A faded and well-worn quilt is on display now at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum. Though it belonged to the Pry family, it has only recently come back “home” to the house. Let’s take a look at where it has been! After the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Philip & Elizabeth Pry’s farm was stripped by the armies of most of its resources, including the family’s food, livestock, lumber, and even the crops in the fields. The once prosperous farm was left in financial ruin. Though Mr. Pry submitted a claim to the government for the items that had been taken or destroyed, he was never fully compensated. In 1873, the family moved to farm on cheaper land in Tennessee. Before the Prys left, many of the local women got together and made a memory quilt as a gift.
Memory quilts were commonly made in the 19th century as going away presents. These quilts provided a way to remember distant friends, family, and neighbors. Often, the quilt blocks would be personalized with signatures, poems, or short notes. One block on the quilt bears the inscription, “Remember me, when this you see, though many miles apart we be – your friend – Susie Hoffman.” Though the inscriptions could be embroidered, the ones on the Pry quilt are simply ink signatures. The Pry quilt’s pattern is called Ohio Star. The center square of each block is a solid, light color which allowed the quilters to write their signatures and messages for the Prys.
The quilt was taken with the family to their new home in Tennessee. After Elizabeth’s death, it was inherited by her daughter, Annie. Annie was the sixth child of Philip and Elizabeth, and was just a year old at the time of the Battle of Antietam. Annie eventually passed the quilt on to her daughter, Elizabeth Jones. When Elizabeth died in 1969, the quilt went to relatives in New Jersey. It was later purchased at a yard sale by Maggy Sluyter of Plainfield, NJ. Maggy was intrigued by the signatures on the quilt and set out to find its origin. Several of the blocks have “Keedysville, Md” written on them. Maggy initially misread the writing as “Kennedysville” and so sent inquiries about the quilt to the Historical Society of Kent County, Maryland. She was referred to Mr. Doug Bast at the Boonsborough Museum of History (near the Antietam Battlefield), who directed her to the Keedysville Historical Society. The quilt was donated to the Historical Society in 1999, and so came back to the community where it was made.
More recently, the Pry quilt was loaned by the Keedysville Historical Society to the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, to be displayed in the house where the family once lived. It is currently on display there, in its former home. The Pry quilt is now faded, worn, and has some holes – signs that it was well used by its former owners. I suspect that the women who made it would be pleased that their creation was appreciated by the Pry family and by museum visitors now!