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Vanpelt, Sarah ||Vanpelt, Phoebe
Place Made:
Harrisonburg Rockingham County Virginia
Date Made:
silk on linen
__22″ __ __20″
Accession Number:
MAKER: Phoebe Vanpelt (born c.1810-1827) and Sarah Vanpelt (1813-after 1870) were daughters of Benjamin Vanpelt (1786-1862) and Mary “Polly” Ragan (1791-1879), who were married in Rockingham County, Virginia in 1808. Benjamin was a tavernkeeper in Harrisonburg, Virginia and the son of Revolutionary War veteran Peter Vanpelt.

This sampler is identified as the second oldest work in a group of related pieces from Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties in Virginia. The group is referred to as the “Yellow House” samplers. The earliest known sampler in this group dates from 1824 and was stitched by Levinea Campbell, aged 14, and attributed to Rockingham County, Virginia. Characteristics of these samplers are sawtooth borders, yellow houses, fences, top heavy pine-like trees, and an elongated strawberry border. There is a distinct lettering pattern, with the cursive alphabets being particularly notable.

Unique to the Vanpelt “Yellow House” sampler is the willow and urn mourning motif and funerary flowers incorporated in the center section. Mourning samplers to honor or memorialize the deceased were popular schoolgirl needlework themes in the first half of the 19th century. The mourning motifs incorporated in the Vanpelt sampler appear to be added later, not part of the original intended design. Thread colors and stitching techniques differ, inferring a different hand could have completed the work.

Phoebe Vanpelt is thought to have started this “Yellow House” sampler before her death in 1827. She was a contemporary of Levinea Campbell, with documentation connecting their two families – both living in Rockingham County, Virginia. Sarah Vanpelt, stitching her sister’s name in black thread, most likely completed the central mourning portion as a memorial to her. The verse inscribed is “A friend this verse bestows by honour led, Who loved the[e] living and laments the[e] dead.” This verse is documented on tombstones.

Sarah Vanpelt married William Wartmann in 1846. The Wartmann family was well established in the printing trade in Rockingham County and William continued the tradition by serving as editor of the Rockingham Register. Sarah is last documented in the 1870 census.

DESCRIPTION: Three letter sequences and one number sequence are stitched in the top portion. A yellow house with a fence, tall trees, a sawtooth inner border, and strawberry outer border are characteristics within the “Yellow House” Group of samplers.

RELATED OBJECTS: There are at least ten identified “Yellow House” samplers that date between 1824 and 1844.

HISTORY: This sampler passed directly through the family line until it was sold in 2002.
Credit Line:
Gift of Anna Marie Witmer and David Witmer