Mary Bradbury*, my great-grandmother, was born in the spring of 1865 in West Paris, Maine. She married Isaac York**, a widower twenty years her senior, already a father, and a shoemaker by trade. They moved south to a home near the coast in Biddeford; an industrial town on the Saco River. There, in 1890 she would give birth to my grandmother. In late 1916 she would die before the birth of my mother.
So many of our female ancestors are lost to us, their passage through time marked only by names and dates, perhaps an aged photo or two and a mossy gravestone. But if we are very lucky, there will be something else, a fingerprint of sorts, some thing that they “inhabit”.
I have been this lucky. In the late 1990s my mother gave me care of the family quilts, including one made by my great-grandmother. For decades my mother kept it folded in a plastic bag in one of her bedroom bureaus (this would probably be after my grandmother moved in with us in 1958). The quilt is only a top, unfinished, with no backing or binding. It is a Victorian Crazy Quilt, made circa 1900. Pieces of special occasion fabrics, such as satins, velvets, silk and brocades, have been hand-sewed in irregular shapes onto muslin blocks, which were joined and then embellished with embroidery, paint, ribbon and other decorative effects. This was quite the rage in the late 19th century and there are whole books dedicated to all aspects of Victorian crazy quilting if one is interested.
Mary’s quilt is a lovely piece of stitchery. One can imagine the Victorian fashions made from some of these wonderful fabrics (look at those plaids!)
Below are some photos taken of various parts of the quilt:
Photo 1: The clover is painted on.
Photo 2: The daisy petals are made with small pieces of ribbon sewn on.
Photo 3: One of the many goldenrods pieces done using various embroidery techniques.
Photo 4: Her initials: M.A.Y. = Mary Abbie York.
Photo 5: Look at those plaids and stripes!
Photo 6: The brown fabric, a silk, has little pigs on it!
Photo 7: More embroidery and fabrics
(I have more photos but this is a good sampling from the quilt)
Here's a recipe from my great-grandmother:
12 hot green peppers
12 sweet red peppers
4 level tablespoons salt
2 cups sugar
Chop peppers and onions. Cober with boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Drain and add sugar and salt and 1 quart of vinegar. Boil 20 minutes.
(apparently, one knew what to do after that)
*Mary is a direct descendant; nine generations past, of Mary Bradbury (born circa 1620 - 1700) of Salisbury, Massachusetts, the elderly wife of a local magistrate, and one of the many convicted of witchcraft in 1692 Salem. And if Mary Bradbury York is a direct descendant, then, of course, so am I.
**There is no indication that Isaac was also from West Paris (then known only as Paris). His name is not included in The History of Paris, Maine by William Lapham (c. 1884. which covered to 1880). Mary's family and Mary are listed.