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Cleaver, Catherine
Place Made:
Valley Towns Mission School Cherokee County North Carolina
Date Made:
silk on linen
__HOA: 16 3/4″ __ __WOA: 12 3/4″
Accession Number:
Sampler by Catherine Cleaver, Valley Town Mission School Cherokee Nation

See accession file for addition research.

Catherine Cleaver was the daughter of Isaac and Rachel Cleaver, Baptist missionaries who lived in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Isaac Cleaver, a blacksmith and Quaker, married Rachel Sturgis “out of unity” and was disowned from the Horsham Meeting, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1795. The couple joined the Great Valley Baptist Church, Chester County, in 1817. In 1821, the Cleavers were sent by the church to the Valley Town Mission in the Cherokee Nation. They took four of their children, Samuel, age 17, Phineas, age 15, John, age 12, and Catherine, age 12.
The initials below the alphabet represent Catherine’s family, beginning with her paternal grandparents in the upper left, and continuing with the initials of her siblings. Three of the initials in the lower section of the sampler (MN, WC, IC) have not yet been connected to specific people, but likely represent other family members.
The Valley Town Mission was established with the intention that it would be a self-sufficient community that would develop lifelong commitment and conversion to Christianity from the local Cherokee Indians. Nine adults and sixteen children were part of the initial group of white missionaries who left Philadelphia in September 1821. The isolation of the mission meant that supplies and mail were difficult to obtain. In August, 1823, the Cleaver family left the Mission Town and returned to Pennsylvania.
Catherine Cleaver’s sampler, worked at a time when her family was living under the hardships faced by the community’s isolation and lack of converts, represents the efforts of various groups to assimilate Native Americans into the changing American identity. These efforts ultimately failed and resulted in Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal policy and the Trail of Tears in 1838-39, that forcibly removed Cherokee to present-day Oklahoma. Nearly one third of the 15,000 Cherokee died in the process.

This sampler is a strong companion to MESDA’s Eliza Baynard sampler (5402.1), stitched by an unknown Cherokee girl who may well have been at the Valley Town Mission School with the Cleavers.

Credit Line:
Gift of Anna Marie & David Witmer