Sunday, July 3, 2011

Meeting the Family!

  Sorry for keeping you waiting for my story. Our internet was down till late in the day yesterday and then we had to attend a fish fry out of town. I planned to post when we got home. Guess what, at 9 o'clock driving home we hit a deer just outside of Burlington. No airbags deployed, no one hurt except for the very dead deer. We had to wait for a tow truck, ride in the tow truck ( my first time by the way) back to Burlington, unload everything out of my husband's crippled demo, and find something else on the dealership 's lot we could drive home. He grabbed the keys to one of his parts department delivery trucks and off we went. I didn't feel much like blogging at 11:30 PM, sorry.

   The get together with the Staffinger descendants in the Robert Johnson home Friday evening was fabulous. They live way out in the country and of course, I got lost, and had to call them to redirect me! I arrived soon after as I wasn't that far off the beaten path. I joked when I walked in ," Don't worry, I'm not moving in, despite what it may look like!" I was loaded, carrying 2 big totes, an insulated bag with a salad, my purse, and a hanging basket of tuber begonias for a hostess gift. Besides the family members I'd already met in Davenport at my presentation, I met Robert  (the great great grandson of Christopher Staffinger) who I'd describe as a Jimmy Stewart type. He was soft spoken, friendly, and welcoming. I really enjoyed getting to know him. His son, Robert, who lives in the Quad Cities, who had read the QC Times article, but couldn't attend my presentation was there also. Right away I was asked if I'd brought the quilt as he'd never seen it. I spread it out on the floor for all to see. They examined it with a fine- tooth comb as you can imagine. It was a treat to see them enjoy it as I always had. Shortly, 2 new people arrived, not family, but friends and quilters of the elder Roberts wife, Mary Lee. More examination of the quilt. I read from my notes the story of Christopher as I tell it in all my presentations. Two more relatives arrived from Macomb, IL, Robert's cousin, Mary Jane Williams, and her daughter who is also a quilter. Robert descended from Christopher's  daughter Rhoda,  and Mary Jane descended from his daughter Mary, so they are both great greats.
   After much discussion, the treasures came out! Robert displayed the rifle Christopher brought home from the war. It was made in South Carolina in 1854 (according to the inscription) and was very long, it stood up to my shoulders and was very heavy. I couldn't hold it straight out in front of me as if aiming to shoot. I took a picture of Robert and Mary Jane with the rifle...

                                           That is Robert's wife, Mary Lee, in the back to the left.

   Then Amanda gave me various copied documents to add to my collection. There were obituaries for Christopher's sister, Lena, and his daughter, Dora. I now have a copy of the church cemetary records recording the burial of his father, Peter, who served the Union in a different regiment, and died 3 years after the war. I have a copy of the record showing Peter's  will naming his heirs, one of which was Christopher. I have a copy of an article telling of Christopher's death, and one following his funeral. I have copies of the 1860 census of Orange County, Indiana listing the members of the Staffinger family. While I was there, a large coat box full of family pictures was brought out that no one other than Robert and Mary Lee knew existed. What a treat to see them for the first time with the others there! They graciuosly allowed me to scan them with my new hand-held scanner I'd bought especially for this occasion. Oh, did I have fun! It was like a treasure hunt, Easter egg hunt, scavenger hunt all rolled up into one! I got wonderful copies of many long-deceased family members...

Here is a large group of Staffinger family members from the 1920's, sometime after Christopher's death in 1922 and before  his wife, Margaret's death in 1929. That's her in the center, the oldest lady with her hair in a bun.

This is a photo of Margaret with the last living daughter's after Christopher's death. Bertha (Bird) on the left and Rhoda on the right. Rhoda is Robert's great Grandmother.

   One treasure brought out for me to see was the family cookbook that Robert purchased at the same auction (Bertha's estate sale 10/22/1977) where I bought the quilt. It had several pages where different family members had written inscriptions. The original one is where Christopher gave the cookbook to his wife, Margaret. The cookbook was published in 1854.

     This is a scan of the original auction listing from the Journal Pilot newspaper October13, 1977.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bertha as a young woman. Isn't she beautiful?                                                                                     

  Here is a group picture taken Friday night in the Robert and Mary Lee Johnson home. From left to right in back: Patty Weigers (Robert's daughter), me, Robert and his cousin, Mary Jane,  her daughter________, front row: Elizabeth Weigers (Patty's daughter), Robert (the son), and Amanda Weigers (Patty's daughter).
 Don't I look extremely happy to be in that group?

    These are just a few of the photos I now own. Amanda has promised to send me more as they are found and identified. Mary Jane has family heirlooms she's agreed to photograph and send to me as well. I enjoyed an evening of listening to family stories as they all reminisced. I tried to memorize them all. When and if the Staffinger Quilt book is published, you will be able to read and see it all for yourself. As I was leaving, Robert stood to shake my hand. I put down my totes and said, "I need a hug from you! I already got one from the rest at Davenport." He ducked his head a bit and said, "Alright." Afterwards I said, "You know, I adopted Christopher as my great great Grandpa in my heart years ago. That makes you and me cousins, Robert!" He chuckled and said, "Yes, I guess it does."

Keep stitching!


  1. Gosh - I haven't been here before and am so glad I found you via Libby's blog! Your tale of this quilt brings tears to my eyes! What a wonderful reunion with the quilt and the family! Having grown up on the West Coast where we really didn't learn that much about the Civil War in school, ever since visiting Gettysburg (3 times), watching Ken Burns Civil War (at least 3 times) and spending more time on the East Coast with my NJ born hubby, I've become fascinated with Civil War history and the quilts and fabrics! Thanks so much for this - I'll be back!

  2. Wow! Lots of triangles in that quilt. What a wonderful quilt.

  3. Your evening with the Staffinger family sounds wonderful...that cookbook is especially cool as are the old photos. I'm glad to hear you weren't hurt in the collision with the deer (poor thing) stressful for you :(

    Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July tomorrow!

  4. Wow, you have had quite a few days!! I think I have checked your blog 3 or 4 times, waiting for this story!! ;-) And what a wonderful story it is!!! I am so glad you got to meet so many of the relatives, that was really nice. I can imagine that they were just as excited to see the quilt as you were to see them. Whew! I'm glad you weren't injured in the accident, those darn deer. Here in W. Iowa we are seeing more and more deer accidents, as the flooding is driving them to dry land and it's scary to drive at night especially. Have a great 4th of July basking in your thoughts...

  5. What an absolutely amazing visit! I'm so sorry to hear about your accident...darn deer!

  6. This is an amazing quilt and I love how you have traced the history and found his family. Absolutely wonderful! Loved viewing all your quilt shop stops too!

  7. This has certainly been an incredible journey for you and being able to actually meet the family. More times then not, we just don't know the background and history of a vintage quilt and nothing is sadder for quilt lovers than to hear "quilmaker unknown." Best wishes on your efforts to ultimately publish a book.
    Really enjoying your blog!

  8. What an amazing meeting. It sounds like all the family members were so gracious and friendly. It's so awesome that they shared copies of those family documents with you, and how neat to see the family cookbook. Bet that was a real treasure to behold.
    And glad to hear that no one was injured in the deer incident. They can certainly do a lot of damage!