In a recent post regarding one retreater’s project(s) utilizing her father’s neckties, I opened with a short about the blessings we get witnessing so many wonderful quilts and knowing their creators. This is true and words can’;t explain the rewarding return we received. Taking a very different road in the area of quilts, a recent Oklahoma quilter and now good friend, Charla Vaught, was here recently working on a quilt with her Blackberry Patchers Quilt group. When I asked about her project, she excitedly starting telling it’s story.
Rather than trying to put down her transfer of information and history to me, I’ll simply use her essay to explain her journey with this quilt, and what makes it so special. Charla provided me with SEVERAL pages of research she did, of which I included a few to reflect her hard work and the structure of a research binder she keeps.
Here, she opens by telling her story…….
The Mystery of the Vintage Quilt Blocks
By Charla Vaught
In the summer of 2016, my friends and I were perusing a new antique and vintage shop in Wagoner, OK. On top of a table with various items, I spotted a stack of vintage quilt blocks. There were 12 in the stack, and they had names embroidered in the center of each block. There was no price on the blocks, so I asked the man working in the shop, “How much are these?” He said, “Let me check with my wife.” And, they settled on a price of five dollars. I said, “I’ll take them!”
I was not sure exactly how old the blocks were, but after examining the fabric, I guessed them to be at least as old as the 1950’s, maybe older. I did not recognize any of the names, but I was intrigued. Who would begin a friendship quilt and not finish it? Had someone died during the process of making the quilt? Who were these ladies?
I checked with the curator of the Wagoner City Museum. She was very familiar with the history of our community and had written books about Wagoner’s early days. She did not recognize any of the names on the blocks. My husband and I were just beginning an extensive home remodeling project, so I packed the blocks away for the time being.
Five years later, in the summer of 2021, I got the vintage blocks back out and decided to do something with them. I took photos of them and put them on Facebook to see if anyone recognized any of the names. I still hit a dead end. No one seemed to know who these ladies were. I decided that I needed to expand my search. I went to the Wagoner City Library and got on Ancestry.com. The first thing that I discovered is that A LOT of people have the same name! So, I had to see if I could find any common connections between any of the names. I looked to see if any of the multiple “same names” were from Oklahoma. After a few searches, I started finding a link. I noticed that “Henryetta, OK” started showing up as a place of residence in more and more names that I searched. I spent an hour at the library two different times and had just scratched the surface. So, I took the plunge and got a 6 month subscription to Ancestry.com.
Now, I was able to research at home, and you might say that I fell down the rabbit hole! I was hooked. And, pretty soon I realized that I also needed to subscribe to Newspapers.com. The old newspapers are a wealth of information!
During my research, I learned that these 12 ladies were members of an organization called Sempre Fidelis, which appears to have been affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church of Henryetta. And, the blocks were older than I first thought. One lady died in 1939, another was living with her daughter in Colorado in the 1940 census, and a third lady had moved to Pennsylvania with one of her children in the mid 1930’s, but she would sometimes winter in Oklahoma, according to a newspaper article. So, it appears that these blocks were constructed during the 1930’s.
Eventually, I hope to find a living relative of one or more of these ladies. I am sewing the blocks into a friendship quilt, which I plan to display in some area quilt shops, the Wagoner Museum, and then possibly donate it to the Henryetta museum or Henryetta Historical Society.
I have discovered much since I began my research. But, there are still mysteries that may never be solved. Why were these blocks sold in an estate sale eighty years after they were made? Newspaper articles from the 1930’s tell of these ladies meeting and doing “fancy work.” Were these blocks set aside as not good enough to go into a quilt? Whose family had the estate sale? If I can eventually find this piece of information, I may be closer to answering more of my questions.
But, in the mean time, I am enjoying getting to know who these ladies were a little better. And, I am enjoying making their quilt and telling their story.
Thanks Charla. Many may find this boring or pass over the content, but this Innkeeper found it very interesting, and Charla’s efforts rare today. Years ago, when we were addicted to “junk stores” and wondering within, we often came across old family pictures, and often commented “why would family get rid of these, who were these people, where did they live””. Charla took this wonderment a step further, with her craft and curiosity, and herein provides a glimpse of such a finding……