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Quilt maker,folkartist,writer, from Freestone County, Tx.

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LONE STAR BRAGGIN' RIGHTS: Freestone County,Texas Culture and History documented on cloth.

Fifteen years ago I made and amazing, once-in-a-lifetime textile discovery....

In 1998, while treasure hunting in Freestone countyTexas...at one of my favorite thrift and salvage areas, I happened upon a unique and extraordinary find.  It caused my adrenaline to rush and my heart to skip several consecutive beats. Being a lover of old antique, vintage and collectible items, especially textiles...I was enthralled to find a pile of these cloth items slowly mildewing and deteriorating in the deep, dark recesses of this favorite hunting ground. I did not realize at the time how much richness lay at my feet, but I did realize that it would be shameful to let all this wonderful handiwork continue to rot into total oblivion. So I struck a deal with the owner to buy the whole stinking lot for whatever price he might ask, in exchange for the privilege of a  monthly payment plan. He wouldn't be stuck with a bunch of rotting textiles and I could take them home and restore as much as possible. It was a win-win situation for the both of us.  He helped me to load the items into my vehicle and I headed home with the whole seemingly objectionable lot.

Once at home, I proceeded to examine the items more thoroughly. I was not disappointed. My intuition and keen collecting skills had served me well. There was abundant treasure in this smelly pile of musty old rags. I was awed and amazed as I peeled 50+ handmade items from the little mountain of old textiles.

There was great value here, but not necessarily in just dollars and cents. There was also historical and cultural significance. Out of the smelly mess emerged an aged and tattered Blue and White embroidered signature quilt that featured 30 quilt blocks with 20 names on each one. Originally the item would have had 600 names embellished upon it, but now several were missing because of damage that had occurred to some blocks on Rows 1 and 6. Some names had the embroidery threads slowly disappearing and others no longer were legible or even existed.

Close up of some of the damaged quilt blocks
where names have been lost from this old artifact. 

Numbering the quilt blocks.

Blurry view of over all signature quilt. Sorry but this was taken  with an  old camera lent to me when I had none and I was also not a very good photographer at that point in time. Yet this photo will suffice to give one an idea of the original look of the quilt  after I removed the red and white dollar sign cloth which had been applied by the previous owners to try an protect rows 1 and 6 from further damages.





Yet because I am somewhat of a history buff this old tattered relic of a quilt did not repel my aesthetic senses, but instead stood out among all the other items and beckoned to me to examine it closer. It captured my attention in a way that I could not turn away in disgust because of its dilapidated condition. There was a silent call to know more about the people represented here with their embroidered names upon it. The thought of giving it new life, meaning and glory consumed my everyday thoughts heavily.

Research has revealed that this folk art piece was created possibly around the year 1947, a couple of years after WWII ended and possibly it was created to collect money for the Red Cross, since the people of the town in which it was composed were heavily  involved in that particular project during the war years. The names listed seem to all be Freestone county residents situated around and near the small town of Teague, Texas.

I was born in this county in 1951 and lived here until my High School graduation in 1969. My husband and I eventually ended up in the San Francisco Bay area where we raised most of our children. We returned to Texas in 1997. All these years I had scoured thrift shops, flea markets,and garage sales as a means of helping to feed and clothe a family of 10 people and because it was so much fun rediscovering the nostalgic items I grew up around.  I had read and heard about the great and unique finds of others in these types of places, but never had anything this significant come my way.But now here I was with a relic in my own hands that represented my own local backyard history. How amazing can life get!!! Dare I resist this strong urge to dig in and rediscover this long lost history. I think not. The challenge was staring me in the face. I must act...Succeed or Fail...I must try to unveil this shrouded mystery.

As I stated earlier from l977 - 1997 my family were residents of California.  My husband decided that we must return to Texas and so we did. My grandmother died in 1996 and among her estate items was a tattered old history book that she seemed to have cherished and read many times. My grandfather passed this book on to me. It was titled the Freestone county history and  was published in 1979. At first I cherished the book because it was something to remember my grandmother by...but now after discovering the quilt ...the book took on greater meaning to me.  I decided to check it out to see if  it included any names of the people on my quilt...and indeed it did.  My grandmother had turned down a page in the book on a photo of a prominent rich citizen of the county that eventually was a clue that led to me discovering a passel of information about the slaves in our own historical background and how they were transported from South Carolina to Texas and by whom.

I eventually discovered that "Big Mama" ( my grandmother) had owned only Volume I of a set of two Freestone county history books...so I purchased the second book from the local museum. Eureka! ....more family histories and local stories of  pioneers, settlers,slaves,cowboys,Outlaws, Indians, and more.The notable, famous, infamous and ordinary everyday people were all a part of this amazing legacy.  How good can things get in one's own backyard. This was almost unbelievable...almost over whelming. I then started to search the Internet for local history and even more channels of information appeared...also local museums were filled with every day artifacts that these people used in their daily lives. How amazing can one story get. I was and am thus inspired to see this research through to the end. Reconstructing a part of the STORY OF TEXAS that relates to the settling of Freestone County  is oh so thrilling.

My cache of knowledge on this grand subject is still quite limited compared to the scope of the work that needs to be done.I still have so many unanswered questions....so many whos, whats, whys and whens....but I feel with patient endurance all the jigsaw puzzle pieces will fall into place in Jehovah God's due time.

One of my greatest research moments was when I discovered names on the quilt which could be connected to my personal family history. I was in Historical and Genealogical Heaven. My motivation to plow on with the project, despite the many obstacles , now gave me the foundation support I needed to persevere ...because not only did this story represent the county , but my family and I are also personally included in this amazing and thrilling story.

So at this point (June 2013) I've decided to share some of my research on this fascinating piece of folk art. There is so much more work to be done. Yet I am not in a hurry. The challenge of reconstructing this vibrant part of Texas History can be compared to piecing a quilt and I have a lot of patience, experience and skill at tackling this sort of project.

To begin my "Share and Tell" I will start by listing all the names of those people on the quilt that I have been able to decipher. They will be listed Block 1 - Block 30 in my next blog post dealing with this artifact.  As I said earlier, some names will be missing due to damage to some of the blocks, but I will do my very best to capture as many of them as possible.

After listing as many names as possible, I will then select random names that I have been able to retrieve historical family and personal data on and do blog posts about their connections to this county. Many of these stories are truly 'AWESOME' but every story, no matter how seemingly insignificant are all an intregal part of the whole.  Remember these people and their family members   all played a part in Pioneering the settlement of and helping to create the STORY OF TEXAS.

This is a process that could take years to compile and complete. I may not live to see the project finished as I am now sixty-two years young, but I plan to get the ball rolling and continue the work until my health and/or finances no longer allow. I'll put the gears in motion and keep them rolling as long as possible. I hope you will enjoy the journey with me as followers of this blog, www.quiltstoriesbysherryann.blogspot.com.  I will be posting and sharing fresh new information as often as  possible. ENJOY!!!

Sherry Ann

*To be continued soon ... :):):)





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