As I read my grandfather’s writings, Fifty Years Ago, Rural Life from 1876, I was delighted to realize he’d included information about his mother’s quilting at Trails End Farm, in Dutchess County, NY. I knew, from this, that my quilting heritage definitely traced back to my great grandmother, Mary Barker Coon, and beyond.
Papa Coon, as our family referred to Burton Barker Coon, writer and farmer, mentioned the women getting together for afternoon tea and cutting out pieces for quilt blocks. “They would take their sewing along and have a very pleasant time. All the girls were brought up to piece quilts, bake bread and do all kinds of housework….,” he related.
Then he mentioned “quilting bees” that were common in his childhood. “The quilting frames would be brought down from the garret, the middle of the sitting room cleared, the frames put together with clamps, and the corners laid on the backs of four chairs. Then the quilt, pieced perhaps by a daughter in the family, would be stretched on the frame, the cotton batting inserted, and all would be ready for the bee.”
He told how four or five neighborhood ladies came to help. “Needles and tongues would vie with each other in making bed spreads and history,” he wrote.
Papa Coon called each quilt a “sort of souvenir piece.”
“I used to like to hear my mother tell, ‘Now I had a dress like that, and an apron like that, and you had a little green sun bonnet, and a dress like that, and grandma a dress like that, and Aunt Susie one like that.”
He described the quilts: “ I could see them all in stately array. There were no loud patterns. The figures were small and the colors very bright and lasting.”
From my mother’s tales of sewing get-togethers when she was a child and Mary Barker Coon an elderly lady, I imagined my great grandmother stitching quilts in her younger days. Her son’s description of quilting when he was growing up substantiates that quilting occurred at Trails End Farm in the 1800s. He also indicated that his mother learned to sew quilts when she was a young girl, before she married and came to live at Trails End.
As you research your ancestry, you may find that you have a fascinating quilting heritage, too.
(If you have any questions or information to share, e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the words “Quilting Blog” in the subject line.)