Many hands

As with any large endeavor, it takes many hands to do all that needs to get done. And that is certainly the case at the Historical Village. Five acres, eleven buildings, archives to maintain, bills to pay, questions to answer about the Tobacco Valley’s history, funds to raise. And yes, this has all been going on since the mid 1970s!! On a gray early-winter’s day, if you happen to be driving pass the Village, or ambling through on your way to the River Walk, it might look quiet and serene there. It might look like nothing much is happening. But typically, not a day goes by that someone in our community isn’t putting in volunteer time to help maintain this special place.

Robin and Dave keep the Village looking sharp, repairing things that break, gathering up trash, trouble-shooting. That tree limb over the First Cabin is causing a problem with the roof, so they get the tree trimmed, patch the roof. Someone donates a cherry pitter that has been in her family for years. The Tobacco Valley Board of History acquisition committee gets all the information about it’s history, fills in paperwork, takes photos, enters the data into our archival records that are meticulously maintained by Cathy, and then puts the pitter into the museum where it will be on display next summer. Jane, our new treasurer, heard the quilters would dearly love to have a light in the storage closet where fabric is kept. They typically would go in with a flashlight to search for a piece of flannel to make a baby quilt or whatever the latest project was. It happened that Steve, Jane’s husband, is an electrician. The next week when the women arrived to quilt, there was a light with a motion detector in the closet! And a light bright enough that we can all see which boxes contain the baby flannels and which are the cottons with holiday motifs (as it is getting to be that time of year after all). We haven’t even met Steve in person yet, but we certainly appreciate his expertise and, we comment on the light every time we hunt for fabric without a flashlight.

When there are questions about history or someone is looking for a photograph from the early days in the Valley, Darris or Cathryn are always there to help. When our online story opened, Jan and Carmen quickly make dozens of beautiful Christmas ornaments, and scrubbies in a rainbow of colors. Cathryn crafts her priceless pine needle baskets, and Lynda cranks out jars of huckleberry jam (sorry but the jam has already sold out). Sally pieces fabric with her artist’s eye for color that the women quilt and then sell. And yes, those Friday quilters are remarkable, showing up every week in all sorts of weather from September to May, to stitch. We currently have eleven quilters which is very exciting – especially when you see the list of quilts waiting to be done!

Is it even possible to list all the things volunteers do to maintain the Historical Village, as well as when their efforts go beyong the valley? Through a grant from the Montana Historical Foundation, volunteers put together a history trunk filled with treasures about quilting that is lent to schools in Lincoln and Flathead Counties. Fabrics, notions, books, patterns, and ideas for teachers are a wonderful treasure that extends our work to younger people. People in New York, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Washington have over the years come to know the Historical Village and the quilters. We package items they order from our online store to send them. We appreciate hearing their questions about which quilts are for sale. And we always enjoy hearing from them with news from these far-flung places.

The list goes on. There is Bev who keeps the schoolhouse tidy as the quilters tend to have piles on every flat surface, and she manages the museum docents in the summer. There is Michelle who just began quilting on Fridays but already helps with the online store. People donate fabric and items for us to sell. Carmen’s husband, Al, sends treats to the quilters (quilting for five hours takes a lot of energy). Dianne maintains our membership list and leads the annual membership drive which we depend on. Renata makes delicious cakes when there happens to be a quilter’s birthday. And, of course, there are the docents who keep the museum open everyday in the summer.

But please don’t misunderstand! Even though there are so many great people helping, there are still things that need to be done. Old buildings need a lot of TLC – storm windows for the schoolhouse, new footing for the caboose, repairs to the boardwalk are on the To Do list. In the meantime though, be thankful for this wonderful piece of history in our town, the volunteers who maintain it, the donors and members who help us pay the bills. Stop by the schoolhouse any Friday to visit, to buy items from our Christmas bazaar, or to quilt with us. We look forward to seeing you.

About tvh56

I mostly live in Eureka, Montana and write two blogs. One is for the Tobacco Valley Board of History, a group composed of the most remarkable older women who quilt weekly to raise funds to maintain the Historical Village museum and grounds. I had to capture their stories with words and photos. And when I began a traveling bookstore as a small business, well, it only made sense to write about that too.

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