July 28, 2008

Quilt Hunting

Today we went down the road to the O'Keefe Ranch, in the dry hills north of Oyama. Worked by father and son for over 140 years, the O'Keefe was established in 1867, and it's now a heritage site with houses, a store and a church, farm machinery, proud chickens and young sheep, and of course... quilts.

Imagine my delight when I came up the steep stairs of the log cabin (the original house), to see this lovely feather applique quilt.

My memory says that this is called a Princess Feather quilt, but perhaps I've got that wrong? (There's a quilt like this in the textile collection of the American Museum in Britain, at Bath).

There were also more utilitarian quilts in the children's rooms in the Schubert House, one of the houses on the ranch. I loved the blue walls and this well-worn, slightly faded tufted bed quilt.

Downstairs, in the farmhouse kitchen, a very knowledgeable guide sat and told us the tale of the settlers coming across the whole of North America to build and live in this house. A party of descendents , some of whom had grown up in this actual house, were visiting.

The tale of their ancestors' cross-Canada journey is incredible: from the East to Fort Edmonton - two months by Red River wagon. Mrs Schubert was pregnant, and although friends begged her to stay in the East until the child was born, the couple were determined to get to the Goldfields, and they set out with their three young children, all under 5 - one in each saddle bag on their mother's horse, the other perched in front of one of the men.
Confident that they would reach the Goldfields of interior BC before winter, and before the birth, they struggled through the Rockies on foot and on horseback, all the way to the wild rivers of BC, where, starving, the settlement team finally took to rafts. -Only to discover that their river suddenly descended into a canyon and a mighty waterfall. So they walked. Three days up and around a mountain, then down again to the river to build more rafts, where, somewhere on a riverbank, not far from Fort Kamloops, their daughter was born.

I can hardly imagine the story, though we're sitting on old chairs in their kitchen, and there are toddler great-grandchildren rolling around on the grass outside. The swing screen door bangs, and when we go out into the meadow, it all looks peaceful, as if rivers and starvation and drowning never shadowed the horizon, and we know that they lived to a ripe, quiet old age.

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