Family’s Civil War story inspires quilter



Every Tuesday, in an open room in Community United Methodist Church, 3301 W. Broadway, a group of women comes together to engage in their hobby — quilting.

About 14 or 15 women, most of whom are retired, join each other every week to work on a few quilts together. Some gather to work on quilts for themselves, and others work on quilts they plan to raffle off for charity.

Marilyn Russell, 72, is making a quilt for her husband. The quilt, which she and several other group members began working on last year, has a special meaning behind it.

One of its blocks tells a story from her family that goes back to the Civil War.

Russell said her great-great-grandfather, Joseph Alexander Cook, found a cannonball lodged in a tree during the Civil War where he lived in south Arkansas. After the war, he went back to the tree with his sons and cut it down, took the cannonball and hauled it home in a wagon. Russell said the cannonball has been passed down in their family ever since.

Currently, Russell’s father owns the cannonball. He is 96.

“I think it means a lot to him,” Russell said of her father. “Family means a great deal to him.”

She said the spot where the cannonball was stuck in the tree, between Lafayette and Columbia counties in Arkansas, is not known as a spot where a skirmish or battle occurred.

“We don’t know if it was some sort of practice or what,” she said. “We’ve never been able to find that out.”

Russell was inspired to make the quilt with friends after she read “The Civil War Diary Quilt” by Rosemary Youngs. Youngs read diaries of women who lived during the Civil War, took a word or a phrase from some entries and made quilt blocks from them. She combined the quilt blocks, and the stories that inspired them, into a book.

Russell and her friends then decided they would make a Civil War Diary quilt of their own and give it to her husband.

Although Russell said it would be another four to six months until the quilt is completed, it is already quite detailed. It embraces autumn colors, such as browns, oranges, reds and some dark blues.

The cannonball block has two green triangles and two brown triangles in its corners, which Russell said represent the tree where the cannonball was lodged. She appliquéd a small black circle in the center as the cannonball.

Russell said she loved the challenge of working on this block.

“It was done with Civil War reproduction fabrics and I just love those,” she said. “They tend to be nice fabrics in interesting colors. I really loved doing it.”


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