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March 10, 2013

‘One of a kind’ quilt to be displayed at upcoming Quilter’s Exhibit in Constantine

Hand sewn insignia for the 150th Field Artillery in center of Eley quilt

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.

Jim Eley will exhibit a historic quilt he claims is “one of a kind” at an upcoming Quilter’s Exhibit which will be held on Saturday, March. 23 in Constantine. The Eley quilt was sewn of World War I uniforms in 1917. (Click on photo to enlarge)

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.

A 1917 World War poster Eley owns is in pristine shape and contains a roster of Battery B, 150th Field Artillery, 67th Brigade, 42nd (Rainbow) Division. (Click on photo to enlarge)

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.


  1. A. Birdsall

    This wonderful historic quilt is one of a kind. It is all hand stitched. I was particularly impressed with the Artillery-150 insignia at the top. It was perfect. It is very interesting the poster says “World War” (not WW I) as people did not know the war would be followed by a second world war. Eley said this quilt was displayed at an earlier quilt show the Village had at Drake’s several years ago. We are very proud to exhibit this quilt at the Barry Museum. We’ve many interesting things on display at the Governor John S. Barry (1802-1870) Museum.. including a desk upstairs with Civil War relics, and a WWI uniform with ‘spats.’ For more information on the Barry Museum call 506-1575 or go to http://www.constantinemi.com/source/historical_society.htm.

  2. Wow, wished I could be back home for this! How wonderful and such a great sight to see. have fun all and Happy Easter!

  3. Great job reporting, Angie! What an unusual quilt, fabulous scoop! Thanks for keeping Constantine out in front with your wonderful hometown slant! For all the time I lived there, I never knew as much as I’ve learned from you since you’ve begun to report. Mr. Eley does have a treasure on his hands. And we have a treasure in you!

  4. crabx216

    I’m a veteran and I live in Constantine and I want to go see this quilt at the Barry home.

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