Electa Russell, Deerfield White Dove School, Deerfield, Franklin, Massachusetts, 1806
This meticulously wrought sampler is a charming balanced composition beneath an alphabet and a numerical progression within a three-sided border. It shares many design elements found on those samplers worked between 1798 and 1826 and a bit later in the Deerfield area of Western Massachusetts and belonging to that body of work called the "Deerfield White Dove School". According to Betty Ring in Girlhood Embroidery, the style elements are consistent as to suggest they were worked under the same instructress but where she taught is unknown though some are documented as to have been worked at Deerfield Academy. Most likely there was more than one teacher as in a lot of cases a student would become a teacher and teach in the same style in which she herself was taught.
Shared designs on the Deerfield White Dove Samplers include solidly stitched triangular pine trees, collared dogs with upright curled tails, identical fruiting baskets with protruding leaves, 3-sided arcaded border, though we do find other borders, particularly interlocking Diamonds. Other elements include daisy flowers w/lg.petals, identical doves atop the pine trees and the signatory information within a solidly stitched central tablet. Another shared element is an odd diamond shaped stylized tree. While not all of the samplers will have all of the elements, those they share will be instantly recognizable as the White Dove School body of needlework because many of the samplermakers stitched a white dove outlined in blue or black into their work. Our sampler, worked in 1806 by Electa Russell is a recently discovered addition to this body of work, containing many of the characteristics of this school, minus the doves themselves.
Electa Russell was the first of five children born to William and Hannah (Phelps) Russell of Deerfield, Massachusetts on 14 Jan 1793. William Russell had strong ties to the Deerfield area, being a farmer as was his father before him. While William' wife, Hannah was born in Northampton, a nearby town, they moved to Deerfield after their marriage where they raised their family. (William died in 1808 and is buried in the Old Deerfield Burying Ground.)
On 20 July 1814 Electa married Simon Remington and they had 3 children. Unfortunately their time together was short as Simon drowned in 1820 at age 31, leaving his widow, Electa, to raise their family. On 29 Dec 1821 Electa married Alexander Ryther of Bernardston. His father, Dr. Gideon Ryther was a graduate of Dartmouth Collage and also the first postmaster of Bernardston, MA.
On 11 Jan, 1878 Electa died of pneumonia at age 85 and is buried next to her husband, Alexander, in Center Cemetery in Bernardston, MA. Being firmly rooted in this area of Western Massachusetts, Electa and her family lived variously in Montague, Greenfield and Bernardston as well as in Deerfield. The sampler is worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition, conservation mounted into a molded frame. Size 9 inches x 12 inches (sight) and 12 inches x 15 inches framed.
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