Thursday, December 25, 2014

A gift from the past

       For this very special Christmas edition of Throwback Thursday, I want to share the story of a gift my son Ryan received that was made more than a century ago.
       The red, white and blue quilt was crafted by a woman with the patriotic name America. She was born in Kentucky in 1839.   By 1860 she had moved to Missouri and married  George Hall.
      While the Civil War was tearing Missouri apart, America Ashley Hall was having babies. And making quilts.
       One of her sons, John Albert,  who was born in 1870, grew up and married Laura Louise Mockabee. They had a daughter named Maxie whose son, Ken,  was Ryan's father.
       I'm not sure exactly when America made the quilt or when she gave it to John Albert and Laura Louise. Perhaps when they married in 1897. But the quilt ended up with many others in an old wooden trunk on the second floor of the house where Ken grew up.
       After Ken's parents died and the house was sold around 2000, Ken's sister Carol sent the quilt to me to pass on to Ryan. I stored it for more than a decade, waiting until Ryan and his wife Angela were settled in their home. This year I decided to pass it on.
       I learned from a quilting friend, Kathi Watkins, that the patchwork pattern is a variation on Seven Sisters, a pattern that was developed in the early years of the Civil War to honor the first seven states that seceded and the first confederate flag.
        As I mentioned before,  it's often hard to research female ancestors because their names don't show up on military rolls or land deeds. But they leave messages in the crafts they make. Missouri was a border state that voted to secede from the union but was prevented from doing so by the invasion of Union troops. Political sympathies were divided. I don't know whether George and America favored the North or the South. But I know America chose to make a quilt using a pattern that was inspired by the Seven Sisters.
         I also know that George and America lived in Callaway County which became known as the Kingdom of Callaway during the Civil War. In October of 1861 about 600 Federal troops camped on the northeast border of the county. In self-defense, the men of the county gathered an equal force -- including great grandpa George no doubt -- and tried to appear better trained and armed than they were.  They sent an envoy stating that if the federal troops would leave the county alone, they would not fight. The Federal Commander, General John B. Henderson, agreed and the federal troops left.  The county proudly claimed the U.S. government had negotiated with them like a sovereign state and began flying their own "Kingdom of Callaway" flag.
        I should add that the Seven Sisters patchwork pattern enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the late nineteenth century so America's choice of that pattern may have had little relationship to the earlier war. But the quilt makes me think about America ... the lady and the country.  I can't help seeing that hardy pioneer woman in every tiny stitch.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful historical perspective. Angela and Ryan will cheris that quilt.