Sarah Polhemus, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, 1828


Sarah Polhemus, Hunterdon County,

New Jersey, 1828

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sampler size: 17¼” x 16½” • framed size: 20½” x 19¾” • sold

The samplers of Hunterdon County, New Jersey are the subject of a fine book, A Sampling of Hunterdon County Needlework: the motifs, the makers & their stories, by Dan and Marty Campanelli, and our praiseworthy sampler by Sarah Polhemus is featured well in this book (illustrated on pages 19 & 48-51). Sarah’s sampler is the earliest example known from the “Hunterdon House and Heart Samplers” and names her teacher – Miss Amy Londe (the name was also spelled “Lundy”). Much research has been conducted by the authors and a great deal is now known regarding the samplermaker and her teacher.

Sarah Polhemus was born in 1816, the daughter of Daniel and Rachel (Ramsey) Polhemus, who were part of the large Dutch American population that had lived in northern New Jersey and New York for centuries. The emigrant ancestor on the paternal side of this family was Rev. Johannes Theodorus Polhemus (1598-1676) who was minister of the Reformed Church of Holland in Flatbush, New York. Rev. Polhemus had “sailed from the Netherlands to Brazil in 1637, where he preached in French, Portuguese and Dutch. In 1654 he removed to New Netherlands, where he became the first regularly stationed minister for the Dutch on Long Island,” according to the Campanellis.

Sarah worked this sampler when she was 12 years and 6 months of age, as she stated in her needlework. Her father had died and she lived with her mother in Kingwood (now Franklin) Township; just a few houses away from the family that included her teacher Amy Lundy, on Oak Grove Road. Miss Lundy was then 21 years old and she continued to teach in various schools in the area for many years. In 1839, Amy married a wealthy farmer, Hugh Exton, and her teaching career likely ended then. 

Samplermaker, Sarah Polhemus, also married in 1839, to John Stires, and they lived in Readington, Hunterdon County where they had five children. By 1860, the Stires family lived in Raritan, Monmouth County, where John’s occupation is listed as tobacconist. The file that accompanies this sampler includes a copy of John’s handwritten 1855 will.

The sampler features a delightful composition with alphabets, a moralistic four-line verse and the inscription between the pictorial top and bottom borders. Included are a house, a ship in sail, many hearts, fruit trees and birds with Sarah’s initials worked twice. The Campanellis make special note of Sarah’s impressive sailing ship with its five flags, the fruited tree and the tall house on lawn, stating that “the overall graphic quality make[s] this a delightful Hunterdon sampler.”

Worked in silk on linen, the sampler is in excellent condition. It has been conservation mounted into a maple and cherry cornerblock frame. A copy of the book, A Sampling of Hunterdon County Needlework: the motifs, the makers & their stories, accompanies the sampler. For additional information regarding New Jersey samplers overall, don't miss the upcoming symposium and exhibition at the Morven Museum in Princeton, New Jersey.

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