Bartlett French, Coverlet Weaver
born June 10, 1798, died May 6, 1883
 

Known to have woven coverlets in:
Hamlets of Waterville and Clinton, Oneida Co., NY, 1833-1840
Village of Cazenovia, Madison Co., NY, 1843-1851
Hamlet of Eaton, Madison Co., NY, 1860
 

 Daniel H. Weiskotten
Last Modified 10/12/2002

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His Life

        Virginia Parslow Partridge, in her research on New York State Coverlet Weavers (Made in New York, Handwoven Coverlets, 1820-1860, Jefferson Co. Hist. Soc., Watertown, NY, 1985), notes that Bartlett French was the son of Lemuel and Sarah P. Luce French.  Bartlett French was born June 10, 1798, in Hardwick, Worcester Co., MA, but in 1799, when still an infant, his family is said to have moved to the New Hampshire Grants section of Vermont, and then to Westford, VT.  From there Partridge was able to trace the family of Lemuel French to Oneida County, where "L. French" appears on the 1810 Census.  I was also able to find that a Lemuel French listed among the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans of the Westford, VT, area, and he may have returned to that area after 1810.  In 1814 Lemuel may still be listed among the property owners of the Town of Vernon, Oneida Co., NY.

        According to Partridge's work, and A Checklist of American Coverlet Weavers (compiled by the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, 1978, Williamsburg, VA), French had worked in the Oneida Co., NY, communities of Waterville* (1834-1836) and Clinton (1837-1840). I was able to find reference to a Waterville coverlet made for Sophia Terry in 1833, his earliest known work (sold 1/1/2000 by Copake Auction, Copake, NY, Item #279).  Although he was known as a carpet weaver in Cazenovia there are no known coverlets marked as from Cazenovia.  I have found record of him living and weaving in Cazenovia from at least 1843 to 1851.  Neither Partridge or the Checklist listed French as being a weaver in the hamlet of Eaton, where he is found as a "Fancy Weaver" in the 1860 Census.

*Note = the hamlet of Bingley in Cazenovia was known as Waterville early as 1820 (Madison Co. Deed Q:200), but there is no indication that French was located there.

        Published and detailed descriptions of two Bartlett French coverlets from Waterville are known.  One, made for Sophia Terry, in 1833 and signed "B. French / Weaver / Waterville" is a blue and white jacquard coverlet with a floral pattern in the body, a pine tree border, and fringe (sold 1/1/2000 by Copake Auction, Copake, NY, Item #279).  A similarly signed coverlet made for Ollive Palmer (sic) in 1835 is a double weave blue wool and white cotton, with "Lilies of France" interior design and a "standing lions" border (from the Checklist, Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center  #1973.609.9).  I have seen illustrations of two other similar coverlets: an identical coverlet was woven in 1835 for Lucretia Randal (sic) (Partridge, Made in New York ..., plate 4, page 44), and an eagle bordered coverlet, with the same "Lilies of France" pattern, was made for Lydia Brown in 1835 (Private Collection).

       I have been told that another Bartlett French coverlet is owned by a descendant of the infamous Loomis family (i.e. "The Loomis Gang" of mid-19th century local legend and lore).  It is dated 1834 and was made for Rhoda Loomis, whom I assume is Rhoda Marie Mallet who married in 1814 George Washington Loomis Sr., and was the matriarch of the "gang".  The date of 1834 would mean that it was made in Waterville, Oneida County, not far from where the Loomis family lived.  I do not know the design elements of this coverlet.  Another coverlet made for the Loomis family is said to be in the hands of another descendant.

        I have not seen any examples of the coverlets that Bartlett French may have made in Cazenovia, but I know there must be some around as he advertised that he was weaving coverlets in Cazenovia in 1843, 1846 and 1848.  Various references found in primary sources show that he was in Cazenovia Village for nearly a decade (1843-1851).  The earliest date that I have found for him being in Cazenovia is a notice in the Madison County Whig of October __, 1843 (sorry I do not know the day!) where he advertised that he ("B. French") was weaving coverlets, carpets, shawls, rugs, etc. in the third floor of Burr's new block ... entrance on the west side of the building.  French may have been in town some time before 1843, but the newspapers for a few years before that date have only recently been found at Colgate University and I have not had the opportunity to examine them.  The building in which French had his weaver's shop stood at the corner of the Public Square where the present Merchants Bank is now located at 43-45 Albany Street, with the entrance on the side facing the Public Square.  A second advertisement from the June 17, 1846 Madison County Whig notes that "B. French" was continuing in the business of carpet and coverlet weaving, as well as "fancy dying".  In the third advertisement, also in the Madison County Whig, dated January 12, 1848, "B. French" reminds the community that he was still weaving carpets and double and single weave coverlets.  These adds ran for many months and other ads may be available.

        The French family appears on the 1850 Federal Census of the Town of Cazenovia, Madison County (page 147, lines 6-13, dwelling 1040, Family 1155).  This record shows that Bartlett French was a 53 year old weaver and native of Massachusetts.  His household consisted of his wife, Ruth, a 51 year old native of New York, and their six children: John (age 24 [born c.1826] and a student), Olive (age 19), Harriet (age 17), Emeline (age 14), Frances (female, age 9), and Chester A. (age 7).  All of the children are natives of New York.  A "Schedule of Industry" is available for this census but I have not had the opportunity to examine it to see if French's production statistics are shown.

        Because his son John H. French appears to be the same John T. French who graduated from Cazenovia Seminary in 1844 (see below) it might be that Bartlett French had come to Cazenovia about 1840 when his son started school.  Alternatively it may be that he followed his son to the flourishing village of Cazenovia after he began his schooling.  In any event, it is clear that between 1840 and 1843 Bartlett French brought his family to Cazenovia to live in some permanence.

        Bartlett French also shows up in several other records, including the November 1, 1847 petition to preserve the levels of Cazenovia Lake, and the Village of Cazenovia Poll Tax Lists for June 1, 1846, June 2, 1847, June 10, 1848, April 3, 1849, May 6, 1850 and April 26, 1851 (he was not on the lists of 1840, 1841, 1842 or 1843, nor 1852, 1853 or 1854, and there were no lists for 1844 and 1845) .  On each of the Poll Tax Lists, except that of 1851, the name of John H. French also appears but I have not found that he was involved with coverlet weaving (see notes below).  Bartlett French's presence (as well as that of his son, John H.) on the Poll Tax Lists and not the Property Tax Lists indicates the family did not own property in the village.

        Determining where the French family lived in the village is difficult.  They are not found on any known historic maps of the Village or Town of Cazenovia (1852, 1853 or  1859).  I have not checked Madison County land records, but the fact that they do not appear on the property tax lists indicates that they did not own land.  Usually the order of enumeration for the census taker (reflected in the order in which they appear in the records) can help closely identify the neighborhood in which a family lived, and when used in conjunction with historic maps the very house might even be identified even if the family's name does not appear on the map.  In the case of the French family and their occurrence on the 1850 census, it seems that they lived in the eastern part of the village, perhaps on Fenner or Burton Streets.  Unfortunately many of the houses that stood here at the time do not have associated names on the 1852 or 1853 Village maps.  Also, it may be that they lived in one of the many apartments in the village and thus their residence might never be identified.  All but a few of the names that appear on the census near them are likewise unidentifiable as to residence indicating the French family remained among the working lower-class or more mobile segment of the village population.

        Very little of French's life and career after 1851 is known.  I have found no members of his family mentioned in church records or buried in local cemeteries.  1851 is the latest date that I have him in Cazenovia.  The building in which he had his weaver's shop burned in the late 1850s, which may have been an impetus for him to move from the village, but I do not know if he was here until that time.

        Through the work of Susan Greenhagen at SUNY College at Morrisville, I was able to find that Bartlett French went from Cazenovia to the hamlet of Eaton, in the Town of Eaton in central Madison Co., NY.  He appears there with his family on the 1860 census (Page 558, Dwelling 804, Family 804 - an error in numbering has these listed as 704).  He is listed as a 65 year old New Hampshire native, and occupied as a "Fancy Weaver."  His wife Ruth, is listed as age 61, and a native of NY, as are children Olive (age 27, a Servant), Francis (age 19) and Chester (age 16, a Farm Laborer).  I was able to successfully determine the close proximity of his residence based on who his neighbors were, and it seems he lived at or about the northeast corner of Main and Church Streets.

        This location is perhaps confirmed by the 1859 and 1875 maps of the hamlet of Eaton where "Miss E. French" is found in 1859 and "Mrs. E. French" is found in 1875.  I beleive this to be Eliza French, who appears on the 1870 Census for the Town of Eaton (page 7, Dwelling 33, Family 39) and who is buried in the Eaton Cemetery (born 1805, died 1881).  Who Eliza is I do not yet know.  She is buried in the same plot (13 A) as Abel French (died 1830 age 66 years) Mary French, wife of Abel French (died 1842 age 60 years), Henry French (1791-1845) and Joseph W. French (died 1820 age 34 years) (great thanks to Tim Smith of Eaton for this information!).  Eliza is listed as a native of Massachusetts in the 1870 Census.

        The 1860 census also has a Schedule of Industry but I have not yet examined that source which will probably list the mnanufacturing work of Bartlett French.  I have not checked the 1855 or 1865 census records for the town of Eaton.

        I have then found Bartlett French in the 1870 Census of the Town of Lenox, Madison County, NY (Page 48, Dwelling 413, Family 426).  "Bartlet French" He is listed as a 73 year old "Book Agent" and native of Vermont.  Living in his household at the time were wife Ruth, age 71 years and infirm, native of New York, and daughter Olive, age 31 and occupied in Housekeeping.  The parents have no property or personal values, but Ruth has a personal property assessment of $300.00, indicating that the family did not own their residence and Olive was taking care of her aged parents.  This makes it clear that Bartlett French had given up weaving by this time.  Analysis of the neighbors who are listed before and after French in the census indicate that he lived at the intersection known today as "Five Corners" on NY 5 in the very eastern portion of the City of Oneida.

       Susan Greenhagen has also recently found Bartlett French's obituary in the Madison Observer (Morrisville, NY) of May 9, 1883:

SUDDEN DEATH. -- Mr. Bartlett French, formerly a resident of this place, died very suddenly, at his residence in Rome, last Sunday night (May 6, 1883), of apoplexy.  Mr. French was in his 86th year, and up to the time of his death had been in good health.
        Not much more than month later his wife, Ruth, passed away.  Susan Greenhagen has also found notice of her death on June 14, 1883, age 83 years, in the June 21, 1883 issue of the Madison Observer.
 

        I have also found two other sources with some information on a Chester A. French, but I am not sure if these people are the same Chester as the youngest child of Bartlett and Ruth French, who was born about 1844 according to confirmed Census records of 1850 and 1860:


        As you can see, although I seem to have a great deal of information on the subject, I actually have very little, and if you have any information on the history of Bartlett French and his family and coverlets I would very much like to know, so please contact me!
 
 


(woven for Lucretia Randall, 1835, Made in New York ... plate 4, page 44)
 


(woven for Lucretia Randall, 1835, Made in New York ... plate 4, page 44)
 


(woven for Lydia Brown, 1835, private collection)
 


(used with permission of the Abbie Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, #1973.609.9)
 


(woven for Lydia Brown, 1835, private collection)








Notes on John H. French:

Notes on William Wilson, another Madison County, NY, coverlet weaver:
        William Wilson is listed in Partridge Made in New York State, page 68, and the Checklist, page 118.  He is said to have settled in Madison County from Scotland in 1818.  Two known examples of his work were made for family members, one is an overshot weave and one is dated 1836 (marked "A. Wilson" and now at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC).  He is "listed" in an unknown source (census?) as being in Madison County, and he employed a weaver at 41 1/2 cents a day.  An account book is known and is privately owned and shows that he received items in trade for his work.  Where in Madison County he was located I have not ascertained.
Here are some links that I have found which deal with or discuss coverlets:

Joseph Jacquard

The Jacquard Loom

Jacquard's Punched Card

Did you know that the first computer was a weaving loom?

`Stored Programs' and Punched Cards - Jacquard's Loom and its consequences

The Process of Making Cotton Cloth

The Encyclopedia Britannica

Cornell-Wood coverlet has links to early technology

Jontz-Montgomery Coverlet Collection

Illinois Jacquard Coverlets and Weavers: End of a Legacy

Illinois Jacquard Coverlets and Weavers

Coverlet Weavers in Illinois

Henry Adolph Coverlet

Colonial Coverlet Guild Collection

History looms large: Coverlet instructive about weaving

Sharon Koota, dealer in Antique Coverlets

Quilts, Coverlets & Embroidered Blankets: Bed Covers from America's Past

Antique Coverlets - an American Heirloom