The Quiltmaker, Part 1

The following is an essay on the life of Lucretia K. Shaufler Lerch. I theorize that she is the maker of the antique pineapple block quilt. We may never know for sure because there is no name on the quilt or documentation of it that I have found. Most of the information here is factual.

In October 1882 William Harrison Shaufler married Mary Magdalena Early in Pennsylvania. William had been living in E. Hanover and Mary in Londonderry Township. The towns are over 140 miles from each other so I haven’t a clue how they met. It was William’s second marriage. His first wife was Mary Harmon and they had 3 girls: Elizabeth, Amy, and Minnie. Mary Harmon died in 1874 after giving birth to Minnie. In 1880, William left his girls with his parents and was working in Harrisburg as a barkeeper. He was living in a hotel or rooming house in the city. William had been a butcher for most of his life and a miller.

Mary William

Mary Magdalena Early and William Harrison Shaufler

Mary Early’s ancestors were from Germany. Her great-great-grandfather immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750. Mary was from a large family with 10 siblings. In 1880 she was keeping house for her widowed father at the farm in Londonderry. Her younger sister Lucretia (a teacher), sister Annie, and brother Ezra (a farmer) were also living there. Mary was 39 when she married William and he was 41.

Mary and William had 2 daughters: Lucretia Kathryn born in 1884 and Edna in 1892. Lucretia was named after her aunt. She was born in Lyonsville, PA, now known as Exton, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. Lucretia was a leap year baby, born on February 29th. In that year, the Statue of Liberty was under construction.

While Lucretia was growing up, these are some of the headlines they would have read in the newspaper:

  • 1886 American Federation of Labor is founded.
  • 1888 The Great Blizzard
  • 1889 US President is Harrison.
  • 1890 Wounded Knee massacre  in S. Dakota
  • 1893 US President is Cleveland. The Panic of 1893 causes a severe economic depression. 1st gasoline powered car in the US.
  • 1896 The Klondike Gold Rush. The first modern Olympic Games.
  • 1897 US President is   McKinley.
  • 1898 The Spanish American   War

In 1900 Lucretia was 16 and living with her parents and sister Edna (8) in E. Hanover, PA, about 25 miles east of Harrisburg. Harrisburg is in the Pennsylvania Dutch country and is the county seat of Dauphin County. Lucretia is a dressmaker and is not going to school. Her father is a butcher and rents their home. Lucretia had wanted to be a nurse but her parents did not approve. Instead she attended the Union Deposit Normal School and earned a teaching certificate. Union Deposit was an unincorporated community in S. Hanover, PA. A “normal school” was secondary education for people who wanted to teach elementary students.

It is my theory that Lucretia made the pineapple block quilt sometime between 1900 and 1903 for her hope chest. She may have made it from the silk scraps she collected from making dresses and shirtwaists for customers.

 LKS

Lucretia Kathryn Shaufler

On August 25, 1903 Lucretia married Clayton Albert Lerch in Derry Township, PA. She was 19 years old. They were married on Clayton’s 26th birthday. Also in 1903 the town of Hershey, within Derry, was chartered. This is where the chocolate factory and park are located. The Wright brothers flew the first airplane this year as well.

Clayton was born in Grantville, PA in 1877. His parents were Daniel and Christiana Lerch (first cousins) and they were married in 1866. Daniel and Christiana’s first born son Calvin died as an infant and then Clayton was their only child. They were farmers. When Christiana was helping with the haying one season, she fell off the hay wagon and broke her back. Her back was hunched and she was disabled the rest of her life. Only German was spoken in this home. Clayton learned English when he started public school. He attended Lehigh University for one year.

Daniel Christiana

Daniel Albert and Christiana Lerch

In 1900, Clayton was 22 and living with his parents in E. Hanover. He was a public school teacher in a one room schoolhouse. He became an electrician by the time he was married.

 CAL

Clayton Albert Lerch

Lucretia and Clayton moved to S. Orange, NJ, just outside of Newark. She traveled to Palmyra, PA likely to be with her mother in October 1904 when she gave birth to her first daughter and my grandmother, Beatrice (Bea) Edna. She then returned to NJ. The small family eventually moved to Plainfield, part of Piscataway, NJ, 35 miles from New York City. Here Lucretia had 4 more babies: 1909 Eleanor (Billie), 1911 Everett, 1915 Ruth, and 1918 Norman. She made christening gowns for each of her babies and saved them.

 LKS Beatrice

Lucretia and Beatrice Edna Lerch, circa 1905

Clayton and Lucretia home schooled all of their children in their early years. Bea didn’t go to public school until she was 10 and she graduated from high school at 15. Ruth went to school at age 7. All the children graduated from high school but did not go to college.

Lucretia was an excellent seamstress and made almost everything her children wore. It is very likely she had a sewing machine and may have purchased fabric in town and patterns from a catalog such as Sears & Roebuck. She taught her daughters to sew. She was also a very good cook, making many of the German dishes taught to her by her mother.

Lucretia’s father passed away in November 1913. He had a lingering illness called “paresis” which is a term for a weakness of the limbs from a neurological disorder. Clayton’s mother died in February 1917.

They had a house which they owned with a mortgage. Clayton initially worked in construction and then was a full time electrician. In 1918, Clayton registered for the WWI draft and listed his employer as Electric Motor & Repair in Newark, NJ. The war ended in 1918 and Clayton did not serve.

Living so close to New York City until 1920, they would have discussed and perhaps attended gatherings, meeting, or rallies. Some of the headlines in this time were:

  • 1910 Halley’s Comet.
  • 1911 NYC Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
  • 1912 the Titanic sinks
  • 1913 US President is Wilson
  • 1914 World War I starts, the Cape Cod Canal opens.
  • 1915 The Red Sox win the World Series.
  • 1918 World War I ends.  The influenza pandemic occurs, 800,000 US citizens die.
  • 1919 19th ammendment  ratified giving women the vote. Prohibition starts.

Social problems were high and labor unions grew. The middle class became more unhappy. Children worked in mills until a minimum age law was passed in the states. Women were striving for equality. Immigration was very high into New York. (My Polish grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in 1910 and 1911). There was poverty, hunger, and illness in the city. America became the most highly industrialized country and the millionth Model T rolled off the assembly line.

Women began to think more of comfort for their clothing and hemlines inched up above the ankles. The children may have played with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. The Ouija Board became popular. A simple folding Kodak camera made picture taking easier and popular.

From Wikipedia:

Paterson NJ (40 miles north of the Lerch’s) was a mecca for immigrant laborers who worked in its silk factories. Paterson was the site of historic labor unrest that focused on anti-child labor legislation, and the six-month long Paterson silk strike of 1913 that demanded the eight-hour day and better working conditions, but was defeated by the employers with workers forced to return under pre-strike conditions. Factory workers labored long hours for low wages under dangerous conditions, and lived in crowded tenement buildings around the mills. In 1919, Paterson was one of eight locations bombed by self-identified anarchists.[25]

The strike began on March 3, 1913. During the course of the strike, approximately 1,850 strikers were arrested, including Industrial Workers of the World leaders William Dudley Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.[1]

Lucretia suffered from bronchitis and her doctor suggested that Clayton move her to a warm climate. So they sold their home and furnishings and packed up their household. Clayton took a ship to Jacksonville Florida and then a train to Orlando. He found them an apartment. Lucretia and the five children ages 15, 11, 8, 4, and 2 took a train to Orlando. They arrived April 10, 1920.

Part 2 will follow.

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2 thoughts on “The Quiltmaker, Part 1

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Marianne. I have been thinking about a format for presenting my family tree information. You have given me something to base my research on.

    • Hi Nancy! Someday I’ll show you the books I compiled 10 yrs ago when I did most of the genealogy research. I loved writing this story of Lucretia’s life so it is more of a story than just the facts.

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