For generations, women have made quilts for both practical reasons and as a durable and endearing way to be remembered by future generations.
San Saba’s museum, located at Mill Pond Park, has an impressive collection of vintage quilts. The collection was recently enhanced by a special gift donated by Lonnie Henderson of Florence, Texas in memory of his late wife, Ruth King Henderson.
Ruth’s parents were Alice Heyman King and Thomas (Uncle Tom) Harvey King. The Kings owned 300 acres near Algerita. They had four children: Verena, Harvey, Milton and Ruth. It was hard to make a living off the land so Tom worked as a school teacher first at Richland Springs and later in San Saba. Alice was a full-time homemaker.
In addition to her focus on the family, Alice taught Sunday School at San Saba’s First Baptist Church during the 1930s. Alice’s class of admiring students wanted to give her a special present and decided that a hand stitched quilt would be the perfect way to show their affection.
The quilt is beautifully pieced and hand quilted. It’s in excellent condition despite the fact that it’s almost 80 years old. We know a lot about the quilt yet there remain some intriguing mysteries. For example, we know that the quilt has 30 squares each with a colorful windmill pattern. Twenty-six of the 30 squares include an embroidered signature, some with dates or with the age of the quilter. The square which was pieced by Mrs. E. D. Letbetter is dated December 25, 1933. Mrs. S. J. Carroll’s square indicates she was 91-years old. Mrs. Mattie McCarley indicates that she completed her square on December 9, 1933. Mrs. W. E. Well indicates her age of 75. One square was done by Mrs. T. J. King. Several squares indicate a date of January 1934. Most of the pieces are pastel in color and the quilt is bound and backed with dark pink fabric.
If Alice’s quilt could talk perhaps it could tell us why the makers chose the windmill pattern. And, if this quilt was a 1933 Christmas present, why are some squares dated January 1934? Was this quilt a surprise for Alice or did she help with some of the unsigned squares? Were Alice and Mrs. T. J. King related? Did the group quilt it gathered around a quilting frame while talking about their hopes and dreams? What were their homes and dreams? Did this group ever make another quilt?
This quilt, like so many of the artifacts in the museum, stops us in our busy tracks and calls us to remember what life was like when it was created. How have our values changed? How has the way we use our time changed? What gifts do we give now? Where will those gifts be in 80 years?
The San Saba Museum strives to preserve artifacts that provide a window to our past. The artifacts help us see where we’ve been and, if we’re lucky, they help us better contemplate where we might be going. Come see what’s in your museum. While you’re there, take a look at Alice’s Quilt and see if your mother or grandmother embroidered her name on one of the squares.
The museum is open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm from April – September. The museum will also open at other times upon request. To learn more about your museum, visit the web site at www.sansabamuseum.org.