Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

Nebraska Quilts: A Patchwork History

Nine Patch VariationNine Patch Variation
1846, pieced, cotton
Mary Cadwallader Lightfoot

Mary Bonner Cadwallader, born to a prominent Quaker family in Upper Dublin Township, Pennsylvania, made this quilt for her 1846 wedding to fellow Quaker Thomas Lightfoot. The couple moved to Nebraska in 1869 when Lightfoot became the agent for the Iowa, Fox, and Sac Indians in southeastern Richardson County.

Mary's quilt contains an interesting collection of mid-nineteenth-century fabrics, including pieces from a political bandanna from William Henry Harrison's 1840 presidential campaign.

Wreath of RosesWreath of Roses
1860, appliqué, cotton
Martha Allis Hollins
Nebraska Territory

Martha Allis Hollins made the oldest surviving quilt known to have been created in Nebraska. Martha was born in Bellevue in 1840 to Samuel and Emeline Palmer Allis, missionaries to the Pawnee tribe.

Martha completed the quilt for her 1861 wedding in Omaha to Captain William George Hollins, who fought in the Civil War. Anticipating her marriage, Martha signed the quilt "M. A. Hollins 1860" under the eagle motif.

The quilt features a typical, period wedding design with the addition of a federal eagle, possibly to show Martha's Union sympathies. The fabrics may have been purchased in Nebraska Territory or by Martha's father during an 1857 trip back east.

Nine Patch ChainNine Patch Chain
1870, pieced, cotton
Hannah Will
Tecumseh, Nebraska

Seven-year-old Hannah Will pieced this quilt in 1870 while she herded cattle on the family farm. Her parents emigrated from Germany to America in 1856 and eventually settled near Tecumseh, where they farmed and raised stock.

The quilt displays excellent needlework for a child, although the origin of the holes in the quilt is a mystery.

Whig Rose Variation Whig Rose Variation
about 1870-1876, appliqué, cotton
Susan Cherry Fellers
Saline County, Nebraska

Fourteen-year-old Susan Isabell Cherry came to Clatonia, Nebraska, from Illinois in 1870 with her mother and twin sister in a covered wagon.

Susan may have made this quilt for her 1876 wedding to Wesley Fellers of Dewitt. The endless vine border was a popular motif for brides' quilts; it symbolized unending love. The background quilting is done in overlapping circles, probably made by tracing around a teacup.

Crazy QuiltCrazy Quilt
1886, embroidered and painted, silk
Clarissa Palmer Griswold
Sioux County, Nebraska

Clarissa Palmer came from Minnesota to Nebraska in 1885 as a single woman to homestead in Sioux County, near Harrison. She made this quilt the following year.

She painted the flowers on the quilt from wildflowers she found on her claim. She wrote, "That first summer I copied these flowers with oil paints on silk and velvet sent me from home. The crazy quilt I decorated and pieced then is now quite a showpiece to be handed down."

Clarissa married Dwight Griswold in 1886. Their son, Dwight Palmer Griswold, was governor of Nebraska from 1941-47, and U.S. Senator from 1953-54.

Crazy Quilt Crazy Quilt
1893, embroidered and hand painted, silk
Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church
Filley, Nebraska

In 1893 the Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Filley, Nebraska, hit upon a unique idea to raise money. Nineteen women painted or embroidered their names on ribbons that they sewed to squares of a crazy quilt. Each woman sold the privilege of having a name put on the backing behind her square for ten cents. The woman who collected the most names won the quilt.

Kate Williams Filley, a new bride, collected names from persons she met on her honeymoon trip to the East and won the quilt. Kate later exhibited the quilt at several fairs. A premium tag from the 1906 New State Fair Association in Muskogee, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), is still attached to the quilt.

Friendship Crazy Quilt Friendship Crazy Quilt
1898, embroidered, wool, silk
Edith Withers Meyer
Lodgepole, Nebraska

Civil War veteran Andrew Jackson Withers brought his family from Illinois to homestead near Lodgepole, Nebraska, in 1885.

His daughter Edith's quilt offers a delightful view of a young woman's life in a small Nebraska town at the turn of the century. Names of family and friends, social gatherings, gossip, even a political comment on the 1896 election are embroidered on the blocks.

Edith married Oscar Meyer in 1899. His name is written in the left center block. She was twenty-two years old when she embroidered the last block, "12-1898 done at last."

Flower Basket Petit Point Flower Basket Petit Point
1942-43, pieced, cotton
Grace McCance Snyder
Lincoln County, Nebraska

Grace McCance came to Nebraska with her parents in 1885 to homestead in a sod house in Custer County. As a small child, Grace pieced quilt blocks while tending the family's cows. Grace married Bert Snyder in 1903 and lived on a ranch fifty miles north of North Platte. The relatively isolated ranch life gave her ample time for quilting.

This quilt took sixteen months to make. It contains 85,789 pieces and 5,400 yards of thread.

Grace's quilt work is nationally known for its skill and complexity. The Congress of Quilters Hall of Fame in Arlington, Virginia, inducted her in 1980, as did the Nebraska Quilters Hall of Fame in 1986.

Nebraska History Museum


NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top
Last updated 6 August 1999 

For questions or comments on the website itself, email
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2009 All Rights Reserved