When former Plain City residents, Bettie and Kenneth Kilgore, were packing up to move from their Louisville, Ky. home to Texas, they came across an old family heirloom and decided it belonged in Plain City.
The two contacted the Plain City Historical Society, which graciously accepted their donation.
This month, the Plain City Historical Society’s front window display is highlighting some of the antique textiles in the society’s collection. Dominating the display is the Kilgore’s Red Cross quilt from 1918.
In December 1917, as the U.S. was declaring war against Austria-Hungary and getting further involved into the Great War (World War I), President Woodrow Wilson urged American citizens to get involved in the war effort.
That very month, a popular women’s magazine, The Modern Priscilla: Home Needlework and Everyday Housekeeping suggested one way to raise money for the troops was by creating quilts to be auctioned off at raffles. The article presented a quilt festooned with red crosses, and carried the headline “One Thousand Dollars For The Red Cross Can Be Raised On A Memorial Quilt.”
According to quilt historian Sue Reich of Connecticut, “By paying a small sum of money, your name would be signed on the quilt. The quilt would then be raffled to increase the monetary take.”
According to Reich’s website, www.coveringquilthistory.com, “This is the most common World War I quilt to be found. Quilt documentation projects across the country found examples of this design in their research.”
Madison County historians know of two such quilts that had been completed in 1918 in Madison County: One from London, and the one on display, from Plain City.
According to research done by the Plain City Historical Society, the Plain City Women’s Club voted to work on a Red Cross quilt during their March 11, 1918 meeting.
The Women’s Club members were each given six blocks of the quilt to make and asked to solicit four names for each block at 10 cents per name.
The names were then stamped onto each block in black ink.
“I don’t know what kind of ink they used, but it has held up beautifully,” said Plain City Historical Society member Karen Vance.
The blocks were then gathered, and the Women’s Club then sent the pieces away to be quilted.
It is unknown who did the quilting.
It is known who the Women’s Club officers were, however. The officers for 1918 were: June Cary, president; Alice O’Hara, and Minnie Frederick, vice-presidents; Myrtle Barto, Blanche Florence, secretaries; Kate Howland, treasurer; Clara Reed, librarian; Gertrude Warman, Mary Mills, committee chairmen.
Over the summer of 1918, the club fell just short of their $500 fundraising goal, raising $469.80 in donations. The largest donor was William “Billy” Kilgore, who ponied up $75 and was given the quilt.
Over time, the quilt was passed down to Billy’s son, Joe, and then to Joe’s son, Kenneth.
The quilt is one of about a half-dozen antique quilts currently on display at the Plain City Historical Society, 111 W. Main St.
The Plain City Historical Society is open to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. The society’s website is www.plaincityhistoricalsociety.org.
London’s Red Cross quilt is owned privately by Brenda Kalata, a quilt historian in St. Augustine, Fla. The Madison Press ran a story about it in the March 15, 2014 edition. It can be found online.
Rob Treynor is a contributing writer for The Madison Press covering the Plain City area. He can be reached on Twitter @RobTreynor.