Project Description

History of the Quilt


Project Description

Evaluations of Accomplishments

Future Plans for the Project

Proposal Letter

Request to Commissioners

Biographies by Homemakers Clubs

Biographies by Friends of the Library

Quilt Squares


Remember, 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."

For 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 activity.

At 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 proposal)

Soublet, 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.)

The 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.

Mrs. 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.

The 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.

For months, extension homemakers would wrestle in capturing in thread and applique the drawing Soublet had made for a particular square.

Originally, 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.

Early 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.

Finally, 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 designation.

In 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.

At last, the quilt was ready for quilting! Only the best would do. The quilting was contracted to the Coats Senior Citizens and the results were beautiful.

With 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.

Extension 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 library.

(Meantime, 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.

Wait 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.

And 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.

Interestingly, 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.