Thursday, April 7, 2016

Quilts on the Kansas Frontier

Quilt dated 1876 by Drusilla Showalter Cole,
Mound Ridge, Kansas. Kansas Quilt Project.

The Missouri/Oklahoma/Kansas/Arkansas quilt study group (MOKA) is meeting in Leavenworth this weekend April 1 and 2nd, 2016. See the program and registration form here:

Carol and Ron Elmore will be talking about the “The Life and Quilts of Ida Stover Eisenhower” in the morning on Saturday and I will be doing a program on the Kansas Quilt Project's search for "Quilts on the Kansas Frontier."

It's been over thirty years since we started the Kansas Quilt Project and over 25 since we began publishing our findings. I thought I'd revisit the research and see if I'd found anything to contradict that information.

Nancy Hornback and I were particularly interested in quilts made in Kansas between 1854 (when the Territory was opened to European and African-American settlement) and 1880. We hyposthesized we'd see quilts made here that looked much like the quilt styles people had known back in the east.

This is supposed to be the first house built in Lawrence, 1854.

What kind of quilts were made in frontier Kansas?

The lecture will tell you how many we found that could reliably be
attributed to a Kansas quiltmaker before 1880---which can be considered
the end of the frontier in most of Kansas with the coming of the railroads.

Spoiler Alert:

Lots of families brought in quilts they thought were made by
pioneers but we only found one date-inscribed example 
where we had evidence the maker actually lived in Kansas.

Thank you, Drucilla, for dating your quilt.

We published our findings in our book
Kansas Quilts & Quilters

and in a 1990 issue of Kansas History.
Read my article on "Quilts on the Kansas Frontier" here:

The link doesn't seem to work. Try a web search for these words:
textile diaries kansas history
and it should come up.

If your hypothesis turns out to be completely wrong --- you spend your allotted timed telling people why you think you didn't find what you were looking for. And that's what I'll be doing.


  1. I'm sorry I can't attend your talk! I have a letter from my great-grandfather's cousin, Eli Hause, dated 27 December 1868 postmarked Lee's Summit that adds a tiny bit of data to your regional quilting history. Eli moved from Indiana right after the Civil War, first to Illinois where he worked in construction. In August, 1867, Eli met and married Myra Jan Marciller, called "Jennie," in Fairbury, Illinois where she was living with her family. After a letter postmarked in Illinois on 29 November, 1868, Eli and Jennie moved to Missouri. In this Dec 68 letter, Eli writes "Jennie wants to know of Aunt Dor if she had any Christmas. all that She got was a new dress, and then she staid at home all day and worked on her log cabin she made eleven blocks last week, and I did not come out as well as she did." Although he continued to write letters almost every month, Eli never mentioned Jennie's projects again.

  2. Cheryl, that's a good reference to an early log cabin. 1868. I'll save that in the Log Cabin files. Thanks for typing it out.

    In the Kansas project We didn't lack for quilts made in Missouri which had been a state since 1821. Most of the mid-19th century quilts we saw were made in Missouri, followed by Illinois.

  3. I'm so sorry to be missing your talk this weekend! It would've been fun to be there.

  4. I've meant to hop on here and tell you how much I enjoyed that presentation! I love hearing your stories, thanks Barb!

  5. Dear Barbara,
    I met Cuesta Benberry years before she passed. Just this week I invested in your book about quilts & slavery. Thank you! I also knew Giles Wright.