This weekend members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will enjoy festivities on Saturday July 20th, 2013 that commemorate the trek west from Nauvoo, Illinois to The Great Salt Lake Basin, which started in 1845.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries” (“The Faith of the Pioneers,”July 1984, 3).
I have been asked to put together a display table on Pioneer Women and Quilting for the festivities that our Stake is hosting which will be held at the LDS Church located at 612 Hollow Way, Nevada City, CA , this Saturday, July 20th starting at 3pm.
Open to the public, there will be delicious bar-b-que, activities for adults and children alike and we will welcome in those that have participated in the hand cart trek this past week.
From 1856 to 1860, handcarts were a means of helping Latter-day Saints gather in the West. These handcart pioneers faced many trials and hardships which required a great amount of faith, obedience, and sacrifice. By participating in handcart treks, today’s youth may begin to grasp the spirit of faith, obedience, and sacrifice these saints demonstrated. Some youth pull handcarts over the original trail; others reenact treks on land in their areas.
Pioneer families that were making the journey westward endured untold hardships. Each handcart had limited space for personal items. A person assigned to a handcart had only 17 lbs allotted to them for personal items, bedding, clothing, etc. Space was at a premium. Luxurious linens and ornate quilts would not have been taken along on this journey. Quilts would have served a utilitarian purpose, warmth, bedding. Fabric would have been difficult to come by on the frontier. There would have been no way to really launder a quilt as you are trying to move along on a journey such as this. I don't imagine that there was much quilting going on during the actual trek. Quilts would have been utilized to bury the dead along the way. The Martin handcart company actually burned their quilts and blankets trying to lighten their load to enable them to move forward toward what they thought was certain rescue, only to have many in their company freeze to death.
|Deuel Pioneer Log Home, one of the first homes built in the Salt Lake Valley circa 1847|
Once the women arrived at their journey's end and they finally got about the business of setting up some type of home, they would utilize what they had to comfort their family and beautify their humble abode as they were able. Small scraps of colored cloth would have been highly prized. You can see an example of this in the quilt below, with small bits of colored fabric sewn in the Irish Chain pattern. Each square but a 1/2 inch in diameter.
Another favorite pattern would have been the Log Cabin pattern, with the typical red center of each block, signifying the hearth or heart of the home and the logs in both light and dark fabrics which would signify that there are always light and dark times.
|Log Cabin Quilt made by Ellen Dougherty in 1870 in Illinois.|
Again, the early quilts would have been utilitarian, to serve a purpose, they were not looked at as art forms until life became a little easier for the women pioneers. Time was spent alongside your husband in the field planting and tending crops so that you could ensure your survival through the difficult winters. They would have been preoccupied with building shelter and preparing for their own survival and that of those that would come after them. People would be pouring into Salt Lake and would need food and shelter, there was much work to do and not much time for trivial pursuits.
I hope you will come out and join us in the fun this Saturday! We will have some examples of older quilts, not from the 1800's but quilts from the turn of the last century and from the 1930's and 40's. There will be some fabric squares and you can try your hand at putting together an old fashioned 9 patch block with a needle and thread, just as your ancestors might have. There will be some English paper piecing for those that would like to try that as well.
See you out there!