This quilt was made for Sierra Nevada Bunnell, also known as Vada, who was born in Ashland, Nebraska, in 1870. Family legend has it that her father took a covered wagon load of freight to the west and was so impressed by the beauty of the mountains there that he named his baby girl Sierra Nevada. Sierra’s father, Theodore Armstrong Bunnell, was a medical doctor and was elected to the Nebraska legislature as a Greenback Party representative.
Educated in Nebraska and Illinois, Sierra joined the faculty of the Lincoln Business College in 1890 or 1891 to teach stenography and typing. The Lincoln Business College was the predecessor to the Lincoln School of Commerce, which is now Hamilton College. This quilt was made by some of her students in 1892 when she decided to marry and move to Kansas. Almost every block is signed and the picture sewn into the center features college faculty at the time, including Sierra. With her husband, Asa Smith, Sierra lived the rest of her life in Kansas and died in 1933.
Murray Elwin Smith, Sierra’s grandson, donated the quilt to the Nebraska State Historical Society.