This is the third in my 10-part series about women ancestors and needlework called The Stitches We Leave Behind.
The real story of sewing in my father’s family starts with Mary Katherine’s oldest daughter, Cecelia Pearl Bryant, who was a quilter and kept a quilting frame in her dining room, folded up and pushed against the wall when it wasn’t in use.
Cecelia Pearl Bryant was born October 6, 1887 in Kentucky. Her family moved to the Salina, Ohio area when she was six years old. She was the oldest of nine children. Her name was Ora Pearl originally, but she changed it to Cecelia when she converted to Catholicism. Her family and friends called her Pearl.
When she was 22 years old, Cecelia Pearl had a son out of wedlock. She had worked for a family named Hall. According to my great aunt Agnes, Mrs. Hall was either pregnant, was in the hospital, or was deceased. Cecelia later went to court to prove paternity. She named her son Louis Hall. But according to my great uncle Ben, she never talked about Louie’s father.
Cecelia moved to the city of Piqua and got a job in the mills, sewing, to support herself and her son. Later she worked at an underwear factory, the Hosiery. Cecelia met William Wirrig who was from a farming family north of Piqua. They were married on November 6, 1913. My father’s mother, my grandmother, was their first child.
Times were difficult when Cecelia and William were raising their family. But although money was scarce, Cecelia always tried to give the children a nice Christmas. She would make doll dresses for the girls. A car accident and arthritis eventually prevented Cecelia from being able to walk later in life.
My father remembers, “She used to sew and sew and sew. And talk to her bird.”
I never knew my great-grandmother Cecelia quilted until recently. I don’t have anything that she made. I hope to locate one of her quilts some day.
I do have the treadle sewing machine that my great-grandmother Cecelia Pearl Bryant Wirrig used at home. My sister and I used to sew doll clothes, that we designed ourselves, on it when we were young. Too bad I didn’t save some of those gems.
See The Stitches We Leave Behind under the Series tab above for more links in this 10-part series.