Constantine resident Jim Eley is planning to show a historic quilt he claims is “one of a kind” at an upcoming Quilter’s Exhibit in Constantine.
Historic quilts, including the Eley quilt, will be shown from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 at the Gov. John S. Barry Museum, located at 280 N. Washington Street. Current and contemporary quilts will be shown in the downtown area.
The Eley quilt was sewn of World War I uniforms in 1917.
In the middle of the quilt is a hand stitched insignia representing Battery B, Indiana Field Artillery 150. The quilt was sewn with red, white and blue thread in a “crazy quilt” pattern.
“My father, Audra B. Eley, enlisted when he was 18 in July, 1917. To support her son and the war effort, my grandmother Ida Fidella Adair Eley began sewing uniforms for the army,” Jim Eley said.
“She lived in Henryville, Indiana and would deliver uniforms to Fort Harrison in Indianapolis. She hand stitched the quilt from scraps left from the uniforms.”
Eley said his mother took the quilt to display at a Farm Bureau booth at the St. Joseph County Fair. “She got a call from a curator of a museum in Lansing who said the quilt was one of a kind. They asked to display it for a year, which my mother agreed to. It was sent by a special courier back and forth,” he said. “The curator said they had never located another quilt quite like it.”
Eley said he intends to contact the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis to offer the quilt on loan to display.
He also owns his father’s military uniform, a brass shell casing off a gun which was made into a “vase” to send home, and a collection of correspondence written during the war by his parents. He has a 1917 “World War” poster with a roster of all men in Battery B, 150th Field Artillery, 67th Brigade, 42nd (Rainbow Division) in pristine shape.
The letters were sent when my father was in France. They filled me in on a lot of family history,” he said.
“The poster only says World War because they didn’t know at the time there would be a second war.”
General Douglas MacArthur is credited with giving the Rainbow Division its name, by making a comment, the division would “stretch over the whole country like a rainbow.” It was activated in 1917, and went overseas almost immediately, participating in four major operations in France.
Source: Story and photos contributed by Angie Birdsall.