Lost Quabbin towns remembered through quilts

  • Quilts are displayed, draped over the pews, in Prescott Church. The earliest of the quilts date to about 1840. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Quilts are displayed, draped over the pews, in Prescott Church. The earliest of the quilts date to about 1840. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • A “signature quilt” with names of Prescott residents handwritten on the squares is on display at Prescott Church. Lillie B. Coolidge was the quilter, Swift River Historical Society member Elizabeth Peirce said. This quilt was shown for the 1965 Prescott Old Home Days, 27 years after the town disappeared, Peirce said. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Names of Prescott Grange members are written on this “signature quilt.” STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • This “basket pattern” quilt was made by Katherine O’Brien Whipple of North Dana, the grandmother of Swift River Historical Society member Katherine Reed. Most of the quilts on display were donated by local families. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • This doll bed and quilt on display at Prescott Church belonged to the Martindale sisters of Enfield — Martha Elizabeth, born 1874, and Mary Diana, born 1875. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • This quilted fabric on display at Prescott Church was given to Mary Todd Lincoln on the occasion of her husband’s inauguration in 1861. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  •  “Quilts of Old” is on display at Prescott Church, next to the Swift River Historical Society Museum at 40 Elm St., New Salem, on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2019 6:46:22 PM

NEW SALEM — Though the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott were flooded in 1938 to form the Quabbin Reservoir, some relics remain on display by the Swift River Valley Historical Society.

On Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., historic quilts will be the focus at Prescott Church, 40 Elm St., as part of a free exhibit called “Quilts of Old.” The display was also open to the public last weekend.

The earliest of the quilts date to around 1840, with the latest dating to the 1930s, when the Quabbin Reservoir was made, according to Elizabeth Peirce of the Swift River Historical Society. Most were donated to the historical society by local families who had kept them through generations, Peirce said.

The amount of information available on each quilt varies. Some are identifiable by date and the name of the quilter. For others, the historical society has no information.

Over the span of time represented in the display, the purpose of quilting changed from a pragmatic matter to a social one.

“Quilts in those (earlier) days were made to keep warm,” Peirce said. “Later on, ladies got together in groups and quilted for the sociability.”

The difference is visible if you know what to look for, Peirce said. Earlier quilts are made of heavy material, and are thick because they were stuffed with old blankets and cloths for insulation. Later, quilters switched to materials that were visually appealing but that would have given poor insulation, like velvet.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ex 261.


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