Cecelia Pearl Bryant and her Singer treadle sewing machine

This is the third in my 10-part series about women ancestors and needlework called The Stitches We Leave Behind.

Cecelia Pearl Bryant 1887 - 1971

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 Pearl Bryant and William Wirrig 1913

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.

Cecelia with her pet bird Toby sitting on her head.

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.

15 thoughts on “Cecelia Pearl Bryant and her Singer treadle sewing machine”

  1. A very cool vignette about your great grandmother — she sounds like an amazing woman and role model! Curious, do you still sew? I have just one of my great-grandmother’s quilts (a mess) and some of the things I sewed as a child with my mother…. fun to look at!

    1. My sewing is part 10 of 10, although now I’m thinking I need to add a part 11 for my daughter. . .the last thing I’ve sewn was a project Anna actually worked on with me, a baby quilt for my grandson before he was born.

    1. I actually wrote this a couple of years ago as a final project for a Women’s Studies class I was taking. But I’m revising them a little now, and enjoying revisiting them. It’s nice to shine the light on women in genealogy. So many times they get lost in the mix.

    1. I’m really glad you like it Kathy. I put it up because I was grasping for something easy to write about during this difficult time. I don’t know how much interest is out there, but much of what my ancestors experienced, I believe other women ancestors also experienced. So it readers might be able to relate.

  2. Great story, looking forward to the rest of the series. I was allowed to pedal my grandmother’s treddle at a very young age, but only when my mother wasn’t there, and then only if I kept my hands flat on the table above, at the time I had no idea what what was hidden inside. 🙂

  3. Love the bird in her hair. Reminds me of a parakeet I had. And the old Singer cabinet! Those were a staple ‘back in the day.’

    1. Did you have a parakeet that you could hold? Our yellow parakeet, Buddy, would get on my finger if I put it under him in the cage, but once he was out of the cage, he would fly off of it.


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