October 29, 2022

Saving Memories: Quilts



“Well it must have been quite a surprise to you to get such a quilt. It looks as though some one else thought something of you as well as me, but you ought not to have told me about any of the mens names that were on it for I might get jealous you know but I will forgive them this time and thank them to boot, and all the Dear Ladies too & we’ll try and think of all of them when we sleep under it.” 

     Letter from Uriah Oblinger to wife Mattie and daughter Ella, April 12-18, 1873.

Quilts came to Nebraska with the earliest settlers. In territorial times, quilting was both a practical and an aesthetic activity for those who made their home on the plains. Not only did it create warm warm bedcovers, it provided a creative outlet for women whose time was spent largely on the time consuming daily work of keeping house, raising a family, and working alongside their husbands in the family business.

Quilts not only showcased needlework skills, but many also had reminders of family and friends in the form of scraps of clothing, embroidered names and dates, and patterns that called to mind special memories. Friendship quilts, designed to record names of friends and family, and sometimes special events, became popular in the United States starting in the mid 1870’s.

Ladies of the Helping Hand Society working on quilt, Gage County, Nebraska, October 1938. John Vachon, photographer

Ladies of the Helping Hand Society working on quilt, Gage County, Nebraska, October 1938. John Vachon, photographer 

Edith Withers Meyers, Quilter

Edith Withers, the maker of this quilt, was born in 1876 in Mount Morris, Illinois. She came west with her family in 1885 to homestead near Lodgepole in Cheyenne County, Nebraska. In 1899 she married Oscar P. Meyers, also of Lodgepole, and they farmed and raised a family in the area. Edith died in 1953. 

Meyers quilt


This quilt is an intriguing record of Edith’s friends, family, and social life from the time she was eighteen until she was twenty-two. The earliest date embroidered on the quilt is 1894, but most of the dates on the quilt are from four years later, starting with a fortune teller at the Allington residence on January 27, 1898. The last dated piece is December 1898 and is embroidered “done at last”.

Since Edith married Oscar Meyers, whose name is slightly misspelled on one of the quilt blocks, it seems possible that this quilt commemorates their courtship.

Sierra Nevada Bunnell, Educator

Sierra Nevada Bunnell was born in Ashland, Nebraska, in 1870. Educated in Nebraska and Illinois, Sierra joined the faculty of the Lincoln Business College in either 1890 or 1891 as an instructor of stenography and typing. In 1892, she married Asa Milo Smith and moved to Colby, Kansas, to live and raise a family. She died in 1933.

  Sierra Nevada Bunnell, about 1890.

Sierra Nevada Bunnell, about 1890.

Bunnell quilt

When Sierra left in 1892 to marry and move to Kansas, her students made this quilt as remembrance piece, typing their names on the blocks and sewing a picture of the college faculty into the center of the quilt.

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