David Housel Laney (1821-1916)

David Housel Laney (1821-1916)

David Housel Laney was born to John and Catherine Laney on December
15, 1821 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. David grew up and received his education in his native state and then migrated to Louisiana. David was 27 years old when he was ordained a deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Mississippi Conference, December 17, 1848. His ordination gave him authority to administer baptism, marriage, bury the dead and, in the absence of a pastor, to feed the flock of Christ. The certificate was signed by Bishop Robert Paine of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This appears to be the beginning of David H. Laney’s ministry as a circuit riding Methodist minister.


Two years later (December 8, 1850) David was ordained by the Mississippi Conference as an elder qualified “to administer the Sacraments and Ordinances, and to feed the flock of Christ.” This certificate was signed by Bishop William Capers in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

A hand written document dated in 1852 reads as follows: The Rev. David H. Laney has traveled four years in the Mississippi Conference. At our conference in December last he was elected and ordained an elder and was located at his own request. He then intended to return to his Fathers, and gain the Baltimore Conference; by the persuasion of myself and others he consented to remain here. I employed him on Warren Circuit where he has traveled this year. I hope he will be received into the Baltimore Conference. I think him a worthy, good young man. John Lane P E of the Vicksburg District

David H. Laney was received by the Baltimore Conference and served as a local elder in the Seamen’s (also identified as Sailor’s) Bethel Mission, Baltimore City and was employed to travel the Severn Circuit Baltimore Conference during there for approximately a year. Another hand written document dated April 2nd, 1853 reads:

This is to certify that the bearer, David H. Laney, a local preacher of the Severn Circuit, Baltimore Conference, is duly employed to travel the Gloucester Circuit, Virginia Conference, during the present conference year.   Jacob Manning     Hampton, Va.    April 2nd 1853

The date on this document coincides with the date of a Baltimore album quilt presented to D. H. Laney in 1853 by the ladies of the Severn District of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The needlework inscription on one of the album squares records the date of 1853 and the words, “The world for my parish.” This
is a variation of a quote from John Wesley’s journal entry of June 11, 1739 where he stated one of his guiding principles was “the world as my parish.”

David Laney apparently took a temporary leave from the ministry and engaged in a business venture. Just prior to the Civil War David returned to Pennsylvania and opened a drug store. In 1863 David sold this business and journeyed west to Andrew County, Missouri.

Sometime before 1857 David moved on to Pennsylvania. On July 7, 1857 David H. Laney married a widow, Martha Ann Waugh Culbertson (born July 20, 1827).  Waugh was her maiden name and Culbertson was the last name of her first husband.  She had a son, Joseph (Josie) by her first husband.

Early preachers sometimes supplemented their income by having a separate profession. David Laney became a druggist. Just prior to the Civil War David opened a drug store in Pennsylvania. In 1863 he sold this business and journeyed west to Andrew County, Missouri where he spent the next thirty years.

Martha died on January 28, 1887 after almost 30 years of marriage, and was buried in the Savannah Cemetery, Andrew County, Savannah, Missouri (Section 3, A-291, also identified as plot 13, block 22).  Records show that the cemetery plot was purchased on February 10, 1887.

David and Martha Laney had six children: Clara (3/14/1859), Arnon (3/7/1861), John Waugh (11/22/1863), Annie Jane (3/31/1867), Emma (4/5/1870), and David Alfred (4/28/1873).  Here we introduce something of a family mystery. A picture of David A. Laney which appears in the Arnon Laney family album has
this note on the back: “Alfred Vanderhoof, Dasie [a nick name], adopted as D. A. Laney.” We know none of the details concerning this apparent adoption.  We are left with a bit of a mystery since the man certainly looks like a Laney! And the 1880 census identifies his parents as David and Martha Laney. Interestingly,
there is an unmarried Mary Vanderhoof with children listed in the 1880 census, but the dates don’t fit our situation. But this illustrates the fact that a Vanderhoof could have been adopted into the Laney family.

In 1863, David and Martha Laney moved from Pennsylvania to Andrew County, Missouri.  It was on November 22 of that same year that John Waugh Laney was born.  He became the father of my grandfather, John Carl Laney.

After the death of his wife Martha, sometime in the late 1890’s, David followed his sons north to Miles City, Montana. He later served a church in Glascow, Kentucky. The quilt received a blue ribbon from the 1909 Southern Kentucky Fair. Christmas and birthday cards sent to him after leaving this
congregation testify to the love and appreciation the church had for him. There is no record of his ministry in Miles City, but we know that he sought ordination from the Presbyterian Church during this time in Montana. A typed document dated March 23, 1899, Miles City, Montana, reads:

Dear Brother Laney:

I take this opportunity of sending you a personal line with a letter I
am sending to all the members of our Church. The Presbytery will
meet here on the evening of the 21st [of] April, & will remain in
Session till after the following Monday. I hope you can come in. The
Presbytery will likely ask you some questions with reference to the
fundamental doctrines of Christianity that you will have no trouble in
answering I am sure. Then it is unusual in our Church for Presbytery
to lay hands on a man, who has not followed a course of college
study & hence not able to read the Scriptures in Greek & Hebrew,
but I will move that an exception be made in your case. Some
questions will also be asked as to your ability to subscribe
intelligently to our system of doctrine, and then if you can answer
such questions satisfactorily, as I believe you can, I have no doubt it
will be all over. I would suggest that you read over pretty carefully
the “Confession of Faith.”

With kindest regards, Yours faithfully,
Edward McCulloughlealvin

David H. Laney grave stone

The Laneys left Montana in 1908 for Spokane, Washington. In 1910 the Laney brothers, Aarnon, John and David, purchased property on Crab Creek near Lamona, Washington and began developing a horse and cattle ranch. David H. Laney lived out his last days on the Crab Creek Ranch and died on October 28, 1916 at the age of 95. He is buried in the Savannah Cemetery, Savannah, Missouri (section 3, A-292).

During the early 1970’s the Laney family gathered for a reunion in Seattle. Among the elderly family members was Francis Laney, the daughter of Arnon, granddaughter of David H. Laney. She was in possession of the Baltimore Album Quilt which had been given to her grandfather in 1853.

She was anxious to entrust it to a Laney who would cherish this family heirloom and appreciate the original recipient, a preacher of the gospel, David H. Laney. Since I am the great-great grandson of David H. Laney and am an ordained ministry, Francis gave me the quilt.

“The World For My Parish,” a variation of a quote from Wesley’s journal dated June 11,
1739, “the world as my parish.”

Our family has always treasured the quilt as a family heirloom, but only recently have I discovered the unique historical significance of our quilt. One Saturday in the spring of 2009 I read in the paper that a conference on quilts was being held at Multnomah University. Although I could not attend, I noted that a Portland quilt history, Mary Bywater Cross (author of Quilts of the Oregon Trail, [2007] and Quilts and Women of the Morman Migrations, [1996]), was present at the conference. I later called Mary and told her about my quilt. She was quite interested when I described it and made arrangements to come to my home visit and see the quilt.

What I learned from Mary, and from the books she loaned me, is that my quilt is one of the Baltimore Album Quilts which were being made by the ladies of Baltimore, Maryland between 1845 and 1855. These quilts are called “albums” because they shared the basic concept of album books in which young women collected verses, drawings, watercolor sketches, pressed flowers and signatures of their friends (Jennifer
F. Goldsborough, An Album of Baltimore Album Quilt Studies, 1994). The squares of an album quilt are usually all the same size with similar or different designs made of pieced or applique work. The squares are laid out as if the pages of an album book had been taken apart and lined up in rows. The squares feature designs of wreaths, vases, baskets of flowers, local landmarks, ships, people and the American eagle. The album squares are often inscribed with verses and names which serve to remind the recipient
of the friends and family who created and presented the quilt.

Baltimore was home to a number of textile mills which provided local women with a wide variety of cotton prints for quilting. Baltimore’s location as a seaport also increased the availability of cotton from England and France (Patricia Cox Crews, ed. A Flowering of Quilts, U. Nebraska Press).

Many of the Baltimore Album Quilts were made by Methodists. The 1840’s were years of growth for the Methodist Church in Baltimore (Dena S. Katzenberg, Baltimore Album Quilts, Baltimore Museum of Art). Baltimore was the birthplace of organized Methodism in America and new congregations were being formed at a rapid rate and churches were being built in every quarter of the city. The Methodist Church was especially effective in making new converts. Groups gathered into “stations” assigned to a preacher or team of preachers. Many preachers when from station to station preaching to different audiences. Methodist classes met weekly for devotions and discussion of their religious well-being. Methodist women had a significant role in their churches, raising funds for charities at home and missions overseas, furnishing the parsonages, and housing itinerant preachers. Sewing groups made clothes, bed covers
and quilts for distribution among the poor. Other quilts were presented as tokens of respect and love to class leaders and preachers. In the 1840s ten percent of the population of Baltimore belonged to Methodist congregations, while almost a third of the names on Baltimore Album Quilts have a Methodist connection (Katzenberg, Baltimore Album Quilts).

The three rings are an Odd Fellows symbol referring to faith, love and truth.
Eagle with “E Pluribus enum.” The eagle clutches flowered batons instead of arrows.

An album quilt is made up of different fabrics, designs, techniques and applique work based on the experiences and backgrounds of the women making the quilt. These quilts were not designed for daily use, but were rather “presentation” quilts, presented to someone at the time of a special event or occasion. Surprisingly few Baltimore album quilts were wedding or anniversary or friendship quilts intended as gifts between women. Almost all Baltimore album quilts whose original purpose can be determined from the inscriptions or family history were made as gifts to me, to commemorate their ordination or transfer of a minister from one church to another, Mexican War service or patriotism. A number of quilts were presented to young men who had completed an apprenticeship.

Floral basket with red and yellow flowers

Album quilting in style of Baltimore Album Quilts came to an end in the early 1850’s. Quilting was a passing fashion. New fads, such as china painting and tatting, were taking over. In addition, Baltimore’s economic bubble burst in 1857 and civic disturbances increased over the issue of slavery. The Methodist Church had split over this issue in 1844. Educational and employment opportunities were opening up for
women. As more young women took jobs as teachers, typesetters, and salesclerks, the more leisurely way of life with time for stitching and quilting soon disappeared (Kratzenberg, Baltimore Album Quilts). And that brought an end to the creation of Baltimore Album Quilts. But many of these beautiful hand crafted fabrics survive and can still be enjoyed today as a reflection of a quiet but creative bygone era. The David H. Laney Baltimore Album Quilt is among these treasures.

Floral basket with birds by Eleanor Knighton