Emma Willis,

Emma Willis,

School District 11, Taunton, Massachusetts, 1815

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sampler size: 10¾” x 7¾” • framed size: 14¼” x 11¼” • sold

This is a small and very unusual linsey-woolsey sampler; the inscription reads, “Emma Willis’s sampler Taunton August 18th 1815 School District No 11 Emma Willis Ageb 10 ye.”  Taunton is 24 miles west of Plymouth and is well documented in History of Taunton, Massachusetts from its Settlement to the Present Time by Samuel Hopkins Emery (D. Mason & Co, 1893). Beginning in 1789, Taunton was divided into districts that maintained separate schools and this arrangement lasted until 1864. Each district owned their own schoolhouses, select and was expected to, “contract with the teacher and attend to supplies for the school.” It seems to have proved an unwieldy arrangement, and, in 1864 when Taunton became a city, the district system was dropped. This sampler is a rare surviving document!

We also know much about the samplermaker. Emma Willis was the daughter of John Willis and Jemima (Crossman) Willis of Taunton. She was born on May 18, 1805. In 1826, she married George W. Williams (1800-1880), who was from an early Taunton family. His grandfather, Benjamin Williams, was appointed judge of probate for the county in 1778. Emma and George remained in Taunton where census records indicate that George was a farmer and ice dealer. They became the parents of seven children and Emma died in 1889, buried in East Weir Cemetery. 

The sampler was worked in silk on a blue-green linsey-woolsey ground. It is in excellent condition and has been conservation mounted into a fine early 19th century frame with original paint decoration.


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