I am blessed to come from a long line of quilt makers. The quilt I chose for the Civil War Quilt study is actually a family quilt, given to me several years ago by my mother, who purchased it from a second cousin for $250. According to family history, the quilt was made by a great-great-great aunt, Presbie Carolyn Smith, who lived in Missouri. The quilt is made of only two fabrics which surprises me a bit – that means she had enough money to buy some yardage rather than make a quilt from scraps. As the family history goes, the thread is unusually thick because it was hand-spun by slaves.
The quilt was beautifully and precisely pieced and quilted, a difficult feat for me to accomplish in miniature. I chose to try and replicate it as accurately as possible, but shrinking the block size down from 1 7/8” made it a challenge. I couldn’t help but wonder how it was for Presbie, making this quilt by hand with some kind of template and sewing by kerosene light. It made me more thankful for my modern tools, including the sewing machine. I was even able to redesign the quilt in Electric Quilt 7 – wouldn’t she have been shocked at how we make quilts today?
About 20 years ago my aunt compiled a number of pioneer stories about my grandmother (Mary Hurchel Bourgain, 1897-1974) and her life; although this is not a story about Presbie, it is about the Civil War era, and the impact it had on our country and quilters:
“While still in Missouri, Mary Hurchel often visited her Grandmother Dobyns to the delight of both of them. One hot day when her grandmother was sweeping the wide front porch, she stopped suddenly at the sight of a man walking down the dusty road. They stared at each other from a distance but no sign was given nor word spoken. After the lonely figure was out of sight, her grandmother told Mary Hurchel that he was her (Grandmother Dobyns) brother. During the Civil War the Connell family was on the Union side except this one brother; he had mortgaged his land and given the money to the Confederate cause. All was lost, of course, and his part of the family was penniless. Other brothers fought with the Union Army and the family never became reconciled as a unit again.”