|Heirloom quilt returns to its roots|
|Wednesday, August 11, 2010|
By KEN BECK
The quilt, bearing the stitched names of more than 30 women who lived in the Crossroads community during the 1930s, was a gift to Mattie Fisher Turner Neal, the late grandmother of Nancy Dozier, who today possesses the quilt.
Melanie McDonald, whose mother’s family, the Gills, was raised in Tuckers Crossroads, spotted the quilt in March while shopping at The Gathering, a crafts show held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville.
"I was walking through and noticed this nice display of soap, and above that I saw this great-looking quilt hanging on the wall,” said McDonald, who lives in Nashville. “Each square had been quilted by an individual person, and each had embroidered their name on the square. I realized that I knew all these people on this quilt: the Powells, Goodalls, Neals, Bobos, Simpsons, Waters, the Youngs. It was just like going back in time.”
McDonald and Dozier made a fast friendship over the discovery, and McDonald copied down all the names on the quilt, went home and called a life-long friend, Virginia Waters, who grew up with McDonald’s mother, Helen, in Tuckers Crossroads, and shared the news.
Waters recognized practically all of the names from the quilt, which included her mother, Mrs. Neal Powell, and her grandmother, Mrs. Annie Neal Powell, as well as that of her mother-in-law, Mrs. W.H. Waters. So, she called Dozier and invited her to visit.
“I came to see Virginia a couple of weeks ago. We spent the day together looking and talking and sharing,” said Dozier, 54, who grew up in Antioch and now lives in Bon Aqua in Hickman County, about 70 miles from Lebanon.
“I was flabbergasted. This is like I’m home again. I thought I had no family on my dad’s side and now come up here and find I’ve got a whole countryside full,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
The daughter of the late Roy Turner Neal, Dozier, who is known by her friends as “Birdie,” makes Bon Aqua Cabin handmade soap, which is sold in various places such as the Loveless Café. Her paternal grandmother was Mattie Fisher Turner Neal, and the quilt originally belonged to her.
Her grandmother passed the quilt on in the 1960s to a daughter, Christine Schutenberg, Dozier’s aunt, 90, who lives in a retirement home in Toledo, Ohio. Her aunt gave her the quilt a year ago.
“I just talked with my aunt, and she told me that the quilt was a going-away gift from the ladies in the Home Demonstration Club when they moved from Tuckers Crossroads in the 1930s to Detroit,” said Dozier, whose father was born in a house on Trousdale Ferry Pike near Crossroads in 1931.
Dozier recognized a few names on the quilt since she remembered hearing her relatives talking about them when she visited her uncle’s house in Shop Springs as a teenager. But it was chatting with Waters that made the names on the quilt spring back to life.
“I got my notebook out, and I think I cried the whole time. Virginia and her husband, Bill, started talking and I just wrote it down. We spent the day together with the quilt on the dining room table,” Dozier said.
Seeing and holding the quilt opened the floodgate of memories for Waters as well. She even recognized a block on the quilt as being made of a scrap from one of her grandmother’s dresses.
“I’m 100 percent sure it was made by the Tuckers Crossroads Home Demonstration Club,” Waters said. “In the early part of the 20th century, the government established the agricultural extension service under President Roosevelt, and one of their purposes was to help the rural women to be better homemakers and to teach new techniques about preserving foods and clothing projects. They met each month. Clare Gilbert was the extension agent.
“In the summertime when school was out, children like me went with their mothers to the meetings. I can see them quilting and the frames. They had it set up in one of the classrooms at Tuckers Crossroads School, and I can see the women sitting all around, working on the quilt. They tried to have a quilt on hand so that if there was a fire or a family in need, they could give them one as a community service.”
Said McDonald, “There was a reason I was at the show that day. Later, I told Birdie Dozier, ‘Are you familiar with the Wilson County Fair, the most wonderful fair in the world? They would love to have something like this at Fiddlers Grove. This is our community.’”
When Dozier came with her quilt to visit Waters, Hale Moss, president of the Wilson County Promotions, Inc. which puts on the fair each year, dropped by for a quick visit and asked Dozier if she would consider loaning it to the fair. She agreed.
“It was unbelievable,” said Moss, after observing the quilt. “There are so many families represented from that community, and it’s amazing how many connections we still have to those families in Wilson County today. It’s certainly a credit to communities and what community spirit has been for generations and generations. We’re thrilled that all fairgoers can see it but particularly those with family connections.”
“It was a very fun find,” McDonald said, “and I think so many people coming to the fair will enjoy that quilt or recognize a family member.”
Dozier believes that she is related to all but two of the people named on the quilt. She intends to make more visits to Wilson County in the future as she connects with kinfolk she has yet to meet.
“When I got it, I looked at it as a quilter. I didn’t look at is as history which it has become,” Dozier said. “The quilt just broke something open in me. This quilt has brought me home.”