Old quilts are treasured heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation. These textiles often become genealogical records of family and community members from a time when women sat around a wooden quilting frame hung from the ceiling. The tradition of Signature or Friendship quilts date to the 1840s when quilts were constructed and signed by family and friends to commemorate an occasion such as a wedding or migration west. Many of these quilts came to East Texas in covered wagons.
Recently Dr. Deborah Burkett, author of Quilts and Their Stories Binding Generations Together, was the guest speaker at the Christian Quilt Guild in Tyler. Neta Brown, guild president, requested a program on Signature quilts which contain embroidered names and dates. During the program Burkett discussed ten quilts from her personal collection. Highlights included a 1930s Signature quilt made in Mixon, Texas, which contains the names of teachers, community and church members as well as Burkett’s great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mother. Burkett also displayed a quilt from 1865 made in Pennsylvania during the Civil War which contains heartfelt messages and the names of Union soldiers. This was made by relatives on the home front, possibly as a fund raiser.
That evening, Neta Brown also displayed an embroidered name quilt which belonged to her husband’s grandparents, Julia Mae and W.H. Brown, a long time Jacksonville family. Embroidered on this 1934 Cove Springs Baptist Church quilt are 100 names which include Claiborne, Tipton, Cook, Holcomb, Hood, Durrett, Benge, Reagan and Bearden, just to name a few.