Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quilts - Day 5 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Today is a good day. Jeanne, the one who is identifying the graves in the Old Catholic Church in Golden, New Mexico, sent me a list of the family graves with names, dates, and photos. She is having trouble identifying the graves for the three named “Narcisco.” I will have my sister-in-law contact her. She should be able to tell them apart. It is so nice for a stranger to take an interest. The best is part is they don’t stay strangers for long and when we finally get to Golden, we have a date to meet.

Now I am back to Martha Jane. While researching corset covers, I ran across an article on quilts. I am a quilter so it is understandable that I got sidetracked. My son, brother, nephew, and former brother-in-law are all Civil War Reenactors in Missouri. That sent me on another search for Civil War quilts. Everyone in my family is getting a quilt for Christmas and I have started a few but wasn’t sure what to make for my son. When I found that the Log Cabin Pattern was pre-Civil War, I was delighted. Guess what he’s getting for Christmas?

I have quilts on the brain. A friend and I walked into our local Salvation Army Thrift Store a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for bed sheets to use as quilt backings. I found a lovely sheet that was more than I expected and was continuing down the line when I spotted what looked like a quilt. The closer I got, the more excited I became. It is an old, crazy quilt. It is completely hand stitched. Some of the pieces are frayed but that’s not a big deal. The crazy quilting is hand embroidered and each piece is tied in the back. I told my friend that I didn’t care what it cost; I was going to have it. When it came time to pay for it, the clerk said it was $8.00 but that all the bedding was 30% off. I paid $5.60 for the quilt. I couldn’t wait to get to the car. I felt like I had just stolen it because had it been in an antique store, it would have been out of my price range. Although it is too fragile to use as a blanket, I am not going to put it away. It was meant to be used so I will hang it to enjoy every day.

The back tied

The larger picture

Stitching detail

Fabrics used

So what does that have to do with Martha Jane? In her letter dated, Oct. 10, 1919, she writes,
“Cornie says she has her bean gathered in and now wants to do some sewing. Lillie says come out and help her quilt some evening and she will help next evening. She is quilting 2 and wants to quilt 3 more.”

Cornie is her daughter-in-law. Lillie is her daughter. She is still trying to get William (my grandfather) to move back to Tennessee. That theme runs through all five letters. At the time the letters were written, he had been gone for four years. Although they didn’t get to Montana until 1917, they spent two years in Missouri. I don’t know anything about the two year period other than my uncle was born there in 1915. My grandmother was from Missouri so it is possible they stayed with family, although, she didn’t like any of them. That’s a story in itself.

I can imagine Martha, Cornie, and Lillie sitting in the kitchen of the house Martha and John built before 1884. This picture is of my father and his cousins, Hugh and Howard taken in about 1970. They are three of Martha’s grandchildren.

The quilting was done by hand because the house did not have electricity in 1919. The letters are full of information about the family and neighbors so that is what would be the conversation while quilting.

“Mama, how’s your hand?” Lillie asked.

“The bruise and skinned place came near killing me. I swelled all over bad but I think I am nearly well of that”, Martha responded. “I have been gathering chestnuts the past week. I have 3 or 4 gallons, do you want some?”

“I’ll take some,” volunteered Cornie. “I have my beans all gathered in.”

“I have plenty of chickapins too,” Martha replied. “Do you hear the whistles?” The crusher and separator is running now. You can hear one of their whistles 40 miles. They finally got water at the mine. Roy and Sam are running trucks and they say they will make a road from the mines through Sterling Hollow to Lawson’s Mill.

“They have the road graded in 2 ½ miles of the county line,” Lillie said. “They say they will build another crusher there and one at Keeton.”

“I wonder if William will come here this fall,” Martha mused. “I want Ralph to hurry and help me with the chestnuts. Essie wants him to come and help her ate molasses. Floyd made 45 gallons molasses and Nelson is making some now. Floyd has a fine crop of tobacco and corn enough to do him. I think we will too.

“They called Della new boy Luke Michael,” Lillie said. “Another nephew for me to spoil and another grandson for you, Mama.” Did you hear that Frank Rhea has moved to the camps?”

“I heard that,” Cornie said. “You would think at his age, he would stay in the house. He just can’t seem to get away from the mines.”

“I’m glad William is not mining,” Martha said, “But I wish he would come home. I have looked for a letter for 2 weeks. Floyd says to tell him that they fear that letter he was going to write to them will be gray headed when it gets here.”

988 words

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