All right, folks who are smarter than me, I’m wanting to write a ghost story about Josie Covington, but I need just a little firmer factual foundation than I have to leap from. I think this may be, in part, a failure of research imagination. But it also could be that there’s just not all that much to know about her. It’s fine if there’s not that much to know about her, but I just want to know there’s not that much to know about her before setting off on putting her in a ghost story.
So, here’s what I know.
1. She made an quilt. (See this book here.)
2. She was from Triune, Tennessee, which is in Williamson County, out where Nolensville Road crosses 96.
3. She was black.
4. Parts of the quilt may have been pieced by Mrs. Alice Page Pettus (1855-1905), who was Covington’s employer and who may have helped her with the quilt.
5. Some folks identify the maker of this quilt as Sarah Covington and say the quilt was made about 1910. Now, it’s widely accepted that it was made by Josie Covington in 1895 (see here).
Here’s what my census records searches have revealed.
1. There is no Sarah Covington who appears in the census records living in Williamson County at this time. The two listed Sarah Covingtons are far east of here. So, I think it’s right that her name is not Sarah.
2. There is one appearance of a Josie Covington. In the 1900 census, Josie Covington is living in Williamson County with her mother, Bettie (a widow) and a bunch of her brothers and sisters. I would expect she had a few older siblings. Bettie was born in approximately 1850 and Josie was born in 1876. It would have been very unusual for a woman–black or white–in rural Tennessee at this time to wait past 25 to have kids. On the other hand, Josie was 24 and unmarried, so maybe there weren’t a lot of suitors in the area or they had a little economic stability. Hard saying.
But, if Josie was 24 in 1900 and the date of creation on the Covington quilt is right, it means she made that when she was 19. This seems right to me. If she had made the quilt in 1910, either her name would no longer be Covington (most likely) or I would have found a Josie Covington married to one of the Covington men. For Covington to be her maiden name, she’d had to make the quilt when she was young.
Also, if Pettus helped her, and Pettus died in ’05… well, then… that, too, argues for the correctness of the ’95 date.
3. Alice Page is in the census. She was born in the area and married Clem Pettus/Pettis and moved to Nashville by 1880. He was working as a bookkeeper. By 1900, she and Clem were back in Williamson county and Clem was a farmer. They had a ton of kids. So, that checks out. They weren’t too near the Covingtons, from what I can tell, but certainly, if there was a young woman looking for work, the Pettuses could have told each other.
So, my question is–do you think that’s all there is to know? At least that I can find out easily without getting caught up in a chase that’s not going to contribute to the story?