by Suzanne Labry
A Civil War Love Story—Sealed with a Quilt
Lucretia Coward Johnson Kipp (1847-1932)In 1860 in Galveston County, Texas, 15-year-old Lucretia Coward and 18-year-old John Henry Kipp were in love and planning to get married. Lucretia was known as “the prettiest girl in League City” and John Henry was a corporal in the Texas First Cavalry Magnolia Rangers. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, John Henry’s unit left to fight, but not before Lucretia presented the Magnolia Rangers with a battle flag that the local ladies had stitched for them. John Henry became the unit’s standard-bearer, leading the way with the flag that his love had presented. Lucretia waited anxiously for news of her sweetheart, and was devastated when a letter from the Confederate States War Department brought word that John Henry had been killed in battle.
Time passed, and when another young man, Addison Johnson, asked for Lucretia’s hand in marriage, she accepted. The couple was married for almost two decades and had eight children, living on a plantation in San Jacinto County. It’s unknown at what point Lucretia learned that John Henry was still alive. He had not been killed as she had been told—he had been taken prisoner. When John Henry was finally released and returned home to discover that Lucretia had married another man, he, too, was devastated. Eventually, though, he married Elizabeth Justice and they had nine children. He became a wealthy businessman and went on to found the seaside community of Kemah on Galveston Bay.
In 1901 after Addison passed away, Lucretia moved to Houston to live with one of her daughters. And who should live next door but two sons of John Henry Kipp! Their mother had also died, and when they learned that Lucretia was the first love of their father, they reintroduced the two by mail. For nine years, Lucretia and John Henry corresponded. It was not until 1910 that they met face to face. John Henry invited Lucretia to the wedding of one of his daughters and sent a carriage to fetch her and bring her back to Kemah for the event.
The house that John Henry’s father, a master carpenter and shipbuilder, had built in Kemah in 1901.One month later, John Henry and Lucretia were married themselves, almost 50 years after the Civil War
had interrupted their original plans.
The bride was 63 and the groom was
67. They moved into the big house that
John Henry’s father, a master carpenter and shipbuilder, had built in Kemah
in 1901. (Constructed with wooden
pegs rather than nails, the house is
still standing today, having survived numerous hurricanes.) The reunited couple lived there for the rest of their lives. One of Lucretia’s grandsons said that the two were the happiest couple he ever knew. John Henry died in 1924 and Lucretia died in 1932.
In 1927, possibly to honor John Henry’s father who had built the house that she now
called home, Lucretia Kipp made a Carpenter’s Wheel quilt top in bright reds and greens. Her great-granddaughter, quilter Betty Shannon of Cedar Park, Texas, still has it and recalls playing under it when she was about five-years old. The green fabric has faded to tan
now, but Betty has constructed a Carpenter’s Wheel block in the vibrant colors as she remembers them in her great-grandmother’s quilt top. The Carpenter’s Wheel also
reminds Betty of the undying love between Lucretia and John Henry Kipp—a love that not even a war could extinguish.
Lucretia Kipp made a Carpenter’s Wheel quilt top that her great-granddaughter, Betty Shannon, now has.