Tag Archives: Hattie Morgan Stout

A Slice of My Life: Home Sewn

Hattie Morgan's Sampler

Hattie Morgan’s sampler, Age 12 (circa 1854)

This pretty piece of needlework has challenged me ever since my mother first showed it to me.  Young girls  showed off their needlework skills in samplers like this.  “Sampler” because the girl  stitched samples of several different kinds of embroidery stitches, in addition to showing off her knowledge of the alphabet and counting, and perhaps a memorized  Bible verse as well. This piece introduced me to the joy and skill of home sewn.

The sampler says:

Prefer solid sense to vain will. Let usefulness and benificence direct the train of your pursuits.

When you mean to do a good action, do not deliberate upon it. When you are about doing a dishonorable act, consider what the world will think of you when it is completed.

Tis virtue sweetens all our toils/ With joy our labor crowns/Gives pleasure when our fortune smiles/and courage when it frowns.

[I actually Googled that last little poem and got no hits, but it is oh so typical of Victorian virtuous poetry.

This particular sampler was made by my great-grandmother, Harriet (Hattie) Morgan, then about twelve years old.

I felt like an underachiever compared to Hattie when I started practicing embroidery , but I determined not to let down the female line of my family. At a very young age, mother taught me some plain stitches.  In Girl Scouts, I had sewn a “sit-upon”–a pillow to carry for outdoors activities. My grandma Vera had taught me to sew on buttons (and how to properly hang clothes on the line to dry outside. ) In eighth grade, I signed up for a 4-H group where I could learn sewing, and began making basic home sewn items like aprons and pot holders.

Side note:  I would NOT take home economics in high school because my mother taught it and that would be the ultimate embarrassment. Much worse than wearing home sewn clothes.

The Singer Sewing Machines

I learned all the tricks I could do with my mother’s old featherweight Singer portable sewing machine. She got it in the 40s and used it for 30 or more years.  I still have it in storage, but haven’t tried out the portable Singer for many, many years.

That portable electric Singer was a big step up from the first sewing machine that I used–my grandmother’s pedal sewing machine.  How I wish I still had THAT machine! I remember the fancy gold trim–which is also a feature on the portable electric.

Sewing Machine

Singer table model pedal sewing machine 1920s Picture from ebay.

Because these treadle machines were first marketed around the turn of the century, it is quite possible that my great-grandmother Hattie Morgan Stout had been the first owner of Grandma’s sewing machine.  If so, she might have used it to slightly speed up the work of making the incredible crazy quilt, she created with her mother-in-law,Emeline Stout, one of my great-great grandmothers. It looks to me as though the pieces were stitched by machine, but then decorated with the fancy embroidery stitches.

crazy quilt pillow

Crazy quilt pillow by Emeline Stout

Of course I had no idea of this possible history when I was pumping away on the treadles in Grandma’s big kitchen. She would not have mentioned it because my Grandmother was not one to dwell in the past.  Although my Grandmother (and my great-grandmother) loved everything new, other people did not immediately embrace the new machine for sewing.

It was also thought that women might be too excitable and perhaps not quite bright enough to manage such a complicated instrument. In addition there were concerns that women would go wild and spend their days shopping, playing cards with friends and who knows what else if they no longer had to spend much of their time making bedding and clothing.

For more about the early history of the sewing machine, see the source of this quote.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know how those predictions turned out. Women indeed , no longer spend their time making bedding and clothing!

Making Home Sewn Clothes

From potholders and aprons, I progressed to making some of my own home sewn clothes, inspired by the pictures on the pattern envelopes and beautiful materials.

It had been popular for sewing for a long time. So much so that the smart flour mills competed to print pretty patterns on their flour sacks. And by the time I started sewing in the 50’s you could buy the material without the flour.  I made gathered skirts from that lovely soft cloth and also made a peasant blouse with a neckline that could be worn off the shoulder–which I wouldn’t dare to do (blush!), and elastic gathered puffy sleeves.

Fortunately, gathered skirts were in style. The home sewn versions were so easy to whip up and the material was so cheap that I could make them in many different patterns and colors.

The Red Dress

During high school, I continued to make clothes for myself from time to time.  I particularly remember a red dress with white collar and cuffs. Since this is a black and white picture, you’ll have to take my word for it that the dress was RED. That’s me as a high school freshman on the far left, one of my best friends, my father, my mother, and in front, my little sister.

Kaser famkly at Easter 1953.

Easter Picture. Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher), Nancy Martin (Orr), Paul Kaser, Harriette Kaser, Paula Kaser , 1953

This picture illustrates some fashion notes of the 1950s. I accessorized my home-made dress with a very trendy elastic waist-cincher belt. Although I had splurged on new wedge sandals for Easter, my girlfriend wears the teen uniform of the day for feet–saddle shoes.  My little sister wears white socks with her Mary Janes.  My mother’s dress looks like it is one of the factory-made materials so popular after World War II–nylon or rayon perhaps. Our long skirt length came into style in opposition to the short, fabric-saving skirts women wore during the war. By the fifties, fashion had turned to the New Look, which meant lowered hemlines.

I am surprised that my father is wearing his shirt tail out and no suit or sports jacket, since we were coming from church and he usually dressed more formally.  My frizzy hair did not come naturally–it comes to you courtesy of Toni home permanents, the cheap beauty shop perms alternative  that left the house smelly for a week.

Fifty years after this picture was taken, I learned that I was not the only one who remembered the red dress.  The man who had been my very first boyfriend showed up at my mother’s funeral.  As we chatted about the old days, he said that he remembered seeing me in a red dress and thinking it was the prettiest thing he had ever seen!  Of course he didn’t say that at the time when I saw myself as an ugly duckling, with my home sewn dress and ridiculous home perm. If only we could  know some of the good things going on around us when we are young and insecure.

Sewing as a Young Housewife

When I went off to college, I took a recess from sewing. After I married and had three little boys, I took it up again. It was not out of necessity, but out of an urge to do something more creative than cook formula and baby food and deal with diapers.  After I tucked the boys in for the night, I would pull out my latest yardage of beautiful material, unfold the tissue paper patterns and get to work. Because I hated to stop before finishing a project ,I once took a night and the following day to sew a taffeta skirt and jacket with matching silk blouse. I wore it to a wedding the following day. I also made formal wear, like this long blue satin gown I’m wearing–along with big hair–in this picture from the late 60s. Yep, still wearing white gloves!

Blue dress source of border for crazy quilt

That’s me in the blue satin dress in the middle of the front row. Scottsdale Jr. Woman’s Club 1967

I fashioned one of my favorites projects, a very short dress (hemlines had jumped up in the late sixties,) from a piece of heavy silk that my brother brought me from Vietnam. He served in that country during the war.

I might have made clothes for a little girl, but since I had boys, I felt no temptation to try sewing their uniform of sturdy pants and t-shirts. However, I get points for  making home sewn costumes for Halloween.

Halloween costumes

Halloween 1966 Gypsey Mike and Ken Rabbit

A new house called for learning to make drapes and curtains. One year I made home sewn aprons as Christmas presents for everyone in my extended family.

Inevitably, I also went through my crewel embroidery phase and my needlepoint phase, and some pieces from those periods surface now and then. Although I dreamed of replicating great-grandmother Hattie’s sampler, that has yet to happen.

Turning away from sewing when the boys were older, I moved on to various other pursuits.  But I will never forget the sense of accomplishment that comes with putting together a whole garment, or learning a new skill like pleating or making buttonholes. I now knew how to secure those buttons that my grandmother had taught me to sew on so many years before.

Charles Morgan and Two Ironies of Place

Jesse Morgan left five children behind when he took off for California in 1849. One was my great-grandmother, Hariett (Hattie) Morgan (Stout), whose mother Mary was Jesse’s second wife. The other four, including the eldest Charles Morgan, were from his first marriage. It seemed only fair that I tell what I know about these other children of Jesse Morgan before I finish his story.

What Happened to Jesse Morgan’s First Four Children?

My mother thought that both sons had gone to live with relatives, but I discovered that although that was the case with the oldest son, Charles, the second son, Carlos, working on a farm in Holmes County in 1850.

The two girls, however, did live in Killbuck, and would have been part of the family drama of Jesse’s comings and goings. My mother passed on stories from my grandmother that indicated that the two daughters were close to their half-sister Hattie and made the long trip from Colorado to visit her. Jesse’s children with Mary Pelton were:

  • Charles (June 20 1830-February 11, 1916)
  • Carlos (1832-1899)
  • Louisa ( October 1833-1909)
  • Malvina (April 1835-1917)
  • A fifth child, a son named John, died as an infant in Killbuck, Ohio when Jesse’s first wife also died about 1838.

What I Learned about Charles Morgan

From knowing almost nothing about the oldest child, Charles Morgan (Charley), I have gained a very complete picture of his life, as he moved frequently, married, farmed and became a Civil War soldier and outlived all his immediate family.  The nagging question I have about all four of these children is how much contact Jesse had with them after his first wife died. I found an intriguing coincidence in Charles history that hints they may have been in touch.

Little Charles Morgan “Orphaned”

Charles was born in Chautauqua New York  and was only eight years old when his mother died. He had to make the journey from Ohio back to Chautauqua County New York where he lived with his maternal grandparents Ruel and Lucy Pelton. Charles went to school in Sherman, New York through the eighth grade. Public high schools were not common then, and the family probably did not feel a high school education at a private academy was necessary for a boy who was fated to be a farmer.

His grandparents were aging, and by 1850 they had moved in with their son, also named Charles. They took young Charles (now 20) with them. There he shared the household with his aunt and uncle and their two young children until he married the 19-year-old Miranda Leach in 1859.

Irony #1: Charles Morgan Starts His Own Family and Moves to Illinois

I do not have the exact marriage date of Charles and Miranda, but their daughter Vavian was born in October 1859, probably at home.  Charles and Miranda were living with Miranda’s mother, Mary Leach when the 1860 census taker came around in June, 1860. There is no mention in later censuses of the first daughter Vavian, so I have to assume that she died in childhood.

In 1862, Charles and Miranda moved to Coral in McHenry County, Illinois, where they had a second daugther, Vietta.  This move intrigues me, as I mentioned earlier.  Jesse Morgan purchased property in Crystal Lake, McHenry County some time before 1845. The property  that he bought and then sold to his friend “Doc” Woods in 1847 also lies in McHenry County.  Coral, Charles home, an unincorprated community, lies just sixteen miles east of Crystal Lake. Could Jesse have given that land he bought in the 1840s (which I am still trying to track down) to his son Charles at some time before Jesse’s death? Or had they been in touch either when Jesse was traveling or by letter, so that Charles knew about Jesse’s high regard for the farmland of northern Illinois?

Charles Morgan Goes to War

At 34, barely settled into his new home in Illinois, Charles leaves his 24-year-old wife and their toddler daughter to join the Union Army.  The 95th Illinois Regiment, largely made up of McHenry County men, had already been through some tough fighting and probably used a two-month furlough period to recruit reinforcements from home.  Charles joined the Infantry as a private on October 3, 1864. If you want to know about the action he might have seen–and there was a lot for the 95th Regiment, you can see the Illinois Adjutant General’s Report here.

The army gave Charles an honorable discharge just eight months later, on June 12, 1865, just two months before the regiment was disbanded. He returned to his home in Coral, Illinois but the 1880 census reports he was sick on the day of the census.  His daughter, Vietta, 18, was still living at home, but in 1884 she married Frank Wood and by 1887 they had moved to Fern Valley, Iowa.

Charles Morgan Moves to Iowa

Charles and his wife Miranda moved to Fern Valley along with Vietta and her husband. Miranda died in 1893, and 1895 and 1900 census reports show Charles living with Vietta and her six children. A picture of Vietta from a family tree on Ancestry.com shows that although she dressed impressively (love the hat!), she was definitely not the looker in the family.

Vietta Morgan

Vietta Morgan, daughter of Charles Morgan. Photo from Ancestry tree of mives 2680

At 74, Charles married a second time– to a woman named Ida. The 1905 Iowa census and the 1910 Federal census shows them together, however Ida was no longer living in 1915. So Charles was two times a widow at 80 or so. For the first time, he is listed as Charley on the census instead of Charles. (Thanks to the 1910 census, I know that Ida was born in Ohio in 1844–14 years after Charles–and she had six living children.  All those children had left home by the time Ida married Charles.) I know very little about Ida (like her maiden name or first married name), but I do know that she and Charles were fated to be married less than ten years.

Charles Takes a Second Wife and Becomes a Double Widower

Not only did Charles’  second wife die between 1910 and 1915, but his younger sister Louisa died in 1909 and his only daughter moved to Turlock, California in 1910. After Vietta moved to California, she died there in 1911 when she was only 48 years old. Four serious blows to Charles Morgan in less than six years.

Irony #2: Charles Morgan Goes to California at the End of Life

Although Charles filled out the Iowa Census card in 1915 stating that he had been living in Iowa for 28 years, and was a retired farmer, Civil War veteran and widower at the age of 84, he apparently decided to join his son-in-law and grandchildren in California soon after he filled out that information. He had almost no one else. The man who had been virtually orphaned at eight had outlived his brother and one of his sisters, two wives and two daughters and his remaining sister was ailing in Colorado.  He had only grandchildren left for family.

He died in Modesto, California on February 11, 1916. His grave is marked by a stone honoring his service in the Union Army. Ironically, Charles Morgan is buried less than 75 miles away from where his father had been shot and killed 66 years before.

Charles Morgan

Charles Mogan’s gravestone in Modesto California. Photo by Bette Locke at Find a Grave.

The next child of Jesse Morgan I sketch is Carlos Morgan, Jesse’s second son- his westward trek and his beautiful wife.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout, who is the daughter of
  • Jessie Morgan and Mary Bassett Morgan.
  • Jessie Morgan with his first wife Mary Pelton is the father of
  • Charles Morgan

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census 1840 (Sherman, Chautauqua, New York), 1850 (Sherman, Chautauqua, New York), 1860 (Mina, Chautaqua, New York), 1870 (Coral, McHenry, Illinois), 1880 (Coral, McHenry, Illinois), 1900 (Fern Valley, Palo Alto, Iowa), 1910 (Fern Valley Palo, Iowa)

Iowa State Census 1905 (Fern Valley, Palo Alto, Iowa), 1915 (Rodman, Palo Alto, Iowa)

California, Death Index, 1905-1939, Ancestry.com, 2013, Surnames L-R, pg 7622  Charles Morgan

James Morgan and his Descendants, North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000, Ancestry.com 2016.

U.S. Find a Grave, Chas. Morgan,

National Park Service Soldiers and Sailors Data Base

National Park Service 95th Regiment Illinois Infantry

Illinois Adjutant General Report on 95th Regiment