Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Giles Girls

When I think of quilts, I always think of the Giles sisters.

My mother had cousins she and her siblings called the "Giles girls." Three of the girls never married. One of their specialties was quilt making. In one of the bedrooms in their country home (near Fayetteville) there was a stack of beautiful quilts that reached all the way to the ceiling. Not just an eight foot ceiling, but a country ceiling! And the platform that held the quilts was just a few inches off the floor.

When I went with my family to visit as a child, we were always awestruck to see such a mountainous stack of quilts. And they were folded only once, and the corners matched perfectly

Whenever anyone mentioned the Giles sister, someone would say, "I wonder whatever happened to all those quilts." I do not know. With no children nor grandchildren to wear the quilts out sleeping on the floor, they may be heirlooms in some home.
Hopefully some of the nieces or nephews have them.

Mama loved and respected her Giles cousins and had played with them as a child so we visited as often as possible even though we lived some distance apart.

I remember them in our home a few times. The family lore is full of stories of the perculiarity of the "Giles girls." On one of their visits to our house, we were all sitting around at bedtime in the "sitting room - bedroom."

The slop jar had already been brought in. I do not remember all the circumstances but my four year old nephew was asleep on one of the beds. Lula said to Mama, in her slow speech typical of the Hollywood stereotype of the Southern drawl, "Eula do you think it would be alright for me to use the slop jar with that little boy in the room."

The Giles sisters were perfect housekeepers. Their country house was said to be so so clean one could "eat off the floor." I am sure no one ever did!

Annie (1885-1975) and Lula (1882-1956)were in charge of the cooking and Pearl (1888-1978)did much of the work in the large garden. They raised their own vegetables for year round use. They canned vegetables and dried fruits for winter use. I remember sitting at their table one time as a child with bowls of vegetables and a huge platter of fresh sliced country tomatoes. I do not remember much about the rest of the menu, but no doubt they also had fried chicken and perhaps another meat dish as a typical "company" dinner in the rural South.

Their mother, Aunt Elmira (Elmira Mask Giles 1854_1940)) was a sister
to Mama's mother, Elizabeth Mask Dick. Elmira and Elizabeth were the daughters of the properous (for the times) farmer and Methodist preacher Bogan Mask. They could (and did ) trace their (our) family history back to the Revolution. Family history was important as "Class" was valued in the South with so many other things "gone with the wind" after the Civil War.
One of the Giles daughters had married, and their only brother had married; but Annie, Pearl, and Lula never married. When Mama and her sisters, Aunt Molly, Aunt Cora and Aunt Fannie visited together, they sometimes remarked about how "pitiful" it was that the Giles girls had never married. Marriage for women was considered of utmost importance then. So it follows that some of the Women's liberation generation rebelled in the opposite direction.

Aunt Cora pointed out that the reason the Giles girls did not marry was because their papa, Uncle William Giles )1859-1826) was so "peculiar." They said Uncle Bill Giles was "curious".

This did not mean the dictionary reference for the word as eager to learn or inquisitive.
Uncle Bill, they reported was " flat out cure-rus" which meant strange.. He would never let his daughters date. It was said that he "ran off" every man who showed an interest in courting one of his daughters.

It seems that the youngest daughter, had "run off and got married."

It is strange and of little importance to me now but my mother told us on more than one occasion, when we were "poor as church mice" during the Great Depression, "we came from good stock.
.But life goes on. God bless the memory of these dear Giles sisters who were such a fascinating part of my childhood.


Joan said...

What a shame that those quilts are unaccounted for. I hope someone found a great bargain and is cherishing a handmade quilt of unknown (to them) origin. I love this story.

Carol said...

I enjoyed reading this story, too. It just made me realize anew that all the "heirlooms" we cherish today will be nothing more than meaningless knicknacks in another 50 - 100 years . . . or less.

Lyn said...

I hope that someone who values them has the quilts. Quilts were so personal then, being made from fabric of outgrown clothes and other material used around the house. They often seem to "tell" the family's story. said...

Thanks so much for the post, really effective data.

mitzi said...

I just discovered your blog last night and I am really blessed by it... Thank you so much for sharing your stories and encouraging us in the Lord!