1850 - 1875 Ellen Parsons's Pieced Quilt

This example of the “Goose Tracks” pattern was pieced by Mrs. Ellen Parsons of Shelbyville, Tenn. Seven-inch blocks are set diagonally with triple sashing and a miniature “Nine-patch” block at the sashing intersections. The blocks are framed by three 7/8-inch bands, one printed and two plain cottons. The filling is cotton and the lining is plain-woven, open-weave white cotton.
According to a hand-written note with the quilt “Mrs. Parsons planted and grew the cotton in her garden. She picked the cotton and spun it into thread. She wove the threads into cloth to make the lining for the quilt. She pieced and quilted it by hand.” Of course information such as this is difficult to verify. The pieced blocks are outlined, the sashing and borders are zigzag quilted, 6 stitches per inch.
The donor, Mrs. M. B. Holleman, wrote about the quilt when it became part of the collection in 1965. “I am 71 years old and I have no one to leave the quilt to that would take care of it. . . . I will tell you the things my mother [about 1857-1938] told me. My Great Grand Mother made this quilt. She was drown in the river. She was on a horse & the saddle broke. It was slave time and one of her slave women was on a horse also and lived to tell how it happened. She had only one child a girl and the quilt went to her. She never used it and when my Grandmother passed away, my mother got the quilt and when my mother passed on I got it. No one ever used it. (?) We would put it out in the sun real often. I wish I could tell you more about it. I am the only one living now.”
Mrs. Parsons's quilt is a testimony to the importance to the family to hand down to future generations treasured objects and the stories that go with them. When there are no longer heirs to take care of an object, such as this quilt, they are often donated to a museum collection so that others can admire and appreciate them.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Parsons, Ellen
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 78 in x 77 in; 198 cm x 196 cm
Place Made
United States: Tennessee, Shelbyville
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Family & Social Life
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. M. B. Holleman
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