Sharing Our Resources
Sometimes research projects just happen. Several volunteers from Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. have been assisting the Fredericksburg Area Museum in identifying and documenting items in their textile collection. Some with the provenance. Two dresses and a coat were identified as belonging to people who lived in the area. The names were familiar because the Heritage Center has information on both women.
The first dress, described as a second-day wedding dress, belonged to Frances Edna Whitmire (1843 - 1912) of Greenville, South Carolina. Miss Whitmire married Jeremiah Malcolm Harris of Culpeper County on June 13, 1869. Mr. Harris was a professor at Furman University where Frances' father was a dean. It is beautiful lavender silk dress embroidered with tiny flowers. The new Mrs. Harris wore the dress on the day after her wedding. She, or someone else, may have worn it many more times as it shows some signs of wear. From the Willis Collection at Heritage Center, we learn that the Harrises eventually returned to Culpeper County and had a daughter, Edna Elizabeth who married Benjamin Powell Willis, the grandparents of Judge J.M.H. Willis, Jr.
Frances Edna Whitmire and her second-day wedding dress
Click on image to enlarge
The second dress is a formal black silk dress with lace and tassels. It belonged to Blanche Russell Sabetty (1908 - 1976). Mrs. Sabetty, whose husband Lawrence was killed during World War II, taught dance. She was on the faculty at Mary Washington College and later owned and operated her own dance studio, Sabetty School of Dance Arts at 622 Kenmore Avenue. She lived at her grandparents' home at 300 Princess Anne Street, later home to Pelham Felder, a local pewter smith. The coat is made of heavy black silk and trimmed with white lace. Mrs. Sabetty was a patron of the arts and likely wore these garments when attending performances and concerts.
Pooling the resources of several historical organizations benefits all of them and provides a more complete picture of our local history. For more information on these residents and others who lived in the central Rappahannock area, visit the Heritage.