The Zane Sampler

By Eilene Lyon

A couple weeks ago I confessed to being an unreliable caretaker of family heirlooms. Fortunately, not everyone in the family is so irresponsible. In fact, it has recently come to light that a couple of my second cousins have some remarkable items.

One of these cousins, Karen, brought a whole trove to our family reunion this past summer. But when she got home, she found a box she’d received from her late father that she’d never opened. Inside were many 19th century family photos that none of us in this generation had ever seen before.

I look forward to sharing some of those Ransom and Jenkins family pictures in the coming year. The box also contains some textiles, which sadly have no documentation. Two items appear to be undergarments. There are also some hand-embroidered linens. A couple of small change purses were there, as well as a couple crazy quilts.






If anyone has an idea on the date of the purses, please let me know.

Even more recently, we discovered that another cousin has the Zane family sampler shown at the top of the post. We’re hoping to get a better photo sometime, but I’m so excited to learn about this piece that I couldn’t wait to share it.

This family treasure is 260 years old! I mean, this was made in Philadelphia before the Revolution – how cool is that?

The Zanes are probably the most illustrious family in my tree. I’ve mentioned a couple famous cousins: Betty Zane and the writer, Zane Grey, in this blog before. My 4th great-grandmother is Ann Widdifield (Zane) Jenkins. Members of my branch of the family were prominent in Philadelphia society in colonial days.

Zane sampler2

I have done some research on this sampler. The bottom line indicates it was made by “___ Zane Her Work 1758.” Clearly the young girl’s name had three letters. I believe this is the work of Deborah “Deb” Zane, born in 1745. She is my 6th great-aunt, the younger sister of my ancestor, Jonathan Zane, Jr. (Ann’s father). She would have been 13 years old when she made this sampler.

Her parents, Jonathan Zane, Sr. and Mary Shenton, are listed on the third line of the piece. Her younger siblings – Joel, Jesse, Lidia, and William – are in the middle of the piece. Nathan and Jonathan, above them, were her older brothers. The people listed below are other relatives.

Here is basic information for each person named on the sampler and their relationship to Deb Zane. I have not researched all the documentation for the information given. Everyone on the sampler was living at the time it was made.


Jonathan Zane b. 29 Sep 1706 in Newton, New Jersey. d. 19 Sep 1778 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Note: Jonathan was one of the group of men who formed the first fire insurance company in Philadelphia, along with his contemporary, some guy named Benjamin Franklin.

Mary (Shenton) Zane b. 1709 in Philadelphia or Leicestershire, England.* d. 19 Dec 1788 in Philadelphia.

Jonathan and Mary are my 6th great-grandparents.


Nathan Zane, merchant, b. 22 Feb 1737 in Philadelphia. d. 13 Oct 1762 in Philadelphia at his father’s residence on the east side of Second St.

Jonathan Zane, Jr. b. 23 Mar 1741 in Philadelphia. d. Dec 1785 in Philadelphia. My 5th great-grandfather.

Joel Zane b. 6 Sep 1746 in Philadelphia. d. 2 Nov 1823 in Philadelphia.

Jesse Zane b. 23 Nov 1748 in Philadelphia. d. 13 Jun 1784 in Wilmington, Delaware

Lidia Zane b. 29 Sep 1750 in Philadelphia. d. 30 Mar 1782 in Philadelphia.

William Zane b. 7 Mar 1754 in Philadelphia. d. unknown.

Maternal uncle and aunt:

Joseph Trotter b. 1697 in Philadelphia. d. 25 Nov 1770 in Philadelphia. AND Dinah (Shenton) Trotter b. 17 Jun 1694 in Leicestershire, England.* d. 12 May 1769 in Philadelphia.

Paternal uncles and aunts:

Thomas Atmore b. 18 Dec 1693 in Burlington, New Jersey. d. 6 Jan 1775 in Philadelphia. AND Abigail (Zane) Atmore b. 17 Jul 1700 in Newton, New Jersey. d. 1783 in Philadelphia.

Isaac Zane b. 3 May 1710 in Newton, New Jersey. d. 7 Mar 1794 in Philadelphia. AND Sarah (Elfreth) Zane b. 1711 in Philadelphia. d. 26 Feb 1765 in Philadelphia.

William Zane b. 26 Nov 1712 in Newton, New Jersey. d. 1799 in Wheeling, (West) Virginia. AND (Nancy) Ann (Nolan) Zane b. unknown. d. 1759 in Berkeley County, (West) Virginia.

Note: William and Ann Zane were the parents of the famous “Fighting Zanes” of Fort Henry during the Revolution, including Col. Ebenezer and Betty Zane. Ebenezer also created Zane’s Trace, which later became the National Road. His brother, Isaac, after being captured by Indians chose to remain with them his entire life. Many Native Americans carry the family name as a result. Zanesville, Ohio, was founded on land donated by Ebenezer.


Hannah “Shentton” is Hannah Shenton b. ~1728 in Pennsylvania. d. 10 Apr 1794 (burial date) in Philadelphia. Parents unknown, probably a spinster. She appears to be a first cousin to Deborah and her siblings. When Deborah’s brother, Nathan, died in 1762, he gave oral instructions to his father regarding disposal of his property. Hannah Shenton signed as a witness. She lived with Jonathan Zane, Sr. in the 1750s to 1770s, with Mary (Shenton) Zane (his widow) in the 1780s, and with William Zane in the 1790s. When Hannah died in 1794, William administered her estate.

Mary “Atm” is most likely Mary (Stubbs) Atmore b. ~1723. d. 10 Oct 1776, the widow of William Atmore (d. 1753) who was Thomas and Abigail (Zane) Atmore’s son and Deborah’s first cousin.

The needleworker herself:

Deborah Zane b. 13 Sep 1745 in Philadelphia. d. unknown

Zane sampler1

My research has not come up with any reliable information regarding Deborah after 1758. She most likely died before reaching adulthood in the 1760s.

*Regarding the birthplace of the Shenton sisters, Mary and Dinah, I believe they were both born in England. Quaker records indicate their father, Nathan Shenton, arrived from Leicestershire in 1709 with “his family.” Mary (b. 1709) could have been born in England, in transit, or in Pennsylvania, but I’ve found no evidence her mother made the journey.

Nathan died in 1710 and his children were placed with a family named Stretch. Details about his wife are uncertain. Even the connection to Nathan is not well-documented. A woman from Leicestershire, England, named Hannah Shenton arrived in Philadelphia the year after Nathan, but she was noted as being a single woman. Was she his sister?

It’s also possible that Dinah and Mary aren’t sisters, but it is probable, given this sampler. Dinah’s name in records is always spelled “Shelton” and it seems this was interchangeable with “Shenton.” Dinah and Mary may have had another relative (niece?) named Rachel Shenton, who married James Claypoole in 1737 and died in 1738 (probably giving birth, and the baby also died).

They probably also had a brother who was the father of the Hannah Shenton (b. ~1728) who is on the sampler (and maybe Rachel). I’ve also found an Abigail Shenton who married John Hudson in 1715 who could be part of this family. A Thomas Shenton immigrated to Philadelphia from England in the 1710s, but I haven’t figured out any connection for him, yet.


Photos by cousins Karen and Gail.

35 thoughts on “The Zane Sampler

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      1. Thank you, Eilene, for sharing such detailed history about the sampler and your ancestors. (I’m married to Drue Wagner who was raised by Jean Wickward Riederer and Joe Riederer after his parents died). It was a pleasure meeting you at the Moscow, ID, reunion. Being a Pennsylvania girl myself, I was thrilled to learn of such esteemed PA connections.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. My mother has a Bible that once belonged to her 6th gr-grandparents, John and Abigail (Sawtelle) Elwell. John and Abigail lived in Salem Co., New Jersey, but some of their children ended up living in Philadelphia. Maybe our ancestors were acquainted! As the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800, the city was the place to be.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good advice! My grandfather researched it and wrote that it was printed in London in 1697 by “Charles Bill and the Executrix of Thomas Newcomb, deceased, Printers to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty.” Before it came into our family it belonged to a Zephaniah Hendrickson, but I don’t know who he was.

        Liked by 1 person

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