Quilting bees and gatherings often become a winter
pasttime...occasions to gather socially, work on
projects and enjoy tea and cookies. This has been
an activity for generations and continues today
among my daughter and her friends. Some quilters
travel distances to attend workshops, shows and
As I read my grandfather's writings,
Fifty Years Ago, Rural Life from 1876,
I was delighted to realize he'd included information
about his mother's quilting at Trails End Farm, in
Dutchess County, NY.
I knew, from this, that my quilting heritage
definitely traced back to my great grandmother, Mary
Barker Coon, and beyond.
Papa Coon, as our family referred to Burton Barker
Coon, writer and farmer, mentioned the women getting
together for afternoon tea and cutting out pieces
for quilt blocks.
"They would take their sewing along and have
a very pleasant time.
All the girls were brought up to piece
quilts, bake bread and do all kinds of housework," he
Quilting Bees of Grandpa's Childhood
Then he mentioned "quilting bees" that were
common in his childhood.
"The quilting frames would be brought
down from the garret, the middle of the sitting room
cleared, the frames put together with clamps, and
the corners laid on the backs of four chairs.
Then the quilt, pieced perhaps by a daughter
in the family, would be stretched on the frame, the
cotton batting inserted, and all would be ready for
He told how four or five neighborhood ladies came to
and tongues would vie with each other in making bed
spreads and history," he wrote.
Coon called each quilt a "sort of souvenir
used to like to hear my mother tell: 'Now I had a
dress like that, and an apron like that, and you had
a little green sun bonnet, and a dress like that,
and grandma a dress like that, and Aunt Susie one
like that'. "
He described the quilts:
" I could see them all in stately array.
There were no loud patterns.
The figures were small and the colors very
bright and lasting."
mother's tales of sewing get-togethers when she was
a child and Mary Barker Coon an elderly lady, I
imagined my great grandmother stitching quilts in
her younger days.
Her son's description of quilting when he was
growing up substantiates that quilting occurred at
Trails End Farm in the 1800s.
He also indicated that his mother learned to
sew quilts when she was a young girl, before she
married and came to live at Trails End.
As you research your ancestry, you may find that you
have a fascinating quilting heritage, too.
Also, you may find you have a heritage of
family foods shared with neighbors at these quilting
bees and teas.
In my aunt's cooking notebook, where she jotted down
in her handwriting, favorite family recipes, I found
this recipe for molasses cookies.
Did the Trails End Quilters serve them at
GRANDMOTHER'S MOLASSES COOKIES
was Mary Barker Coon.)
Cream together 1 cup shortening with
1/4 cup sugar.
Stir in 2 cups molasses, 1 teaspoon ginger,
1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1/2 cup
cold water or coffee and stir into the mixture.
Add enough sifted flour to make a dough stiff enough
to roll out on floured board.
Cut with cookie cutters in round or other
on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees F. about 5-7
minutes, or until done.
(Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her home
in Plymouth, NH.
She enjoys delving into family history and
memories, along with scrapbooking. She
also has written a book, The Magic of
Patchwork, about quiltmaking. E-mail:
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