Monday, January 27, 2014

Design Essentials for Good Costume: Line. 1943 Advice from Grace Morton

Grace offers basic art theory in her book The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance. Her chapter on design essentials starts by offering a basic lesson on art terms, with Line considered most important to costume.
  •  Straight lines, as found in tailored clothes, Mission furniture, and modern skyscrapers

  • Full, round curves as pictured below and as found in Rococo art

  • Restrained curves, as in curling smoke, the curve of a flower stem, Chinese paintings, and "the undulating lines of a picture hat."

Additionally, lines produce movement.

Vertical lines are found in Gothic sculptures, or in pleated skirts or striped shirts.

Horizontal and vertical lines appear in the aprons worn in this 1962 ad

Horizontal lines appear in flounced skirts, the wide off-the-shoulder necklines of the Romantic period, and in horizontal striped shirts.

Diagonal line movement is found in surplice closings as in the picture below.

The silhouette is noticed first, especially from a distance. It changes with the modes, and with seasons, and over the years. The dress worn during Jane Austen's time was basically tubular. The Victorian dress was bell shaped. The bustle brought in an "S" shape.
A 1943 "tubular" silhouette

 "One of the most important requirements of all art is that it conform to the law of unity with variety, or variety within unity. The silhouette must be judged by this law." The silhouette should be related to body structure, hide imperfections, and emphasize good points. The hoop skirt, bustles, and mutton sleeve did not fall under this stricture.

19th c "bell" shaped skirt had little to do with anatomy. It did make the waist look smaller.
The 1943 era dress below conforms to the standard put forth by Grace.

Maggy Rouff evening gown, courtesy of Harper's Bazaar, "Perfection in this geranium pink pleated crepe dinner gown, flowing gracefully with body lines and emphasizing points of body articulation. It satisfies the modern demand for elimination of every unnecessary detail and for a silhouette neither too revealing nor concealing."
"A beautiful dress will reveal some parts of the anatomy, while others be subtly concealed with graceful drapery or fullness."

The outline should be interesting, and in character with the spirits of the times. Grace notes that in the 1940s a return to femininity was revealing smaller waists, curved bosoms, and graceful flowing skirts. The severity of tailored suits should be softened as in the suit below with its sleeves gathered at the wrists, waistline definition, and contrasting dickey.

The full, round shapes of the Botticelli inspired gown below is constrained by the embroidered bands. 
Designed by Jessie Franklin Turner. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Rhythm in costume can be found in the draping of fabric in the colors or prints of the fabrics, embellishments, and it line.
Vivian Leigh as Lady Hamilton. Courtesy of United Artists Corporation. white crepe with sequin embroidery is a gown of classic inspiration, where a beautiful rhythm is achieved by skillful cutting and shaping.

Allowing certain lines dominance holds the viewer's attention.

The beautifully curved waistline and the graceful flowing skirt with its pointed inserts are subordinated to the greater interest of the bodice top and interestingly designed sleeve's.
An afternoon coat in which a dominant horizontal rhythm is given stability by a vertical movement. The shapes themselves have significance, but with relationship to the whole.
Next time I will offer advice from the chapter The Art of Combining Colors.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance--Criteria for Judgling Prints

Grace Margaret Morton considers the understanding of value as basic to choosing prints. This is something every quilter understands: value is often more important than color. "Watercolor quilts" are based on this concept; one arranges prints based on value, from light to dark. Print fabrics with high value contrast have to be handled thoughtfully in a quilt as they can really stand out.

Nolan is the Japanese term for using light and dark masses creatively to achieve harmony in tonal relations, Grace explains. And good costume analysis takes into consideration dark-light contrast. Here is the author's guide to judging prints:

1. The shapes or motifs should be interesting in contour and arranged in a pleasing rhythm to give balance (see figure 8, upper left sample above)
2. When more than one motif is used, they should be harmonious in shape and size (see figure 9, upper right sample above)
3. The negative space of the background areas should have interest in itself (see figure 10, lower left above)
4. Pictorial or realistic images are never suitable for wearing apparel. Good prints may have naturalistic motifs, but there should be something original, smart, or exotic (see figure 11, lower right above)

5. The effect of design as a whole when viewed from a distance through half-closed eyes should give a satisfying impression, with no part appearing to jump out as in the fabric in figure 12, upper left above.

Allover prints may be poor in design because the motifs are unrelated, as those in figure 13, upper right fabric in photo above. The flowers have nothing in common with the plaid. Bad arrangement of patterns will lack movement or rhythm, and spottiness of lights and darks also contribute to problem prints.

Characteristics of prints include:
Scale. The horse and buggy of  figure 15, lower left in the picture above, is a small scale print. Below is a large scale print, which Grace suggests could be used by "larger" women or more sophisticated women.

Widely vs. compactly spaced motifs (figures 9 vs. 17)
Strong contrast in value vs. close value (figures 11 vs. 17)
Strong or intense vs. soft and grayed colors
Abstract or geometric motifs vs. naturalistic motifs (figures 17 vs. 18)
Conventional vs. exotic
Formal vs. informal or exotic character

Forceful (see Stehli wine and gray silk plaid below) vs. dainty small prints

The print on top below is "dainty." The "amusing" Mexican hats and original plaid at the bottom of the picture should be worn only by the young, 

 The print below by Christian Berard has orange Victorian motifs on rusty black crepe and are suitable for afternoon or "personal mood".
Below: The violet-blue crepe with formal motifs in black and white "suggests street wear for mature women."

I wish the photos were in color! Imagine blue-violet with white and  black. Yummy.

Next post I will share from the chapter "Design Essentials for Good Costume."

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearence by Grace Morton

The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance by the Late Grace Margaret Morton, published by John Wiley & Sons printed  in 1943

This textbook was used by college women in their education. Imagine--a book of nearly 400 pages to teach college women about beauty, clothing, outfitting a wardrobe, fabrics, and how to choose flattering styles and color.

"This volume deals with one of the important and absorbing pursuits of modern society."

These pursuits continue to absorb contemporary women.

The author asserts that "personal attractiveness and marriageability" are a major impulse. She warns "intellectual girls" not to undervalue about the importance of appearance by mentioning successful women of beauty such as Clare Booth Luce.

Sure, the author acknowledges, there exists a competitiveness about clothes, but one must attract that necessary spouse. And once he is hooked, you need to keep him coming home at night. Plus a gal feels good about herself when she knows she looks good. Think about the reality show What Not To Wear, with Stacy and Clinton helping a depressed gal who has given up caring about how she looks, but who after the make-over has self-esteem to spare.There is truth to Grace's assertion that how we look impacts how we feel, and how other's respond to our appearance does change our feelings of self-worth. I am not asserting this is ideal or positive. It is hugely important that we instill a healthy self-esteem in our children, not based on appearance's.

"In these troubled times there are many who sorely need a sense of security and feeling of significance."

Significance! Our achievements and contributions, our family life and faith life, these are not enough?

Let's remember what life was like in 1943: WWII is in full swing with fronts in Europe and the Pacific; the Ukrainian Insurgent Army massacred Poles in Volhynia; the Nazis took over Denmark, and were killing thousands of "undesirables" in the killing binge we call The Holocaust; The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was going on; Gandhi was on a hunger strike; The Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Kursk, and the Battle of Tarawa all happened in 1943. The PT-109 was rammed, with John F. Kennedy aboard. Just to name a few events.

And employment had skyrocketed due to the war industries and the Depression was OFFICIALLY ENDED. It was time for the ladies to indulge themselves a little. Rationing limited supply, but there was still a lot a gal could do. Feedsacks, for instance, provided many a gal with clothing.

Chapter Two deals with "self-made beauty," based on cleanliness, good grooming, healthiness, and posture. Also voice and facial expression. "Every modern woman should learn to "place" or pitch her voice agreeably" and "to enunciate beautifully." Animation and warmth should radiate from one's face, she advises.

Eleanor Roosevelt radiated love and warmth, but her voice was not very pleasing. She was not beautiful and her clothes were dowdy. Yet her inner beauty still radiates down through the years, and she is considered one of the most influential American women.

Today we indulge in daily showers and regular hair cleaning, but in 1943 a hair washing every 10 days to 2 weeks was considered normal.

"Unless the scrubbing makes the skin pink" you have not scrubbed it hard enough! Pumice stone was "positively one of the greatest beauty aids of which we know," a physician was quoted as saying!

Four pages are devoted to proper posture alone. Helena Rubinstein's advice was: "Pull the abdominal muscles and flatten the lower curve of the back by pulling down the rear muscles--grow tall. The chest will take care of itself if the abdominal muscles are pulled in." My 7th grade teacher chastised me about posture. She said boys liked girls who sat up straight...and I understood she meant one's bosom was better displayed. It embarrassed me to death and I think I have slouched ever since! But now I understand she was a product of her education. I bet she read this book in college.

Two pages on daily cleaning include a recipe using almond meal or grains with water rubbed into the skin, particularly areas with large pores, and teeth cleaning with salt and soda blended together equally. Hair brushing for three minutes distributed hair oil, followed by a three minute massage, and then another brushing of 50 strokes. Last of all she advises pasting a 'frowner" to relax the face muscles before turning off the lights.

I will be sharing Grace's information on fabrics next post.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars.jpg
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves..."
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Hazel thinks of herself as a grenade, ready to go off at any moment, inevitably hurting those who love her.

Augustus thinks Helen is the love of his life.

The story of teenagers with terminal cancer in love sounds like a real downer, and tears will fall as you read this book, but the story is actually uplifting and strangely comforting.

I have been uninspired by the book I have been reading for some weeks. I am over half way through the 770 pages, but the characters are not nice and I am having trouble finishing it. So I opened up this Kindle book just because of the title, and found it was just what I needed--an engaging book with great characters, insight into the human condition, and an emotional connection to the story.

For awards, praise and  more here is the author's web page:

For a good plot summery go to

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green GIFs and quotes - TFIOS Images -

via: jonhselforever

Cancer took both my parents and an uncle. I was with my dad daily during his last months in the hospital. Hard as it is to lose someone to cancer when they are 52 or 57 or 78 it is even harder when a child developers cancer. Likely environmental issues took the lives of my family members--smoking, exposure to toxins or environmental pollutants.

But the teenagers in this book have rare forms of cancer that are not related to anything external or environmental or to choices they have made. Augustus appears to be in the 80% survival group, while Hazel is buying time with an experimental drug. Facing death before age 20 creates a real existential crisis. But these kids also tell it as it is; tired of the way well people treat them they tell each other the hard facts. They bandy about witticisms and are irreverent to their disease.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green GIFs and quotes - TFIOS Images -

"The inexorable truth is this: They might be glad to have me around, but I was the alpha and the omega of my parent's suffering."

"Most parents don't really know their children."

"Nostalgia is a side effect of dying."

This may not be how teenagers you know talk. One criticism of the book is that these kids sound awfully erudite.

"People always get used to beauty, though."

Still, I love the little epigrams and thoughts that appear throughout the story. It makes one think. The dying who know their time is limited see the beauty whereas the rest of us are focused on money or our career or our problems. Is this true? For some I know it is. But I am challenged to become more aware of the beauty of life, now.

"Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you."

Grief comes to all, it is a part of living. We all will face death, the loss of our beloved and the loss of our own lives.

"Really, I'd never been anything but terminal."

That could be said of us all.

This love story is coming to film this year. So it is a good time to read the book.   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Detroit City

When I was a little girl my grandparents moved from Tonawanda, NY to the Detroit suburbs. Several times Mom and I took a train from Buffalo to visit them. A few years later my family followed them, and my New York state grandmother would come by train to visit. Dad and I would go to Detroit to meet her at the Michigan Central Train Station. I remember walking through the vast empty concourse while Dad told the story of the decline of the trains, how in the old days the halls were crowded and bustling with activity. I could see it all in my mind, and over fifty years later I still remember Dad weaving that tale of a by-gone age.

Postcard of Michigan Central Station.
Circa early 1900's.

Today the hundred-year-old train station has sat empty for twenty-five years, falling to ruin and stripped by scrappers. A changing world, a changing economy has left Detroit one more victim to the decline of the Rust Belt cities that were once the base of American industry. Gone are the jobs, the workers, and the money--and the glamorous movie theaters and dance halls and many storied department stores. Detroit has become the poster child for all the cities whose shining star has set.

For Christmas I received a copy of Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor Cities Majestic Ruins by Dan Austin and photos by Sean Doerr.

Most of the buildings in the book I had never seen. My family sometimes went to Belle Isle to the aquarium or to just watch the freighters go down river. Or we'd go to a museum, or to see a parade. Even though my dad worked in an auto plant in the city, test driving new cars and knew the city we rarely went downtown as a family. But Dan Austin's words and Sean Doerr's photographs brought to life those ruined buildings the way my dad's story did fifty years ago. This book tells stories that should be remembered.

These grand architectural gems still bear pockets of dazzling artistry: painted ceilings, towering columns, carved stones and mosaics that illuminate their past glory. I wish I had seen these buildings in their heyday. Some photos from the book appear in this news article from the Detroit Free Press.

I first noticed architecture after we moved to Philadelphia, for that city was alive and thriving when we arrived in 1974  just before the Bicentennial celebration. We visited Independence Hall and the 18th c houses in Fairmont Park, walked the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from Robert Indiana's Love statue to the temple on the hill called the Philadelphia Museum of Art, strolled through Society Hill and Elfreth's Alley which is the oldest homes in America, shopped in the grand department stores, John Wanamaker, Strawbridge and Clothier, Lit Brothers. It was there I learned how architecture could teach us history. Like the Egyptian motifs popular after the discovery of King Tut's tomb and of course the classical Greek influence on the early republic's government buildings. has a good overview of important Philly landmarks.

The fascination we have with urban decay is perplexing. Perhaps it is related to the same motive that makes our society so fascinated by the end of the world scenarios, vampire or alien take-overs destroying earth, or even asteroid collision or global warming climate change ending civilization as we know it.

Empires rise and fall. History has not provided us with one civilization that has lasted even through written historical memory, which is just a blimp on the timeline of the universe.

I am reminded of Thomas Cole's "Course of Empire" series of paintings tracing a civilization from "savage" to pastoral to empire to destruction and decay. The last image is "Desolation."  What remains bespeaks a lost a lost glory, a lone column amongst ruined arches.Oddly, Cole thought the pastoral the ideal culmination of a society and many envision Detroit's empty spaces to be turned into farmland and gardens. The new open spaces within cities are called "Urban Prairies".

We plan to retire to the Detroit suburbs. And I find myself aligning an identity to that city, hoping for its future, hoping that Detroit chooses better leaders and makes wiser decisions. For I remember the awe of coming out of the Windsor Tunnel and driving up Woodward Avenue, seeing the tall buildings and later the mult-leveled expressways, the vast thriving city. The city that provided my dad work that supported our family and allowed him a comfortable retirement.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mixed Vintage

My in-laws gave us these chairs when I admired them and we used them until they were falling apart. We recently  had them reglued and I recovered the seats. I found a great deal on 1960s fabric on eBay, a linen and cotton blend. Somehow the two go together.

We have the family room adjacent to the kitchen painted Potpourri Green by Benjamin Moore, and will use the same color in the kitchen. We used this paint before in a bedroom and in a bath. It always makes me feel HAPPY.
I have over three yards of the fabric left! I could recover some small side chairs, or one larger chair. Or make a window treatment for the kitchen.
We inherited a house which my parents bought in 1971 and for five years have been preparing it for retirement, with our son living there in the meantime. We have worked on structural issues, like windows, doors, driveway, plumbing and electrical issues. Finally, we are getting down to decorating!
The house is still pretty much the way I inherited it. The kitchen cabinets were refinished by my brother in the 1980s, and the oven and countertop is from the same time period, but the cabinets are original to the house. We painted the adjacent family room and replaced the vertical blinds over the patio door with pinch pleat drapes.
Dad replaced Mom's 1963 table set in the mid-90s,  but the chairs were uncomfortable. Now, we have really cool chairs!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

In my father's library I found an 1888 illustrated Star Library edition of Daniel Defoe's classic story "The Life and Strange Adventures of  Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: who lived eight-and-twenty years all alone in an uninhabited island on the coast of America, near the mouth of the great river Oroonoque; having been cast on shore by shipwreck, wherein all the men perished but himself.  With an account of how he was at last strangely delivered by Pirates. Written by himself."

I had read it in 1977 as part of an early novel class, along with Pilgrim's Progress by Paul Bunyan and Don Quixote by Cervantes, which my professor considered forerunners of the true novel. So I decided it was time to read Robinson Crusoe again.

Robinson was born in 1632 into an early version of the middle class and could expect to have a comfortable life...if he follows his father's example. But he lusts for adventure and runs away to become a sailor. After an initial bout with sea sickness, he finds he enjoys his new life. Until disaster strikes and a storm leaves him shipwrecked and enslaved. After some time Robinson plots his escape and once free he resumes a life on the sea.

Yet another shipwreck leaves him stranded on a deserted island in the Caribbean sea. And so begins the story we know so well, how Robinson survives 28 years with only goats, cats, and a dog as company until he discovers that cannibals bring their victims to the island to feast. One of those victims escapes, and when Robinson shoots his pursuers the victim becomes Robinson's chattel by choice. Robinson names him Friday for the day this occurred.

The book is full of adventure and danger, but it is also a virtual DIY guide to the most basic and ancient arts of manufacturing as Defoe explains how Robinson learns to make pottery, canoes, clothes, rediscovers agriculture, dries fruit and fish, and even makes an umbrella. This is possible for Robinson because of his worldly education as a sailor. He has seen the craft and arts of African and Brazilian natives. He also has all the time in the world to rediscover through trial and error the basic knowledge of primitive man. Arts forgotten by civilized, citified peoples.

Another aspect of the book not usually portrayed in popular culture retellings is Robinson's faith experience. The path to discovering a faith in God is as rocky as his road to rediscovering the ancient arts. He has found a bible on a shipwreck, and he sets to perfect his faith in God his preserver and only friend. Defoe was a Puritan and this story is an allegory, with Robinson's disobedience to his father paralleling the disobedience of Adam in the Garden.

Although considered the first "realistic" book, the story is episodic and jumps from one event, often a shipwreck or battle, to another.

Even though Robinson suffers enslavement, he later sells a boy into slavery or a kind of 10-year indenture, and at one point even runs a slave ship to Africa. Friday is his beloved sidekick, but he is also seen as a slave who loves his master and will do anything for him.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book is to view the story as an economic textbook for would-be imperialists. Not only does Robinson tames the wilds and cultivate it, he creates manufacturing. After he rescues Spanish pirates from the cannibals, Englishmen find the island and offer Robinson passage home. The Spaniards risk their lives in returning, so Robinson sets them up to remain on the island, leaving not only tools and corn but a detailed survival guide.

Back in England, Robinson discovers his Brazilian plantation has made him wealthy during his absence! He marries and has children but after his wife's death wanderlust comes over him and he desires to visit "his" island again. He finds the Spaniards have gone through numerous wars. He once again sets them up with all they need for European style society, acting as the 'governor' of his island.

After another ten years of wandering, during which time he has adventures across the world, including China and Russia, he returns to England and at age 72 is ready to retire.

The book has come to us as an adventure book for boys, but if one looks deeper, there is a lot to consider. Categorizing these classic books as children's literature sadly bring them out of the purview of serious adult readers who would see them on another level.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Love Entwined Center Completed

I finished the last corner floral vase on the Love Entwined applique quilt. Esther Aliu's Yahoo group has hundreds of people from across the world making this 1790 reproduction. The variety of interpretations is mind boggling!
The next pattern will not be released until the 15th, so I have time to work on my "Green Heroes" quilt, which has been languishing for months waiting me to finish the hand quilting. I am quilting motifs relevant to each "hero". Adolph Leopold, author of Sand County Almanac, has images from his book cover with a heron. Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has a forest and, hopefully a recognizable creek.

Leopold founded a new way of looking at the wilderness, and forged an new ethic:
"The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land."

Dillard's 1974 book won the Pulitzer Prize. Her observations of nature and thoughts about life and God were very inspiring to me when I read her book when it came out. 
Meantime we in Michigan have undergone a terrific snow storm just a week after 50,000 people got their power back after an ice storm. We had a mere foot of snow here.
Today we finally have some sunshine, but a wind chill that is Arctic. Sounds like good weather for hand quilting on a hoop, because that quilt will keep me warm!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Bible of John Riley, Indian Chief

Many years ago my mother-in-law gave a family bible to my husband. This is what she wrote about the bible:

This testament is being passed along to you. It was given to me by your Grandmother O’Dell and given to her by her maternal grandmother Margaret McDonald who was born in Batavia, New York in 1807 and married Abija Schoville. When she was in her 20s they moved to Lynn Township, St. Clair Co., Michigan. Indians were the most predominate resident in this yet uncleared land. Margaret McDonald Schoville was given this book by John Riley, an old Indian. This book was an old one then and she kept it in her bedroom and read it until her death in 1890 at the age of 83. In 1976 the book would have been in the family approximately 144 years.

nelson 5 gen copy
Margaret McDonald Scoville and family. On Margaret's right side is her daughter Harriet Scovill Nelson,
 who is holding her daughter Grace Nelson. Grace married John O'Dell; their child Laura was my mother-in-law.
Margaret McDonald Scoville, according to her granddaughter, was born in New York State around 1807.  She appears with Abijah and their children, Edward, Alexander and Laura, on the 1840 New York State Census in Bath, and on the 1850 New York State Census in Lyndon, Cattaragus. By the 1860 Census the family is living in Lynn Township, St. Clair County, Michigan. I know they were living in Lynn by 1851 because there is a marriage record for their son Edward at that date. Margaret and Abijah appear on the 1860 Census in Lynn, Riley Twsp., St. Clair County, MI. In 1890 Margaret is a boarder, widowed, still living in Lynn Township. Margaret died in 1891, twenty years after Abijah had passed.

The John Riley New Testament has a leather cover, and is held together with string lacing.
 It shows great wear.  It may date to the early 1800s.
Once the book had a beautiful leather cover. The leather has worn away along the edges. At some point heavy thread or string was used to stitch the leather onto the paperboard. The book has a curved shape, as if carried in pants back pockets for many years. The inside front cover is filled with writing. The letter ‘S’ is penciled over and over. A penciled triangle shape appears ghost-like hovering near the center of the page. And in pencil is written, "Indian Chief John Riley his book."
I was skeptical that an "Indian Chief" had given the book to Margaret, and went to to research this John Riley. I was shocked to learn that there was a John Riley in Michigan history. How did Margaret McDonald Scoville come to meet John Riley, and why did he give her his bible?

A Brief History of the Riley Brothers
John and his brothers James and Peter were the Metis sons of an Ojibwa 'Indian Princess" and James Van Slyck Ryley of New York State. Ryley worked as a U.S. Indian Commissioner and interpreter. He was born around 1761 and served in the Revolutionary War. He also had a wife and children in Schenectady. "Judge Riley" served on the court of common pleas, as sheriff and as postmaster back in Schenectady. He appears as an elder in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1818.

Ryley was with Territorial Governor Lewis Cass at the Treaty of Saginaw and his signature appears on the treaty. He used his power to obtain tracts of land for his three Metis sons. 

The Riley brothers were described as passing seamlessly between 'white' and 'Indian' society, being well-spoken and intelligent. They sided with the Americans, fighting with General Lewis Cass, in the war of 1812. The 1810 Michigan Census shows John Reilly as an interpreter in the Saginaw, Michigan area. 

The treaty reads:

ARTICLE 3. There shall be reserved for the use of each of the person hereinafter mentioned and their heirs, which persons are all Indians by descent, the following tracts of land:
For the use of John Riley, the son of Menawcumegoqua, a Chippewa woman, six hundred and forty acres of land, beginning at the head of the first march above the mouth of the Saginaw river, on the east side thereof.
For the use of Peter Riley, the son of Menawcumegoqua, a Chippewa woman, six hundred and forty acres of land, beginning above and adjoining the apple-trees on the west side of the Saginaw river, and running up the same for quantity.
For the use of James Riley, the son of Menawcumegoqua, a Chippewa woman, six hundred and forty acres, beginning on the east side of the Saginaw river, nearly opposite to Campau’s trading house, and running up the river for quantity.

For oral histories on the Treaty of Saginaw go to

Articles can be found at

Another signature on the treaty is that of Louis Campau, nephew to Joseph Campau who was an early landowner and trader in Detroit. Louis later was an early landowner in Grand Rapids, MI and employed James Riley until James died in 1829. James had been Lewis Cass's interpreter during his 1820 expedition to find the source of the Mississippi River. Read more at

In 1835 John Riley owned land and a general store in what is today downtown Port Huron, MI where the Black River enters Lake Huron.

From "A History of St. Clair County" by A.T. Andreas:

The site of Port Huron was then owned by John Riley, the half-breed...He was not only proprietor of the place, but the chief of a band of Indians, most of them, at that date, residing on the opposite shore of the St. Clair [river]. He had been educated at the Presbyterian Mission at Mackinaw, and read and spoke good English. He was a gentlemanly appearing man, mild in his address...He dressed after the fashion of the whites, but his wife, a full-blooded Indian, though neat and tidy in appearance, dressed in true Indian style."

From "The Early History of St. Clair County": 

One of the leading spirits among the Indians was an Ojibwa chief who resided on the south side of Black River, Port Huron near the corner of the present Military and Water Streets. He was a half-breed, a man of commanding appearance, quite educated, and spoke English very well. He was here in 1813 and may have been earlier.

An oral history told that the Riley clan camped around John's cabin. Other stories tell how he was with Black Duck and became incensed when Black Duck bragged about the American scalps he had taken during the war, and John shot him dead. Luckily Lewis Cass intervened and instead of Black Duck's clan taking John's life they settled for a lot of whiskey and some trade goods. John was also reported as to have killed a Harsen's Island settler while drunk. Another history by an early Methodist pastor says that the Riley clan was hospitable and taught him to hunt and fish. There is evidence that John was disbanded from his chiefdom and returned to "white" society for the rest of his life. There is another story about the Riley boys riding with Cass to retrieve a "white" boy who was captured by "Indians" during the War of 1812. The boy was outside of the city limits of Detroit looking for a lost cow when he was taken.

Riley Township was organized in 1841 and named for John Riley, "a mixed-race Chippewa whose father had bought land in the area in 1836 and gave John a lease on the land for six cents a year." 

RILEY This township-town 6 north, range 14 east-was detached from the township of Clyde and organized by act of March 6, 1838. It was named for John Riley, the half-breed Chippewa Indian who lived for several years on the reservation at Port Huron, and was in the habit of going regularly to the woods in what is now Riley township for making maple sugar and for hunting. In October, 1836, the same year the Indian Reservation at Port Huron, upon which John Riley lived, was bought by the United States. Riley's father bought the southwest quarter of section 27 in this township and a few days later gave to John a life lease of it at the rental of 6 cents yearly. It is said that John opened a store but extended too much credit to his white friends with the result that he lost his goods, and money, and first mortgage and then sold his property. Belle river runs southeasterly through the township, and the incorporated village of Memphis lies partly in section 35 and partly in the adjoining township of Richmond, in Macomb county.;view=fulltext

One history reports that in 1851 John Riley was Chief in Munceytown on the Thames River in Ontario, and the Rev. Peter Jones was the Methodist missionary. The Rev. Jones had been converted by "The Father of American Methodism," the Rev. William Case, in 1823 at a camp meeting. The Rev. Jones was an Ojibwa of the Mississauga clan from Brant, Canada. He became an import missionary to the Native Americans, translating hymns and the Bible, and traveled to Europe and met Queen Victoria. He was also a political activist who helped his people obtain clear title to their lands.

There is some evidence that John Riley died in 1858 in Saginaw Co., Michigan. This based on Michigan 1812 Pension paper showing an $8 payout to John Riley who died December 11, 1858. But an oral history has a man saying he performed John Riley's funeral in 1842!

History of Margaret McDonald Scoville/Scovil/Scovile/Scoville
According to my mother-in-law, her grandmother Margaret McDonald was born in 1807 in Batavia, New York. I do not find a McDonald or Scoville on the Batavia, NY census in either 1810 or 1820. Margaret and Abijah Scoville were certainly Methodists. The name Scoville also appears as Scovil, Scovile, Schoville.

(Incidentally, in 1840 a Jeremiah Scoville appears as a landowner of Section 33 in Fort Gratiot, St. Clair County. He also appears in the 1834 Michigan census and later appears as a Port Huron tavern keeper. I have no evidence of his being a relation to Margaret.)

And Where Did the Twain Met?

As far as when John Riley and Margaret McDonald Scoville met, I cannot find evidence of Abijah and Margaret Scoville in Michigan before the 1850 census, nor do I know where John Riley lived after 1836. 

When Michigan became a state, land previously awarded to or owned by Native Americans was 'bought back' -- and the Native Americans were removed to reservations in north-western Michigan. 

There are different stories about what happened to John Riley at this time. The county and state histories published in the late 1800s are mostly based on oral histories. John may have returned to his people on the Thames River in Ontario. He may have died in 1842 or 1851. He may have had his "chief" status removed and returned to live with Americans. Another source says he is buried in Sarnia, Ontario.

A website by Native Americans states that John Riley was a Methodist and there is evidence that he had Methodist friends.

Somehow, John Riley and Margaret McDonald met as Methodists, and for some reason, John gave Margaret his bible. Considering the time and place, and the differences between them, and how relations between men and women were so constricted in those days, their mutual faith had to be what drew them into association. My mother-in-law was told that the bible was very old when Margaret received it. According to her note, the bible has been in the family for 181 years. That means the book was likely printed about 200 years ago.

As of August 2019, the John Riley New Testament is in the hands of the Port Huron Museums on a permanent loan. Gary and I meet with the museum director Victoria and manager of community engagement Andrew Kercher and members of the Blue Water Indigenous Alliance.  Andrew confirmed that the book was published by the American Bible Society shortly after its inception, perhaps around 1820.

The book will be on display at the museum and eventually become part of the display for an Indigenous history museum in the future.