Our Grandmother’s Legacies

Don & Marylou Ahrens

Quilt Exhibit

Listed below are four bed coverings completed by each of our grandmother’s for their families.  Bedspreads were not purchased but made by each lady for her home.  Here are their stories.

Catherine Boes Schulte (1888-1976) 

Appliqué Pansy Quilt

   During World War 2, Catherine saw 2 of her sons volunteer to fight in the war.  My Father, Urban John Schulte, fought in the South Pacific all through the years of the war serving in the Army as a medic.  Those were difficult years as Urban often was in the midst of intense fighting.  Catherine saw many months pass without communication from her son because of the areas of combat or his illness from hepatitis in the jungles related to the anti malaria medications.  During the war years she made a quilt for each son.  Each quilt was a different appliqué flower pattern.  My father’s was a basket of pansy.  Catherine refused to allow anyone to help her with her quilts as they needed to be perfect.  Through the long four years that her 2 sons were away she stitched and prayed and prayed.  Urban returned from the war but upon discharge was given six weeks to live due to liver damage.  My father survived although he was never able to ride a tractor for twenty minutes without turning yellow.  He farmed all of his adult life and died at the age of 82 years of complications of hepatitis.  He left behind a wife of 54 years, 7 children and 19 grandchildren.  Catherine’s quilt was used for many years as my parents “company bedspread” in the downstairs bedroom in the farm house.  I remember one occasion of my mother’s anger---when a sister-in-law changed a baby’s dirty diaper on the “company bedspread”. Catherine did many types of needlework

Lucille Leiting Poeppe (1904-2002)   Crocheted Bedspread

    My grandmother “Ceal” was a paradox.  This feisty lady who died at 98 years of age hated housework but loved farm chores and her gardens.  As much as she hated housework she loved her needlework.

Ceal and her husband, Ted, had a family of 10 children of which 9 lived to adulthood.  They were farmers and were married 67 years upon Ted’s death in 1991.  In her later years with diminishing eye sight, Grandma Poeppe supplied her children and 36 grandchildren with dozens of crocheted coat hangers for our closets.  This bedspread was used in her “guest bedroom”.  She crocheted it in her retirement years after they “moved to town”.  The color of the sheets or blankets under the bedspread changed the “look”.  It was crocheted extra large so that it would drape like a true bedspread and not a bed coverlet.  She like Catherine Schulte did not tolerate mistakes.  Mistakes were to be ripped out and the area redone.

If you look at Ceal’s wedding picture you will see her “ bobbed” hair under her hat. She embraced fashion and the era of the “flappers” much to my Grandfather’s distress as she took a scissors and cut off her long mane of hair.

Margaret Dieterich Ahrens  (1878-1971) Crocheted Popcorn Stitch

Grandma “Maggie” created the popcorn stitch bedspread. The date of creation is unknown. Margaret married William Ahrens in 1899 at St. John’s Lutheran Church Osage, Iowa. William came to America in 1886 at age 17 with friends from Germany. The following year he brought his parents and four brothers to America. They were area farmers.

William married Margaret when he was 30 years of age in 1899.  To their marriage of 63 years was born 10 children.  The first born twins died in infancy of pneumonia. Their third born, Elmer, died at age 19 in 1919 as a complication of a Model T Ford automobile accident.  The other 7 children survived to adulthood.  William and Margaret were charter members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Osage.  Louis Ahrens, resident of Faith Nursing home was the “baby” of this family.

Margaret was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and used her needlework to pass her time.  She started using a walker in her 60’s only to be totally bedridden the last 10 years of her life.  She died at age 93 years.   Although her fingers were much knurled she was able to hold her thread and crochet hook.  She also became a crocheted coat hanger expert.  Life was very painful but she remained a tremendous inspiration to those around her---including family and nursing home personnel.  Maggie produced many yards of beautiful crocheted lace trims.

Martha Kroneman Schuttler (1885-1957) Circle Applique Quilt

Martha grew up on a farm in the St. Ansgar area with four brothers and sisters. Martha married Herman Schuttler in 1911.  To that union of 46 years was born 3 children.  Martha loved her sewing machine.  Don fondly recalls it always standing in the kitchen area.  The quilt is one that she made during the years they farmed south of Osage.  The drought years during the 1930’s were a difficult time for this farm family.  Because of the Depression’s lessons this was a very frugal family.  My mother-in law often spoke of the years that they lived on vegetable soup, farm milk and the eggs that the farm flock provided.  This appliqué quilt demonstrates the use of those little scraps of material that were “saved” for quilting. Many of the little pieces came from favorite clothing or feed sacks.  My mother-in-law, Viola, used this quilt for many years before her death in 1999.  The past 11 years, her husband, Louis Ahrens, has used the quilt as a bedspread on his bed at Evergreen.  As its frayed condition exemplifies it has been well loved and used.