Quilt squares help reconnect families with their ancestors

By Kathy Plum

The Dominion Post

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — “It was just that I was meant to be there,” Sylvia Albert said.

“There” was a yard sale along W.Va. 26 South more than three years ago, at the former Bob Pratt Garage.

Dee Shaffer pointed out some quilt squares to Albert, who quilts, and told her she could have them all for $1. Dee got the 12-inch squares from her sister, Iris Shaffer, who found them in Ruth Nicholson’s attic at Bull Run, when it was being cleared.

Iris Shaffer held onto the squares for two or three years before passing them on. There were three squares stitched together and 10 others. Each is composed of several smaller pieces stitched together by machine.

“I think it was originally a full quilt, and somebody took it apart. I couldn’t leave them,” Albert said. “So many things go into the trash.”

When she got them home and looked more closely, she saw names embroidered on the squares. One said, “Wesley Chapel Methodist Church 1951.”

Thinking that was Kingwood’s Wesley United Methodist Church, Albert called Vickie Graham, who teaches a quilting class at the church, and gave the squares to her.

It was Mark Graham, Vickie’s husband, who gave the clue about where the squares originated. “That’s my aunt,” he said of one of the names.

His aunt was Janet Turner’s mother, Irene Feather, who died when Turner was 10. A call to Turner revealed this wasn’t about a Kingwood church at all but about the Wesley Chapel Methodist Church at Long Hollow.

For Turner, it was the beginning of a year of historical research that culminated last week, when she reunited the quilt squares with the descendants of the women who made them.

The search

Wesley Chapel Cemetery at Long Hollow, started in 1914, still exists down a dirt road off Pleasantdale Road. But the church across the road, built in 1888, was torn down years ago.

Attics came into play again, during Turner’s research. Her cousin, Ed Feather, of Mount Morris, Pa., had the wooden cross from the church in his attic. “This church was torn down, and my uncle, Lloyd Feather, was Ed’s dad,” Turner said.

When Ed Feather died, Turner asked for and received the cross, which she had on hand last week.

The names on the squares are: Orf Feather, Irene Feather, Beulah Field, Florence Field, Gracie Groves, Merle Groves, Geraldine Liston, Allie Liston, Shirley Liston, Pearl Nicholson, Elda Nedrow, Ocie Nedrow and Virginia Nedrow.

Long Hollow reunion

One person named on the quilt — 87-year-old Elda Nedrow Hodges — is the only one still believed to be alive, Turner said. She was unable to attend last week’s gathering. But all the others named on the quilt except the family of Orpha Feather were represented.

Willard Elliott Jr. and his wife, Peggy, came from Fairmont. Willard and his son, Robert, made the metal sign at the cemetery.

“The Elliotts at one time lived at Long Hollow,” he recalled. His grandfather and his grandfather’s 10 siblings all attended church there.

“My granddad and grandmother moved away from here in the ’20s, and we kids got separated from here. I was born in ’37, and it was a long haul to get up here from Fairmont,” where they grew up.

Sharon Denkenberger Moran grew up on the Feather farm near the church and cemetery. Her grandchildren are the seventh generation on the farm. Retired now after

43 years as a nurse, the peaceful country cemetery has her thinking.

“I stand here and think this is where I’m going someday. But it makes you think there’s no place else in the world,” Moran said. “It’s a pretty special place to a lot of us. These little cemeteries have gotten lost in the shuffle.”

She recalls family reunions in the church parking lot. Her father was the one who tore down the old building.

Sisters Elaine Smith and Bonnie Taylor’s grandmother, Gracie Groves, is on one of the squares.

“We used to walk with grandma at night through the woods, and I was scared to death,” Smith said. She can recall quilting bees at the church but not this specific quilt.

Turner ran into her in a store and told her about the squares.

Allen Nedrow said the Virginia Nedrow on the quilt was his mother. Pearl Nicholson was his grandmother; Elda Nedrow was an aunt.

“When I was a kid, we came here,” he said.

Phyllis Liston said her husband Chuck’s relatives are from this area. He told her that his sister, Geraldine Liston, whose name is on the quilt, drowned at 17 in the Cheat River.

“I never dreamed there was anything like that,” Phyllis Liston said of the quilt.