Eliza Bryan,

Eliza Bryan,

Centerville, Wayne County, Indiana, 1834

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sampler size: 17¼” x 16½” • framed size: 20” x 19¼” • sold

Well-documented samplers made west of Ohio are quite rare; Eliza Bryan’s beautifully made sampler is a wonderful find. Centerville is in Wayne County, about 65 miles due east of Indianapolis, Indiana, and was first settled by Quakers from Carolina and Virginia on Miami Indian land. The Bryan family was among the first of the white settlers there and much information about the Bryan family has been published in various sources, notably History of Wayne County, Indiana (Chicago, 1884). Additionally, a 1933 article was published in Indiana Magazine of History (Indiana University Press) entitled “The Henry Bryan Family” by Emily King Anderson. Photocopies from these two sources are included in the extensive file that accompanies the sampler.

Eliza was born on March 3, 1819 to Henry and Jane (Crawford) Bryan, whose marriage in 1816 is noted as one of the first to take place in Center County. The above-mentioned published sources inform us that Henry was from a wealthy merchant family from Delaware and that, “When they came west they brought great trunks full of fine silks, paisley shawls and other such luxuries.” Henry was said to be highly educated and a “man of very superior intelligence.” He was the first surveyor in the county and completed the initial plating of Centerville in 1814. In 1923, the Indiana State Museum received a donation of Henry Bryan’s compass, instruments and 1799 textbook.

The Bryan family built a schoolroom as part of their farm and Henry taught his children and others from surrounding farms. Noted also is the fact that their daughters attended schools beyond that, and this must have been where Eliza made her sampler. Eliza remained single and lived in Centerville; it was noted that her elegant parlor was furnished with mahogany furniture and velvet carpet. She later moved to Indianapolis and lived with a sister. When she died at age 81 in 1900, she was buried in Centerville along with family members. The sampler descended in the family for generations and a handwritten note indicates the line of descent.

The Bryan family in America began with William Bryan (1590-1667) but the very early history of the Bryan family prior is also noteworthy. Originally French, the ancestry is traced back to Jean De Brienne (1155-1237), King of Jerusalem and Emperor of Constantinople.

The sampler features a wonderful verse entitled “Humility” with Quaker and other motifs providing embellishments, all surrounded by a border of a rod wrapped by ribbons and flower buds. The condition overall is very good, however it must have been out a frame and folded for some time as indicated by breaks to the linen in a horizontal line across the center; additionally there are two other very small areas of wear to the linen. It has been conservation mounted and stabilized; the frame is molded and black painted.


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