in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, which I processed). There was one researcher, an older gentleman from the area of Lexington, Kentucky, where Clay had lived (now a house museum) and where (if I recall correctly) the gentleman now volunteered – the man came up to visit (about 2 hours by car) and review those letters. He stands out because he had such a handsome accent; I think he was originally from Tennessee. But I digress.
Perhaps more importantly, what’s not to love about items in your local history collection that were written—and touched!—by people “famous” in the history books? I mean, sure, we all have our local heroes, but Clay appears in history textbooks nation-wide.
He came to Dayton once—Henry Clay, that is—in 1842. I suppose it could have been more than once, but the time everyone always seems to be asking about when they would ask us about “the time Henry Clay came to Dayton” was in September 1842. You can read an article that Howard Burba wrote about it in 1932. Burba called the September 29, 1842, rally “the date of the most spectacular political rally in this city’s history.” There’s also some references to a “barbecue” that I still don’t fully understand? More from The Papers of Henry Clay (note: that “Samuel Forres” in the Joseph Crane et al. letter should be Forrer – yeah, that Samuel Forrer).
And finally, the third thing is just my visit to Ashland, the estate of Henry Clay in Lexington, Kentucky, when I was there for the Midwest Archives Conference annual meeting in 2015.
The house is now a museum that you can tour, and the gardens are a sort of public park. (I saw lots of people just strolling along, some even walking their dogs, on the grounds. The only part that costs money to enter is the actual house.)
I think my absolute favorite part of the entire visit was sitting in Clay’s “back yard” (for lack of a better term) on a blanket on the grass eating my lunch. The above photo is from that moment, my vantage point from my comfy spot on the ground.
If you’re interested, you can learn more about Henry Clay and his Ashland Estate (like how to visit).
Until next time! (My third block includes symbolic colors! I’m sure you can’t wait.)