By Linnie Greene, Greeneville, and the Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee
Greeneville-Greene County Public Library Quilt Square Unveiling
The “Snowball” 8’x8’ quilt square will be unveiled at the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library located at 210 North Main Street, Greeneville, Tennessee 37745 on Sunday, September 28, 2014. A “Thread Cutting” ceremony and reception will be held from 2:30pm until 4:00pm. Music will be provided by RobinGale Beamer, vocalist and Danny Davis, acoustic guitar. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served in the Big Spring Room located in the Library’s basement.
“Snowball” is sponsored by Friends of the Library and the Appalachian Quilt Trail. Beth Roberts Hembree, a board member of the Friends of the Library, donated the use of her quilt for this painted representation which will remain on display on the outside wall of the Library.
The “Snowball” quilt square is the first project of the Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee. Volunteers George and Lois Blanks, Linnie Greene, Wanda Rahm, Kathy Cuff, Amy Lee Mayer, Mary Hill, Joan Ruch, Linus Evans and Lilly Rahm donated a collective total of 89 hours on this square. Artistic Director, Amy Saxonmeyer logged over 50 hours creating the pattern layout, painting and helping with the installation process. The final product is the result of 139 volunteer hours.
Story of the Quilt Square
The quilt that inspired the Library’s quilt block belongs to Library Board member Beth Roberts Hembree. It was created by her grandmother, Sallie Kate Neas, of the St. James community and St. James Lutheran Church.
Library volunteer Alice Cornelia Loftin worked with Ms. Hembree to document the history of the quilt. Information also came from Ms. Hembree’s brother, Dr. Andy Roberts.
Sallie Kate Neas made quilts for each of her eight grandchildren. Ms. Hembree thinks that she received her quilt when she was quite young, sometime in the 1950’s. It was kept in a cedar chest in the attic of the house where she grew up in Glenwood. On the occasions when Ms. Hembree accompanied adults making trips to the attic to store things or to retrieve them from storage, she was shown the quilt as a special treat.
Ms. Hembree grew up, married, and lived and taught in North Carolina for thirty years. When she and Dr. Roberts were clearing out the house after both of their parents had passed away, they found the quilt, still in its cedar chest in the attic. Ms. Hembree recognized it at once. Memories came flooding back.
Ms. Hembree and Dr. Roberts were taken by their mother to quilting parties held at the big house in St. James where Sallie Kate Neas had raised four children after the early death of her husband. She also ran the farm by herself and was, Ms. Hembree says, quite a strong and independent woman.
But somehow, she always found time to quilt. There was a big quilt frame set up in her dining room where relatives and ladies of the community – most of them members of St. James Lutheran Church – gathered to work together. Ms. Hembree learned a few stitches there. “They were allowing me to try quilting,” she remembers. “But it was very difficult.” She remains in awe of Sallie Kate Neas, her mother, and those other ladies at the quilting parties, with their tiny stitches worked by hand. “It took such skill,” she says.
The Newcomer’s Club Quilting Group has identified the uncommon quilt block pattern using Barbara Bachman’s The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The square is shown in the section called “Four Patch with Curves” and is given the number 1499. The block was published ca. 1920 in The Household Journal as “Snowball,” and ca. 1930 in The Farmer’s Wife as “Windmill Design.”
History of the Library
This year marks the 106th year of a public library in Greeneville. Few small towns in Tennessee can claim to have had a library for more than a century.
The original library, begun in 1908 by the Cherokee Club, was located on Main Street between the Andrew Johnson Bank and First Presbyterian Church. In 1913 the Tennessee General Assembly enacted legislation authorizing Greeneville and Greene County to jointly operate a library. Funding from the Carnegie Foundation allowed the construction of a new library building on Summer Street, beside the present-day office of The Greeneville Sun. This building opened in 1915 and served the public until 1975. In November of 1975, the present structure at 210 North Main Street was opened.
How did the Downtown Quilt Trail come to Greeneville, Tennessee?
For quite some time there has been local interest in the Quilt Trail. The Nathanael Greene Museum became interested in the project several years ago and hung the “School House” quilt square on the building above the Museum entrance, thus becoming the starting point for the Quilt Trail in Greene County. The Museum has brochures available for distribution which provide directions to other locations featuring painted quilt squares in Greene County. In addition, the Museum houses a permanent display of actual quilts in one of the second floor galleries.
James-Benn Stockton of Greeneville also became interested in the project and had a painted square from the quilt of Andrew Johnson (currently on display in the Homestead) mounted on his art gallery downtown. That square was later removed when the building was sold but it is currently being recreated and will soon be on display in downtown Greeneville.
Last year (2013) Emily Bidgood of the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development program spoke about the Greene County quilt trail to the Newcomer Club of Greeneville. In her presentation she mentioned that her organization was trying to get towns interested in developing their own trails and that she had start-up money available for those interested. George Blanks met with her after the meeting and told her that he could put her in touch with a local Greeneville group known informally as the “AdHoc” committee. The “AdHoc” committee is a group of enthusiastic, concerned citizens who are looking for ways to promote Greeneville. Emily said that she was definitely interested and Lois Blanks contacted the members of the committee. The group met, discussed the proposed project and enthusiastically decided to go ahead with it. George Blanks contacted Todd Smith at Town Hall for help in identifying the appropriate procedures necessary to proceed with implementation of the project. Todd proposed that the committee meet with the Mayor and Aldermen at one of their stated meetings. Christine Huss and Linnie Greene presented the plan, and received the support of the Council. After meeting with “AdHoc” committee member Christine Huss and Linnie Greene, the Historic Zoning Commission gave their approval for the first quilt square application. The Quilt Trail committee will maintain an on-going relationship with the Historic Zoning Commission as we grow the downtown quilt trail.
The Nathanael Greene Museum agreed to provide work space for the project. At that point a Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee was established with Christine Huss as the overall project leader. Linnie Greene and Amy Saxonmeyer are the artistic advisors. Currently, two squares have been completed and the first will be dedicated at the Greeneville-Greene County Library on September 28, 2014 in a thread cutting ceremony.
It was decided by the committee that each square would have a production team leader who would be responsible for contacting volunteers to help on the project. Wanda Rahm was the production team leader for the “Snowball” square. Amy Saxonmeyer was the production team leader for the “Rose Variation Appliqué” square, which will be displayed on the Greeneville Antique Market building. Lois Blanks is lead for the production of the Andrew Johnson “Sawtooth” quilt square.
Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail and its Mission
In partnership with the Appalachian Resource, Conservation and Development Council (ARCDC), citizens of Greeneville will develop within the downtown area a quilt trail that will complement the existing trail of 17 locations outside of downtown. There is currently one quilt square on the building housing the Nathanael Greene Museum which is where the quilt trail begins. This project will expand to 12 to 15 quilt squares. This project also supports the existing quilt exhibit at the Nathanael Greene Museum and the research that has already been compiled information on local family quilts. Greeneville Greene County has a rich history which includes a tradition of quilt-making that reflects the culture and family traditions of the people.
The goals of the project are to:
- Promote the existing quilt exhibit at the Nathanael Greene Museum.
- Support and expand the existing Quilt Trail tour in Greene County.
- Develop an awareness of the cultural and historical heritage of Greeneville.
- Create an additional tourism opportunity for the town of Greeneville.
- Encourage partnerships of cultural, economic, and historical entities in Greeneville/Greene County.
Initial funding will be provided by the Appalachian RC&D Council, thanks to a grant from the East Tennessee Arts Fund. The Council will be responsible for the purchase of materials for the quilt squares. Further funding generated through donations would be managed by the Council and designated for the downtown Greeneville quilt trail. A 4’x4’ square costs approximately $300 to create, produce, and install.
It is appropriate for this project to be considered as a committee of the Nathanael Greene Museum. The Board of Directors of Nathanael Greene Museum will be responsible for:
- Promoting the town quilt trail through periodic information in the monthly Museum newspaper article and on the website.
- Providing a location in the Museum for a display of a brochure/map or CD/DVD for self- guided tours on the quilt trail.
- Participating in the selection of the quilt patterns.
The Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee will be responsible for:
- Identifying buildings appropriate for placement of the quilt squares.
- Creating, producing, and installation of the quilt squares.
- Establishing city ordinances that must be met.
- Promoting the town quilt trail in public meetings and with organizations.
- Identifying a facility that can be used for production of the quilt squares.
- Developing a maintenance program for the squares and establishing costs.
- Raising funds of approximately $5,000 for the initial development of the squares.
The Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee meets once a month on the first Tuesday at 11am at the Nathanael Greene Museum. The Museum has donated space for meetings and a room for production of the painted quilt squares. The Nathanael Greene Museum is dedicated to preserving Greene County heritage.
Christine Huss, Chairperson; Linnie Greene, Co-Chair, PR Chair and NGM Liaison; Amy Saxonmeyer, Artistic Direction Chair and PR Co-Chair; Lois Blanks, Newcomer Club Liaison, Communications Chair and Team Production Leader; George Blanks, Frame Production and Installation Coordinator; Holly Hope, Selection Committee Chair; Wanda Rahm, Team Production Leader and Social Media Coordinator; Mary Hill, Wesley Heights Community Liaison; Andy Daniels, Main Street Liaison; and Beverly Selmeski make up the core Planning Team.
The Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee would like to give special thanks and acknowledgement to Ace Hardware for donating materials to the project, to Tony Alter for donating his time to build the frames for the blocks and coordinate installation, to Chris Feabolt for assisting in the installation of the Library quilt block, to RobinGale Beamer and Danny Davis for providing music for the reception, and to all the volunteers who have donated many hours to make this project possible.
Greene County residents are asked to submit their family quilts and quilt stories for consideration. The Committee is also seeking building owners in the downtown area to submit their locations for consideration in showcasing a painted quilt square. Applications are available at the Nathanael Greene Museum during their regular business hours or by calling 423-639-3278 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Quilt Trail of upper East Tennessee is coordinated by the Appalachian RC&D Council whose mission is to improve rural economy and conserve natural resources. To learn more about the trail’s 120 (and growing) squares, please visit the QuiltTrail.org website and download the “Follow the QT” Mobile app for iPhone and iPad from iTunes.