Thank you to everyone who participated in the Quilt Turning this year.
We all felt like family supporting a good cause while seeing well-loved quilts and hearing touching stories from the late 19th century into more recent times. Each of your stories is a gift—thank you for sharing them with your local friends…
…And the wider world: we’re excited to get these stories online later this year, thanks to Megan Gauck, ETSU Anthropology student, as part of the YouTube Quilt Trail project.
Here’s a selection from the event:
Pat and Johnny Lynch told the story of the well-worn Ohio Rose quilt, and Pat’s father, Earl Peterson, who was a doctor in Unicoi. Patients often gave him quilts in lieu of cash payment, including this quilt. Pat told the story of an event in the 1960s when a young man, Ketron Couch, got stabbed in a fight at the courthouse and her father arrived at the scene. He pressed his fingers into the cardiac wound and stopped the blood. He rode like that, holding the young man, in the ambulance, until they got into the emergency room where he did surgery and saved Couch’s life. Fast forward…..Last summer a fishing boat overturned on the river in a boating accident. Ketron Couch was also coming down the river that day and he was there to save a drowning man’s life. “Divine intervention,” says Pat.
Ron Dawson came with several quilts. Jeremiah Dungan had hunted on the king’s preserve in Pennsylvania and fled persecution by traveling down the Appalachian Mountains and settling beyond the boundary line, in Cherokee country, in Watauga. In the late 1700s he built a stone mill and stone house, with family members. Eventually it would become owned by the St. John family, and so the St. John Milling Company can still boast that it is the oldest business in Tennessee. The Mill is no longer functional, but the farm very much is, today. Dungan was Pennsylvania Dutch, so the Dawsons have collected Little Dutch Girl quilts. Ron showed even a Dutch Angel Quilt, with embroidered wings.
Rachel Wheeler is AmeriCorps VISTA for the Appalachian RC&D Council, and loves her own family quilts. She brought 3 family quilts and shared childhood memories of the colorful ladies who made these heirlooms. The oldest quilt was a wool Fan quilt pieced in late 19th century by her great-great grandmother, quilted by her great-grandmother, and passed down to Rachel by her paternal grandmother. She also showed a Spider Web quilt made in the 1930s from feedsacks, made by her half-Cherokee great-grandmother, Granny McPherson. Rachel was the only grandchild who spent time with her and remembers watching her quilt and being scared of her outhouse.
Sisters Anna Roberts and Pat Barnett showed 2 quilts from Odessa “Desie” Lee Davis Neas, Greene County, their grandmother. Roberts and Barnett’s mother wrote a family memoir for her descendants. “The greatest gift,” said the sisters, for it contains stories about Desie as well. Desie hated housework because it was indoors. But she loved to sew–outdoors! “When she was outdoors sewing she was as near to heaven as she ever hoped to be,” she had said, they remembered. The sisters passed around a b&w picture of her with white hair in a bun, on her wheeler-wilson treadle sewing machine out in the garden under the trees. Under those trees she could sew anything the family needed or wanted. Her quilting was prolific (and beautiful technique, you can see in person), striving to make 4-5 quilts every winter for years.
Writing down your stories was a theme throughout our presenters. Linda Crouch shared her family quilts (stories online) and modeled her advice to everyone: put labels on the back of all your quilts. “Once we’re all gone, unless there’s a memory book, the history gets lost. These will be around for a long time, as we can see here.”
These stories will be known, through the documentation we recorded this day and by putting these stories online in the YouTube Quilt Trail Story Project, supported by the TN Arts Commission.
Marjorie Shaefer, storyteller a member of the Jonesborough Storytelling Guild, concluded our program with a performance of a story about a quilt made by her great-grandmother mid-1946–she remembers well…the story will be online later this year, and you can also see the quilt that had Old Horse’s horse hair stitched in it.
Gazpacho, chicken salad, a watermelon balsamic house salad, and pound cake, made a delightful summer menu, from Pat Lynch.
It was HOT! I was reminded of summer family reunions with aunties fanning themselves on the front porch. We all had glistening faces. Next year, 2018, we are moving the 4th annual Quilt Turning to earlier in the summer, so stay tuned!