Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Threading the Generations (copy)

Since the dawn of time, parents have handed down family treasures to their offspring. Often these heirlooms have a significant story attached. The children then accept responsibility for two legacies, the object and the story.

What if you found yourself in possession of not only one family heirloom but fifty? All objects possessing unique stories, from different family members, and different time periods. This is the surprising dilemma faced by Mrs. Elizabeth (Libby) Hollingsworth, one fall afternoon in 1996.

According to Carol Vickers, co-author of Threading the Generations, Libby was just one of thousands of Mississippians who participated in a statewide Mississippi Heritage Association Quilt-Swap. Yet, her quilts were the highlight of Vickers two year quest to document and photograph Mississippi quilts.

Libby arrived early that morning, with five quilts (the limit) from her home. It was a slow day for the Port Gibson event, so Libby went back home and got five more. By the end of the day 29 of her family quilts, spanning four generations, were documented out of a personal collection of 50.

Authors, Mary Elizabeth Johnson and Carol Vickers, took Libby’s quilts and created a unique book that tells the story of one family’s Mississippi life through a timeline of their quilts. Four generations threading tales just as unique as their hand-made pinwheels and nine patches.

The first tale begins in 1813, when A.K. Shaifer dismounts his horse with great relief at Gibson Landing. His rheumatism is flaring and he happens to have friends on this leg of his Natchez Trace journey. The Humphreys take him in and he never returns to his East Tennessee home, instead marrying their daughter Betsey.

Energetic A.K. is quite successful and builds Holly Hill Plantation in 1826. Unlike his fellow farmers dealing in cotton, A.K. plants a variety of fruits and vegetables, becoming known as the “bread basket” of the area. His other successes include incorporating present day Port Gibson and establishing the first public library in Mississippi. Now, was it really a "bout of gout" or true love?

Threading the Generations: A Mississippi Family’s Quilt Legacy is a wonderful day read with beautiful quilt photos by Clarion-Ledger photographer, J.D. Schwalm.

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