A rare and important silk and linen needlework sampler wrought by Phebe Walton, Probably Cumberland County, Virginia, fourth quarter 18th century
Inscribed along the bottom PHEBE WALTON BORN MAY 1757 24 1/4 x 21in (61.5 x 53.4cm), unframed
Provenance: According to family history: Phebe Walton (b. circa 1775, died prior to 1822), married to Thomas Hales Steger (1772-1839) Mary Francis Steger (1808-1883), daughter, married John Todd Wood (1810-1865) Watson Fuller Wood (1860-1942), son Grace Virginia Wood Campbell (1906-2012), daughter thence by gift
This sampler is accompanied by a letter dated October 29, 1929, inscribed This is to certify that it is my desire that the article known as my "Sampler" should go to my daughter, Grace Virginia Wood, and I hereby bequeath to my daughter, Grace Virginia Wood, the Sampler which was made in 1773 by my grandmother, Phoebe Ann Walton, of Cumberland County, Virginia - W.F. Wood, M.D. White Church, KS
Phebe Walton was born in Cumberland County, Virginia around 1776, the daughter of Edward Walton (1747-1807) and Nancy Murray (1748-1825), both of Cumberland County. She was one of several children born to Edward and Nancy, and the initials of her parents and several of her siblings are included to the left of her name. Phebe married Thomas H. Steger (1772-1839) but died prior to 1822, when he married Nancy Shores. Thomas and Phebe's daughter, Mary Frances Steger (1808-1883), married John Todd Wood (1810-1865) and it was their son, Watson F. Wood with whom this sampler descended. For a more detailed accounting of the Waltons of Virginia, see Wilmer L. Kerns, Ph.D., Waltons of Old Virginia, and Sketches of Families in Central Virginia (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2005.)
Eighteenth-century samplers from Virginia are rare and even fewer still are surviving ones from Cumberland County; the earliest previously-known example was made around 1815. According to family history, the sampler was worked at a school in Cartersville, Virginia, about 40 miles from Richmond; supposedly, the school is represented in the building that dominates the lower half of the composition. For a greater discussion of Virginia samplers, see Kimberly Smith Ivey, In the Neatest Manner: The Making of the Virginia Sampler Tradition, (Colonial Williamsburg and Curious Works Press, 1997).
The extended Walton family that this sampler descends in includes several girls named Phoebe / Phebe, all being born in Cumberland County, Virginia, in the fourth quarter of the eighteenth and first quarter of the nineteenth centuries; the one that this descends directly from is the earliest of these. The small discrepancy in the inscribed date of 1757 and existing official records may be explained by the occasional reversal of numbers and letters, which can be seen elsewhere in this sampler. The numbers 82 and 84, which can be seen above Phebe's name, may indicate the dates when she started and completed this sampler.
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