Quilt show coming to Bell County Museum

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Bell County Historical Society and Museum is hosting a quilt exhibit from Sept. 14 through Sept. 18 to show off an impressive collection of quilts the facility has acquired.

Jes’Anne Givens, director of the Bell County Historical Society Museum, shed some light on the purpose behind the event.

“We’re trying to do some different programs to interest people in coming down to see what is offered here at the museum,” Givens said. “We know that so much of our history is tied into quilts.”

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Givens explained the making of coffin quilts, a tradition prevalent in Appalachian history.

“They’re very famous in Kentucky,” Givens said. “The historical society in Frankfort has two…basically, coffin quilts were quilts that when people in your family were born, you made a coffin shaped piece and you tacked it to the edge of the quilt with their name and birthdate. When they die, the quilt piece was added to the center of the quilt, and they added the death date. They passed the quilts down from generation to generation.”

Givens also gave a preview of one of the most interesting quilts which will be displayed during the event, a piece with a name that provokes interest.

“We have one quilt called the Murder Quilt,” Givens said. “What was important about it is in 1912, a woman was accused of murdering her husband in Anderson County, Tennessee. Her friends who supported her and believed in her innocence came to the trial every single day. As they sat there every day, they decided to make a quilt while listening to the testimony. When the trial was over, they sold that quilt and used the money to help pay for her lawyer and legal fees.”

According to Givens, the history of quilt making is rooted in the need to be self-sufficient.

“When people were having to make most things themselves to be self-sufficient, quilts are something that women did…to keep their family warm,” Givens explained. “It became an art. They became creative, it was their way to express themselves…they (quilts) took off in Appalachia, its just a beautiful art form.”

Givens pointed out most of the pieces displayed during the event will be vintage quilts.

“With this being the Historical Society and us trying to promote history, we thought more of the older patterns and quilts would be more fitting, to promote how important history is,” Givens said. “We can all appreciate what these people went through.”

The exhibit will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily from Sept. 14-18. Admission is free.

“We would love for people to come down here and see our Historical Society and see what we have, join and become a member,” Givens said. “This is the Bell County Historical Society, we try to promote Middlesboro, Pineville, Bell County, the history, all of our school systems, and all of our history.”

For more information on the quilt exhibit or the Bell County Historical Society, go to the Bell County Historical Society and Museum at 207 North 20th Street in Middlesboro or call 606-242-0005.