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Writer,Quilt maker,Folkartist, from Freestone County, Tx.


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Monday, September 30, 2013

"Miss Willie"...(Willie Mae Howell-Owens) / Quilt Maker: LONE STAR BRAGGIN' RIGHTS: Freestone County,Texas Culture and History documented on cloth.

( Willie Mae Howell-Owens is listed at Row 6 / Block XXX on this signature quilt, along side the name of her daughter Opaline Owens.)  Her personal legacy appears in the History of Freestone county, volume II, story # 636, page 399. 
"....her incredible talents with fabric, needle and sewing machine were recognized, and her own love for employing those talents for both herself and others laid (a) foundation for her reputation as a seamstress of real artistry." 
However , throughout her adult life her career for more than 40 years with N.W. Bendy Company embraced her equal talent in salesmanship for which she was honored by Teague townsmen and especially local merchants as "Saleslady of the Year".Her bubbling countenance behind the Bendy store counters gradually , no doubt, contributed to everybody within borders of Teague trade territory calling her "Miss Willie"..."  
 Willie Mae Howell-Owens is a Sims family descendant.  She is the Great granddaughter of Sterling Simsthe granddaughter of George Anderson and Charity Jane Manning-Sims ( a quilt maker) and the daughter of William Augustus and Sallie Fitzhugh Sims-Howell .( Quilt Row 2 / Block VII.)
Willie came from a long lineage of quilt makers, painters and crafts men and women.  She was well respected in the community ( of Teague, Texas) and known for her sewing skills.  

Eddie Riley
E. W. ? Dean Riley
Mrs. B. Y. N-------------?
F. B. Russell
Mrs. F. B. Russell
James Russell
J. W. Savage ?
Charles Bonner/ Bowers
Mrs. R. R. W-------------?
Mrs. Tom N--------------?
Mrs. Horace Owens
Opaline Owens

Mrs. J. M. Connell
Hazel Compton
Mrs./Miss? A. C. Dunn
Elizabeth Kis-------------?
James Be------------------?
Mrs. L. A. Hallmark
Mrs. H. B-----------------?
Nell--------? Hallmark


Sims Family Seamstresses / Quilt makers / Artists 
and Crafts persons and their relationship to "Miss Willie" 

Corin (Johnson) Sims, grand daughter -in -law to Malinda Rutherford and Thomas Whaley Sims. She died in 1900 while giving birth to her second child. Corin was a schoolteacher, painter, artist, quilt maker. She became the mother to Ezra Lucille Sim- Neyland.  She is a second cousin to "Miss Willie"....via marriage ties.

 "Corin was a schoolteacher and also on the Examining Board in Austin for other teachers.
She painted very large oil paintings---48"x 36"  They were "Christmas Morn", "Easter Dawn", "Pharaoh's Horses.  She also painted a three section screen.  She pieced quilts and embroidered where the pieces were joined.  All of these paintings and quilts were made during the early part of 1890s."
Ezra Lucille Sims - Neyland was great grand daughter of Sterling Sims and grand daughter of George Anderson Sims.  Lucille was born January, 16, 1897 and died June, 27, 1 987....
 Her legacy is found at History of Freestone County, volume II,story # 613, page 389. Neyland, Lucille Sims by Linda Neyland- Epperson.  She is listed on this signature quilt at Quilt Row 4 / Block XIX.

 "Her parents were Frank Fitzpatrick Sims and Corin Johnson-Sims.  Since Corin's mother died when she was 3 years old, she was raised by her grandmother, Malinda Rutherford-Sims.....

Her step mother was Madge Keating-Sims of St. Louis, Mo.

She married Thomas Herbert Neyland, Sr. ( b. 9-22-1890 - d.9-13-1961) on December 3, 1916.

Lucille loved to dance, paint and play golf. ...She took oil painting lessons from Maggie Withrow.

Lucille did all alterations for T.H. Neyland and Co. Dry Goods Store."

Charity Jane Manning-Sims is the daughter -in - law of Sterling Sims...and  grand mother to "Miss Willie." Charity Jane was an exceptional quilt maker according to Sims family legacy.
"George Anderson Sims was well-to-do farmer in the Simsboro community. He served in the War between the States. His wife was Charity Jane Manning. ("...Charity Jane Manning -Sims was born 1-5-1839 / d. 6-20-1880.)  She was a quilt maker as noted by her grandson John Sims Newell..... 
"....The Newell family has in safe keeping the quilt , the wedding gift to Mary Catherine Sims from her mother Charity Jane Manning-Sims.  The marriage date 11-26-1873 indicates the quilt is more than 100 years ( at least 115) old. The quilt is "Tree if Life" pattern , constructed of red and green calico on white.  The stitches are unbelievably small and beautiful."
Malinda Rutherford- Sims married Thomas (Tom) Whaley Sims. She is daughter - in- law to Sterling Sims and Sarah Fitzpatrick Heard - Sims. 
History of Freestone County, Texas. volume II, story #782,page 464. She is located at QR3 Block XII. She is the aunt of "Miss Willie". 

 Prior to her marriage Malinda attended the Fairfield Female College.  This college was established in 1857.  The fame of the college spread and young ladies from all over Texas and the southern states attended...."( Some of the subjects  taught to female students at this college were :

Ancient languages ( Latin and Greek)

Moral and Intellectual philosophy
English literature
Ornamental Department / Graded preparatory department
*Fancy Work
(20 week course that cost $15 per session)

Piano / music....$25 per 20 week course / Use of instrument $5.00


Painting in Water colors, Grecian ornamental and oil painting...$20 / 20 week course.

LeNere (Sims) Alderman is the grand daughter Thomas Whaley and Malinda Rutherford - Sims. She is located at QR3 / Block XII and her personal family story is told in History of Freestone County volume II, story #001 ( as a wife) and Volume II Story # 784, page 464,Sims, Mr. and Mrs. W.H., by LeNere Sims - Alderman (as a daughter).  She was born 12 / 22 /1900. She is "Miss Willie's second cousin. 

"LeNere was born December 22, 1900, the eldest daughter of William Hugh and Vida Moss Colgin- Sims.She was a rather shy young girl who bloomed after her marriage and became an excellent  homemaker, seamstress, and cook although Dave often teased that he had to teach her to make cornbread and her first housekeeper had to teach her to sew.  She was a wonderful mother to her daughters---allowing terrible messes in the kitchen and around the sewing machine while they were in the throes of learning.  A birthday invitation usually prompted a quick trip to the Cotton Gin store for fabric to make new party dresses."

Note: Knowing Willie's background and knowledge of sewing skills, the position of her name on this signature quilt leads me to wonder if she may perhaps be the person who stitched the top together and embroidered the names...maybe even quilting the complete Textile, also. Her female family members were very skilled in the arts...from painting to quilt making...and would surely understand that a good artist signs his/her work when it is finished.  Willie's signature is placed in the lower right hand corner area of block XXX, approximately where an artist would place a signature on most any work of art. It causes one to ponder "Why this area for her name...since she was a noted seamstress of the town and area?" 


  Mrs. J.C. Chumney, ( Linda Sims-Chumney?  b. 1879 -d. 1968) of Teague ,Texas....married Dr.John C. Chumney (b. 1878 - d.1937).....delivered her niece, 

History of Freestone County, volume II, story #636, page 399. Owens, Mrs. Horace W. (formerly Willie Mae Howell) by Weldon Owens

" Willie Mae Howell / Owens (who) was one of the few children born in the Brewer community before it became the town of Teague.  Midwifery was performed by Mrs. J.C. Chumney at three o'clock in the morning in the residence of the child's parents, William Augustus Howell and wife, Sallie Fitzhugh Sims / Howell,(b. July 27, 1890 - d.Unknown)..."

Mrs. W. H. Howell (Sallie Fitzhugh Sims) ,of Teague,Texas
 ...married William Augustus Howell. She was the daughter of George Anderson Sims and Charity Jane Manning-Sims.(Charity Jane was a quilt maker.)
Sallie's grandparents were Sterling Sims and Sarah Fitzpatrick Heard-Sims.(Sallie Fitzhugh Sims -Howell's name is also located on Row 2 / Block VII of this signature quilt.) 
They had one daughter named Willie Mae (Willie) Howell (b.7-27-1899 / d. 5-24- 1977). "Willie" or "Miss Willie", as she was called, married Horace W. Owens ( b. 1885- d. 1945), the Chief of  Police, Teague,Texas. They wed on August 17, 1907.  
Horace and  Willie Owens had (3) children: 
Weldon Owens....Worked 23 years as a daily columnist and broadcaster for the Dallas Times Herald and Radio KRLD.  Then he retired. 
Opal Owens-Tucker....was employed for the Cox Department Store chain for many years in Fort Worth, TX, before retiring. 
Wroe Owens...graduated from the University of Texas where he received his law degree and established law offices.  However, during the J. Edgar Hoover regime, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation and as Special agent and was prestigious cited for World War II prisoners security. After the war, he returned to reopen his law offices in Austin where he has long been active in various Masonic civic and chamber of commerce activities. After assigning most responsibilities of this law firm to his son-in-law , he has been retained as consultant and resides in Austin with his wife Dorothy.



Taking all the foregoing information into consideration .....my personal theory is that this lady probably had a a heavy hand in bringing together the physical composition of this remarkable textile. I may be wrong...but the position of her name on the quilt , lower right hand corner...last block ...seems to me to indicate that she may have been signing the artwork. Further research is needed of course, to substantiate whether or not my gut feelings are correct.... So for now this posting  remains just a very strong theory. Adjustments will be made when and if necessary in the future.  For now.....

Sherry Ann

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