Stitched in History: 1896 Friendship Quilt Given to Museum
January 28, 2014
Calli Price, CT

CAPTION: David Crouch, of Browning, Missouri, and Donna Crouch Muiller, of Westwood, Kansas, hold up the friendship quilt their great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Lane helped to stitch. Elizabeth was one of many Chillicotheans who helped to create the hand-stitched quilt, featuring squares of hand-stitched fans on silk squares.

When Carol Crouch, of Prairie Village, Kansas, discovered an old quilt on her parents' estate in Browning, Missouri, she was unaware of its family history or of its local value. Carol's great-great-grandparents, William Ashmore Lane and Elizabeth Lane, lived in Chillicothe in the later years of their lives in the late 1800s. William had been the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury of Texas at age 19, back when Texas was still the Lone Star State. He eventually became a merchant and a commissioner of land in different areas of Missouri, having acquired a large plot of land in Sullivan County and also owning land which later turned into the Litton Ranch. He and his wife, Elizabeth, both died in Chillicothe. Before Elizabeth's death, however, she helped to create a friendship quilt with other Chillicotheans in 1896.

A "friendship quilt" is a quilt composed of different squares, each square stitched by a member of the group or community. Friendship quilts were usually a combined effort of several people in a certain group or community. With this specific quilt, each black silk square has a hand-stitched colored fan design on it, along with the hand-stitched signatures of what seems to be each person who helped to create the quilt. Crouch is unsure why the quilt remained in her family's possession, but knows Elizabeth helped to create the quilt; her name is stitched on one of the squares. Carol does not recall having ever seen the quilt until her and her siblings, Donna Crouch Muiller, of Westwood, Kansas, and David Crouch, of Browning, Missouri, came across it while settling their parents' estate in 1997. Crouch kept the quilt rolled up in her closet for quite some time before deciding it needed to be returned to Chillicothe. "We felt more people could appreciate it and it would be more valuable to the museum than rolled up in a closet somewhere," Carol said. "I just thought it would be better served where it came from."

So Saturday, January 11, 2014, the three siblings decided to meet in Chillicothe and donate their family heirloom to the Grand River Historical Society Museum. Museum Curator Pam Clingerman said the quilt was kept in good condition and much of the silk, stitching and colors are preserved. Despite the condition, the quilt is still old and before it can be placed on display, a sleeve needs to be sewn onto the back to preserve the fabric and the stitching. "Basically what you do is you put a sleeve on the back and you sew it on very carefully," Clingerman said. "This is so that when it is hung, stress is not put on the quilt, and the sleeve will actually work to support the original fabric."

Clingerman also said that this quilt resembles another quilt the museum currently has from 1883. That specific quilt was donated by John A. Bryan, a former resident Chillicothe, and quilted by Mrs. A.A. Bryan, who was also of Chillicothe. Clingerman said the stitching on both quilts is original to that time period. "(The stitches) are important to that specific time period," Clingerman said. "It's all hand embroidery." Once a supportive sleeve is sewn on the quilt to ensure that it is properly preserved, Clingerman said the quilt will be put on display, which she hopes will be sometime in February. "We considered it not only a treasured family heirloom, but a piece of art for display and appreciation by the Chillicothe community," Carol said. "Several dozen local names appear on the quilt; therefore, it is both historical and indicative of the artistry of that period."

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