Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shenandoah Valley Red and Green

A Shenandoah Valley Red and Green Quilt

The above quilt purchased at the Lawrence Huffman estate, October 1994, in the Stony Man area just south of Luray, Page Co, the Shenandoah Valleyof Virginia.

This is a view of the south side of the house. A front view is shown below in B&W. 

I did not grow up in the Shenandoah Valley, but my childhood memories of it are very pronounced. It's not an over-statment to say I fell in love with it while visiting my great aunts several times during my childhood.

When my husband and I moved to Virginia the first time, I took up quilting. I soon began  attending estate auctions, too. If I bought something at a Valley auction, I also tried to capture photos of the house as well as interview any family members I discovered at the auction.

It was very difficult to get a photo that day of this lovely old Valley home because the trees around it were so overgown. Like so many of these homes, additions  and changes continued to be made over the years. Here is a photo I found in the now long out of print 1962 book, Old Homes of Page County by Jennie Ann Kerkhoff

An item at the auction. Is this the quiltmaker?
There's no one left who can tell us.

The original owner of the house is said to have been "Elder Samuel Spitler". He started the house just as the Civil War began.  There are said to be two dates on this house stamped in two different bricks: the start date of 1862 and the finishing date of 1866. 

According to Kerkoff, Mr. Spitler's sister, a Mrs. Cline, resided in this house for a short time after the Spitlers moved. Then the home was sold to the Frank Hershberger family. According to someone at the auction, Mrs. Hershberger's maiden name was Spitler and her mother's maiden name was Varner.  Since I have both Hershbergers and Varners among my many Swiss-German ancestors in the Valley (and distant Spitler cousins by marriage), I decided I might as well adopt this place, too, as one of our ancestral family homes!

As I learned bits and pieces of the house's history that day, it just wet my appetite for  more information. The Luray Library in Page County has a wonderful genealogical research area, as does the Harrisonburg Library in Rockingham County.

The building below is the earliest on the property still standing, I was told, for it has the oldest date on it. So I went looking for the date.

As I rounded the corner of the steep hill below this small building, I came upon this scene. (Hope there are some future Valley farmers in this bunch. They are a dying breed!)

There above their heads top, right hand corner, is the dated brick. I pointed it out to them. Then I asked if they could help me figure out how old the building was given that we now had the date - 1856.

Fortunately for Page County and Page Valley history lovers, several people started doing research in the early part of the 20th century and each generation thereafter has added something major. Jennie Ann Kerkhoff's 1962 book of Old Homes of Page County is a treasure trove of leads. Several of my own direct ancestral homes are in this book.

This link leads you to several Valley farms. Though not the estate at which I found my quilts, it nevertheless gives you a great sense of what many of the early Valley farms were like in their hey-day.  (Take the time to visit a few of the other Valley farms. It's well worth your time if you like the history of early Valley living.)

Here is the view looking East from the Huffman Estate Auction
to one of several Varner Farms in that area of Page County.

Meanwhile, back to the Red and Green Pine Burr Quilt

Another look at my lovely thin-batted Pine Burr. You can see some fading in a couple of the blocks on the left side of the photo.

(75" x 89") Variation on a Feathered Star or Pine Burr?

In Barbara Brackman’s “Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns” this pattern is most similar to #3302 (pg. 363) — “Pine Burr”. The earliest published source is attributed to Clara Stone whose designs appeared in “Practical Needlework: Quilt Patterns” by C. W. Calkins & Co., Boston, MA, 1906.

However, the pattern in my quilt seems slightly different.

I tried creating it on graph paper but didn't make the muslin pieces fall in the correct places so the drawing is not true to the pattern but you get the idea.

The following items were also purchased at the same auction from the Lawrence Huffman estate, October 1994, in the Stony Man area just south of Luray, Page Co, the Shenandoah Valleyof Virginia.

This is one of those incidents where even though I attended the estate auction in person, I could not confirm who actually made the quilt in spite of all my interviewing of family members.

Mrs. Huffman preceeded her husband in death and Mr. Huffman had Alzheimer's when he died, I was told by his sister. She told me his wife was from Texas but that she didn't quilt. The sister suggested the Red and Green Pine Burr quilt may have come from the wife's Texas family. However, the blocks and small tops I bought that day probably came from the Huffman mother's side of the family, she added.

 When I asked her what her mother's maiden name was, she said Varner. Well, lo and behold, I am a Varner twice over. My Great Grandmother on my father's father's side was a Varner as was my Great Grandfather's mother. (Yes, those two "greats" were 2nd cousins when they married.) Turns out my Great Grandmother and Lawrence Huffman's Grandmother were first cousins.

Having roots in the Shenandoah Valley from 1740 thru the 1940s, I was always  running into kin once I began attending estate auctions in the Valley in the 1990s after moving to Virginia.

You never know what you're going to find if you dig deep enough into your "filed" stuff. Today I found the auction stubb (below) for the Red and Green Pine Burr quilt I bought at this auction!

In 2004 Better Homes and Gardens/Meredith Corporation published a wonderful book celebrating their coverage of quilting in the 20th century.  I highly recommend this book as an overview of one magazine's impact on the quilt world. (Ordering details are here.) On page 52 you can see a photo of a Pine Burr quilt. It's believed to have been made about 1900.

Here is another Pine Burr. This one comes from the book Oklahoma Quilt Heritage Project (page 45). It was made by Nancy Ellen “Mollie” Ward Shellenberger (1855-1937) in Love County, Oklahoma, circa 1910. 

Although the book is out of print and very hard to find, the Oklahoma Quilter's Guild, Inc is offering the complete manuscript of the book on a compact disk, along with the complete database compiled by the OK Heritage Quilt Project Team in preparation for publishing the book.  The cost of the CD is $20 plus $4 for shipping and handling and can be ordered here.

You can see another variation of this pattern on page 197 of A People and Their Quilts by John Rice Irwin (1984 by Schiffer Books). It's on their website at a lower price than!

You can see an Indigo and white variation of this pattern by Jane Roberts Vernam on page 85 of Wisconsin Quilts: History in the Stitches. It is said to have been made in 1886 as a wedding gift for Jane's daughter. Like mine, the large white spaces in this one are large diamonds, not piced like a Log Cabin Pineapple variation. 

There are several variations of this pattern on The Quilt Index as well.  I couldn't find any at IQSC though. Again, here are several like the Indigo from the Wisconsin book and my quilt with the large white diamond piece. The first is red and white circa 1890. This 2nd one circa1900 looks to be done in golden brown and ash tan. This 3rd one circa 1890 appears to be cranberry and white. The 4th appears to be navy and maroon and is from TN circa 1885.

It's interesting that all the quilts I have seen in the books have fallen between 1885 and 1910 so far. I think the Red and Green are still my favorite in this pattern!

More New Years shopping for red and green quilts at the Quilt Complex
owned by friend Julie Silber!

Shalom! ~ Karen

PS: It is quite fascinating to study how we came by the Christmas and Holiday customs that we see about us today! Do you record your family's traditions or take photos of your special holiday decorations and keep an album of them?


  1. Fabulous post, and I love the Pine Burr quilts.

  2. Aren't you a stinker.... spin this lovely thread of quilts and genology and books which is just lovely and THEN toss out to us.... are WE keeping an album of our history.....

    I have a lot of paper and pics, just need the album.. ha ha.

    Thank you ever so much for this very thoughtful post.

  3. This was such a wonderful post! I love the history of quilts, and you have certainly done your research! How wonderful it must be to have this kind of family history, and to be right in the area so more can be learned! You are so lucky!

    The pine burr's are all so beautiful....I've seen them on the Quilt Index before and snatched copies of the pics.....I planned on making one one day.....this has inspired me to jump on it now! Thanks!

  4. Really enjoyed reading this post as it took me back to the time I visited the Shenandoah Valley and stayed just off Egypt Bend Road Their must be lots of people of germanic roots in that area .We sat by the river one day and I wandered into a little cemetary - they were all Kauffman's The name stuck with me as we had near neigbours here in the UK with that name. I am very sad I never came across such a beautiful pine burr quilt. It is a wonderful quilt and hope their is some family connection to the quilt way back.

  5. Loved the post, pics, and the history. Great work, thanks!

  6. Mimi--keep up your intention to do that album! Regan, I savored every opportunity I had to drive south to the Valley to attend estate aucitons or to just explore those 15 years I lived in nothern Virginia. I miss it greatly. Sue, I am so glad you have had the opportunity to visit Page County and the Shenandoah Valley! I have a quilt ca 1885-1895 that I believe was made by a Kauffman! A friend of mine bought it at a Valley estate sale in 1997 and I bought it from her several years later. I have more research to do on this quilt. Lisa and Cheryl, thanks for stopping by. There will be more Valley stories in the future.

  7. Come see my c. 1845 Shenandoah valley crib quilt that I posted especially for you.