1850 Mary T. Barnes's Dower Counterpane

This white counterpane was made for Mary T. Barnes’s dower chest in 1850. She married Gen. John Bratton Erwin in 1866. The 20-inch center of this counterpane is composed of 7-inch squares filled alternately with wineglass and diagonal grid quilting. The center is surrounded by an 8 ½-inch band quilted in a pattern of large triangles filled with shell quilting. This band in turn is framed by a band of 7-inch squares quilted in the same pattern as those of the center. Next comes another 8 ½-inch band quilted in a running vine pattern with shell quilting in the background. Finally, a border of 7-inch squares, again filled with wineglass and diagonal grid quilting, completes this counterpane. An inked inscription, “Mary T. Barnes 1850” is near one corner. Mary’s two daughters donated the precisely quilted counterpane in 1932.
Mary T. Barnes, the only child of Dixon Barnes (1816-1862) and Charlotte Brown Barnes, was born 16 October 1840 in Lancaster County, S. C. Her mother died when she was six. Her father, Col. Dixon Barnes, commanded the 12th South Carolina Infantry during the Civil War and died as a result of wounds during the Antietam Campaign when Mary was about 22.
After her marriage in 1866, she and John Bratton Erwin (1834-1916) settled on her plantation in Lancaster County, S. C. John, trained as a lawyer, fought in the Civil War, and after his marriage managed Mary’s large estates. They had six children, of whom three lived into adulthood. In 1876 John Erwin was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives and in 1886 to the Senate. Mary died in 1893 and John in 1916. Both are buried in the Camp Creek Methodist Church Cemetery, Lancaster County, S. C..
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 93 1/4 in x 94 in; 237 cm x 239 cm
place made
United States: South Carolina, Lancaster
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of the Misses Isabelle McCaw Erwin and Mildred Adair Erwin
Additional Media

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