A look into the Quilt Room of the Drew County Museum

This week we will finish our look into the quilt room at the museum. I want to begin by calling your attention to the two paintings hanging on the south wall of the room. Both are artistic works by the late Fred Hankins, a former grocer in Monticello. Mr. Fred was also the husband of the late Mrs. Wilma Hankins, a beloved teacher and activist for the museum in Drew County.  (Mrs. Wilma, along with former Sheriff David Taylor Hyatt, led the effort to have Rough and Ready Cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) 

The Hankins paintings have great historical significance to Drew County. The first is a scene of early Monticello depicting the “new” courthouse that was built in the 1870’s. Of course, that courthouse was replaced in 1932 when the present courthouse was constructed.

The second painting depicts the old Methodist church once located on South Main in the area of John Frank Gibson’s home and office. Both are prized treasures of the museum.

Next you may notice an old sewing rocker made of wicker. It has a side compartment for storing sewing supplies and appears well used. There is also a dress on a mannequin that was made and worn by Marie Farrar for the 1976 Sesquicentennial Celebration in Drew County. Nearby is a picture of Mrs. Farrar receiving the award for the winning quilt in the Drew County celebration quilt contest too.  

In the southeast corner is a lovely old dresser with a fine swivel mirror. On top sits a charming clock. There are also several samples of different kinds of beautiful handwork, such as embroidery, needlework, tatting, crochet and the elaborate Battenburg lace cutwork. All are exquisite!

Along the north wall sits an old cane bottomed chair. Near it is an old trunk-like quilt box. The quilt box belonging to my grandparents was just a wooden box that was homemade using rough 2 x 8’s. It served the same purpose, but the box in the museum looks more like the lovely antique trunks that were/are so popular. Inside the trunk are several old quilts handcrafted using many different patterns. All of these quilts and tops are antiques; most are just gorgeous. One quilt atop the trunk is truly unique because of its fabric source. It is made of pink and white blocks and the white blocks are old Garrett “snuff” sacks that have been washed, bleached and sewn into the quilt. It was pieced by the late Mrs. Aileen Watson of the Selma community who saved many, many sacks to make this rare beauty. 

It is amazing to realize that these lovely quilts were made as a necessity in the 1800’s, yet they had such diverse fabric to use in making so many complex and time-consuming patterns. All this work was done by hand and mostly by candle or lamplight too. There is a quilting club in Drew County EHC program that still pursues the art of quilt making as well as groups of talented ladies who quilt. I’m sure there are others too who realize the time and skills necessary to produce these wonderful pieces of folk art.   

A sampler quilt hangs on the north wall that was done as a project by the Enon EHC club several years ago featuring various patterns of quilts popular in the 1800’s. This “chart” fascinates me. I can understand the names of some of the quilt patterns, but others are baffling. Come take a look! See if you can recognize the 1840 quilt made in the Magnolia pattern or the 1888 Crazy Quilt. There is also an appliquéd quilt that is over 150 years old. Look at the quilt rack under the sampler quilt too.

Along the west wall sits an 1876 Wheeler and Wilson treadle sewing machine. Those treadle machines were difficult to operate for a left-hander. We had one at home when I was a youngster. I called it “Frustration” because that was all it ever produced for me.  Mother could make it sing though. On top of our machine are several old needlework pattern books, a wooden needle case and an antique pincushion.

In the floor there is a basket of lace and tatting samples. There are a few Battenburg paper patterns for cutwork. These patterns were made of a stiff paper that was pinned to your fabric to show how to cut the patterns. After they were cut out fine needlework stitches “finished” the edges. This was indeed delicate work for a careful seamstress. We also have a homemade tatting shuttle from the Old Piney community east of Monticello. Hanging on that wall are two more pictures. One is a portrait of the Honorable Judge   Cotham and the other is a painting of the old church at Beulah in southern Drew County painted by Peggy Chapman. Both oils are well executed.

This concludes our tour of the quilt room at the Drew County Museum. I hope you have enjoyed “seeing” all the beauty there through my eyes. Come and view these lovely treasures for yourself! See you at the museum!      

The Advance-Monticellonian

Mailing Address:
PO Box 486
Monticello, AR 71657

Street Address:
314 Main Street
Monticello, AR 71655

Phone: 870-367-5325
Fax: 870-367-6612

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