The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Linked By Stitches

By Beulah S. Fox © 1986

Issue: May, 1986

Cross In The Square Quilt Pattern, circa 1860.Cross In The Square Quilt Pattern, circa 1860."How did you happen to become interested in quilts?" I've been asked. I can understand why the question keeps surfacing. I usually have one in the frames, one cut out ready to go, and another in the planning stage.

My answer is, "I grew up with quilts." My mother had quilts. She put the people around the quilt that could quilt best and the others in the kitchen to prepare the meal. Sometimes the quilt got finished in a day. She'd let me quilt a square.

My next interest developed after I was married. I began a hobby of collecting quilt patterns, books, quilt magazines and articles. It was at this time that I made a Double Wedding Ring, which I learned was not an easy one for a beginner. Highly imaginative names were used for patterns which have always fascinated me, names for every conceivable reason such as Four Patch (formed of four squares set together). Many little girls learned to sew this one. Some named for the Bible are Job's Troubles, Tree of Life, and Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. Names of flowers, customs, tools, objects and way of life are also used. That's part of why I enjoy quilts, but the answer to the question of how I became interested in quilts reaches farther back than what I have related, as far back as Great Aunt Margaret's own family history.

Her full name was Emily Margaret Stowers. Aunt Margaret was my grandmother, Christina's younger sister. She was ninth of eleven children, born in 1860. George, her oldest brother, served in the CoF, 45th Regiment in Ferber's Brigade in the War Between The States. Wiley, just older than Margaret had died young. John was two years younger than Margaret and Nancy was seven years younger. Some of Margaret's older sisters were married and away from home before Margaret was born. Years passed and John married a minister's daughter, Susan Smith, and Nancy married Henry Belcher. Margaret remained at home with her parents, Colby and Lottie. Colby was born in 1822 and Lottie in 1824. Colby's grandfather, Mordica, was one of the first four brothers to settle in Bland County, Virginia.

Great-Grandmother Lottie was typical of women settlers. She had her own garden and canned enough vegetables to feed her husband and children through the long winter months. She raised chickens, milked the family cow, made her own soap, and made quilts to ward off drafts of cold that seeped through the cracks of her log house. She was accustomed to hardships and hard work was familiar to her.

Sometime during the 1860's, Lottie and Margaret pieced a quilt called Cross in the Square. According to a book entitled, American Patchwork Quilts", by Lenice Ingram Bacon, these quilts were popular during the 1860's, the first known one having been made by a Bidwell family in 1859. Both Lottie and Margaret took pride in the blending of the scraps they had. A pleasant sense of achievement with each block suggested that time of life. When the squares were finished and joined into a quilt, they dyed the lining with walnut hulls, making a rich brown color.

Margaret must have helped some with the quilting. Girls at that time, by the age of ten, were ready to make their first quilt. The frames, cumbersome and space consuming, were suspended from the ceiling. Lottie and Margaret basted lining, filler, and fabric into place. They sat at the edge of the frame and reached forward to quilt the space in front, in rows of repetitive fans. In their split-bottomed chairs, they quilted with a disregard for time.

Margaret's sister, Christina (my grandmother), was five years older than Margaret. She married William H. Stowers and her first child was a boy who was named Wiley (my father), named after the Wiley who had died. It is said that Margaret loved this little curly, black-headed boy more than she did any of her own brothers and sisters. He was only six years old when she died at the age of 37. Before she died, she requested that my dad was to have everything she had, but if his first child was a girl, to name the girl for her and to give all belongings to that girl, me. I was named Beulah Margaret. When I was born, I already had a bed, a Bible, and a quilt. The quilt was the beautiful Cross in the Square, joined with a soft rose print with dark brown lining. The lining has faded into a tan color.

There has been a quilt revival the past few years. Some people like to look at quilts and some people like to make them. I like to do both.

Going back to the question asked me, I'll have to say that I believe that my love for quilts had roots in another century. I still have the quilt and someday will pass it on so that others may enjoy it as much as I have.