1934 Athelstan Quilt Squares Story: Post 2

About two years after moving to Texas, I was going through things in the closet one day. You know how things tend to accumulate when your back is turned and pretty soon you have little piles all over?  Oh, not yours? Well, at least in my closet that happens. I think it’s like the little dust bunnies that procreate while you’re busy with life.  You turn around and … pouf … there they are!

I was busy that day, probably in June or July 2010. I hauled things out of the closet, going through clothes, filling a bag for the thrift store, throwing things in the trash, trying to sort out presents bought ahead of time from toiletries and lotions and rummaging through some boxes I’d brought toTexas but hadn’t gone through recently.

I opened one box and started sorting, all the little miscellaneous things that tend to gather without much thought. I pulled out a yellow legal sheet, folded in quarters, with names and notes written on it.  Oh!  The list of names from the quilt squares, that I’d written in California.  I hadn’t been successful before.  But, who knows, maybe now?

Sitting down at the computer that evening, I started searching for names, not really expecting to find anything again. I ran down the list, adding two or three at a time.  A web site popped in the search results that appeared to have several names!

The 1925 census ofAthelstan, Iowa appeared. Scrolling through this list I found six names that matched squares in my set.  Woohoo! I was doing the happy dance. I’d discovered a link. I felt that if six of 30 names were in one place, this had to be the common link.

Actually six of 27, not 30, names matched. Three of the squares were completed with solid colors of red, black, and blue, typically associated with Amish dolls and quilts. They also did not have any names added, typical also of Amish beliefs to not make graven images of themselves.  Although there weren’t names on these three squares, there are also many Amish in Iowa, which gave weight to the Athelstan, Iowa connection.

In less than an hour I’d discovered an Athelstan connection for seven names. 

The 1925 Athelstan Iowa census listed:

Darlene Booher, 1 year old

Leona Booher, 2 years old

Georgia Older, 39 years old

Delilah Rusco, 2 years old

Berneice Scott, 1 year old

Ah ha! Add nine years to get to 1934 and these girls would be 10-11 years old. (Possibly in the 9-12 year old range, depending on when the census was taken and when their birthdays were.) That explains my notes from several years earlier: “very young or very old”.

I found a listing for the Athelstan Cemetery which listed Georgia Older again and also E.J. Bownes, another name on my list of quilt squares. My notes on Mrs. E.J. Bownes and Georgia Older said “same stitching and same fabrics.”  Further research proved that Eliza Jane Bownes was Georgia Older’s mother. Eliza Jane (May 4, 1858-May 15, 1938) was 76 when the squares were completed and most likely Georgia made the square for herself and her mother. Since both squares have possibly some of the best stitching out of all the squares, I tend to lean towards Georgia making both squares, thinking that Eliza’s eyesight may have diminished at this age. But, maybe not. Maybe Eliza’s eyesight was fine and her hand was steady, and she made the both squares.  I can document Georgia and Eliza being mother and daughter, both living in Athelstan, Iowa, and both being buried in Athelstan Cemetery. I can’t document which one of the two made the squares. That part shall forever remain a mystery.

Athelstan Cemetery holds the remains of many family members connected to the quilt squares.  Balch, Booher, Byrns, Fidler, Kemery, Morris, Older, Rusco, Scott, Weaver and Weese. Although only two names show on the internet listing of those buried at Athelstan Cemetery, I later found out that Evelyn Bownes is also buried there.

Thank goodness for the internet.  Before I’ve bemoaned how there is so much information out there for public access, but it was working in my favor.

The “hunt” was on!

July 2022

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