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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.

Lilacs are starting to bud

The weather is turning Montana Spring beautiful. The old schoolhouse isn’t as chilly in the mornings now when the women show up to quilt. We have been working on a couple quilts that will probably take us to the end of the season. Both lovely colors and fabrics, both mostly easy to sew, both require a fair amount of stitching. Outside of the schoolhouse, volunteers are starting to work on various projects. Building storm windows, replacing torn screens, rebuilding the back of the caboose, checking the boardwalk for boards that might need to be replaced before too many summer visitors show up.

Rendezvous Days will be coming up on April 24th so that is always an exciting time to be at the Historical Village. The buildings won’t be open this year but there will be many vendors set up, and live music across at Riverside Park. Of course if you ever need to check out what the quilters have available for sale, you can go to our online shop anytime or stop by on Fridays before the middle of May. The quilters will put their needles, thimbles and threads away for the summer then when the old schoolhouse resumes it appearance as part of the museum.

Lots to look forward to so be sure to mark your calendar. The Eureka Montana Quilt Show is all day on August 7th and Shakespeare in the Parks (this year’s play is Cymbeline) is the evening of August 19th.

We call it home

Recently the quilters at the Historical Village got some press. There was a wonderful article in Montana Arts Council’s State of the Arts quarterly newspaper. Locals who saw the articles were thrilled. And even some folks from out of the area read about these hard-working women. There were various follow-up conversations about the quilters and what they do, which got us thinking more seriously about why we are excited for the press, what exactly is our story?

There have been women quilting at the Historical Village since the mid 1970s. It would be hard to imagine how many stitches have been done in that amount of time. Let’s just say countless. Of course, the women enjoy getting together on Fridays to quilt, share ideas and laughter, but they also realize their goal is to preserve the Historical Village. They do this with the money they raise through their quilting, with the information about the valley they share with each other and the visitors who stop by, and with maintenance of all the archives under the care of the Tobacco Valley Board of History.

And this is what they have been guardians of for nearly fifty years. So if you stop by the Historical Village today, you see buildings that have been well maintained. You can ask for photos and we will go through our files to find one that shows Fortine in the early 1900s or the first saw mill in the valley. You can bring your children to the museum in the summer to see examples of things you or your parents or your grandparents used. And recently we updated our collection of over two hundred oral histories (taped interviews and some written transcripts). You can think of us as the Keepers of the Hearth.

But is that our story? Or is that just who we are? The story for us at this moment in time seems to be a mystery – who will continue to keep this hearth burning bright in the future? There is lots of support for our membership drive and we are very appreciative of the money people donate to help the Historical Village with expenses. But there needs to be a treasurer to handle that money, and a secretary to deal with paperwork. Who can arrange for ground maintenance in the summer, shovel snow in the winter or find volunteers for trash pick-up? Are there individuals who want to sit around on Fridays listening to stories so they will be able to pass them on thirty years from now?

If you read our story, it involves searching for clues, talking with a stranger in some dark cafe, tracking down information to solve the mystery of who will be the keepers in the future of this place we call home. Do we follow bread crumbs? Take hints from Lois Lowry’s young adult novel, The Giver? Perhaps find clues in Robert Putnam’s lament about the decline of social capital? Any help to solve this mystery will be greatly appreciated.

Changes

Well, let’s start with what’s not happening at the moment and then move on to current activities.  Our winter fundraiser scheduled in March with the awesome Canadian band, The Wardens, was cancelled as the diligent thing to do considering all the factors.  Although we were very sorry to miss the opportunity to have these musicians perform here in the Tobacco Valley, it only made sense for them to be home and for us not to be gathering.  Friday quilting has been postponed for the foreseeable future and this is Jessquiltingcertainly a tough one to accept.  It made all of us realize that although one reason we sew together is to raise money for the Historical Village, a bigger part is sitting with this remarkable group of women, sharing stories, sharing laughs, offering each other love and support.

Despite the challenges of missing our Fridays together, there are things we are doing even while observing social distancing.  Cathy organized sewing face masks for the local medical clinic and a number of quilters helped on this.  Carmen shared her delicious tamales which makes any day seem much brighter.  Sally is busy getting seedlings and such ready for May gardens.  Lydna has a new puppy.  Cathryn took the quilt we had been working on home (the one we fondly call ‘piano keys’) so it wouldn’t feel bereft alone in the old school house. Despite the gray, snowy weather that we’ve been getting, flowers are starting to push up their first tender leaves.  And the lilac bushes at the Historical Village actually have buds.

No doubt we will be very appreciative when we get back together again.  Perhaps there will be so much talking that very little quilting will get done at first.

Summer in the Village

IMG_1222 2Stop by for a picnic or to bring out of town guests.  Spend time exploring the museum. Let the kids play and climb on the old caboose.  Stop by the old Fewkes Store in the Historical Village to pick up gifts, souvenirs, a special something for yourself or for a friend.  There are baby quilts, books about the Tobacco Valley, post cards, pine needle baskets, tea towels, tied quilts and others that are sewn with tiny stitches.  There are scrubbies that are great for doing dishes and art bags for children.  There is handmade jewelry as well as greeting cards.  And the proceeds from anything you buy goes towards helping to maintain the Historical Village.

You might wonder what sort of expenses pile up with this group of old buildings, the stretch of lawn under shady trees.  The Historical Village is fully maintained by donations and volunteer labor. This summer alone we are looking at renovations to the bell tower on the old school house, oiling the logs of the Baney House, and starting work on the fire lookout.  Of course there is also lawn maintenance, keeping the bathrooms in good shape and the utility bills paid.  The Historical Village gets a lot of use in the summer – thousands of folks when you count all the visitors who stop by (the museum is open everyday from 1:00 – 5:00pm) and special events.  Shakespeare in the Park performs here on July 30 and the Eureka Montana Quilt Show happens on August 3.

We hope you have time to enjoy the Historical Village this summer.  There really is an awful lot here to take in.

Change of seasons

The volunteers were out to do a Spring cleaning at the Historical Village in mid April.  Now we are finishing up our last quilt so the old school house can be prepared for summer visitors.  Of course first there will be our annual rummage sale on May 18th.  And then the second graders from the Eureka elementary school will visit the Village in mid May to learn about their heritage in the Tobacco Valley.  But then we will be poised to throw wide the doors for the summer season.  Volunteer docents will have the buildings open and be available to answer questions every single day of the summer starting IMG_1227on May 25th.  Yes, it might surprise you that there are enough volunteers in this small town to have the Historical Village museum open everyday of summer from 1:00 – 5:00pm.  But it is true.  This is a remarkable community where people care enough to put in volunteer time as needed.

Of course this isn’t meant to dissuade you if you were thinking to offer help.  Needless to say there are always things to be done at the Historical Village from trimming shrubbery to painting walls, litter patrol to helping with our events.  And we hope to expand the roster of events at the Historical Village this summer to bring in speakers for demonstrations and talks.

Oh! Just in case you have your calendar handy, you might want to mark July 30 when Shakespeare in the Park performs “Merry Wives of Windsor” in the Village.  And the following weekend is the Eureka Montana Quilt Show on August 3rd.  The Historical Village looks absolutely lovely draped with all those beautifully colored quilts. You won’t want to miss it.

Thank you

Thanks to all of you who support Pint Night for the Processed with MOLDIVHistorical Village, and those who submit memberships for the Tobacco Valley Board of History, and those who come by the old school house to purchase gifts and buy quilts. Thanks to everyone of you who made donations of fabric or checks or time.  And of course special thanks to the quilters who sew each Friday and the other volunteers who help maintain the museum.  Recently Dave Leeman said, “The Historical Village is a jewel.  We’re so lucky to have it here.” Of course I had to agree with him.  It’s our community’s history.

On your calendar

All these events help raise money to support the Historical Village.  Volunteers bake pies, sew quilts, knit hats and play music so our valley’s museum can be everything you want.

quilts for sale

November 21:  Pint Night at HA Brewery.  4-8pm.  Huckleberry Pie raffle. Live music with Dave Leeman and Al McCurry.  $1 from every beverage sold and $1 from every pizza sold goes to the Village.

December 1:  Holiday bazaar from 9-4 in the old school house! Handmade items galore with all proceeds going to the Village.  Yes its true. You don’t want to miss this.

December 7-21: Every Friday until Christmas, the bazaar at the Historical Village continues. A perfect place to pick up last minute gifts and visit the quilters. 10-3 in the old school house.

Do you want quarterly updates about events at the Historical Village? We now put out an e-newsletter.  Leave a comment so we know the best way to contact you.

A spring into Fall

The women started quilting on Fridays again.  We set up a lovely blue one with blocks created by numerous people.  It will be a pleasure to decide how to quilt each unique design. No doubt it will take us through til November, and there are other quilts waiting to be done.  Thankful to have this pile as it is one of the many ways we raise money to maintain the Historical Village.

To begin this season off, the Tobacco Valley Board of History constructed a strategic plan to carry us through the next three years.  The Historical Village was first established in 1971 so now nearly fifty years old.  Forty-seven to be exact.  Forty-seven years of volunteers fundraising, getting old buildings painted, roofs repaired, exhibits set up, Processed with MOLDIVthe museum open everyday in the summer.  A lot of accomplishments for an all-volunteer organization in a small town.  And now we want to plan well so that this can continue for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Darris, Lynda and Sally fine tuned suggestions from the entire board.  Some very exciting ideas that we will begin to work towards making a reality.

Sally will create History Suitcases that can be borrowed by schools and home school groups. Each suitcase will have artifacts, photos, books and other items that students can touch, read, examine and learn from.  We also decided to expand our outreach to the community as we begin doing more events at the Village starting this winter.  For you not to miss anything, get on our email list so you can receive quarterly newsletters. You can ‘like’ the Tobacco Board of History Facebook page as we will have updates there.  And of course we will be putting our quarterly calendar in the newspaper.

We are also building our lists of volunteers.  There are summer docents for the museum, quilters, archivists and individuals to help with small repairs and some grounds maintenance.  Obviously we need more.  People who like to help organize events, help get our calendar out, fix things that need fixing (yes, the teeter totter is on the list), do demonstrations in the summer of skills we don’t want lost.

And an archival room is in the plan!  This would be a space that is secure, temperature and humidity controlled and with a place for individuals to do research. This has been needed for some time and now we are ready to take it on – find someone to do the design, raise the funds to build it, and then move the files, boxes and other archival materials into the new space.  Once this is completed (remember this is a three year plan) it will open more room in the Fewkes store museum to expand the exhibits there.

We are definitely springing into Fall.

 

It is an art

What do New York City, Gee’s Bend, Alabama and Eureka, Montana have in common?  Beautiful handmade quilts.  On a recent trip to the Big Apple, I was fortunate enough to see an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Souls Grown Deep.  Part of this exhibit featured quilts from Gee’s Bend, Alabama.  In 1998, folk art collector William Arnett happened to be going through a small town in southern Alabama and noticed quilts on geesbendclotheslines.  They were so striking, he stopped to get information about them and eventually bought some.  Later he arranged for over seventy quilts made by the women in Gee’s Bend to be part of an exhibit that traveled nationally. They were shown in art museums from Washington, DC to San Francisco, from Houston to Boston.  There are books and videos about these quilts and the women who made them.  In 2006, the US Postal Service even came out with a set of postage stamps that featured images of the quilts.  So for me, it was a remarkable moment to stand in the Met and see six of them displayed.  I was so tempted to touch them, lift a corner to see what the back quilting looked like, run my fingers over the colors. But of course I didn’t.

Standing there brought so many thoughts and emotions about the women in Gee’s Bend, about the women who sew quilts in the Historical Village, about the fabrics used in all of these quilts, the friendships as quilters sit together sewing, the designs, the stitches, the talk.  Especially this time of year as fall sets in and the quilters at the Historical Village begin meeting on Fridays, we get into a rhythm that will take us through the winter and into spring.  Here in Eureka, those of us who quilt with this group are ready to start up again.  Whether our quilts will ever grace the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art doesn’t matter.  Mostly we want our stitches to be even and the knots hidden.