A Stitch In Time

Museum show focuses on quilts that go back generations.

RICKREALL -- Nancy Cobb knew she had something pretty special when she acquired quilts from the women in her family as far back as her great-great grandmother.

"Five generations of Quilts."

That's the title of a new exhibit at the Polk County Historical Society Museum at the fairgrounds here. Don't wait too long to go see it because it's the first guest exhibit and it will be gone in a few months.

The museum folks hope someone else will contact them with something to replace it.

Cobb's great-great grandmother was part of the 1845 migration to Oregon from the Midwest. Melissa Hardison was 9 years old when she arrived in Oregon Country by covered wagon from her home in Missouri.

Five years later she married 37-year old Harrison Locke and settled on a donation land claim of 640 acres south of Independence. They were the second white couple to be married in Polk County and subsequently had 14 children.

Melissa made the oldest quilt in the collection in the early 1900s.

It's a nine-patch pattern made of wash goods and shirtings of red, blue and gingham.

It has a backing of morning print which was typical of quilts made at that time, said Rachel Greco, owner of Grandma's Attic Sewing Emporium in Dallas.

The Lone Star quilt was made by Melissa's daughter, Cobb's great-grandmother Rhoda in 1934. Greco said the pattern was used widely in the '30s but it dates back to the 1820s and has been known as the Bethlehem Star.

Cobb's grandmother, Nona Hinkle Locke, stitched the quilt with the pattern entitled "Endless Stairs" about the same time as her mother's. Both mother and daughter used some of the same fabrics.

"We go out and buy fabric to make quilts," Greco said, "but they used scrap bags."

Flour and other dry goods used to be sold in fabric bags and women would use this material, not only to make quilts but dresses and shirts as well.

The "Grandmother's Garden" quilt, made by Cobb's mother, is a hexagon pattern Greco said is one of the oldest patterns in the United States.

"It first appeared in Godey's Ladies Magazine in the 1830s," Greco said.

The magazine was published by Sarah Josepha Hale and had a circulation of about 150,000. Greco said it was the earliest publication to establish different departments such as diet, health, gardening and sewing much as woman's magazines today.

"In the 1800s, the hexagon quilt was always done in dark fabrics but quilters in the depression era of the 1930s started doing them in lighter colors with yellow centers and calling the pattern 'Grandmother's Flower Garden,'" Greco said.

The newest quilt in the exhibit is still in progress and Cobb spends a few hours each week at the museum working on hand quilting the quilt entitled "English Garden."

"It's nice to work on it down here because I can talk to people while I'm here. That makes this exhibit a living exhibit."

Other items on display include a Franklin treadle sewing machine from the 1930s, a silver tea service, scales for weighing hops, a silver bridal bowl, a mustache cup, Melissa Locke's Bible and a bean pot that might have been made at Buena Vista Pottery.

The museum would like to have a new display in the guest corner every three months said Liz Mosher, vice president of the historical society.

"We'd like people to come and see what Nancy's done and maybe they'll want to do their own exhibit," Mosher said. She hopes to see churches, family groups and schools come up with ideas.

"We've tried to encourage Salt Creek Church to do it," Mosher said.

For more information on the museum and the guest exhibit, call the museum at 503-623-6251 or visit their web site at www.open.org/~pchs/

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