Mary Anderson Duty (1825-1908) was the seventh of thirteen children born to Frances O'Kelly Harris (1795-1880) and Samuel Duty (1790-1873) of Granville County, North Carolina. Federal Census records during Mary's childhood and marriage show an extensive household and changing social structure.
Unrecorded in the 1830 Census, Samuel Duty and family reappear in 1840, four years after the sampler illustrated here is dated. Included were Samuel, Frances, three girls under 5 years, two girls between 5 and 10 years, two girls between 10 and 15 years, of which one was presumably Mary and, of four girls recorded under 10 in 1820, only one girl is recorded between 15 and 20 in 1840. The Duty home housed several slaves including one boy under 10, one boy between 10 and 24, one girl under 10 and one girl between 24 and 36.
Four years after Mary's marriage to James Davis, both her father and husband appear in the 1850 Census for Granville County. Samuel Duty was recorded as a sixty-one year old farmer in Oxford with real estate valued at $3,000. His household, all North Carolina natives, included Frances (listed as 40 years old), Parthenia Ellis (25), Indiana (19), Sally (16), Maria (13), Susan (11) and Harriet Cousins (14) and John Cousins (10). Living in the Far River District, James Davis, a twenty-eight year old farmer lived with his wife Mary (26) and their two-year old daughter Anna on property valued at $200. In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, James and Mary Davis lived in Dutchville, North Carolina, where James was a farmer with real estate valued at $1,800 and personal property valued at $2,000; Mary was a teacher at a private school. Their household included Anna (11), Rosa (9), Millie (7), John (5), Sally (3), and James (1). The sampler illustrated here was ultimately inherited my Mary's daughter Sally Davis, the three-year old listed in the 1860 Census.