Story of the 1917 Chestermere ‘Red Cross’ Quilt

According to Chestermere a Home for All Seasons,  the history book published about the Chestermere area in 2005 ( p 193-194) in 1917 the women of Chestermere created a quilt as a fundraiser for WWI veterans of the area.  The women sold squares, the 70 x 96″quilt was made with red rectangles and on the white ones, were embroidered the 196 names of the donors.  The quilt was auctioned off for $300, being won by the Mel Brown family.  

In June of 2019 a show of Red Cross Quilts was mounted and shown at The Military Museums “Quilting for a Cause, Red Cross Quilts of the Great War.”  The curator, Heather Smith, explained that quilts like this Chestermere one were done all across Canada, and the monies donated to the Red Cross. Hence the colour and the name ‘Red Cross Quilt.’    This article from Active History webpage, describes the story behind similar quilts made around WWI and WWII. 

In 2012 the Chestermere Historical Foundation and the Chestermere Lakeside Quilt Guild partnered to create a replica of this quilt.  With the fine work of the Lakeside quilters, this was completed in the summer of 2014 and unveiled at Chestermere Arts Days September 2014 at the Chestermere  Regional Recreation Centre.  This new quilt along with the original one, have both been registered with the Alberta Quilt Study Society, the replica entered into the files on 25 October 2015 # 3-0256.  You can view the tag attached showing the registration number.

In 2021 the original  Chestermere Red Cross Quilt was selected from files Of The Alberta Quilt Study Society to be included in Alberta Quiltmakers and their Quilts by Lucie Heins. The book Alberta Quiltmakers and their Quilts   is available online or at some quilt shops.

Join a virtual Book Launch for Alberta Quiltmakers and their Quilts on Thursday, March 3 2022 at 7 pm on Zoom. A presentation by author Lucie Heins will be followed by a live audience Q & A. Learn more and register for this free event.

For a preview of the book, watch a video with author Lucie Heins. She shares how the book came to be and gives a sneak peek of some of the incredible stories found inside.  Here is a link to more about this book.  Quilting Book – FRAMS

And as of November 2017, one can view the replica quilt hanging on the ceiling of the Chestermere Library just near the Children’s area outside the Community Room.  With thanks to Lorraine and Dave Webster for creating the backing and hanging mechanism.

The story of the quilt was written by Joe Bowhay, grandson of Mel Brown, who now with his wife Wanda own the quilt.  According to Joe…

“To the best of my knowledge”

Was made approximately 1917 by ladies in the Chestermere area, surely Mary Jane was one of them as we know she was involved in many ladies organizations.

For a fee (?) [we think it might have been $3] you could have your name embroidered on it and upon completion, the quilt was auctioned off and the funds raised were used to support WW1 veterans. Mel placed the highest bid and the quilt has remained in the Brown lineage. There are 196 names on the quilt including those of the entire Brown family and many other recognizable names from the area.

My first glimpse of the quilt came in 1971 while helping Grampa (Mel) move from his Briar Hill home in Calgary to a seniors facility and I quickly lost track of it for the next 30+ years.

To my knowledge, the quilt was rarely, if ever, on display and my inquiries over the years to many family members were met with bewilderment as they either didn’t know or didn’t remember the quilt I was describing.

It wasn’t until 2004 when Wanda & I received a call from my Aunt, Elizabeth Townsend, Mel & Ethel’s youngest child, and she presented us with this heirloom for safe keeping.

Currently the quilt is registered with the “Alberta Quilt Study Society” ref # 3-0041

“The Alberta Quilt Project” at the “Royal Alberta Museum”, Lucie Heins, Assistant Curator, Western Canadian History, has shown interest in the quilt as part of their “Signature Quilts” exhibit.

Joe Bowhay  Sept. 27, 2014. “

If you would like to read more about the 2019 Quilting for a Cause exhibit at the Military Museums in Calgary go here. 

Alberta Quilt Discovery Project Registration 2015 and provenance of replica “Red Cross Quilt”.
Joyce Hodgson showing her family name.
Joe and Wanday Bowhay with Jen Peddlesden. Original quilt on table, replica hanging.

Close up of the Red Cross Quilt replica showing a few of the embroidered names of local Chestermere pioneers.
November 2017 Quilt is hung in Chestermere Library by Dave and Lorraine Webster ( provided all hanging materials) with help from CHF President Jen Peddlesden and husband Bill.
These quilts will be hanging at The Military Museum until September 2nd, 2019

This is a photo of the list of all names which are on the quilt both the original and the replica. It is taken from Chestermere a Home for all Seasons page 194. 

Chestermere Historical Foundation
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