Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Why I Quilt.

I have been a quilter for 25 years now. My mother didn't quilt. No one in my family did. I wondered where I got this passion for quilting. A few years ago I discovered that it had been running through my veins all along.

The image of my great-great-grandmother hangs in my quilt studio. It is on her wedding day in 1859. Ann Midgley, born in 1826 in Almondbury, Yorkshire, England. She crossed the Atlantic Ocean with her mother and younger brothers and sisters in 1855, then they crossed the plains to Salt Lake in 1855. They were to meet up with their father and a brother who were already there. Her mother, Ellen became ill along the trail and died. Ann, then took the responsibility of caring for her younger brothers and sisters until they reached Utah. One of the younger children recounted later about how distraught the children were that there mother was gone. They would cry and cry in the night and Ann tried to keep them comforted.

Shortly after arriving in Utah, Ann was married to Matthew McCune. When polygamy among the Mormons ended, their marriage was dissolved and so Ann was left to raise her children in a little home in Nephi, Utah alone. (Note: her husband kept the younger wife...typical!) I'm sure Matthew helped to sustain her financially, but in order to supplement her income, Ann was a weaver and quilter.

Now, in those days, didn't women quilt out of necessity? In the days of Ann Midgley, a census record typically listed a woman's occupation as "keeping house." Well, I saw a copy of a census record listing Ann Midgley as a divorced woman, occupation "quilter."

Ann never remarried. She spent the rest of her life in Nephi, Utah. In 1902 at the age of 76, she helped raise her daughter Grace Palmer's four children. (that's another story for another day!) In 1911, at the age of 84, she died from complications of a broken hip she sustained while putting a quilt in a frame.

I have been to Nephi, Utah (a town south of Salt Lake City) to take a picture of her headstone. She is buried there in the city cemetery next to two small children she lost in the early years of her marriage to Matthew McCune. She raised three children to adulthood, one being my great grandfather.

Jean Wilcox Hibben said, "We are a compilation of our experiences and associations, as well as our biological connections. When we understand our ancestors, we can better understand ourselves."

Now I understand why I quilt.

(another day I'll share the story of finding an Ann Midgley quilt! It now hangs in a Pioneer Museum in Utah!)


Flippytale Quilter said...

What a proud heritage! No wonder you quilt, I bet you now find even more inspiration to quilt knowing details of your family's history!

swooze aka Suzette said...

I wonder where my genes came from too. No known quilters in the family! Enjoyed the story and look forward to the next one!

QuiltingFitzy said...

Do you know where Toole is? I think in the same general area as the town of your heritage. My historical Morman family lived there many years, family does still reside in SLC.

Nice to see you in the Ring.

Rian said...

Wonderful story.

Granny Fran said...

A wonderful story! Utah history is so interesting, I have a daughter in
SLC area and enjoy visiting her and going to museums. I'm into genealogy and look forward to story about finding one of Ann's quilts.

Kay said...

What a wonderful story. It's always amazing how hard but inspiring ordinary people's lives can be.

Anonymous said...

My husband's Great Great Great Grandfather is Matthew McCune. I have been working on his side's family history. I enjoyed your story. My husband is a decendant of Sarah Elizabeth Caroline Scott. I believe she was Matthew's first wife.
Thanks for sharing!
Laura price

Feather on a Wire said...

I loved reading this.

kjquilts said...

I love that story! I just found your blog today. I can't wait to see what other stories you have told.