Civil War Quilt, made by Stephen A. Lewis, 1864

by Sherry Massey, Senior Registrar

Quilt Made by Stephen A. LewisDenzel D. Garrison, former Oklahoma State Senator and OHS Board President, has graciously donated the quilt made by his great grandfather, Stephen A. Lewis.

Stephen Lewis was born April 5, 1838, at Edinburg, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, he served with two units, Company E of the 19th Ohio Voluntary Infantry and Company C, 104th Ohio Voluntary Infantry, where he obtained the rank of Sergeant. Mr. Lewis was engaged in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, when he was wounded. A musket ball passed through one side of his face and out the other. His Union comrades left him behind, thinking he had perished. When Mr. Lewis regained consciousness, he discovered Confederate soldiers scouring the battlefield for Union survivors. Along with other wounded, he was forced to start marching to the infamous Andersonville prison.

Stephen LewisAlong the trail, Lewis found an axe head that he hid in his clothing. That night, after the guard had fallen asleep, Lewis struck him with the axe head and literally ran for his life with tracking dogs on his scent. He happened upon a slave woman’s cabin. At the door he explained who he was and what was happening. She took him in and hid him under a cornhusk mattress. She laid on the mattress to disguise his scent and when the Confederate soldiers came to her door, he was not found. At dawn, his rescuer walked him to the Union lines. He was taken to the Union hospital in Louisville, Kentucky where he made this quilt from old blankets, Confederate and Union uniforms and any scraps he could find. Unfortunately, his wound never fully healed, and he wore a beard the rest of his life to disguise the scars.

Mr. Lewis returned to Ohio and eventually relocated his family to Alva, Oklahoma Territory. He farmed there until his death on February 20, 1923. In gratitude to the slave woman who saved his life, Lewis offered a safe haven to any African American that needed his help during the turbulent racial conflicts of the early 1920s.

The quilt made by Stephen Lewis was passed down in his family and came into Mr. Garrison’s possession in 1979. It measures 84” x 86” and is pieced in squares and rectangles of blue, green, black, gray and tan wool. It is tied with red wool yarn. The red cotton backing overlaps the edges to form the binding.

According to the donor, Mr. Lewis considered this quilt one of his most prized possessions.

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