Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grandmother's Old Flower Garden Quilt

This past weekend, at our annual Deutschesfest celebration, my grandmother's Flower Garden quilt was shown for the first time ever. This quilt was hand-sewn, hand-pieced and hand-quilted in the 1960's by my grandmother, Ruby Mae (Steele) Allen. Here is a detail and a photo of the whole quilt.

Historical Information

Ruby (1889-1989) was born in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and died in Spokane. She came west to Montana in 1906, on the train, and took up a homestead, for herself. She brought her little dog, Gip, with her on the train, but the baggage man forgot to put the little dog off with her luggage. She ran after the train, shouting for her little dog. The man threw the poor little dog off the train. It was unhurt, but Ruby was furious. She stormed into the Shelby Depot where George Allen was in charge as the dispatcher, to give him a piece of her mind. He was impressed by Ruby, courted her, and married her in Great Falls in 1910.

During their courtship, Ruby would ride into Shelby from her homestead in the summer months on her Cayuse pony, Babe. There, on Friday nights, she played the piano for the weekly dance. They would dance all night. In the morning, she would step up on the little Indian pony and he would take her slowly and surely home, while she dozed in the saddle.

Ruby's parents (Julius and Elpha
[Whaley] Steele) and her sister, Pearl (Steele) Soderstrom, joined her on the high prairie in Toole County, Montana. Each of them took up a homestead.

In 1917, Ruby and George struck oil on their homestead. In 1918, two of their little boys died in the influenza epidemic and Ruby, herself, almost died, as well. She was too sick to attend the funerals of her little darlings. A year later, she lost a third son, who was stillborn. In 1944, her youngest son, Donald Allen, died in a plane crash while training for the war in Oregon.

Two of her six children survived to raise families of their own. We are ever grateful for the courage and steadfastness of our grand parents and great grandparents, who suffered mightily to make a future for us in the West. Ruby said about Montana, "Everything blew away......"

Pictures: Top - Grandmother's Flower Garden by Ruby Mae (Steele) Allen
Middle - Ruby at about age 5 in 1893, probably taken in Byron, MN
Bottom - Detail of the Flower Garden Quilt.

Happy Stitching!


  1. Your grandmother, Ruby, sounds like she was a real firecracker. I admire her strength to homestead alone, not an easy undertaking for a woman in those days. My own great-grandmother, after raising her family as well as step-children, lived alone in a soddy, in Oklahoma, no electricity, no running water, smoked black cigars and walked to town everyday for her bucket of beer. Gotta admire women like these.
    I love her Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt, one of my favorite patterns. A true family treasure.

  2. Thanks, Donna. I didn't realize a soddy life included, vermin, snakes, bugs, dirt and from the ceiling of the soddy, depending upon the weather. Gives me the shivers. However, it was better than living above ground in a prairie landscape where the wind and weather could be devastating. I remember when the REA brought electricity to our little town in Montana in about 1949. All of a sudden, we could see how dirty our houses were! Dad made money selling stainless steel cookware and Kirby vacuum cleaners. Let there be light! Kathie

  3. Nice post - flower garden pictures ..Keep Posting

    flower garden pictures

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother! Her quilt is GORGEOUS! I cannot even imagine the hours she must have put into that labor of love! Thank you so much for sharing with the rest of us!


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