Bownes, Bownes and more Bownes

qs_Maxine BownesAlmost 80 years ago, in 1934 to be exact, this set of thirty quilt squares was created. Athelstan was a small rural town in Iowa, much like many others as American was spreading its tentacles across the vast land towards the West.

Six Bownes family members stitched their names on muslin squares, leaving a lasting memory of their lives. As with many families in rural environments, family links are intertwined. Oftentimes two sisters married two brothers, friends married cousins and widows and widowers married siblings of their first spouse.

Long, long ago, Euphrastus Bownes (1851-1928) married Eliza Jane Hayes (1858-1938). They had many children and raised the family in Athelstan, Iowa.

Eliza Jane Bownes has a quilt square in this set, an Overall Bill design, signed as Mrs. E.J. Bownes,  Eliza’s daughter, Georgia (Bownes) Older also has a quilt square here, a Sunbonnet Sue in the same red and red calico print fabrics and with the same stitching as her mother’s square.

qs_Evelyn BownesEliza’s son, Fred, married Susie and their two daughters, Evelyn Bownes (age 9) and Maxine Bownes (age 19), each made squares to add to the collection for Doris’ Christmas gift. Evelyn chose the Sunbonnet Sue, while Maxine crafted an Overall Bill, both using the same pink cotton and calico print fabrics.

Charles Bownes, and Minnie & Josie Bownes, also had squares in this set. Lacking a few genealogy trails, I haven’t connected these three to the correct Bownes families yet.

Euphrastus Bownes brother, Franklin H., married Francis May Kemery. Francis’ cousin, Sarah, married Charles Bownes at some point. Francis’ other cousin, Alonzo, sister to Sarah, married Katie Kemery and their daughter was Norma Gean Kemery. Both Katie Kemery and Norma Gene Kemery are represented, Katie by an appliquéd Sunbonnet Sue in pinks, and Norma Gene by an Overall Bill in reds and blacks.

Out of a set of 30 squares, 9 names are related, or linked, to the Bownes family.

It’s a twisted, convoluted genealogy trail to follow. I’m attributing a few of my gray hairs to trying to trace these people from 80 years ago, people walking this earth 25 years before I was born. (Eliza Jane Bownes was born a hundred years before me. Life has changed a lot since then!) Yet I feel as if our paths have crossed in some odd fashion. Today we’re remembering Eliza Jane, Evelyn, Maxine, Charles, Minnie, and Josie Bownes, Georgia Older, and Katie and Norma Gene Kemery; the children they were and the adults and parents they grew up to be, leaving their imprints in calico connections.



  1. Really cool information!
    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

    • Thanks Shelly. These Athelstan people have become an adopted family to me.

  2. Charles, Minnie and Josie Bownes are children of Fred and Ida (Rusco) Bownes. Minnie and Josie have been gone for several years. Charles just passed away on Sunday. Charles was my Grandpa.

    • I’m so sorry to hear of your grandfather’s passing. His death must leave a large hole in your heart.
      I’m glad to hear how these Bownes are connected to the others. Thank you for sharing that information.
      Our Internet is out right now. I hope it’s back up by tomorrow. Then I’ll post the quilt square picture that was made to represent your grandfather.
      Last year (August 2014) I donated the quilt blocks to the Taylor county historical museum in Bedford. If you’re anywhere near there, you can stop in and see his square in person.

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