124-year-old Aledo quilt sold on-line

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
A close-up of the center of an 1886 quilt from Aledo was recently purchased by a California man off of eBay.

Sometimes Aledo items end up on eBay, as did a quilt that dates back to 1886. It is called a signature quilt because many signatures (perhaps of the quilt makers or of contributors to a cause or charity the quilt was intended to raise money for) are listed in the center of the quilt.

To figure out why this particular quilt was made, it will be helpful to locate the Utile Dulci Society - Was it a church group? If so, what church was it a part of?

Eli Leon, 75, has been collecting quilts for the past 25-30 years and is now researching his latest acquisition, an Aledo, Illinois quilt.

The quilt arrived at his California home on March 25, 2010. Leon bid on the quilt on eBay and although his bid was the highest it did not match the bid the seller wanted, so it was listed as unsold. “I had bid $200 on it and it was there with a reserve so it didn’t sell.”

Leon knew what to do next. He located the dealer, contacted him via email and offered $250 for the quilt, plus $15 for postage. That bid was accepted and the Aledo quilt joined one of 14 other quilts Leon is currently researching to put together a catalogued exhibition. “I’m writing an article on each of them,” he said.

“I started collecting quilts about 25-30 years ago,” he said. He was into collecting signature quilts initially, then became enchanted by improvisational African American quilts, doing the research and publishing the results. Now he’s back to researching signature quilts.

He’s not new at this. He has had quilt exhibits shown all over the United States, including a huge one of 129 quilts and African textiles at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa from November 2006 to February 2007. It was entitled: “Accidentally on Purpose: The Aesthetic Management of Irregularities in African Textiles and African-American Quilts.”

To view more quilts from Leon’s collection see his web site at www.elileon.com.

“I’ve done over 40 exhibitions with cataloged pieces. Some have been at major locations, like both the Rembrandt and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C., the American Craft Museum in New York City and the Field Museum in Chicago.

Part of the challenge when researching signature quilts is finding information on the names. “The Aledo one has just 40 names. Many signature quilts have over 100 names,” he said.

He has written all the names down, with some of the names doubtful, since they may be hard to read. “One tenth or one quarter of them are doubtful,” he said.

With a call to The Times Record, Leon enlisted this reporter into the throws of the research.

Names on the quilt, April 15, 1886

Quilt names are listed below in alphabetical order. Also listed is information this reporter found from the book History of Mercer County, Illinois 1882.

Mrs Emma Abencrombie?, could be Abercrombie

Aota? Bassett

Lulu Bassett, daughter of Isaac Newton Basset (Who moved to Mercer County in 1852 and settled in Keithsburg) and Scienda T. Moore Bassett in 1847. Lulu was one of six children perhaps the last. Scienda died in 1861.

Mrs Cassir? Basset

Mrs Lettie Boyrt?, Could be Boyd.

Mrs Alma Button

Mrs Frances Bye?

Mrs Clara Coulson?, Could be Carlson

Mrs Ella Carter

Mrs Keith Carter

Mrs Lallie Conuell?, could be Connell, related to James H. Connell who came to Aledo in 1865 after the war of the States. He studied law and married Lallie Arthur June 8, 1870. He later moved to Pueblo Colorado in 1882, but was instrumental in starting the Mercer County Scientific and Historical Association. p 570

Mrs Josie Conningham

Mamie Conningham

Mrs Sarah Duroton?, could be Durston., could be Sarah Gould Durston, married to Charles F. Durston in 1865.

Clarance Fargo

Elizabeth Fargo

Mrs Marguerite Fargo

Mrs Flora Graham

Mrs May Lemons

Mrs Rachel McClintock

Joie? McCoy, a Zoe McCoy is listed as a high school graduate in 1881 from Mercer Township high School.

Laura McCoy

Lizzie McCoy

Lulu McCoy

Mrs Mary McCoy

Mrs Clara McLaughlin

Mrs Rachel Meade

Mrs Abbie Morey

Mrs Alouina? Parkanan?, Could be Parkman.

Mrs Lulu Parkman?

Olive Ransom, eighth child of Asa and Elizabeth S. Edwards (who were married in Feb. 1849.) Olive’s father was a pioneer of the area.

Mrs Mary Reynolds

Mrs Irene Shafer

Mrs Florence Wells

Mrs Alice Willits

Mrs Flora Winger

Louie Wright, child of Julia A. Stone Wright and James C. Wright, who were married on March 17, 1850 in Illinois. They were farmers @ 1850s. Louie A. is one of their children.

Mrs Harriet Wright

Mrs Julia Wright

Eli Leon

If any of these names look familiar, Leon would appreciate a phone call (510) 652-9486 or email (elileon1@yahoo.com). He has unlimited long distance and will be delighted to call you back if you call. Ir would also be very helpful if someone would read the April 1886 newspaper (at the local museum or The Times Record) to see if the quilt - or its reason to have been made — was mentioned.

“My first article on Signature Quilts just came out in February, in a magazine called Quilt mania,” said Leon. The article was published in a French magazine and translated into Dutch and English as well.

The article talks about a Women’s Christian Temperance Union quilt and is titled “A Quilting Tribute to Women’s Rights Advocate Frances (Frank) Willard.”

He said 25-30 years ago he found some of the quilts in The Antique Trader, a national antique periodical. “I went to antique shows, flea markets, antique stores. I was looking particularly for signature quilts. I figured you could find more information on the quilts because of the names.”

Leon says he often begins his search of names at ancestry.com. He also looks at census data.