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Iowa auction yields part of a STEPHENSON coverlet


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 5/29/2006 at 21:38:49

"The Iowan", Aug.-Sept., 1961, Pg. 44


... We were quite excited when, two years ago at an auction in southern Iowa, we picked up a piece of an old coverlet which had been woven in Iowa. It was a lovely fragment in rose color, light and dark blue on a natural cotton background. In each of the two corners under an eagle clutching a flag was the name, "D. STEPHENSON, Fairfield, Jefferson Co., Iowa, 1858."

Our first inquiry was to our friends in the local weavers' guild. No one knew anything about STEPHENSON or any other Iowa weaver of the period. A hunt through Jefferson Counnty histories and other possible historical sources yielded no information. We dropped the matter for a time, but renewed the search when at a sale in Germanville, we bought a worn but whole coverlet in the border of which was woven "D. STEPHENSON, Fairfield, Iowa, 1853." The name, Catherine GRAFF, also appears, probably that of the woman for whom it was made.

A little later looking through a book published by the Colonial Coverlet Guild of Chicago, I found pictured another D. STEPHENSON coverlet corner.

Our interest was revived. We had established that D. STEPHENSON had lived and worked in Fairfield in the 1850s. We yearned to put some flesh on the bones of these bare facts. We continued to ask questions of Fairfield residents and recently were referred to Mr. and Mrs. Ben J. TAYLOR of the city.

The TAYLORs are collectors with a special interest in historical backgrounds. They were delighted to have, as they expressed it, a "whole new field of interest opened up".

For the rest of this material, I am indebted to Mrs. TAYLOR and those who supplied the information to her. She tells us that Mrs. Elmer LARSEN of Fairfield has a coverlet in red and blue woven in 1874. It was given to her by her mother, Mrs. Iowa DALLNER FLINSPACH, with the following information: "This coverlet was woven by Daniel STEPHENSON, who lived at Fairfield, Ia.. In 1843 he apprenticed himself to a man by the name of Robert CROSSLEY (or CROSLEY) who had a factory in Springfield, Ohio. STEPHENSON worked there for two years.

"He began weaving in Fairfield in 1852. The wool for this coverlet came from Grandfather DALLNER's sheep, was spun in the Bonaparte, Iowa, woolen mills. Mr. STEPHENSON dyed all of the yarn himself and furnished the cotton warp (white). He was born in 1823."

Two exceprts from the "Fairfield Ledger" fill in the other details. The July 13, 1892, issue contains a personal: "Daniel STEPHENSON, who lives two miles northwest of the city, has been quite ill with an affection of the stomach. His recovery is considered improbable."

And from the July 20, 1892, "Fairfield Ledger": "Daniel STEPHENSON, whose serious illness was noted in last week's "Ledger", died at his home in Fairfield township three miles northwest of this city yesterday afternoon. Cancer of the stomach killed him. He had not been confined to his bed long, but he felt he could not recover."

"Mr. STEPHENSON was a native of England, but the greater portion of his life had been spent in this country. He was a carpet weaver by trade and had been engaged in that business here in the city and country for more than a quarter of a century. A wife and three grown children survive him."

At the Jefferson County Courthouse there is on film Daniel STEPHENSON's will, which was read on July 27, 1892. It names as survivors three sons and a daughter, Louisa. Louisa married a man named SNYDER and their son, Simon, still lives in Fairfield. He has a blue and white coverlet woven by his grandfather in 1868.

A number of other residents of Fairfield and Jefferson county own STEPHENSON coverlets. This accidental research may add interest to the discovery of any additional coverlets by the weaver who worked in Fairfield in the first decade of Iowa's history as a state.

*Transcribed for genealogy purposes; I have no relation to the person(s) mentioned.


Jefferson Documents maintained by Joey Stark.
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