1850 Mary T. Barnes's "Irish Chain" Quilt

This quilt, a variation of the “Irish Chain” pattern, was made for Mary T. Barnes’s dower chest in 1850. She married Gen. John Bratton Erwin in 1866. Blocks pieced in red, green, and white cottons were set such that the “chain” runs both horizontally and vertically. Both plain and printed fabrics were used for the border which is quilted with parallel diagonal lines. An inked inscription, “Mary T. Barnes 1850” is in the upper left corner block. Mary’s two daughters donated the “Irish Chain” Quilt in 1933.
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 Mary was six. Her father, Col.l Dixon Barnes, commanded the 12th South Carolina Infantry during the Civil War. Colonel Barnes 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. After he married, he 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: 91 3/4 in x 93 3/4 in; 233 cm x 238 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

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