Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sarah, a new dress in her honor, and the Spirit of Elijah

I am completely sucked in - submerged I think.  As if I needed an excuse to make another dress, I came up with one anyway!  
All summer and fall I told myself that I was going to spend all winter doing family history.  A few times in the summer I would come across a great story of one of my ancestors and I would think "I will dig deep into that this winter."  Well, I have been so busy with Christmas and now that the holiday hub-bub is over - I am going to dig. 
The picture above is of an English ballgown in 1820.  I love it.  I love the era, and since I just joined the Utah Chapter of the Jane Austen Society, I felt a need to connect myself to the time period in England.

That is where this sweet gal comes into the picture.  She is my great great great great grandmother on my mother's side.  Her name is Sarah Thornton Coleman and she was born in 1806 at Little Paxton, Huntingtonshire, England.  She was married in 1826.
So, if I needed an excuse to make a Regency style dress, I have one now.  You see, it is a family history project.  I am going to make a dress similar to what Sarah Thornton Coleman would have worn.  Ohhhhhh!  I am so excited!

I found this linen-ish fabric and bought 6 yards of it.  I washed it and dried it in the dryer.  I have learned my lesson with this issue and have shrunk a dress and made it useless to me!  Lesson learned!  Any shrinkage needs to happen BEFORE the dress is constructed!

I found a Regency dress pattern that dates from 1795-1825.  It is a common and well used pattern for those making dresses for Jane Austen events - Simplicity 4055.  I made a pattern copy onto heavier and more sturdy pattern paper, and got busy!

I found the following information from a long lost cousin at

Sarah Thornton Coleman, daughter of William Thornton and Elizabeth Christian, was born June 11, 1806 at Little Paxton, Huntingtonshire, England.  She and her older sister, Jane, were left motherless at the age of ten and eleven, as their mother died August 23, 1816.  The father placed the two girls in a boarding school, and afterward married again.  Rules and regulations of the school were so strict that the students had no childhood or girlhood pleasures.  Whipping was not allowed but some of the punishments were going without food, undressing and going to bed in the daytime, separation from classmates, etc.  The most cruel punishment was that given the children when found sleeping with the knees drawn up.  They were expected to recline in bed perfectly straight and should they draw their knees up in their sleep; the teachers and nurses roughly jerked the legs down suddenly waking the child.

This is a pretty easy pattern compared to civil war dresses I have made in the past.  Here is the skirt and its lining, ready to attach to the bodice today.  The gathering in the back is really pretty, I should have taken a picture of the back of the skirt!

Sarah Thornton decided, then and there that should she ever have children they should never acquire their education at a boarding school.  However, she remained at this school about ten years, when she met and after a courtship of six weeks, married Prime Coleman, son of George Coleman and Elizabeth Prime, born 1804 at Arlesey, Bedfordshire, England.

The bodice back - I love the shape of the side/back seams!  I love the gathering on the sleeves - it is only gathered in the back, not the front.

 The young man’s Father told him that he was making the mistake of his life by marrying a girl who had spent her life at school, and could not be a helpmate to a cattle man and a farmer.  But as the old saying is – “love goes where love is sent”—the young man decided he knew best, and so Prime Coleman and Sarah Thornton were married August 1826.

The front of the bodice.  I haven't added the drawstring to the neckline yet.  This picture shows the bodice ready to be attached to the skirt.  I chose to chop of the sleeve length.  This is going to be a day dress rather than an evening ballgown, so I wanted the sleeve to be mid-length and more comfortable for warm or cooler weather.  I checked it out - they did have half sleeve lengths.

They owned and lived on a large, well-equipped farm at Thorncot, Bedsford, England.  The house was a large two-story one splendidly furnished.  Here seven children were born to them –George, Sarah, Prime Thornton, Ann Elizabeth, William, and Rebecca; and later one more in Nauvoo, Illinois, USA named Martha Jane.  There was always plenty of hired help in the house and on the farm, so the mother’s only work was to look after her children and manage the household affairs.  It took only a few years to convert the father-in-law that he was mistaken in his opinion as to what an educated girl could and could not do, for then Mr. Coleman finally acknowledged to his son and daughter-in-law that she had made a wonderful wife and mother.

This image is from 1825 and once again is of ball gowns.  My goodness they are lovely!
I must admit, I did get the bodice and skirt sewn together this evening while dinner was in the oven.  I had to quickly throw it on without buttons nor drawstring, right over my modern clothing and I have to say - it was lovely.  I felt like I should have been walking the green fields of Pemberly instead of steaming veggies and drizzling icing on the warm cinnamon rolls.  Pictures of the finished dress will be coming after the new year!

On January 16th, 1843, they set sail from Liverpool, the company numbering 212 souls.  After sailing for seven weeks and three days, they arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana, and were transferred to the ship “Amarauth” in which they sailed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis.  There they were transferred from the steamer to a barge, and here they had to stay two weeks waiting for the ice to break.  About the 7th or 8th of April; a small steamer fastened a cable to the barge and chugged it up the river to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they landed April 12, 1843, three months and twelve days after leaving their home at Thorncot, England.  Choice feather beds and other valuable baggage had been left behind, or thrown overboard enroute, to decrease the weight of the ship, as the journey was a long tedious one.  Sarah Thornton Coleman and her seven children, three sons and four daughters, came with the Evans family and remained to help build up what is now Lehi City, Utah.  

I have felt the spirit of Elijah since I learned this little story of Sarah Thornton Coleman a few months ago.  When I climb into my bed at night, and curl up in a ball or spread out on my stomach, and just snuggle into my bed, my heart is turned to HER, and I think about HER and her experiences as a young girl in an English boarding school. How she couldn't curl up on her side and sleep nice and cozy as I do.  I think of the sacrifices she made to come to America, the children and husband she lost to typhoid, the hardships I will never know.  My heart is turned to her and I think of her as SOMEONE, not just a name and a date.

Malachi 4: 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the
coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the
heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh,,, you have wayy too much energy....but your dress will be sooo very pretty.


Kerin said...

Sarah and Prime; what a wonderful love story!

You are off to a wonderful beginning to the new year!

Love how the dress is coming together, and I love the fabric that you are using also.

Best of luck with your New Year endeavors, and with studying all about your family's history.



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