History of USC Aiken quilt discovered

STAFF PHOTO BY LARRY WOOD Quilt historian Laurel Horton; Deborah Tritt, a librarian at USC Aiken’s Gregg-Graniteville Library; and George Wingard, an archaeologist at the Savannah River Site, stand in front of a quilt that has been attributed to have been made by Marina Gregg, wife of William Gregg, the founder of Graniteville and Graniteville Company. The three traced the origin of the quilt using bits of information and a quilt known to have been made by Marina Gregg.

The lives of Graniteville founder William Gregg and his wife, Marina, share a common thread – textiles.

Gregg is known as the father of the textile industry in the south, and Marina was an award-winning quilt maker.

A quilt that now has been attributed to Marina Gregg was the subject of the annual meeting Thursday of the Friends of the Library of the Gregg-Graniteville Library at USC Aiken. The quilt, made from velvet, cotton and silk in the stars and diamonds pattern, was an artifact in the Gregg-Graniteville Archives at the Gregg-Graniteville Library, but its origins had been lost to history.

At the meeting, USCA librarian Deborah Tritt and archaeologist George Wingard described how they pieced together the history of the quilt, using only scraps of information. Quilt historian Laurel Horton, who examined the quilt to help determine its origin, discussed “Quilts as Documents of Women’s Lives” to end the program, which also included a silent auction to benefit the Friends of the Library

Wingard, the program coordinator at the Savannah River Archeological Research program and a Graniteville resident, began his research on the quilt’s origins with three names – Katherine Hammond, Mrs. E.C. Garvin and Mrs. J.G. Chafre. The names appeared on the provenance card in the box in which the quilt, described simply as “Old quilt,” had been stored for many years.

Wingard started with Hammond. Hammond, who was the daughter of James Henry Hammond, of Redcliffe Plantation in Beech Island, married James J. Gregg, William and Marina Gregg’s son. Wingard contacted the staff at Redcliffe Plantation and learned Hammond was not a quilter.

With help from Tina Monaco at the Georgia Heritage Room at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library, Wingard said he learned that Mrs. E.C. Garvin was an Augusta socialite with an interest in textiles. Mrs. J.G. Chafre was Mrs. John Gregg Chafee, not Chafre, the wife of a grandson of William and Marina Gregg.

The connections tied the quilt to the Gregg family but did not prove Marina Gregg created it.

“Even though we had family and area connections that seemed strong, we couldn’t say absolutely conclusively that this quilt was created by Marina Gregg,” Tritt said.

To research further, Tritt and Wingard took USCA’s quilt to the Charleston Museum, which has a 1852 quilt made by Marina Gregg, last April and met with the museum’s textile curator Jan Hiester and Horton.

The quilt experts compared the two quilts’ fabrics, patterns and stitching side-by-side.

Both quilts were made using the English paper piecing quilting technique, also known as mosaic quilts. Although the quilts varied in size, both revealed an intentional positioning of small pieces of fabric to create patterns.

The textile experts also compared pieces of hexagonal scrap cloth that was known to have belonged to Marina Gregg and a brass hexagon template that was used to create the quilt’s fabric pieces.

The size of the template did not match the Charleston Museum’s quilt.

“But when we compared the template to our quilt, which is a later quilt, it matched perfectly,” Tritt said. “After our discussions and our analysis and our comparison between the two quilts with the textile curator and quilt historian, we were able to walk away and say, ‘Yes, this was absolutely made by Mrs. Gregg.’”

Although Marina Gregg is not so well known as her industrialist husband, Tritt said her contribution to textiles is equally important.

“While William Gregg was the father of the Southern textile industry, Marina Gregg was also involved in textiles but on the handcrafted side of textiles, the artistry of it all,” Tritt said. “It’s a really nice parallel between Williams Gregg and Mrs. Gregg.”

For more information about the Friends of the Library at USCA, go to usca.edu, clink on the Gregg-Graniteville Library page and look for Friends of the Library.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.