Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quilt, Somers 1996

The Somers Quilt
Currently displayed in the Somers Town Hall

The Somers Quilt

An Idea Was Born
In 1996, Sandra Barrett, Town Supervisor and Shirley Bethke, Town Treasurer, thought a town quilt hanging on a wall in the town hall would be a good idea.  In the first issue of the Somers Town Crier, the Somers Township newsletter, a call went out for quilters to make a Somers quilt to depict the history of Somers.
Eight quilters replied:  Sandy Barrett, Nancy Girman, Laverne Goodman, Bev Hansen, Sandy Halmo, Rosemary Moenssen, Connie Syslack and June Williams.  These ladies would be known as the Somers Quilt Committee.

Hours of Planning
Quilting is a craft that is often used for storytelling about our ancestors.  It is an expression of women's artistic talents requiring imagination and a great deal of planning.  The Somers Quilt Committee spent many hours discussing and establishing a central idea, general pattern, blocks of shapes, colors, fabrics, and sewing techniques.  Some blocks were appliqued and some were pieced.   Organizing the blocks decided the impact the ladies wanted the quilt to have on the viewer.  And finally, after all the planning, the cutting and piecing process began.  The completed blocks were assembled with lattices and small corner squares.  The finishing was hand quilted by all the members of the Somers Quilt Committee.

The Somers Quilt Committee obtained their inspiration from the Minnie Ozanne book, My Memories, which was written and published in the late 1940's, drawing on Somers history since the 1830's.  Photographs of buildings were used to stylize certain quilt blocks. 

The quilt's focal point medallion is based upon the Somers town flag.  It was hand cross-stitched by June Williams from her own transposition of the flag into a cross-stitch pattern.  Radiating out from each quarter of the four diamond design of the medallion are squares that relate to the four general themes of the Somers town flag:  homesteads and farming, recreation and parks, industry and business, government, civic organizations, and schools.

Description of Blocks and Sewing Style
Top to Bottom, Left to Right

Row 1
Wisconsin (Pieced) - Official State of Wisconsin block.

Vegetables (Applique) - Somers fields, until the later half of the century, were filled with these vegetables.  Tomatoes were trucked or went by rail to Campbell Soup in Chicago, and carrots were shipped to canneries.  Potatoes were taken to the local markets by horse-drawn wagons early in the century and crates were loaded on the railroad for shipment to Chicago.  Cabbage, a prominent crop in the township, covered the landscape in the early 1900's especially near the lake shore.

Animals (Pieced) - Chickens were raised on nearly every farm to provide the family with eggs and meat.  Wool from sheep was spun into yarn for family clothing.

Farm Scene (Applique) - This block commemorates all of the Somers pioneer farmhouses and barns that were built in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  The landscape was plentiful with the traditional clap board farmhouses, barns, outbuildings, and orchards.  Somers had two master barn builders who lived in the village:  B.F. Yule and William Lauer.

Animals (Pieced) - All Somers pioneer families raised small animals such as chickens, ducks, and pigs for food and the market.  Cows were found on every farm as they were a source of milk and food.  Larger dairy farms were fairly common but more prominent in the western part of the township.

Log Cabin (Pieces) - Jacob Montgomery and his two sons built one of the first log cabins in Somers township on the site of the Ozanne homestead.  This block honors all the first settlers who built log cabins as their first home in the early 1830's and 1840's.

Row 2
Sunflower (Applique) - This scene signifies the many flowers found in Somers, both cultivated and wild.

Strawberry (Applique) - Somers was well known for its strawberry fields especially in the area named Berryville, located in the northeast corner of the town on the lake shore.  Most homes had a small patch for family use however it was not uncommon for strawberry growers in the Berryville area to plant and harvest berries from 50,000 or more plants per farm.  Berries were shipped to Chicago via railroad.  Thompson's strawberry pick-your-own farm was a well-known landmark until the 1960's.

Barn (Pieced) - Barns in Somers township were primarily built in the early 1900's and are an important landmark and symbol of our agriculture heritage.  The rural landscape, from the lake shore to our west boundary has many barns, still in use and preserved, that serve as shelter for work horses and dairy cows.  Barns in Somers township were hand made by skilled carpenters and range in sizes, shapes and colors. 

Horse (Pieced and Appliqued) - Horses were highly valued by our early Somes pioneers.  The work horses and farmer worked side by side as stumps were pulled to clear fields.  Large fields were tilled, row by row, with horses pulling the plow steered by a farmer who walked behind.  Horses were also used for transportation, not only to take early settlers to church, the store, and doctor, but to haul crops to the market or railroad.

Eggs & Basket (Pieced) - Somers farm wives raised chickens to feed their family.  They used the extra eggs to sell or trade at the market.  It was common to ride into a farmyard to see chickens roaming the yard but by nightfall, they were typically herded into the the little chicken coop found in every farm yard.

General Store (Pieced) - This block was designed from a photograph of the Bullamore Brothers General Store, built in 1872.  This store was located in the village just west of the railroad tracks and was a typical mercantile store found in every small town selling everything from pitchforks, cans of peas, candy, cigars, hammers and anything else a Somers pioneer might need. 

Row 3
Petrifying Springs Park (Applique) - Native Americans camped here and the first pioneers in Somers settled in the Petrifying Springs Park area.  Old newspaper clippings report this was a frequent and popular place to picnic.  350 acres were sold to Kenosha County in 1928, establishing Petrifying Spring Park.  This block depicts a typical Pike River and tree scene and commemorates one of the most beautiful old parks in southeastern Wisconsin.

Vegetables & Fruit (Applique) - Somers township was well-known for its many "truck farms" that primarily grew vegetables and fruits which were sold at local markets and shipped to Chicago and Milwaukee on the the railroad.  Trucks farms in Somers primarily grew cabbage, sugar beets, potatoes, corn, and berries.  These crops thrived because of the Lake Michigan climate and rich soils.

Railroad Depot (Pieced) - This block was created from a photograph of the depot station for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad that ran through the center the village.  It was located west of the tracks, one block south of Highway E.  The Stationmaster for over fifty years was M.E. Thompson.

Railroad Tracks - Railroads played a key role in the development of Somers township as they provided residential transportation and equally as important they transported agricultural products to the Milwaukee and Chicago markets. Two railroads ran through the eastern neighborhood of Berryville, and two west of the old Green Bay Trail, one running in the center of the village, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. The earliest settlement of Somers was established on the old Green Bay Trail and the Somers Road.  When the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railroad was built in the 1870's, the town moved west on Somers Road, establishing a "village" around the activity of the railroad.

Row 4
Log Cabin Home (Pieced) - The early settlers arrived in Somers to a wilderness landscape.  The first priority of the pioneer was to build a home for shelter.  The first home in Somers was a log cabin which was built on the old Green Bay Trail near Petrifying Springs Park on the Ozanne homestead.

Turkey Tracks (Pieced) - Turkeys were grown commercially in Somers from the 1930's to the 1950's.  Still today wild turkeys can be found in Somers.

Mill (Applique) - This block was copied from a photograph and depicts the Ozanne Mill built in 1845 and used until 1868.  It was wind driven with large sails.  Other mills also existed in Somers township.  Farmers would haul their grain and corn to local mills to be ground into flour.

Lake with Sailboard (Pieced) - Lake Michigan is the eastern border of Somers Township.  It represents the place where many of our earliest pioneers arrived on boats when they came from the eastern states and Europe to make Somers their home.

Row 5
Crossed Canoes (Pieced) - The Potawatomi Native American tribe lived in this area for many years before the pioneers settled here.  They used native trees to make dug out canoes which were used for fishing in Lake Michigan and Pike River.

Snowflake (Applique) - This depicts a portion of the beauty of Somers in the winter.  Farmers depend on a blanket of snowfall to protect and insulate crops from extreme freezing temperatures and provide a needed saturation of moisture in the fields for spring planting.  Somers resident also enjoy leisure activities such as Cross-country ski trails, sledding at Petrifying Springs Park, and snowmobiling on field headlands.

Town Hall (Pieced) - The first Somers town meeting was held May 1, 1843 in the home of one of our earliest pioneers, the Leet family, who lived on the old Green Bay Trail.  A new town hall was built in 1857 at a cost of $400 and it has been preserved and moved to the Hawthorne Hollow property.

Church (Pieced) - Somers pioneers financed and donated time and talent to build churches soon after their own homes were built.  Our early pioneers made it priority to celebrate religious freedom.  The Somers Presbyterian Church was erected in 1839 and the Methodist Episcopal Church completed in 1840.

Butter & Churn (Pieced) - This block commemorates the importance of creameries to the pioneer dairy farmers of Somers.  As early as 1898, the village of Somers had a creamery ice house, churns, later a bottling plant, and the creameries played a key role in shipping dairy products via the railroad to the Chicago market. 

Drunkard's Path (Pieced) - This block represents the many taverns and early saloons in the town.

Row 6
4-H (Pieced) - Somers has had a 4-H youth group since the 1920's.

Arrowhead (Applique) - Arrowheads, projectile points and scrapping tool artifacts have been found by many farmers in Somers township, typically after a rain brings the artifacts to the surface of a freshly tilled field.  Museum archaeologists have confirmed, by evidence of the artifacts, that Native Americans inhabited Somers township as far back as 10,000 B.C.

Schoolhouse (Pieced) - Thirteen school districts were approved for the Town of Somers in the 1840's.  These were originally one-room schools; the first being built in 1840.  The original 1848 Pike River school has been preserved, renovated and moved to Hawthorne Hollow.  This block represents the type of school in which Somers pioneers received their education - eight grades in one room.

Fire Truck (Pieced and Applique) - This block commemorates the establishment of the Somers Volunteer Fire Department in 1934.  A former Chevrolet garage was converted into the first fire station which housed fire apparatus including the purchase of the first fire engine, a 1934 Dodge Brothers, manufactured by the Peter Pirsch Company which operated in Kenosha.

Rescue Squad (Pieced and Applique) - In 1977 the Somers Rescue Squad was formed as a volunteer organization which worked closely with the Somers Volunteer Fire Department.  Both the Rescue and Fire volunteer departments joined and reorganized in 2006. 

Red Cross (Pieced) - This block recognizes the strong commitment of Somers residents to volunteering time and talent to civic organizations.  The Literary Society of Somers, Prohibition Club of Somers, Somers Camp No. 826 Modern Woodmen of America, Somers Baseball Club, Somers Township Study Club, and Royal Neighbors 500 Club, are some of the organizations that were established and active in the 1800's.

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