Winter’s the quilting season

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 20, 2017

“I like to garden and travel . . . I’m an outdoors person,” says Lura Stanley. “And so I don’t quilt in the summertime. Winter, when you have to stay in, when the roads are bad and the weather’s bad. That’s when I do my quilting . . . I sometimes quilt all day long . . . But it gets you in between your shoulders, and I have arthritis.”

Mamie Bryan quilted during the winter months, setting up her frame in the living room near the fire. Quilting provided a pleasant way to keep busy and productive while her husband was working in West Virginia or out foxhunting at night.
Zenna Todd usually starts quilting during the winter, after Christmas. She sets up her frame in the bedroom and leaves it up until she has quilted four or five tops. It usually takes her about a week to quilt one quilt. “When I get started, I just go at it . . . I’d put maybe eight, nine hours on it. You can do a right much in that length of time.”

During the summer Ila Patton had a lot of gardening and canning to do, so she generally quilted in the wintertime. She recalled that because the house was heated by the fireplace or a wood heater, there were three or four quilts on each bed to keep her family warm at night.

Maggie Shockley did her quilting in the winter months, when she had fewer farm responsibilities. She made quilts while her children were small. She typically put her quilt in the frame at five o’clock in the morning, when her husband left for work, and finished it by the time he got home in the evening. When the three boys were in school, she sometimes quilted “about all day long.”

Donna Choate recalled that she generally quilted during the wintertime, after Christmas. After making several quilts in one winter, she developed bursitis in her arm, which made quilting painful. Her house [at the time of this interview] was warmer than in the past, so she and her husband did not need as many quilts at night. She had given many quilts to her daughter and grandchildren, keeping “just enough to cover the beds if I have company.”

Blue Ridge (VA) quilters
Interviewed by Laurel Horton, July, 1999

2 Responses

  • Lela Moore says:

    I am looking for a book on appalachian quilting … stories, history, etc. I met a woman several years ago with a wonderful book… wish i had bought one then… any suggestions or help is much appreciated… Lela Moore

  • Carletta Bush says:

    I, too, love to quilt. This is a new pastime of mine, but in taking up my quilting needle, I am following in the footsteps of many of my grandmothers. Quilting is so soothing. When I am working on the big frame, I feel like a pianist whose hands move across the keys, back and forth, at different tempos. Like these women, I don’t get much time to quilt until after Christmas. Since I spend most of my days on the computer as an online instructor, I certainly relish the time that I spend without technology. Machine quilting is not for me! When the ground thaws and the flora begins to come to life, I am back outside, like Lura, working in my gardens. I love being an Appalachian woman!

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Everyday he went into the dark pits of the mines to earn what it took to care for us children

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 19, 2017

“Everyone we knew worked in the mine or in the machine shop. Dad met Inez Thompson and at the encouragement of [his stepmother] Della, married. Then came us four children and later a divorce after a long separation (between 3rd and 4th year of school) from Inez. Later, Dad married Rose Mae Jackson at one of the Lively homes. Dad and Rose went to visit the Lively relatives on many occasions, but us children never went.

Della, Homer and Inez Thompson (background).

“My father is to be honored for his stick-to-itiveness. Everyday he went into the dark pits of the mines to earn what it took to care for us children. In the early days of coal mining the coal barons (who lived in other states) opened coal mines, built houses for the workers, built the company stores and entertainment centers for movies (bare rooms with wood benches and no back on them).

“They paid the men in scrip, with which the men bought clothes, food, and all they needed at the company store. Often the Post Office was in the company store; this leads to how my dad got into trouble. He went with a friend to get food for the family, the store was closed, and they broke into it – took nothing but milk. He was charged with a federal crime and sent to the “pen.”

“This is when Dovie was left with her great-grandma Janie Miller who lived in Kentucky. My mother was pregnant with me, destitute (1930’s). Mom went to the poor house in Stollings, West Virginia and that’s where I was born. I didn’t know this ’til I was in 10th grade. Della revealed it all. I don’t know what she was trying to do. We got on a bus to go home the very next day. I was not about to stay with her any longer!

“Dovie grew up believing Janie Miller was her mother until the fourth grade, which is when Janie became ill and Dovie was sent to live with us. My father tried to get Dovie back after he was out of the pen but Janie was too attached and wouldn’t let her go. It was a difficult adjustment for her to this new family she had only seen a couple of times.

“West Virginia was a beautiful place to grow up. Thank God for the beauty around us. My father went to work even when it was almost impossible to get through the snow. Ashes from burnt coal were often put in front and back of the tires to help get traction to get to the road.

“One early morning I recall vividly when dad left for work, it was still very dark. It had snowed and Rose woke us up to look out the window. The snow was deep, and so white, with no tracks at all. The moon was bright, shining onto the snow. It looked as though diamonds had been spread over the entire area, and the whole field was sparkling. I know dad enjoyed the view on the way from Mabscott to Mac Alpine Coal Mine that morning.

“The coal miners rarely saw the sun. They went into the shaft early and came out late, went to the bathhouse, then home. Carbide lamps were their source of light. I remember helping to fill the lamp with the dry carbide, and that smell when it was moistened and lit.

“Many miners ended up with poor vision and black lung disease, and until John L. Lewis fought for the miners to get better pay and health benefits, many men died with nothing for their families.

“After I graduated high school the folks bought a combination grocery store/restaurant in Piney View. We lived there for a short time. I joined the Navy and was to be gone except a short visit after Corps school. I did not see my dad until he came to California in 1957 when Glenda was a baby. That’s when he went to visit his father John Lively and Uncle Edgar.

Homer Leo Tate and daughter Bobbie (Barbara).

“My brother, Homer Gene, was killed in a truck accident. He had ridden his bike up the road on Piney View to visit some friends. He got into the middle of the seat (three persons). Somewhere they hit a bridge abutment.

“He didn’t get permission to go with these young boys. He was thrown through the windshield and was hospitalized. Folks did not find out for 2 days or more. Finally the boy up the road came and told Dad. He and Rose went to the hospital, but with the head injury and other injuries as well, my brother was hardly recognizable, too much swelling.

“He died I think, two weeks after Vanessa was born. I was alone, my husband, Don, was overseas, so the folks didn’t inform me of this. They sent a notice to Don; he in turn sent it to me. What a shock, I thought at first it must be my dad! It wouldn’t be ’til after the folks moved to Florida, 30 years later, that I could go home. West Virginia was not home without my brother!”

Excerpt from a letter from Barbara Lee Tate to her cousin Gerald Lively, July 2001. Online at

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We can lose nothing by kindness to a child

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 18, 2017

Does any one remember that genuine specimen of the old field schoolmaster, Allen S. Bacon? He lived in 1830 on the school land in the mouth of the dry valley, and taught school there for many years.

At his school quite a number of the young and rising generation of that day obtained the education that amply fitted them for the duties of life in rural occupations.

Mr. Bacon, the first schoolteacher I ever went to school to, was a good teacher for the times. He raised a very respectable family, one of whom at least—Drury A.—became a leading citizen of your county and held honorable positions of trust in both Roane and Loudon counties. He was a man of very pleasing manners and amiable deportment.

Road leading to Kline family farm in Loudon County, TN. No date.

Road leading to a family farm in Loudon County, TN. No date.

There was another son, however, called Kier—for Hezekiah I suppose—for whom I had the greatest aversion. I feared him as I would a bear, and hated him more intensely than any man I ever saw.

All this fear and hatred originated from his perverse, and as I thought, his insane desire to tickle me to death, in which he often came near succeeding. He would tickle me till my breath would be gone and I would think my time had come and I should surely die.

It was a lesson to me and I have never tickled a child to excess. I have written this with no feeling of enmity to Mr. Bacon, who became a very respectable man and good citizen as I learn, but as a warning to others to never indulge the habit of tickling a child, for no one can forsee the injury that may result.

Then there were Charles and Richard Taliaferro, two famous bearers of Gospel tidings to a sinful world. Perhaps no two men did more to set up and establish a high standard of morals in all the country around and about them than these grand old men.

They lived on adjoining lands near Pond Creek, and I have no doubt were the original enters of their land: as the treaty of 1819 first gave the white people, the right of entry was made before the treaty. They were not only good preachers but good farmers as well. Charles Taliaferro also had a tanyard and cotton gin or wool carding machine, I forget which.

At any rate I remember going to school to Alfred Helman, who taught in a little log house just below the tanyard, and two of his sons, John and Hardin, went to the same school. John was a very studious boy and advanced rapidly in his studies and was a great favorite with the teacher and consequently was envied by the other boys.

Hardin was equally as studious but in an entirely different direction. His chief aim and purpose seemed to be to do some mischief to some other boy, by which he generally managed to get a flogging every day, and very often two or three times a day. If a day passed without Hardin getting whipped, he was sorely disappointed. He would be sure to earn two or three the next day to make up for it.

The writer was a small kid, then very earnestly engaged in making straight marks and pot hooks on a copy book composed of half a quire of foolscap; and studying the marvelous stories of Peter Parley about Mother Carey’s chickens.

After that school my acquaintance with the Taliaferro boys ceased and I have no further knowledge of their future career. I would not be surprised, however, to learn that Hardin made the more successful man of the two, as I have often seen the goody, goody boy turn out to be a very worthless sort of man, while the harem-scare-um-devil-may-care brother may turn out to be a first class citizen and successful business man.

In 1874, when traveling on business in north Alabama, I stopped at a farmhouse to stay all night and after supper the landlord, his wife and daughter prepared to go to Church some two miles away, and by their invitation I accompanied them.

What was my surprise to see the Rev. Dick Taliaferro rise in the pulpit and conduct services! I could scarcely control myself till services were over, and when concluded I eagerly approached and took him by the hand, and when I told him who I was, that I was the same little boy whom as a four year old he had picked up in the road with but one little garment on and made me ride before him home, he exhibited that same kindly expression of countenance and benevolent disposition that characterized his whole life, and seemed as glad to see me as he would some near relative.

It affords me great pleasure to pay this little tribute of respect to so good and worthy a man and conclude it with this remark: it matters not how exalted our station in life—we can lose nothing by kindness to a child.

Excerpt from “Recollections of 60 Years Ago,” by R.M. Edwards
This article appeared in The Loudon County Herald, Sept. 14, 1893, and was reprinted in The Loudon County Herald, Centennial Edition, June 13-20, 1970. Although this article is about people and land in present day Loudon County, the area was a part of Roane County until 1870.
Online at

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They retreated off, leaving us entire masters of the field

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 17, 2017

On January 17, 1781, American General Daniel Morgan scored a stunning victory over British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre “Barbarous Ban” Tarleton’s regulars at the Battle of Cowpens, in what is now Cherokee County, SC. This win came at a crucial time for Revolutionary War patriots in the South, who had been repeatedly forced to retreat.

William Seymour, a Sergeant-Major of the Delaware Regiment, recorded the event in his diary:

“We lay on this ground from the twenty-fifth December, 1780, till the fourteenth January, 1781, and then proceeded on our march further up the river towards the iron works in order to frustrate the designs of the enemy who were coming round us, Colonel Tarleton on one side and Lord Cornwallis on the other.

“We encamped on the Cowpen Plains on the evening of the sixteenth January, forty-two miles, being joined by some Georgia volunteers and South [Carolina] Militia, to the number of between two and three hundred.

“Next day being the seventeenth January, we received intelligence a while before day, that Colonel Tarleton was advancing in our rear in order to give us battle, upon which we were drawn up in order of battle, the men seeming to be all in good spirits and very willing to fight. The militia dismounted and were drawn up in front of the standing troops on the right and left flanks, being advanced about two hundred yards.

Colonel William Washington at the Battle of CowpensColonel William Washington at the Battle of Cowpens. Drawn and engraved for Graham’s Magazine by S.H. Gimber.

“By this time the enemy advanced and attacked the militia in front, which they stood very well for some time till being overpowered by the superior number of the enemy they retreated, but in very good order, not seeming to be in the least confused. By this time the enemy advanced and attacked our light infantry with both cannon and small arms, where meeting with a very warm reception they then thought to surround our right flank, to prevent which Captain Kirkwood with his company wheeled to the right and attacked their left flank so vigorously that they were soon repulsed, our men advancing on them so very rapidly that they soon gave way.

“Our left flank advanced at the same time and repulsed their right flank, upon which they retreated off, leaving us entire masters of the field, our men pursuing them for the distance of twelve miles, insomuch that all their infantry was killed, wounded and taken prisoners. This action commenced about seven o’ clock in the morning and continued till late in the afternoon.

“In the action were killed of the enemy one hundred and ninety men, wounded one hundred and eighty, and taken prisoners one Major, thirteen Captains, fourteen Lieutenants, and nine Ensigns, and five hundred and fifty private men, with two field pieces and four standards of colours.

“Their heavy baggage would have shared the same fate, if Tarleton, who retreated with his cavalry, had not set fire to it, burning up twenty-six wagons. This victory on our side cannot be attributed to nothing else but Divine Providence, they having thirteen hundred in the field of their best troops, and we not eight hundred of standing troops and militia.

“The troops engaged against us were the 7th or Royal English Fuzileers, the First Battalion of the 71st, and the British Legion, horse and foot.

“The courage and conduct of the brave General Morgan in this action is highly commendable, as likewise Colonel Howard, who all the time of the action rode from right to left of the line encouraging the men; and indeed all the officers and men behaved with uncommon and undaunted bravery, but more especially the brave Captain Kirkwood and his company, who that day did wonders, rushing on the enemy without either dread or fear, and being instrumental in taking a great number of prisoners.

“Our loss in the action were one Lieutenant wounded, and one Sergeant and thirty-five killed and wounded, of which fourteen were of Captain Kirkwood’s Company of the Delaware Regiment.”

source: “Journal of the Southern Expedition, 1780-1783,
by William Seymour, Sergeant-Major of the Delaware Regiment.”
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 7 (1883): 286-98, 377-94.
Online at

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"Our time has come; we will have our rights"

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 16, 2017

When Gertrude Dills McKee of Jackson County took her seat in the North Carolina Senate on January 7, 1931, she became the first woman in the state’s history to serve in that chamber. She was sworn in ten years after Lillian Exum Clement of Buncombe County became the first female member of the state House.

McKee (1885-1948) was in her day among the state’s most prominent women and brought to the legislature a wealth of experience in public affairs. Born and reared in Dillsboro, she was the daughter of the town’s founder. A 1905 graduate of Peace Institute, Dills in 1913 married Ernest Lyndon McKee. In 1923 the McKees bought the 2,300-acre estate of Wade Hampton at Cashiers and, with the help of investors, developed the present-day resort, High Hampton Inn.

Her first involvement in politics came in 1928 with her participation in the campaign for Congress of Zeb Weaver. Two years later Gertrude McKee successfully sought the state Senate seat from the Thirty-second District. She jokingly referred to her forty-nine male colleagues as “my children.”

As chair of the public welfare committee, she took a special interest in child labor laws and old age assistance. Voters returned her to the Senate in 1937 and 1943, the year in which The State magazine speculated on the possibility of her becoming North Carolina’s first female governor. In 1948, she died three weeks after being elected to a fourth Senate term.

Gertrude McKee’s other activities as a civic leader and clubwoman were numerous: president, North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1925; president, Southeastern Council of Federated Women’s Clubs, 1926; president, North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1928; Commission for Consolidation of the University of North Carolina, 1932; State Board of Education, 1943-1945; Commission to Restore Tryon Palace, 1945-1948; and a trustee of the University of North Carolina, Western Carolina University, Peace College, and Brevard College.

sources: North Carolina Manual, 1931, 1937, and 1943
The History of Jackson County, Max R. Williams, ed., 1987
“Gertrude Dills McKee: A Biographical Analysis” by Joan W. Ferguson, (M.A. thesis,
Western Carolina University, 1988)
The State, December 2, 1933, and June 5, 1943
Charlotte Observer, July 25, 1935
Asheville Citizen, November 28, 1948

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