the idea of a quilt as a fund raiser was the "brain-child" of
a man, Col. Bayred Vermillion, USAF (Ret.) long active in The Friends
Group. But the exact type of quilt that would be created, evolved from
conversations between two sisters, Lois Byrd, President of The Friends
and Evelyn Byrd, Cultural Arts Chairman of the Extension Homemakers
Clubs. In company with an Extension Homemaker member, they had visited
the exhibit of notable quilts documented by the State Archives and
History and on display at the N.C. Hall of History. They recommended to
the general quilt committee: "Forget patch work, let's do a quilt
entirely of applique and embroidery."
nine months the Byrd home would be the "command post" for an
array of extension homemakers working in all parts of the county and
conferring with the county cultural arts chairman who spearheaded the
the invitation of Jennifer Walker, Home Economics Agent for Harnett
county in 1989, a general quilt committee was set up. Named from the
Extension Homemakers were: Mrs. Walker, Geneva Stephenson, a quilt
authority and a Nutrition Aide on the Extension Staff; and Evelyn Byrd,
County Cultural Arts Chairman from the Extension Homemakers. The
President of The Friends appointed three members: Paul Soublet,
professional artist, Vernie Womack, an extension club member -a retired
cloth store owner and also active in The Friends; and Mary Jane
Matthews, a beautician and a skilled embroiderer. (See letter on project
a retired service man, who had made over 300 parachute jumps, served in
Vietnam and on retirement had won a degree in fine arts from Methodist
College, was excited about the quilt. He offered to make color drawings
or designs for all 48 squares, charging only for supplies. (See sheet
listing actual costs of quilt) However, he made it clear he would NOT
select the historical topics. That would be the task of each of the 16
Extension Homemaker Clubs. (Fifteen actually responded.)
artist completed his work according to the time table set by the general
quilt committee, but some clubs were tardy in submitting preliminary
sketches and the cultural arts chairman had to fill these spots.
Walker and Soublet arranged all of the colored drawings on the wall of
the county extension building meeting room, making a chart of what color
and topics looked best where. Evelyn Byrd, cultural arts chairman,
recorded this and kept it for reference.
mechanics had started. Next, line drawings in pencil were made from
Soublet's painted 15-inch squares and then the outlines were transferred
to off-white cloth previously cut by Mrs. Stephenson and Mrs. Walker.
months, extension homemakers would wrestle in capturing in thread and
applique the drawing Soublet had made for a particular square.
each of the 16 clubs was to be assigned three squares each. The four
central squares were embroidered by a non-member to make that. As a
result, the cultural arts chairman had to design and make several
squares. Because some sections of Harnett, notably the Western half, had
no clubs in the areas of the early Gaelic churches, church women from
this area who were not club members were invited to make two squares and
did so gladly. Historically, this area could not be overlooked in any
historical quilt, because it was one of the first areas settled.
on, there were problems. Originally, Soublet had planned to use a
replica of the banner he designed for Harnett County that was used in
the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the first Roanoke voyages.
However, a petition (see copy) to use this, made by the Extension Clubs
to the County Commissioners, was denied. (One commissioner was quoted in
the press as saying if the quilt was raffled, "it could go to
someone who might wrap the quilt around his dog" and he added he
would not like for the county seal to be so used. Happily, Soublet
offered two alternative drawings for the center. The quilt committee
selected a rope of gold around a map of the county and also depicted a
dogwood spray and a cardinal bird.
and miraculously, all squares had been assembled, laundered and pressed
by the cultural arts chairman. They were then sewn together at the
extension office by Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Stephenson. Meantime,
embroiderers were busy embroidering in white on the green border, the
names of persons the clubs wished to memorialize, that is, persons whose
lives made a difference in the local communities. Each extension club
voted on one to five names. Then, the Friends committee selected names
of 36 men and women whose county-wide services justified a memorial
each white comer of the green border were recorded the names of all
extension clubs imprinted in red thread. Four club names were in each
comer. Adjoining, were placed the names of the persons each club had
selected to memorialize. When it is remembered that to embroider in
white one name required one hour, it could be easily understood that the
three extension homemakers working had to call for aid of two gifted
additional persons outside of their groups to get all of the names
ready. These two persons were: Ellie Schubart Watkins and Betty S.
Menninger of Lillington.
last, the quilt was ready for quilting! Only the best would do. The
quilting was contracted to the Coats Senior Citizens and the results
only two weeks to go before the July 4th drawing, the finished quilt
went on display at Sirena's Courtyard Restaurant in Lillington, the
County Seat. Mrs. Sirena Byrd, the owner of the Courtyard Restaurant, is
a long time Extension Homemaker. She permitted sales at the lunch and
dinner hours. Tickets were sold to persons from six or more states.
Homemakers were proud. They had with their own hands, brought the
history of their county to life. Before the squares were placed
together, the Friends had a photographer" shoot" every square
and develop it in color. These prints were used to advertise ticket
sales. They also afforded club members an opportunity to obtain a record
of their handiwork if they chose to do so. Greg Plachta of Durham, NC,
who made the color prints in the book, "North Carolina
Quilts", photographed the finished quilt. One print was donated for
the artist, one for the extension office, and one for the county
from May to July 4th, there was a spirited drive to sell tickets on the
quilt.) Extension clubs were apportioned about 2,400 by Mrs. Walker who
kept the tedious records of sales. Meantime, The Friends distributed
tickets to Chambers of Commerce in Angier, Coats and Dunn; to the
Mid-South Bank and a florist, and Craft Shops in Broadway; to a senior
citizens center in Broadway, and to beauty shops in two counties of
Harnett and Lee. The Harnett County Library, the bloodmobile staffs plus
an array of interested local individuals also sold tickets. The Rotary
Club of Lillington invited the cultural arts chairman to present a
program on the quilt. The Girl Scout Council, meeting in Coats, did the
same, and Girl Scouts made posters advertising the ticket sales.
a minute! What was on the quilt? The topics chosen were scenic, historic
landmarks, articles of home and farm a century ago. Churches, schools,
economic factors, such as transportation and the crops raised, ranging
from pine trees to tobacco, and even a resume of Indian tribes were
there. There were replicas of the noted handwritten newspapers,
published before the Civil War.
indeed, proud is the club council that this is the first historical
quilt ever made in North Carolina in which input was invited from all
segments of the population. Early black churches, schools and black
leaders on a local and county scale are recorded on this quilt, as well
as the names of Cornelius Harnett, for whom the county was named and
Alexander Lillington from whom the county seat received its designation.
two women who were prominent in what is now Harnett before the American
Revolution, have their names written there. They were Jennie Bahn McNeil
and Flora MacDonald.