Friends from other states:
Willa had maintained contact with at least one family from her early days in Kansas. When she was two, the Allen family lived very near the Stevensons on the edge of Jackson in Riley County, Kansas. In the 1880 census, there are only two households enumerated between theirs on the first page of the list. (The Stevensons have been misspelled in the indexing for that census online, appearing as “Steavens,” but the original record clearly shows James and Lucy Stevenson with their children Howard Miller and Wilhelmina Stevenson, as well as James’ brother George W. Stevenson living with them.) When the Stevensons moved to Colorado, Willa received letters from at least two of the daughters in the Allen family. The Allen family was, by this time, large and complicated. Robert Gibson Allen had married Eliza A. Daggett in 1865, and they had eight children before her death in 1883. That same year, he married Bertha Zimmerman Drollinger, a Pennsylvania native who had arrived in Kansas with her first husband after having been to Colorado, where their older daughter, Viola, was born in 1876. Della, their younger daughter was born in 1878 in Kansas. Phillip Gottlieb Drollinger died in 1880, leaving his widow with two very young daughters. They became part of the blended family when Robert and Bertha married. Robert and Bertha also had two more children together.
In August of 1893, Della Drollinger and Ella Allen, step sisters, both wrote to Willa, apparently sharing an envelope to send the notes (IHM 2016.17.267a-c). At fifteen and eleven, they were bored in the summer heat. Della was plaintive: “It is so lonesome since you folks moved away. Was over to Mrs. Blotcher’s one evening and that is all the visiting we have done since you moved away besides up to see Evalyn.” Evalyn was one of their friends who had died on July 24 of that year, of what may have been tuberculosis. Della and her sister, “Vi,” had been among her all-girl pall bearers. Further proof that teenage girls on the plains did not lead sheltered lives lies in the bald statement, with no other commentary, “Louise Petersons lost her baby.” The younger Ella complained of the heat and reported on family comings and goings. Her baby half-sister, Silva, “can talk a little now.” Both signed off with declarations of friendship and admonitions to “Answer soon.”
A decade later, the bond between Willa and the Allens was still part of her life. Four of the Allen sisters sent squares for her quilt. We do not know if they sent them from Kansas, where they still lived in 1900, or from Oregon, where Mr. and Mrs. Allen had moved by 1910. The latter census shows Ella, Sylva, and siblings Florence and their youngest brother, Andrew, living together in Suver, Polk County, Oregon. Photographs of both Ella and Florence are included with their entries in the Findagrave database online.
Ella F. Allen May 23 –Ella Findley Allen’s birthday is recorded in Ancestry.com as March 24; either the date she inscribed on the quilt was not her birthday, or we are misreading something. She was born in 1882 in Garrison, Pottawatamie County, Kansas, the youngest child of Robert and his first wife, Eliza, Allen. In 1912 she would marry Frank Ackerman in Oregon. They had two daughters before she died of cancer in 1930.
L. Sylvia Allen November 9, 1892 — was twelve when she contributed her square. Her full formal name appears in records as Lucille Sylvana Allen. She was the little sister “Silva” just learning to talk a decade earlier. She would marry Edmund Martin Parker in 1917, and they would live out their lives in Oregon. She died in 1980.
Florence E. Allen December 18 — Florence was Silva’s older full sister, born on this day in 1888, also in Kansas. After making the move to Oregon with her parents and siblings, she married David Haman Lewis in 1911 in Polk County. They had a son, Gayle, the following year. When their marriage ended in divorce, Gayle was raised by his aunt Silva and her husband. Florence died in 1981 in Portland, Oregon.
L. Allen December 9 — Luella Allen was Ella’s full sister, born on December 9, 1870, in Illinois, shortly before her family moved to Kansas. She also moved to Oregon, where she spent her adult years, and would marry William Arle Cummings.
The Allen sisters have been tantalizing research subjects for several reasons. Not only do they represent the friendships formed by the Stevensons in Kansas, but they also have surnames that might or might not link them with Issaquah families represented on the quilt. Martha Stewart Bush’s mother was an Allen, and her family settled in Oregon. There are Gibson women who made squares. A day’s worth of research online, however, has turned up no solid connections between these Allens and either the other Allen family (related to the Bushes) or any Issaquah Gibsons.
Mrs. ? A. Allen –Mrs. Allen may or may not have been related to the Allen sisters. The signature on the quilt is faded to the point where we cannot read whether “A.” is her first initial or a middle one. And is “A.” her own initial, or is it her husband’s?
And then there are the women of mystery.
Eleven more people contributed squares. Some used their full surnames, but we have no information form women with those names. Others only put their initials on their squares, and we have been unable to identify people with those initials and birthdays.
E.B.T. November 1, 1880 – This set of initials is especially frustrating because it matches the signature, on a postcard sent from Vallejo, California two years later (IHM 2016.17.248). Sent to Mrs. J.J. Eastlick, the sender acknowledged having received a letter and a post card and promised, “Will write soon. Best wishes and love, from E.B.T.” No further information is given.
The women whose names do not match up with any records in our collections are as follows:
S.A. Bailey 1845
Mrs. T. B. Norton January 6, 1883
Mabel McMullen November 8
Mrs. F. V. Olsen (or Olive—the lettering on the quilt is very unclear) October 5
Mrs. M. Cass
Finally, those who only used initials are the most mysterious of all:
E. I. December 9
M. H. January 20, 1886
Whether we know much about some of the individuals or not, it is clear that Willa’s quilt represented a cross section of settlers, in Issaquah or Kansas. Old or young, they were connected to her life as it had been, and many would remain so as she moved forward into marriage.