(On this date, August 5, 2017, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the first of the five members of the OCHF Class of 2017.)
Our next inductee has been a dynamic and effective leader since childhood and continues to be an advocate for quality of life in the community and county that she has called home for the past eight decades.
Wilda Juanita (Stockbridge) Carswell was born May 4, 1935 on the farm of her parents, Edgar & Ruth (Glodfelty) Stockbridge, in Hawkeye Township, northeast of Alton, Kansas. Their farm was the 1871 homestead of Edgar’s grandparents, Ira and Abbie Stockbridge. Wilda attended the old rock Alton Grade School and later Alton Rural High School, where she was a cheerleader and active in the school band and in school plays. Wilda served as an officer and district president of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) and was awarded the State FHA Homemaker Degree in 1952.
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“Little Wilda Stockbridge spent Wednesday at the Jamie Boland home while her mother attended community circle.” – Wilda’s first public mention, in the Grant Center social column of the Osborne County Farmer newspaper of October 13, 1938, Page 6.
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“Hobbies are nice and everyone should have a hobby. Miss Wilda Stockbridge of Alton has a hobby of collecting paper napkins. They make a nice collection. She had about 125 and would be glad to receive any from friends. Remember her when you are on your vacation. Write the store, place or town on them.” – Osborne Farmer-Journal, June 26, 1947, Page 6.
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Wilda graduated from Alton Rural High in May 1953 and on June 7, 1953, she married Deryl Carswell at the Alton First United Methodist Church. Deryl’s grandfather, John Thomas Paynter, had homesteaded in Osborne County’s Grant Township in 1894. The farm’s original sod house was replaced by a new frame house in 1900. Deryl’s parents moved here in 1919 and stayed until 1953, when they moved into Alton. Deryl and Wilda then took over the farm and raised their four children – Donita, Janel, Darwin, and Jay – there. At present Wilda’s growing family includes twelve grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
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October 14, 1956
OSBORNE – At the last Rural Life meeting, officers elected were: President, Max LaRosh; Vice-President, Wilda Carswell; Secretary, Joyce Hays; treasurer, Phyllis Lund; reporter, Don Peterson; and recreation chairman, Deryl Carswell.
The Rural Lifers will hold their annual Halloween party on October 26th at the Legion Hall in Osborne. There will be a professional square dance caller. There will be social dances also.
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In 2000 Deryl & Wilda were the recipients of the Goodyear Co-Operator of the Year Award by the Osborne County Conservation District/Natural Resources Conservation Service. In 2002 they were given the Century Farm Award from the Kansas Farm Bureau in recognition of their farm being owned for over 100 years by the same family. After 50 years of farm life Deryl and Wilda retired in 2003 and moved to a new home in Alton.
When she was 11-12 years old Wilda became a member of the Sumner 4-H Club and remained a member for seven years. Her four children followed in her footsteps and became members in their turn. Wilda and Deryl became 4-H leaders for a short time after they were married, and over the next several years Wilda continued as either a project or community leader. Eventually she earned her 35-year 4-H leadership pin, a rare and amazing accomplishment. Wilda considers her love of working with youth to be the highlight of her 4-H leadership years. Sumner 4-H celebrated their 50-year anniversary while she was a leader. The club has received many awards and contributed much back to the community over the years and remains active in the Alton area in the present day.
The Osborne County Fair is always a highlight of the 4-H year. Wilda exhibited at the fair when she was a young 4-H member and has continued to do so every year since then. She still works the Fair annually by helping with the Open Class Culinary Department. Wilda has entered exhibits in the Kansas State Fair through the years as well, winning a ribbon for her jelly collection.
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Osborne County Farmer
July 16, 2015
Carswell named Grand Marshal of Fair Parade
The Osborne County Fair Board has named Wilda Carswell this year’s grand marshal for the 2015 parade that will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24.
Wilda, a lifelong resident of the Alton area, takes great pride in her community. She herself was a 4-Her with the Sumner 4-H Club growing up, which her four children later became members of themselves and two of her granddaughters are members of now.
Wilda has hardly missed an Osborne County Fair since it began and still helps each year with the open class entries. She is also a civic leader, having participated in numerous organizations and boards and still finds time each Wednesday morning to have coffee with the residents and staff at Progressive Care.
Most recently Wilda celebrated her 80th birthday in early May with an open house hosted by her four children and their spouses, Donita (Rod) Shike, Janel (Alan) Burch, Darwin (Denise) and Jay (Paula) Carswell along with most of her 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
An avid supporter of many organizations, Wilda can also be found attending many of her grandchildren’s activities. As this year’s grand marshal, the roles will be reversed as they show their support for her and encourage everyone to come to the Osborne County fair and parade, July 22-27.
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For many years Wilda has been a supporter of the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service – or K-State Research and Extension for short. She was a member of the Willow Dale Extension Homemakers Unit and has served on the Osborne County Extension Council both as a director and as council president.
Since 1970 the Kansas PRIDE program, a volunteer grassroots effort to improve the quality of life in local communities, has been a partnership between the Kansas Department of Commerce, K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Masons, and private sector companies and associations which operate in Kansas. The Alton PRIDE Committee was formed in 1985 and has long been a vital part of the community. Wilda was a charter member of Alton PRIDE and in 2017 is serving her 23rd year as its president. She has also served on the State PRIDE Board of Directors.
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Alton to Celebrate its Summer Jubilee
by Joy Leiker
Hays Daily News, Hays, Kansas
August 22, 2002 – Page One
ALTON – When a group of Alton residents worked to form the community’s PRIDE organization 17 years ago, they pledged to keep their rural community alive with events and celebrations.
This weekend the group will host its annual Summer Jubilee, an event that Wilda Carswell, the organization’s president, says is an occasion for more than just those in the small Osborne County community to celebrate.
“People are pretty excited about it anymore,” she said. “We get good support from the area around us.”
Their tactics to attract regional attention apparently work, as Carswell estimates as many as 1,500 people come through the community during some point of the festivities.
For a community that numbers 117 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, welcoming a crowd more than 10 times its size definitely is a big deal, Carswell said. The Jubilee’s entertainment events are scheduled throughout the day Saturday. Each year the Jubilee is focused on a daylong theme, and this year organizers centered their attention on “Family Pride.” As a result, the local community hall will be transformed into a family pride gallery of photos and collectibles that showcase the history of families. The collection Includes mostly photos, but also items “that people are proud of,” she said. But organizers prefer to change more than just the theme of the event each year. As a result, every Jubilee includes at least one new attraction or event on the schedule “so it keeps interest going.”
This year residents submitted photos for the community’s first photography contest. Winning entries will be labeled and on display this weekend. Another new event, organized specifically for the youngest Jubilee participants, is Kiddyland, an area full of carnival games and other child-friendly events. Kiddyland will open at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the northeast corner of Alton City Park.
Pending no emergency calls, the new Eagle Med helicopter plans to land at the Alton-Osborne Junior High School football field, and the Osborne County Rural Rescue and Ambulance Services will execute a Jaws of Life demonstration.
Carswell said there are some events organizers wouldn’t dream of changing. Hundreds of visitors line Mill Street in Alton for the 10:30 a.m. parade Saturday, a regular event for the annual Jubilee. The parade – the official kickoff to the annual Jubilee – typically includes 130 entries. Although reservations for the parade don’t number 100 yet, Carswell said there are many regular participants who are notorious for showing up even without a reservation.
Immediately after the parade, Alton alumnus Ray Kurtz, a retired Kansas State University instructor, will talk about his family pride and boyhood in Osborne County. His presentation will precede the announcement of the parade’s winning entries.
This year a silent auction will replace the regular oral auction, and Carswell said organizers hope the new format not only allows more people to participate but also raises more funds for the community. All proceeds from the auction “go back into community improvement.” The silent auction features both handmade and donated items and runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Events are scheduled throughout the day. Local musicians will perform half-hour shows in the park during the afternoon, and other organizations will sponsor activities as well. The Bull City Roughriders, a local saddle club, will coordinate horse games for riders, and the Osborne County Rural Fire District sponsors a lunch stand as well as a 9 p.m. Saturday street dance.
The Bull City Opry group will present its annual entertainment at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the tennis court. This year, it’s entitled “Family Feud Weddin.” There is no charge for the event, but Carswell said the group will accept contributions.
A community church service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday under the tent in the park officially closes the celebration weekend. The Reverend Richard Taylor, a retired United Methodist minister from Topeka, will be the featured speaker during the non-denominational service. Taylor was instrumental in preserving a Woodston area barn that later was destroyed by fire caused by lightning.
While the daylong event is sponsored by the PRIDE group, Carswell said its annual success is dependent on the work of other local entities.
“We sponsor it, but there are other groups that do a lot of these things too,” she said.
A complete schedule for the Alton Summer Jubilee is available online at: skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Alton/ Jubilee2002.html.
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Russell Stover Cousin finds History in Alton
by Jeremy Shapiro
Hays Daily News, Hays, Kansas
December 8, 2002, Page 3
ALTON – The seventh cousin twice removed of Russell Stover looked right at home digging his fork into a big piece of chocolate pie. After all, Don Harless was practically family at the second annual Chocolate Festival here Saturday.
The town of 117 residents decided to throw a little bash for its most famous native son, Russell Stover. A long table full of brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate fudge cake and chocolate muffins were among the goodies to choose from. Chocolate lovers had a hard time picking what to chose. In the end, many bought more than they intended to.
“The table was just covered with chocolate at the beginning,” said Sally Bradley, a PRIDE member helping out. “It was a sight. We didn’t have enough room.”
The festival seemed a little more official with the presence of Harless. A friend of Harless in Ness City gave him an article on the festival published in the Kansas Governor’s Journal, and they decided to make the trip. Harless, 65 wasn’t aware of the link to Stover until his wife started researching family history a few years ago. Further research revealed that he also happens to be a distant cousin of Daniel Boone.
“When you really start getting looking into the history, you realize we all are brothers, sisters and cousins,” Harless said.
Harless was given a tour of the property his kin lived in the first two years of his life. Although the house is no longer there, a sign commemorates the birthplace.
“It was nice to walk the same ground as him,” Harless said. “This is family history.”
Russell Stover was born May 6, 1888, in a sod farmhouse approximately 10 miles south of Alton. Stover’s father, John, moved to Alton from Iowa in search of fortune. He purchased some farmland in Osborne County for $1,500. Devastating drought forced John to move back to Iowa three years later.
While the Stover candy empire started in a small shop in Denver, Alton residents are proud to call their town his birthplace.
Wilda Carswell, PRIDE president, said that for many years they had the idea of creating a chocolate festival, but they never set it into motion until last year. Once the idea became a reality, the town came together to support it, Carswell said.
Many of the baked goods for sale also were entered in a cookie contest. This year 39 adults and nine kids turned in entries, hoping to win a $25 first prize.
Nadine Sigle, the Osborne County Home Economics Extension agent, and Marion Gier, a home economics teacher in Downs, had the job of judging best cookie.
Sigle and Gier took their duties seriously. They looked at the attractiveness, flavor, texture and ingredients. Gier said fresh ingredients will gain better marks. Sigle said they don’t overlook the size of the cookie either. Super rich cookies should be in smaller portions, they said.
Contestants must provide the recipe along with the cookie. Sigle and Gier carefully examined a recipe before dividing up what appeared to be oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Each took a bite and they then huddled to discuss it.
Meanwhile, about the only non-chocolate lover in the room was musician Leland Baxa. Baxa serenaded the crowd with Christmas tunes on his keyboard. When asked if he had any chocolate related music, Baxa said he was wondering what kind of music goes well with chocolate.
“Actually though, I’m not a big chocolate fan, but I know I can’t say that too loud,” he said softly, Carswell said she heard a couple of other towns holding chocolate festivals close to Valentine’s Day, but as far as she knew there wasn’t another one tied in with the Christmas season.
The Alton gift basket store was also open, with handcrafted items made by area crafters.
State Representative Dan Johnson, Republican-Hays, took the opportunity to buy a few Christmas presents. He said he was impressed with all the local talent who made the crafts and baked goods.
Russell Stover Candles of Kansas City sent 192 small boxes of chocolates in Santa tins to distribute at the festival.
“Maybe next year we can get a representative to come out,” Carswell said. “I don’t think they knew what we were doing.”
Inevitably the conversation eventually turned toward Stover himself.
Carswell said one thing she liked about Stover is he would continually try to find new products.
“Yes he was rich and famous, but he didn’t rest,” she said. “Not many people know he was the founder of Eskimo Pies. He later sold it off, but he was always looking for new products.”
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Wilda joined the United Methodist Church when a young girl and has attended regularly ever since. In the past she has served as Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, Director of Bible School, Trustee, and President of Administrative Council. Wilda currently serves on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, works with the annual Christmas program and the quilting group, and serves as a lay leader. She has been very involved in the United Methodist Women (UMW), having served on various committees and as treasurer, vice-president, and currently as president. Wilda served as the secretary of the Concordia District of UMW for four years and the Kansas West UMW Conference Membership, Nurture & Outreach Co-ordinator for three years. Her favorite Bible verse is I Corinthians 13:13:
There are three things that
remain – faith, hope, and love,
and the greatest of these is love.
From 1979 to 1987 Wilda served on the USD #392 School Board, serving one year as its president. After her move to Alton in 2003 Wilda was elected to the Alton City Council and served there for over ten years. In 2006 she was honored with the Homer E. Smuck Cultural Award for her lifetime of community service. A decade later Wilda was awarded the first Faye Minium Spirit Award by the Solomon Valley/Highway 24 Heritage Alliance.
Wilda has lived her entire life in the three adjoining townships of northwest Osborne County – Hawkeye, Grant, and Sumner. She is known for her cooking, canning, sewing, and yard/gardening. Wilda’s hobbies include quilting, reading, sports events, and traveling. She especially likes tour groups for travel and in her journeys has seen most of the United States. And Wilda is of course a proud supporter of her grandchildren’s many activities.
Wilda continues to give of her time, talents, and service to the Alton community and to Osborne County. In 2017 the Deryl Carswell Family was one of the 28 founders of the Osborne County Community Foundation, a vehicle for charitable giving capable of benefiting the entire county. It is our pleasure to honor her and her example with this well-deserved induction into the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
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History of Alton PRIDE
(compiled by Deanna Roach, May 2017)
In 1925 a group of local Alton ladies saw the need for a city park and through their initiative volunteers came forward to clear donated lots in the center of town. Thus, the Alton City Park was born.
The successful park ladies of 1925 had their mothers to look to for inspiration, for it was the generation of women before them that formed the Alton Library Association in 1898. From their efforts, a library building was voluntarily staffed from 1900 until 1966.
In 1983, a new generation of Alton women took a look at the City Park and didn’t like what they saw: overgrown weeds and stickers, dead trees and broken down playground equipment. After nearly 60 years of wear and tear, the park was clearly showing its age.
These women formed a group and came up with what they called an “idea” to improve the park, which was carried out by volunteers. The group stayed focused on the park and before long they were encouraged by the Osborne County Home Economist to join the Kansas PRIDE Program.
In 1983 and 1984 this unofficial group of women hosted an annual community wide “play day” that took place in the newly renovated park.
In 1985 the initial group of nine women officially organized into “Alton PRIDE” and held their first annual Alton Summer Jubilee. Of those nine women, three have remained active PRIDE members, three are still involved on a part-time basis, and three have moved away. Several other women and men in the community have also been PRIDE members for many, many years.
In 1986, Alton PRIDE joined the Central Kansas Library System and created a space for books to be brought into the community on a rotational basis. The library space changed over the years until it was finally permanently housed in the Alton Community Room Annex. Since 2009, the Alton Library has had an “official” volunteer librarian, Dorothy Mitchell, who was recognized as a 2013 Kansas PRIDE Community Partner. The library is open every Wednesday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. and has “regulars” that come in every week.
Alton PRIDE’s State Award Trophies:
Community of Excellence: 1986, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.
Star Awards (for special projects): 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
[Awards listed above always came with a monetary prize. The state PRIDE program changed their awards program after 2009 and did not give out community awards until 2013.]
Community of Excellence: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Cultural Star Capital Award: 2013, 2014
Built Capital Award: PRIDE has won three of these. One is for 2012 and another trophy is undated, while the third award was earned in 2017.
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Osborne County Farmer, January 20, 2000
Working with the System
by Sandra Trail
Deryl and Wilda Carswell can’t imagine doing anything but what they are doing – farming. Not only can Deryl not imagine doing anything else, he can’t imagine doing it any other place. In fact, he’s never lived any other place.
“Grandpa bought this place and built this house in 1900,” Deryl explains. “When Wilda and I got married in 1953, my folks moved to town and we moved in.
“It’s just never entered my mind to do anything else. I like the challenges and trying new things. And, you are your own decision maker – sometimes with the government.”
It’s just this cooperative attitude towards government programs that earned Carswell this year’s Goodyear Co-Operator of the Year Award, which is awarded by the Osborne County Conservation District/Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The Carswells have a diversified operation. They have livestock and feed their own grain – wheat, corn and milo. Most of the corn they raise is irrigated, but they have put out some dryland recently.
At the same time, the Carswells have stopped raising hogs and now concentrate on cattle in their livestock operation.
To help get the most out of each area of their operation, the Carswells have used a variety of programs to accomplish beneficial conservation efforts.
In recent years, much of the work has been taken over by the Carswells’ sons, Darwin and Jay.
“That means Dad gets to help out whenever they need him,” explained Deryl.
It also means he and Wilda will get to travel a little more. They’ve taken trips in the past with Pioneer Seed groups and may do more of that now. Deryl has been a Pioneer Seed dealer for 38 years.
Deryl and Wilda have also been active in their community. Deryl currently serves on the Grant Township board and has served on the church board, Farm Bureau board and as a leader for Sumner 4-H. He never served on the Alton Fire District board, but was active in the organizational effort and is a supporter of the district.
Wilda also served 35 years as a Sumner 4-H Community Leader, has been on the Osborne County Extension Council and served on the PRIDE board.
Both feel community service is important and hope it is an ideal they have passed on to the young people they have been around.
In addition to their sons, the Carswells have two daughters: Donita Berkley and her husband farm at Tescott and Janet Burch, Hays, is a CPA. They also have 11 grandchildren.
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HANDKERCHIEF QUILT CRAZE
by Carolyn Williams
September 24, 2008
“You won the door prize, Dorothy!” The other Dorothy (Dibble) exclaimed as Dorothy Mitchell’s name was drawn at the Crossroads Quitter’s Guild Quilt Show in Stockton last year. Her prize? A Free Machine Quilting on a quilt of her choice within the next year. What a gift!
Although Dorothy Mitchell was new to the Alton community, having come from Granite City, Illinois just the year before to live closer to her niece, Mary Hartzler, she was not new to quilting. She had been involved in quilting bees and helped organize shows since she retired from teaching Physical Education in the Granite City area some 30 years previous. This was a real challenge to her. When she moved to Alton she had cleaned out many unnecessary items in her home, but she had kept the handkerchiefs her mother had passed on to her, thinking to make something as a memorial to Josephine Sharleiville Mitchell, her mother.
With the help of the other Dorothy, Dorothy Dibble, from the Quilting Bee held every Monday afternoon at the Alton United Methodist Church Dorothy’s quilt came together beautifully. Dorothy M chose the fabrics, and Dorothy D sewed the handkerchiefs exactly where they would be showcased the best. Dorothy Dibble “got the bug” to make her own quilt. Quilting is not new to her either. When her husband Everett was serving in WWII, she began a quilt, getting only so far as making quilt blocks. When he returned from the service and their children began arriving, sewing garments for the family took precedence. It was only much later when Dorothy found those early quilt blocks that she decided to do something with them. However, time and temperature had made the fabric weak. When she washed them in preparation to finish the project, they fell apart!
That really peaked her interest in making her own. She too, had many handkerchiefs from her mother’s and her own drawers to choose from. Instead of using only one handkerchief per square, she used two at diagonals from each other – thus a Double Handkerchief Quilt. She exhibited that quilt at the Rooks County Fair this year.
Not to be outdone, Wilda Carswell decided to compose two quilts – she has two daughters! The first quilt she exhibited at the Osborne County Fair, July 22-25. She was awarded the quilt with the best use of color by the Solomon Valley Quilt Guild which meets in Downs every month. She, too, made a double handkerchief quilt since she had so many from both her “stash” and from her mother Ruth Stockbridge’s “stash” as well.
Many of her handkerchiefs came as a result of a near tragic accident. In 1943 the young mother Ruth was riding with her daughter Wilda on her boy’s bicycle when a truck hit them. Ruth was badly injured with broken bones. To comfort the young mother, many in the community sent her Get Well cards with a handkerchief enclosed. Many of those handkerchiefs found their way into the two quilts Wilda made last winter. The quilt she exhibited at the fair is now hanging in her 100-year-old mother Ruth’s room at Progressive Care in Alton. The second quilt is made with the same color sashing and backing using the remainder of the handkerchiefs from that unfortunate period in the lives of her and her mother.
When we quilt together at the Alton UMC, new and exciting ideas seem to come bouncing into our fingers and into our brains. Maybe more Handkerchief Quilts will result from that first quilting prize!
Church ladies and Quilting seem to just go together, don’t they? It’s certainly been that way in Alton for the last 60-70 years. I visited with some of the quitters lately as we worked on a quilt for Zane Alan Poor, the latest baby in the area. Doris Holloway gave me some information that seems to validate the above statement.
She told me that every church in Alton at one time or another had a ladies quilt group that met in the church basement. The former Evangelical United Brethren, previously the Congregational Church had an active group of 12 or 13. When that church merged in 1967 with the Alton Methodist Church to become the United Methodist Church of Alton, the groups continued as one, with some continuing and others going on to other ventures. The UMC ladies continue to meet and quilt as they have quilts scheduled.
The names of the quitters have changed over the years. One of the ladies, Ruth Guttery, has moved away, so Dorothy Dibble keeps us organized and quilting. Others have not continued due to health, arthritis being one of the culprits that keeps us from quilting like we’d like to; other ladies have passed on their abilities to daughters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters. Others have simply passed on and we remember them with little short stories about their “quilting quirks”, such as, “So-and-so always sits there, you need to sit somewhere else.” One day as I was threading a needle directly from the spool, the thread suddenly disappeared! Another person had picked up the spool to cut her length before she threaded it! We laughed and vowed to remember the “quirks.
The UMC ladies have completed some of the local PRIDE quilts. New ladies in town such as Dorothy Mitchell, a new resident, are welcomed to the quilt frame. Others join when they retire and begin their own quilting adventures. A break time about two hours into the session always brings out something new, either homemade or purchased snack with tea or coffee.
My first adventure with the Alton UMC quitters was helping to set up the first quilt I made as a wedding present for a granddaughter, whoever married first. I found out that I had not measured correctly, so had to add material to the backing to fit the top. Luckily, Ruth Guttery had come prepared for this novice with her sewing machine and iron. I was able to sew right there, press it, and help to set it up on the quilting frame. Now, I think I know a bit more as I prepare to help set in the next granddaughter’s wedding present. I say laughingly that the unmarried ones will be old maids if they wait for me to complete one for each of them!
Nowadays, the quilt guilds have begun to take over the quilting bees that the church ladies of not-so-long-ago held. Even the quilting is different! The advent of machine quilting has begun to eliminate the camaraderie of the many Monday afternoons quilting in the church basement.
Regardless, one of the missions of the church basement is always to have room for the quilt frame and the ladies who stitch the history of Alton.
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SOURCES: Wilda Carswell, Alton, Kansas; Deanna Roach, Alton, Kansas; Carolyn Williams, Alton, Kansas; Hays Daily News, August 22, 2002; Hays Daily News, December 8, 2002; Osborne County Farmer, October 13, 1938, Page 6; Osborne County Farmer, June 26, 1947, Page 6; Osborne County Farmer, January 20, 2000; Osborne County Farmer, July 16, 2015; Salina Journal, October 14, 1956.
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