A Long Journey Home – Bettie’s Quilt is back in the Valley

 

Late last fall SCHS had the pleasure to assist the Virginia Quilt Museum raise funds for the purchase and return to the Valley of a quilt with the inscription “Elizabeth Neffs Property Shenandoah County VA 1843.” The quilt had been sold to a California collector in 2001 who decided that it was time for this treasure to come home.

It was only after the purchase was secured that a chance conversation led us to discover how the quilt ended up in San Diego, and who “our” Elizabeth Neff was. Local collector, Kenna Fansler, told us he remembered a signed Shenandoah County quilt being sold, and when we followed up with Jeff Bradfield, the owner of Rolling Hills Antiques in Harrisonburg VA, we found that he too remembered the quilt. A photograph confirmed the quilt’s identity, and thanks to Jeff’s records, and good memory, we discovered that until that sale in 2001, the quilt had not gone far from home and family. Jeff purchased it from Mary Miller, widow of Ralph Miller of Bridgewater VA. Research revealed that Ralph’s grandmother was Elizabeth Neff Miller (1833-1917), born at Rude’s Hill in Shenandoah County.

When Elizabeth (known as Bettie) married in 1856, we believe she took the quilt with her to Bridgewater, where she lived the rest of her life. Bettie and husband, Samuel, built a lovely home in 1876, in which their son Virgil, and then grandson, Ralph, lived. Ralph and Mary eventually sold the homeplace and moved nearby; it was in a chest at the foot of the bed in this home when the quilt finally left the family, was sold and taken several thousand miles away.

Bettie was only 10 years old at the time the quilt’s inscription was written, making it unlikely that she was the maker, as it’s a sophisticated and well-made quilt. Who made the quilt? The mystery remains. We can only speculate that a family member may have made this very special gift for a proud Elizabeth, who signed it to signify her ownership.

Quilt Museum Curator Gloria Comstock decided that we had to have a special event for Elizabeth’s quilt. So, a large and enthusiastic crowd found their way to the Shenandoah County Historic Courthouse in Woodstock on June 18 to celebrate the homecoming of the 1843 Elizabeth Neff quilt back to the Valley. In addition to exhibiting the Neff quilt, we took this unique opportunity to invite other Shenandoah County families to bring their own family quilts to share. Visitors enjoyed a rare opportunity to see more than 40 Shenandoah County quilts, quilt tops, and quilted wall hangings, all attesting to the skill and creativity of long ago ancestors. Most of these treasures usually reside safely at the homes of their owners, not available for public viewing.

The courthouse was full of happy conversations about stories of the quilts, their makers and families, and the quilts journeys through the years. Mrs. Comstock, with Museum volunteer, Jenny Miller, displayed the Neff quilt in a place of honor in the 1871 courtroom, where visitors stopped to enjoy it and to learn about its origins and travels. Discussions about Neff family connections were overheard, and it’s possible that a few people discovered new family relations. Many visitors, and quilt owners alike, were pleased that several attendees had expertise in the textile field, and learned a great deal from them about the heirlooms on exhibit. Mrs. Comstock had mentioned previously that she hoped the event would be an opportunity to commend those who cherish and are the caretakers of quilts and we believe this was achieved.

Many thanks to those who shared their treasures and made the day such a success including Gloria Comstock, Jenny Miller, Anna Palmer, Henry & Catherine Buhl, Gloria Stickley, St. Paul Lutheran Church Strasburg, C.J. Borden, Jane Rhodes, Laura Ellen Wade, Mary Redmon, Barbara Hollar, Ruby Swartz, Phyllis Wright, Anna Mae Ortgies, Vicki Mongold, Sue Brown Williams, Mary Ruth Parsons, Debby Cooney, Marlyn Hoffman, Jean Martin and the Woodstock Museum.


A Long Journey Home – Bettie’s Quilt is back in the Valley

 

Late last fall SCHS had the pleasure to assist the Virginia Quilt Museum raise funds for the purchase and return to the Valley of a quilt with the inscription “Elizabeth Neffs Property Shenandoah County VA 1843.” The quilt had been sold to a California collector in 2001 who decided that it was time for this treasure to come home.

It was only after the purchase was secured that a chance conversation led us to discover how the quilt ended up in San Diego, and who “our” Elizabeth Neff was. Local collector, Kenna Fansler, told us he remembered a signed Shenandoah County quilt being sold, and when we followed up with Jeff Bradfield, the owner of Rolling Hills Antiques in Harrisonburg VA, we found that he too remembered the quilt. A photograph confirmed the quilt’s identity, and thanks to Jeff’s records, and good memory, we discovered that until that sale in 2001, the quilt had not gone far from home and family. Jeff purchased it from Mary Miller, widow of Ralph Miller of Bridgewater VA. Research revealed that Ralph’s grandmother was Elizabeth Neff Miller (1833-1917), born at Rude’s Hill in Shenandoah County.

When Elizabeth (known as Bettie) married in 1856, we believe she took the quilt with her to Bridgewater, where she lived the rest of her life. Bettie and husband, Samuel, built a lovely home in 1876, in which their son Virgil, and then grandson, Ralph, lived. Ralph and Mary eventually sold the homeplace and moved nearby; it was in a chest at the foot of the bed in this home when the quilt finally left the family, was sold and taken several thousand miles away.

Bettie was only 10 years old at the time the quilt’s inscription was written, making it unlikely that she was the maker, as it’s a sophisticated and well-made quilt. Who made the quilt? The mystery remains. We can only speculate that a family member may have made this very special gift for a proud Elizabeth, who signed it to signify her ownership.

Quilt Museum Curator Gloria Comstock decided that we had to have a special event for Elizabeth’s quilt. So, a large and enthusiastic crowd found their way to the Shenandoah County Historic Courthouse in Woodstock on June 18 to celebrate the homecoming of the 1843 Elizabeth Neff quilt back to the Valley. In addition to exhibiting the Neff quilt, we took this unique opportunity to invite other Shenandoah County families to bring their own family quilts to share. Visitors enjoyed a rare opportunity to see more than 40 Shenandoah County quilts, quilt tops, and quilted wall hangings, all attesting to the skill and creativity of long ago ancestors. Most of these treasures usually reside safely at the homes of their owners, not available for public viewing.

The courthouse was full of happy conversations about stories of the quilts, their makers and families, and the quilts journeys through the years. Mrs. Comstock, with Museum volunteer, Jenny Miller, displayed the Neff quilt in a place of honor in the 1871 courtroom, where visitors stopped to enjoy it and to learn about its origins and travels. Discussions about Neff family connections were overheard, and it’s possible that a few people discovered new family relations. Many visitors, and quilt owners alike, were pleased that several attendees had expertise in the textile field, and learned a great deal from them about the heirlooms on exhibit. Mrs. Comstock had mentioned previously that she hoped the event would be an opportunity to commend those who cherish and are the caretakers of quilts and we believe this was achieved.

Many thanks to those who shared their treasures and made the day such a success including Gloria Comstock, Jenny Miller, Anna Palmer, Henry & Catherine Buhl, Gloria Stickley, St. Paul Lutheran Church Strasburg, C.J. Borden, Jane Rhodes, Laura Ellen Wade, Mary Redmon, Barbara Hollar, Ruby Swartz, Phyllis Wright, Anna Mae Ortgies, Vicki Mongold, Sue Brown Williams, Mary Ruth Parsons, Debby Cooney, Marlyn Hoffman, Jean Martin and the Woodstock Museum.


Shenandoah County Historical Society Mission Statement

•   Foster a spirit of cooperation between existing organizations, writers, historians, genealogists, collectors, preservationists, and other members of the Shenandoah County community.

•   Aid in the collection and creation of materials and publications about the history of Shenandoah County and ensure that they are preserved and made available to the community.

•   Support efforts by citizens, organizations and government to preserve historic buildings and sites.

•   Share history through programs and exhibits.

Shop for Books and More...

Remembering the Civil War Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation

Caroline E. Janney

The author, who hails from Luray, Va., is a history professor at Purdue U. She examines how the war generation -- men and women, black and white, Unionists and Confederates -- crafted and protected their memories of the nation's greatest conflict. She explores the subtle, yet important differences between reunion and reconciliation. 2013. 451 pages.

Hardcover
Item# 1020

Price: $37
Members: $36

Life in the Shenandoah Valley - 1865

Elsie Newcomber & Janet Ramsey

Both are Henkel Granddaughters. This book, commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civill War, is the5th in the series of "Life in the Shenandoah Valley." A journal, letters and news articles lead the reader through the trying last days of the War Between the States and the beginning of Reconstruction in the Valley for the Henkel, Coiner and Miller families. 2015. 340 pages.

Softcover
Item# 1023

Price: $20
Members: $19

More books and other items...

Upcoming events...


November 15th from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM: Civil War Program in Edinburg, Va.
Author and Historian William Miller will discuss his new book Decision at Tom's Brook - George Custer, Thomas Rosser, and the Joy of the Fight at the St. Paul's Heritage Center.  The Civil War battle at Tom's Brook on October, 9th, 1864, will be examined as a tragedy, a mystery and the climax of an ordeal for residents of Shenandoah County.  Free. The public is invited.  Parking available in the Shentel lot across from the Heritage Center.

October 29th from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM: Ghost / Graveyard Tours in Strasburg, Va.
This family-freindly event is a walking tour of several historic cemeteries and churches sponsored by the Strasburg Heritage Association.  Tours leave every 15 minutes from the Strasburg Community Library, on Main Street, and last approximately one hour.  Tickets are $3 and available at the Town office.  $5 on day of event.  Children 5 and under are free; those 13 years and under must be accompanied by an adult.  Tours available for disabled.  Info:  540-465-9501.

November 17th at 7:30 PM: Great Cattle Drive Program in New Market, Va.
The Great Virginia Cattle Drives, long before Texas was known about, will be discussed by Nancy Sorrels.  Cattle was once a key indurstry of the Valley and residents drove them to market.  The program, sponsored by the New Market Historical Society, is free and is held at the New Market Town Hall at 9418 John Sevier Road in New Market. The Public is invited.

Upcoming events...

November 15th from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM: Civil War Program in Edinburg, Va.
Author and Historian William Miller will discuss his new book Decision at Tom's Brook - George Custer, Thomas Rosser, and the Joy of the Fight at the St. Paul's Heritage Center.  The Civil War battle at Tom's Brook on October, 9th, 1864, will be examined as a tragedy, a mystery and the climax of an ordeal for residents of Shenandoah County.  Free. The public is invited.  Parking available in the Shentel lot across from the Heritage Center.

October 29th from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM: Ghost / Graveyard Tours in Strasburg, Va.
This family-freindly event is a walking tour of several historic cemeteries and churches sponsored by the Strasburg Heritage Association.  Tours leave every 15 minutes from the Strasburg Community Library, on Main Street, and last approximately one hour.  Tickets are $3 and available at the Town office.  $5 on day of event.  Children 5 and under are free; those 13 years and under must be accompanied by an adult.  Tours available for disabled.  Info:  540-465-9501.

Shop for Books and More...

    The Alms House of Shenandoah County: A Brief History   •   Fred Painter   •   What was once the Glebe Farm and Peter Muhlenberg's home during the American Revolution is now the Alms House of Shenandoah County. This History book also contains many photos. 1979. 33 pages.  Softcover  •   Item #2005  •   Price: $6   Members: $5
  • Shenandoah County Trivia (And a little bit more!)   •   Irvin D. Magin   •   1000+ bits and pieces of facts and figures about this Virginia county, its people, its history, and what makes things go. 2002. 138 pages. 4 1/8x 7 3/8.  Softcover  •   Item #2029  •   Price: $8   Members: $9
  • Lake's 1885 Atlas of Shenandoah and Page Counties   •   Array   •   The SCHS reprinted the popular Lake's Atlas of 1885. Also included are several pages from Gray's Atlas of 1878, which contain slightly more detailed maps of many of the communities in Shenandoah County. With added pages from Gray's 1878 Atlas. 2009. 12x18.  Softcover  •   Item #2007  •   Price: $20   Members: $19
  • Images of America: Around New Market   •   James R. Graves & John D. Crim   •   New Market lies at the western base of the Massanutten range. Its crossroads go back to two Native American hunting trails that crossed here throughout the ages. The Town was incorporated in 1796 and the area still shines with its agrarian roots, while over the years it has fostered many educational institutions and maintained historically heavy commerce. The book has lots of photos. 2007. 128 pages.  Softcover  •   Item #2031  •   Price: $23   Members: $22

More books and other items...

Shop for Books and More...

The Battle of Cedar Creek - Victory from the Jaws of Defeat   •   Jonathan A. Noyalas   •   Last Major battle in the Valley. Sheridan's defeat of Early finally secured the Valley for the Union  Hardcover  •   Item #1016  •   Price: $21   Members: $20
Decision at Toms Brook - George Custer, Thomas Rosser, and the Joy of the Fight   •   William J. Miller   •   A must-have book for every Civil War collection. The story of two West Point graduates who find themselves on opposite sides of the Civil War conflict. Their separate paths meet in the Shenandoah Valley. The story is about the conflict between the two men as well as of the Generals they served.  Hardcover  •   Item #1027  •   Price: $31   Members: $30

More books...

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