Highly-developed Canadian samplers are rarely found and, in many ways, this outstanding example made by Phebe Randolph Morse in 1840, is the finest 19th century one that we have come to know. Eleven-year-old Phebe centered her composition on a spectacular brick house flanked by folky willow trees; a pair of black dogs guards the front door. The house is wonderfully detailed, with delicate mullions and louvered shutters on each window, a widow’s walk between the chimneys and a front door sporting both a knob and a knocker. The inscription and tightly worked poem, “The Hope of a Sunday School Scholar,” further demonstrate Phebe’s skill.
Included in the inscription is the place name, Annapolis (also known as Annapolis Royal), an historic town on the Annapolis River in Nova Scotia 10 kilometers from the Bay of Fundy. Researching the genealogy of Phebe Randolph Morse was particularly rewarding. Handley Chipman Morse (1795-1862) married Jerusha Tupper (1795-1837) on October 1, 1818. Prior generations had deep roots in America. Samuel Morse, eight generations back from Phebe, settled in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1635; it was Abner Morse, who, over a century later in 1760, sailed from Boston to Annapolis, Nova Scotia, along with some of his livestock - two oxen, two cows and one horse, (Who Begot Thee? by Gilbert O. Bent, Boston, 1903). Settling on land that had been formerly owned by banished Frenchmen, Morse came to hold over 1000 acres by 1770. A somewhat similar story and further published records indicate that the Chipman great-grandfather, magistrate Hon. Handley Chipman (1717-1799), lived in Sandwich and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and then Newport, Rhode Island. “After Acadia was taken by the British, they desired to colonise [sic] it from New England, knowing the sturdy character of the people of the latter place. Consequently they offer great inducements in the way of land grant ... Rhode Island was one of the places from whence many sailed for Nova Scotia. Handley Chipman was a man of education and of literary tastes. Writings of his are still extant. He held the offices of Justice of the Peace and Judge of Probate in Cornwallis,” (Genealogiae or Data Concerning the Families of Morse, Chipman, etc. by Mary Lovering Holman, 1925).
Phebe was born on July 26, 1829, the sixth of the Morse’s eight children. Interestingly, a 1934 published reminiscence, The Romance of Old Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia, by Charlotte Isabella Perkins, includes information about two private schools in which the female students were known to have worked samplers; one of these is likely the school that Phebe attended. She remained single and lived with her brother John, a merchant, and his wife Amanda, in Clarence, a small town just north of Annapolis. Phebe died at age 69 and is buried at the Pine Grove Cemetery in nearby Middleton.
The sampler was worked in silk on linen and is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a cherry and maple corner-block frame.