One of the quilts at the Civil War quilt exhibition at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield has an Effingham County connection.
An oak leaf quilt made by Sarah Elliott Dunn (1812-92) around 1860 is included in the “Civil War Quilters: Loyal Hearts of Illinois” exhibition that is scheduled to run at the museum through Sept. 8.
Dunn’s family moved from Bracken County, Ky., to the Elliottstown area around 1852. An ardent Union supporter, Mrs. Dunn sent her husband and son off to fight for the Yankee cause. Soon after war broke out between North and South, husband Andrew (1813-71) enlisted in Company I of the 54th Illinois Infantry at age 49. Later in what was then known as the War Between The States, Andrew and Sarah’s youngest son Thomas turned 18 and promptly joined the Union Army.
Thomas (1845-1932) later became a doctor who served the Elliottstown area for decades. Despite the family’s prominence in their day, they might be almost forgotten if not for genealogical records compiled by Thomas’ daughter, Eva Louisa Dunn, one of two daughters from the doctor’s second marriage.
Eva Dunn, who never married, recorded her lineage late in life. Her work is part of the genealogical collection at Helen Matthes Library in Effingham.
Included in the collection is a 1972 article by the late Peggy Pulliam that outlined Dr. Dunn’s life for readers of the Effingham Daily News.
Pulliam wrote that Dr. Dunn was an “old time country doctor” who practiced in the Elliottstown and Dieterich areas for 50 years. But first, she said, he was a little boy from Kentucky who moved with his family to Lucas Township, where the remnants of Elliottstown are located, when he was 8 years old.
Pulliam recorded that the future doctor attended Lucas Township schools and helped his father farm until joining Company H of the 154th Illinois Volunteers in 1863. At war’s end, he was a second lieutenant.
Dunn taught school for 10 years before graduating from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1881. By that time, he had been married to Mary Field of Elliottstown for 15 years. Pulliam wrote that the couple had seven children, three of whom died as infants.
After Mary died in 1877, the doctor fell in love with another Elliottstown girl, young Lou Anna Perkins. Despite a 21-year age difference, the couple married in 1887 and raised two daughters, Edith and Eva.
Pulliam said Dr. Dunn kept detailed records of his obstetrical cases that genealogists have used over the years.
After 38 years of practicing medicine in Elliottstown, the Dunns moved to Dieterich so Eva could attend high school. Pulliam said the doctor remained active until a few weeks before his 1932 death.
Lou Anna Dunn followed her husband to the grave six years later.
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois, Eva Dunn taught for 45 years — including 23 years at Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights. She returned to Effingham upon retirement, according to the 1981 Effingham County Sesquicentennial Book, and was active in a variety of organizations until her death some years ago.
That’s where the family trail grows a bit cold. But Sarah Dunn’s quilt was one of many that were valued by Union soldiers in the bloody conflict to preserve a union rent asunder by creation of the Confederate States of America.
The quilt was donated to the state museum by Ramona Viggers in Shelton, Wash., more than 20 years ago.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.