Thursday, September 5, 2013

Phebe's Sampler, 1844

This sampler hangs in my cousin’s house.  We have tried several times to take photographs of this sampler, and it’s not easy through the glass. The sampler is much too fragile to risk handling it or taking it from its frame, so this is the best we could do for an image.

Phebe Cross Munroe (1830 – 1895), my great great grandmother, sewed this sampler when she was 13 years old, starting on 30 August 1844.  But it is unfinished. I have searched the family tree for a reason why she never finished the sampler.  Perhaps there was a death in the family (the verse is from a very depressing hymn about death)?  But she hadn’t lost a parent, sibling or grandparent in 1844.  Her namesake, Aunt Phebe Upton Munroe who married William Cross in 1828, didn’t die until 1891. Her father died of diabetes, very young at age 46 in 1851. Was he first diagnosed with this fatal disease in 1844? 

On the brighter side, perhaps Phebe tired of this mournful verse, and tossed this sampler aside for another one with a less depressing hymn or poem.  I don’t know what happened to any other sampler.  This is all we have to remember Phebe.

Family Sketch:

Phebe Cross Munroe, daughter of Luther Simonds Munroe and Olive Flint, was born 28 October 1830 in Danvers, Massachusetts, died 31 January 1895 in Salem, Massachusetts; married on 24 November 1853 to Robert Wilson Wilkinson, son of Aaron Wilkinson and Mercy F. Wilson.  He was born 26 May 1830 in Salem, and died 23 March 1874 in Peabody, Massachusetts.  They had three children born in Danvers:
     1. Robert Henry Wilkinson, born 14 January 1855, married Eliza Harris Poor
     2.  Walter Wilkinson, born 3 November 1856, died 2 April 1858
     3.   Albert Munroe Wilkinson, born 7 November 1860, married  on 18 October 1894 in Salem 
           to Isabella Lyons Bill (my great grandparents)

The full lyrics of the verse on Phebe’s sampler:

When youth and age are snatched away
By Death’s resistless hand,
Our hearts the mournful tribute pay,
And bow at God’s command.

While love still prompts the rising sigh,
With awful pow’r impressed,
Let this dread truth “I too must die!”
Sink deep in every breast!

May this vain world o’ercome no more
Behold the opening tomb!
It bids us use the present hour;
To-morrow death may come.

The voice of this instructive scene
Let every heart obey!
Nor be the faithful warning vain
Which calls to watch and pray.

O let us fly, to Jesus fly,
Whose pow’rful arm can save!
Then shall our hopes ascend on high,
To triumph o’er the grave!

From A Selection of Psalms and Hymns, with many new Compositions, adapted to Public Worship,  by Richard Whittingham, Vicar of Potton,  1835, pages 144 – 145

A closeup of the stitching on Phebe Munroe's sampler.
Her name is on the top, in faded thread.
It is all worked in tiny cross stitches.


Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. An interesting post. I have to wonder if the sampler cloth was cut to frame it or if it might be folded back on itself in the frame. Based on what is shown in the frame, if the cloth was not cut and it is not folded, Phebe might have abandoned the project because there was no way the full poem was going to fit on the remaining cloth that is shown in the frame?? ;-)

  2. Hi Heather,

    This is a beautiful example of cross-stitch, with Phebe having to do a lot of meticulous counting to get the letters to look good and proportional. My guess is there was no time to finish the sampler before "life" intervened. She was old enough to do chores or pitch in for work in some other way, and may have needed to put aside the sampler until later (which never came). The good news is, she kept it and it's been handed down. Your family is so lucky to have this heirloom!! Enjoy.

  3. I do cross stitch and have many unfinished project. Sometimes I go back and finish them and sometimes I don't. I was lucky enough to get one that my 82 year old friend's mother did in 1922. She asked me what I wanted and I told her that is what I wanted. She told me to take it which I did with some reluctance. I figured if I didn't when the day came her family either wouldn't give it to me and they would probably throw it out not knowing I wanted it.

  4. Love it, Heather--thanks for sharing your family treasure.