The Manuscripts unit of Library Special Collections recently acquired an unusual letter in which a Bowling Green resident pleads with a wealthy New York merchant to send funds so that he can save his home from a judicial sale and subsequently allow him to continue educating the city’s young Irish immigrants. On 18 March 1869, James Aloysia Timmons (1836-1902) wrote a solicitous letter to Alexander Turney Stewart (1803-1876), a multi-millionaire who operated New York City’s A.T. Stewart & Co., one of the world’s largest and most lucrative dry goods businesses. Timmons was born in County Cork, Ireland and had a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown and a master’s degree from St. Louis University. In 1863 he came to Bowling Green and established a small, private college with Professors William F. Kouwenberg and John Leonard.
In the letter, Timmons noted that losing his house “would prevent me from being able to do what little good I have been up to this time, teaching my countrymen’s poor children at very low rates, and some of them without any charge at all.” Timmons announces that he chose Stewart because of his noted “benevolence and…acts of charity.” It is clear that Timmons did not know Stewart personally but only by reputation. He declares his cause a magnanimous one: “I make my request with no selfish views or deceitful purposes, but purely with the view of being enabled to conduct my school, and instructing the poor Irish children of this place, most of whom are not able to pay anything for tuition.” He ends his letter with a plan to pay off the house.
Also included with the letter was a Warren County Commissioner’s sale flyer that further elucidates the situation. It shows that the house’s previous owner, Robert Wenn Ogden, a wealthy Bowling Green businessman, had taken Timmons to court for back payments. The advertised sale was for a “valuable house and lot” two blocks from the public square on Main Street. The flyer further describes the house as “a large brick Dwelling with a basement, all well finished.”
From all appearances, Stewart did not come to Timmons’ rescue. James Timmons eventually moved to Lebanon in Marion County where he taught mathematics at St. Mary’s College. He and his wife had four children. He died on 5 November 1902 at 66 years of age and was buried in the Saint Augustine Church Cemetery.
Many considered George Owen Barnes (1827-1908), a native of Paintsville, Kentucky, one of America’s premier evangelists of the late-nineteenth century. His message was strictly non-denominational and was targeted to a more charismatic audience that believed in faith healing. His father, a Presbyterian minister for fifty years, made sure George received a good education: Centre College and Princeton University. Prior to beginning a church ministry, Barnes and his wife served as Presbyterian missionaries to India for seven years. Afterwards he held pastorates in Danville and Chicago. In February 1882 Barnes and his equally talented wife, Marie, visited Bowling Green for a protracted meeting.
Reverend Barnes’s name came up recently, when Library Special Collections was allowed to copy a small collection of items removed from a family Bible. The items included a long clipping from an unnamed Louisville newspaper dated February 21, 1882. The main title was “About Barnes” but the clipping boasted a number of odd subtitles, i.e. “Pen and Ink Drawings of Two Persons Who Draw Better Than the Siamese Twins” and “Their Wonderful Seven Weeks’ Work in a City Full of Sinners.” This was all fine, until we discovered from the last subtitle “A Bowling Green Preacher’s Welcome” that the “city full of sinners” was Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The lengthy article is almost exclusively biographical and a large portion of it is missing. Fortunately Library Special Collections owns Barnes’ massive published journal titled Without Scrip or Purse, or The Mountain Evangelist, George O. Barnes: This History of a Consecrated Life, the Record of Its Silent Thoughts, and a Book of Its Public Utterances. In it we learn about the protracted meeting Barnes held in our fair city. The Bowling Green entries begin with the overall numbers from the meetings: “771 for the soul and 421 for the body”—referring to 771 “saved” souls during the meeting and 421 healed bodies. The report notes that the downtown Methodist Church hosted the first service on 21 February with about 150 present. The size of the crowd warranted moving it to the larger Baptist Church the following day. Six local ministers attended and endorsed the meetings. The following day while taking a hike to the boat landing, Barnes noted regrettably that the city had “twenty-five licensed saloons…a fearful array against our Lord.”
By the weekend, numbers swelled and organizers moved the meetings to Odeon Hall (the Opera House). On one day alone, February 26, 115 people were “saved.” Despite the soul and body cures, Barnes tried to remain humble. “I want my faith,” he opined, “to rest on the Word of the Lord, and not on success. That only a cup of refreshment.” Throughout the period Barnes worked in town, he took prolonged walks visiting the sick of soul and body. He often frequented the homes of African Americans. It was clear that his meetings were ecumenical and that he did not tolerate racial prejudice.
As he left Bowling Green on March 8, Barnes noted in his
journal: “Left Bowling Green…rain
pouring and almost a hurricane raging.
Satan seemed, in spite, to be blowing us out of his stronghold, where in
seventeen short days our Jesus had struck him so many deadly blows.”
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The only sounds: pages turning softly. This is the quietness of bottomland where you can hear only the young corn growing, where a little breeze stirs the blades and then breathes in again.
I mark my place. I listen like a farmer in the rows.
“A House of Readers” from The Mountains Have Come Closer (1980)
Raised on a 70-acre farm in Buncombe County, North Carolina, Jim Wayne Miller was no stranger to the secrets of the Appalachian foothills. Miller’s poetry, inspired by the works of writers such as Annette von Droste-Hulshoff, Donald Davidson, Randall Stewart, and Emil Lerperger, ultimately reflects his intimate connection to the cultural landscape of the South.
In the spring of 1982, WKU folk studies student Mary Kate Brennan interviewed Miller about “what he considers to be the central theme of his poetry, the development of his poetic art…the death of Appalachian culture, and the urgent need for the people of Appalachia to regain, or retain, pride in their cultural heritage.” Brennan’s interview, less than an hour long, is ambitious in its scope and grapples with the complex intersections between folklore, identity, language, art, and politics. In this interview, Miller also reveals his inspiration for the creation of three recurring figures throughout his poetry—the Brier, the Intellectual, and the Redneck—and how each character represents various aspects of the southern experience. In doing so, Miller addresses his turn towards “culturally aware” poetry, when he suggests that
people [in the Appalachian region] have been badgered into feeling that their society and their traditional life was in many ways inadequate, and oftentimes they’ve been only too glad to abandon traditional ways of life because they’ve been shamed out of them in various ways. But there’s a wonderful steadiness and independent mindedness that’s reasserting itself in the region.
At the time of Brennan’s
interview, Miller had already been working as a full time faculty member in the
Department of Modern Languages and Intercultural
Studies at WKU for more than a decade, and his reputation as a
distinguished professor and poet earned him several notable awards. His
collaborative partnerships with the Poet in the Schools Program in Virginia,
Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky, and Appalachian Studies programs in
universities across the central Appalachian region served as a testament to his
commitment both to public folklore endeavors and engagement within the academy.
until his death in 1996, Miller continued to write and publish collections of
poetry, along with novels, essays, anthologies, and articles in which an
undercurrent of folklore flowed freely. Speaking to the necessity of creative
vernacular expression, Miller tells Brennan that “folklore is always such an
integral part of peoples’ lives. You don’t go and find people sitting on the
porch breaking beans and spouting one piece of proverbial wisdom after another!
It’s all mixed up in life.”
Collections of Jim Wayne Miller’s poetry are available in the Helm-Cravens library stacks and in the non-circulating Special Collections stacks located in the Kentucky Building.
For more information on Jim Wayne Miller, the Appalachian region, poetry, and folklore, visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs, and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!
Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate
student Delainey Bowers
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Dr. Walker Rutledge, WKU Professor of English, annually brings his English 300 class to the Kentucky Building for an introduction to manuscript collections held by Library Special Collections. Afterwards, the students select a collection to read and then write a summary related to it. The following is Cameron Fontes’ paper. He chose to write about the Mansard Hotel register from the collection (SC 1236). To see the finding aid for this collection click here.
Unlike the many impersonal, chain-owned hotels of today, the Mansard Hotel in Bowling Green, KY, encapsulated all the best parts of its community. It was a locally-owned, well-kept institution where local leaders and travelers alike commingled amidst luxurious, yet affordable, furnishings and convenient eateries. When guests arrived at The Mansard, either for just a meal or for an overnight stay, they recorded the details of their visit on the tall, lined pages of the hotel register in grand, gorgeous script. Although it is now yellowed and musty with age, he Mansard Hotel register kept from 16 August 1907 to 7 October 1907, provides an intimate and detailed portrait of the bustling environment of a small-town hotel in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Located behind what was then the local opera house, the Mansard stood near the corner of Main and Center Streets in downtown Bowling Green. At check-in, one of the register columns guests were required to fill out if they were staying overnight was the “Room” column, in which they were to write their room number as well as the number of pieces of luggage they brought with them. Although the number of pieces each guest brought with them is nothing especially noteworthy, one interesting observation that can be made upon reading the record of each guest’s luggage is that for the most part, guests only used trunks rather than suitcases, which are probably the most common type of luggage in use today. On 7 September 1907, a guest who signed as “E. Jenkins” from Buffalo, New York, brought with them one trunk and stayed in room seven.
Buffalo was only one of a plethora of places from which guests at the Mansard traveled. Each guest wrote their place of origin in the register column marked “Residence,” their responses ranging from various towns within Kentucky, such as Golden Pond and Louisville, to St. Louis, Missouri, Evansville, Indiana, and many cities besides. If a guest were visiting simply to take in a meal at the hotel restaurant, they wrote “City” to indicate that they were a resident of Bowling Green. One especially fascinating entry in this column on 24 September 1907, is that of Ed H. Foster, who signed that he was from “Coffeetown,” a small town in Pennsylvania located, funnily enough, about five miles from the town of Hershey.
It is evident which guests in the register were only visiting for a meal by whether or not they write a room number in the “Room” column next to their response in the “Time” column. Obviously, if there was a room number in this column, that was the room in which the guest who signed on that line stayed. If there was no room number, however, one has only to look at the guest’s response in the “Time” column to see for which meal they made a trip to the Mansard. Each guest signed either a “B,” “D,” “S,” or “R”. Most likely, the first three letters indicated the meal at which each guest dined or the closest meal to which each guest checked in for their stay, “B” being for “Breakfast,” “D” for “Dinner,” and “S” for “Supper.” “R” would likely have stood for “Resident,” seeing as how the demographic of permanent residents of hotels was much more common in 1907 than today.
One very famous Bowling Green resident who visited the Mansard for breakfast om 2 September 1907, was none other than Henry Hardin Cherry. Western Kentucky University’s first president, Cherry signed his name in big, beautiful cursive along with the name of his beloved hometown, making sure to proudly write out “Bowling Green, KY,” instead of simply “City,” as so many others had done. That he would have been well-respected and well-known at the time is likely. Having just become the president of what was then “Western Kentucky State Normal School” the year before, he would have already been considered a bastion of higher education in the community.
Other notable guests at the Mansard during this time included C.W. McElroy, a state representative for Bowling Green, on 21 August 1907, for supper, along with a couple of other individuals with prominent Bowling Green names including R.B. Potter from Woodburn, Kentucky, on 9 September 1907, and N.J.M McCormick from Indianapolis, Indiana, on 10 September 1907, who may have both been in town visiting family.
Sadly, the Mansard Hotel burned down on 5 July 1969. To stay in a hotel as charming as the Mansard may seem impossible today, but by perusing its old register one can start to gain a sense of its local charm and grandeur. cked
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Sarah Moore, Scottsville, Kentucky, recently donated a
letter written by Nancy Elam Moore, a distant relative and a leader at the
Shaker village at South Union, Kentucky.
A photocopy of the letter has been housed in the Manuscripts unit of
Library Special Collections for many years.
The letter, written to Nancy’s brother James Moore on 4th
August 1837, discusses her father Jesse’s estate, particularly a piece of
property located in Warren County, Ohio, the site of Union Village, another
Shaker community. She advised her
brother to proceed with caution and to not do anything until he had “fully
investigated the case.” Seems that a
John Wallace, signing himself as the Power of Attorney for Jesse W. Moore, had
sold a 112-acre farm belonging to Moore to a Mr. John St. John for $440. This was undisputed. However, no documentation existed proving
that that said John Wallace had been empowered as Moore’s agent. Nancy advises her brother to go to Russellville,
where he could “examine our Father’s will.
It might shed some light on the subject.” James’ will is indeed recorded in Logan
County, and it gives 5/8ths of the estate to the Shaker community at
South Union (Will Book A, p. 588-589). Although
the letter’s subject matter is only tangentially related to the Shakers, it
does provide insight into communications maintained between Shaker members and
their families “in the world.”
The photocopy, which was retained, has an added note from
Harold Moore dated 28 November 1983 in which he explains how he received the
copy while attending the funeral of William Simpson Moore. Seems Harold shared Jesse’s will and other
biographical information with William’s oldest son, William Benjamin Moore, at
the funeral. At that time, William
provided Harold with a copy of the 1837 letter to keep with his records. Harold’s note unscrambles the genealogy: “This ‘gem’ is a letter from Eldress Nancy
Moore of Shakertown fame to her brother, James, who was my paternal great
grandfather. Bennie’s [William Benjamin]
great grandfather and my grandfather were brothers.” Their father was the James
to whom this letter [was] written.”
Sarah Moore, the donor of the letter, was William Benjamin Moore’s
daughter, and she notes that he went by Benjamin or Ben and only family members
ever referred to him as “Bennie.”
Eldress Nancy Elam Moore was born on 1 September 1807 in Warren County, Kentucky, and was brought to the Shaker village at South Union in Logan County when she was four years old. She served in numerous ministerial roles, including being appointed as an assistant to Eldress Betsy Smith in 1849. She made several visits to colonies in Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts. Nancy was appointed an Eldress of the Church in 1864. Eldress Nancy died at South Union on 5 December 1889. One of the treasures of the Manuscripts unit of Library Special Collections is Moore’s journal which describes life in the South Union Shaker village during the Civil War, 1861-1863. It outlines visits and exploitation suffered by the Shaker community from both Confederate and Union forces. (MSS 405)
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On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln placed pen to
paper and wrote the following executive order,
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
As an authoritative wartime measure, the Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans who remained under control by the Confederate government in ten southern states—not including the “border states” and those already under Union occupation.
While the proclamation, which was contingent upon a Union victory, may have ignited a firestorm of criticism from white southern sympathizers and praise from anti-abolitionists, its implementation was slow to take root, especially in Texas.
Seceding from the United States on
February 1, 1861, Texas became the fourth state admitted into the Confederacy. Throughout
the course of the Civil War, slaveholders from eastern states, notably Arkansas
and Louisiana, routinely brought slaves to Texas in order to avoid
emancipation, which significantly increased the number of slaves across the
state. When the Emancipation Proclamation was made official in 1863, however,
it took nearly two and a half years before the order was enforced. While theories
abound in order to explain this severe lag—ranging from murder to deliberate
miscommunication—history itself is quite clear.
On June 19, 1865, Union Army General
Gordon Granger and his troops landed on the beaches of Galveston Island and
declared Texas under federal occupation. Granger read Lincoln’s executive order,
thereby liberating the nearly 250,000 slaves living in Texas. “Juneteenth,”
then, has come to be recognized as the “traditional end of slavery in Texas.” The
day has become established as a state-recognized holiday, while other states
may observe Juneteenth in other forms of ceremonial remembrance. The
underpinnings of Juneteenth rest on the celebration of Black pride, solidarity,
and cultural heritage.
Akin to Juneteenth festivities, the 8th of
August is another emancipation-related holiday observed by African American
communities in both western Kentucky and Tennessee. While the reasons for
celebrating August 8th remain unclear, the lasting impact it has had on the
region is decidedly obvious. Every year, the city of Paducah, Kentucky hosts
its 8th of August Homecoming Emancipation Celebration. The Homecoming seeks to
honor exceptional members of the African American community, both past and
present, through memorial services, picnics, music performances, and church assemblies.
WKU’s Manuscripts and
Folklife Archives contains a collection (FA 635) of
materials gathered together from Paducah’s 2008 8th of August Homecoming
Emancipation Celebration titled “A Journey by Faith.” In his program
introduction, Robert Coleman, President of the W.C. Young Community Center
Board of Directors, writes,
“America’s struggle, rise, and triumph from slavery to equal rights for all is a living testament to the power of deep, personal faith for Americans of all colors. That deep well of faith from the darkest days of slavery sets the African American experience of religion apart.”
The program itself includes articles describing
the accomplishments of distinguished members of the Black community,
advertisements for local businesses and churches, and a schedule of the weekend’s
events. The collection also contains photographs of the celebration, vendor
information, business cards, and two interviews with James Dawson, a member of
the First Liberty Missionary Baptist Church, that were recorded on digital videocassette
For more information on African American folklore, material
culture, foodways, and achievements throughout the state of Kentucky and beyond,
or browse through KenCat,
a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs, and other non-book
objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!
Post written by WKU
Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers
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In 1957 Sid & Florence Jobs wrote a prospective visitor to their Camp Paradise on Kentucky Lake that he should call long distance and make reservations, because their eight cottages were in high demand. They told the potential guest that his boxer dog was welcome “if there is no danger of him with the children on the premises.” The Jobs also send along a promotional postcard and literature along with several photographs as a way to tempt this vacationer to the place they considered Paradise, three miles from the nearest store or restaurant in Calloway County.
Camp Paradise, created in 1944 and nestled next to Kentucky Lake, stayed open for business from April 1st to December 1st each year. It lured some families for lake vacations, but its chief attraction was fishing on Kentucky Lake’s 160,000 acres. Promotional literature explained: “Day-in and day-out fishing in Kentucky Lake is considered the best among the manmade lakes in this part of the country by many fishermen…Almost all species of fresh water game and rough fish are represented here. Just to mention a few among the game fish are Crappie, Large Mount Bass, Small Mouth Bass, Striped Bass, Walleye Pike, Channel Cat, and Blue Gill. You can cast, troll, or stillfish anytime during our 12 month season and be reasonably sure of catching some of these fish.”
By way of accommodations, the Jobs could offer five one-bedroom cottages and three two-bedroom cottages, which were frame buildings clad in shingle tile siding and constructed on cinderblock foundations. The interiors boasted knotty pine paneling, celotex block ceilings and tile floors. Amenities included: tile showers, modern kitchens equipped with refrigerator and gas range, cookware, china, cutlery, linens, electric heating, hot water, and fans. Towels were not included. Guests were encourage to bring any necessary electrical appliances “to make your stay more enjoyable.” Every cottage had an outdoor barbecue pit, picnic table and lawn chairs. The one-bedroom cottages rented for $6 per night or $36 for a week and two-bedrooms rented for $9 per night or $54 per week. At the camp’s dock you could rent a boat for $2 per day or $12 a week, but you had to pay $4 extra per day for a 5 horsepower motor to go with it. Life preservers were thrown in free of charge.
Fishing, swimming, boating and hiking were encouraged in
this isolated spot on Kentucky Lake. The
Jobs assured their guests: “We will try
to make your stay most enjoyable.”
The information for this blog post was culled from a small collection of items recently acquired by the Manuscripts unit of Library Special Collections. We were excited to learn the camp still exists but is known today as America’s Paradise Resort boasting eleven cottages, five condominiums and a full-scale marina. Modern owners still consider this Paradise. Their website encourages guests to “relax and take in the amazing sunsets for the family and discover why so many refer to our resorts as a ‘little slice of heaven.’” To see the finding aid to our small collection, click here.
It’s funny how items from collections, coming from different donors and eras, occasionally overlap. Last year, Doug Brockhouse and his wife of St. Louis donated a set of papers related to the Weir family of Muhlenberg County. The collection revolves around a prosperous agricultural and merchant family that exerted quite an influence in nineteenth and early-twentieth century Greenville. The collection includes a noteworthy travel account of James Weir’s trip from South Carolina to Tennessee in 1798-1799, ante bellum and Civil War correspondence, and Edward R. Weir Sr.’s declaration of Muhlenberg County’s support of the Union. The collection also contains a little over thirty photographs, chiefly of the Weir family and allied families. One of the latter is of Edward Rumsey Wing (shown here), who was a cousin of Edward R. Weir, Jr.
Edward Rumsey Wing was born in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1843 to Samuel M. Wing and Emily (Weir) Wing. He became a lawyer and at the age of 29 was named the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, at the time the youngest ambassador ever appointed. He served for four years before he died on 5 October 1874 in Quito while still in service. Interestingly, through his wife Louise Scott, Wing was related to the Green family of Grayson County. The Manuscripts unit in Library Special Collections owns a significant collection of Green family papers. In this collection are several letters that Wing wrote to Green and Scott family members back in Kentucky.
In one of those letters Rumsey, as he was called, wrote about an 1870 earthquake that he and Louise experienced in Quito. With the skills of a poet, Wing described the event: “It was ten o‘clock and Louise had gone to sleep on a sofa over a ‘Cornhill Magazine’ while I was lying on the bed reading a law book and deeply interested, which I presume kept me from fully appreciating the situation at the first shiver of the earth I could still hear voices in the street and then a heavy heel went clanging by over the resonating sidewalk. The white light of the moonlight enwrapped the houses and the hill and [provided a] silvery kiss on our windows. All at once there was a sudden silence that I now remember first attracted my attention, & the very night seemed to hold its breath as if waiting, listening, terror-stricken at the coming shock. The next moment it struck me that the bed curtains were stirred as if by a strong wind. Still I did not think of the dreaded ‘temblor’ until in a flash I heard groans, screams and prayers issuing from every direction – our own servants running across the courtyard with loud outcries for “El Senor Ministre’ – and the bed trembled as if in the grasp of some fierce giant.”
“I recall then the queer jingle of the windows,” Wing continued, “and their latches, & springing up felt the room with its ‘six foot’ walls reeling like a beaten ship at sea. Glancing from the window at the moonlit street I could see many people on their knees & many prostrate on their faces, praying most fervently, whilst loud above all other sounds, I could distinctly catch the cry of ‘El Temblor, El Temblor.’” After a contemplative night, Wing summarized his reaction to the event: “The most disagreeable thing in connection with an earthquake like a battle is really ‘after it is over.’ Then one begins to realize what an infinitesimal atom he is, and not only himself but all men and all nations and all the ambitions of life and all the absorbing interests which we so untiringly & eagerly pursue, — in the face of these tremendous convulsions. These terrible forces of nature, these awful agencies, so bitterly dreaded and so little understood, & of their supreme ruler and controller…Why should helpless man be thus made the unwilling sport of misfortune – or of superior power & wisdom & goodness?”
To see a finding aid for the Weir Collection click here, or to view the Green Family finding click here.
The Malacanan Palace where McElroy spent New Year’s Day in 1909.
Where did you spend New Year’s Day? On January 1, 1909, Bowling Green attorney Clarence Underwood McElroy found himself amongst other invited guests at the royal palace in Manilla, Philippines. Governor-General James Francis Smith invited McElroy, who was on an extended trip to the Orient, to the “national holiday” soiree. McElroy recorded the temperature at 89 degrees and noted that the “grounds men elaborately decorated [the courtyard] with Japanese lanterns and electric lights in the fountain.” He goes on: “The Palace is designed for entertaining and was built by the Spanish and was occupied by the Spanish Governor-General. The rooms are very large with beautiful mahogany hardwood floors of planks from 12 to 15 inches wide. The Palace is right on the river bank and boats come up to the porch. The reception was largely attended. All the elite being out in force…American, English, Spanish and Filipino.”
Governor-General Smith had served with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War and was part of the first expeditionary force to the Philippines during that same conflict. He later served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the Philippines and subsequently on the Taft Commission which was responsible for developing a legal code for the Philippines. William Howard Taft appointed him as Governor-General in 1906, and he served in that capacity until 1909. During this period the Philippine Assembly convened for the first time.
Clarence Underwood McElroy.
Clarence McElroy, one of the most revered members of the Bowling Green bar, kept a detailed account of his trip to the Orient. On this trip he visited the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Japan, Hong Kong, China, Ceylon and the Philippines, and he jotted down copious notes about the industrial, economic, and cultural aspects of each country. To learn more about his journal, click here. In addition to these travel journals, Library Special Collections houses over 50 boxes of correspondence and case files related to McElroy; to view the finding aid for this collection click here. A portion of McElroy’s diary is included in an online exhibit titled “Seven Continents” which features travel items found in Library Special Collections.
I have named this quilt “My Dear Jane” which is a reproduction of Jane A. Steckle’s quilt she made during the Civil War titled “In War Time 1863”. I, Donna Patterson, began this quilt journey on April 5, 2010, 4 years, 3 months, and 15 days later on July 30, 2014, this quilt was completed.
Hand quilted by Irene Harper, my 87 year old mother, and Donna Patterson.
5,600 plus pieces
169 pieced blocks
52 pieces triangles
56 solid triangles
4 corner blocks
Countless yards of thread
When viewed from the front, the quilt is a quick kick of color. Deep reds, pale yellows, oranges, greens, purples, and pinks all demand the eye’s unfocused attention. The patterns, too, reject uniformity. Sharp, jagged angles push up against soft, rounded edges, an arrangement of thoughtful geometric design. Regarded individually, each panel suggests the quilters’ keen awareness of ordering, movement, and composition. As a whole, the quilt is representative of timeworn quilting traditions that place a high value on community, craftsmanship, and creativity.
Donna Patterson’s finished “My Dear Jane” quilt
Over the course of 2017 and 2018, Sandy Staebell, Kentucky Museum’s Registrar and Collections Curator, conducted fieldwork with more than 30 quilters throughout the region. Her findings were eventually turned into a presentation for the Osby Lee Hire and Lillian K. Garrison Hire Memorial Lecture Series, a program which seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Allen County and Monroe County in Kentucky and Macon County in Tennessee. Staebell’s presentation, which was titled “Heritage, Tradition, & Craft,” focused on the aesthetics, processes, and finished pieces of both individual quilters and larger communal groups, such as the Buck Creek Homemakers (Allen County) and the Monroe County Piecemakers.
As a widely recognizable form of folk art, quilting highlights both the conservative and dynamic nature of folklife. While the women Staebell interviewed work within a particular artistic framework, one that underscores the nuanced relationships between color, shape, and style, they also move beyond traditional forms of quilting to create pieces that reflect their own personal experiences, preferences, and tastes. In folk studies, the study of material culture has shifted from an emphasis on product to the more contextually-relevant emphasis on process. While the final quilt is no doubt a visually and emotionally-stimulating piece of artwork, it should also be understood as a manifestation of the work required to maintain strong bonds between family and friends.
The collection (FA 1131) is located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archivesand includes hundreds of color photographs of quilters proudly displaying their quilts as well as digitally recorded audio interviews where women discuss their sources of inspiration, their most treasured pieces, and their connections to the quilting community.
For more information on quilts and other forms of expressive material culture visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs, and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!
Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers
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