Patterns, stories woven through history

Scott Swanson

Ever hear of the Chinquapin Ladies Quilt Club? 

If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Local historians at the East Linn Museum, some of whom have lived in the area for eight or more decades, hadn’t either when Jeanne Ann Cosgrove Brown donated a quilt made by that group to the museum. 

“The chinquapin is a tree that grew in the Quartzville area,” said museum volunteer Glenda Hopkins, who decided to conduct some research when she realized she didn’t know what it was. 

Museum volunteers discovered that the Chinquapin Quilt Club consisted of women in the early- to mid-1900s in the Roberts area, now part of Quartzville and Foster. 

After the Cosgrove family home burned down in 1941, club members gave the unfinished quilt to Jeanne Cosgrove on her 16th birthday. It remained unfinished until her daughter-in-law Connie Meyers discovered it, finished it and gave it to her on her 91st birthday in 2017. 

“We were quite excited about it,” Hopkins said of the donation. 

Regarding the Chinquapin Quilt Club, “the chiquapin tree was fairly hardy. It grew on rocky, difficult land,” she said.  “Putting that together, you just kind of speculate that they might have chosen that name to identify themselves as tough, strong women who could survive in challenges.” 

The Cosgrove quilt is one of 11 on display, as of last week, in the hallway gallery at Sweet Home City Hall. 

Diane Gerson of SHOCASE, the local group promoting arts and culture in Sweet Home, said she wanted to provide the museum with “another avenue for displaying some of their quilts.” 

Museum volunteers, she said, have been frustrated by the lack of a venue to fully display the quilts in the museum. 

Museum volunteers collaborated to stage the display at City Hall. 

Quilts on display include one made by students at Sand Ridge School (in the Sodaville area) in 1902 and one made by Sarah Warman Bowser, who died in 1895, one of the local Thompson family. Another was assembled, around 1890, by the grandmother of local resident John Milo, using upholstery samples. Still another was put together by the Holley Sewing Club in the mid-1930s, while some more modern quilts were made by the Jolly Stitchers group at the Sweet Home Senior Center. 

Still another was created in 1976 by first- and second-graders at Foster School, taught by Glenn Looney and Ardonnah Nolan, to commemorate the bicentennial. It contains all their names, sewn into the blocks.  

“Diane and Nadine Jackson and I spent a couple of hours putting them up,” Hopkins said, noting that the upholstery cloth in the Milo quilt was so heavy they had trouble hanging it so it would stay up. “Nadine and I pulled the quilts out and got the labels on them redone, so they are clearly identified. Some of them are pretty good-sized quilts.” 

Gerson said the premise for the display is to “tout the museum but also to kind of give a heads-up to all the creative work that has gone on historically in the town. 

“It’s a cool display. I’m very pleased with it.”