Unsigned … Three Mystery Quilt Blocks

DSC00210Three of the quilt blocks in this set from 1934 are unsigned. Everyone else signed their names to their blocks. These three, one female block and two male blocks, have no identifying name stitched on them.

My thoughts are these three blocks represent an Amish or Mennonite family in the Athelstan area. The vivid, bright solid colors used (red, black, and blue) are similar to the fabrics used in Amish quilts.

Also, having no names is consistent with the beliefs of not creating graven images of themselves. According to http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com/amish-dolls.html, in talking about the traditional faceless Amish cloth dolls, states, “Likewise, depicting these traditional Amish crafts sans face, discourages individuality over the common good of the Amish community.”

Although Pennsylvania and Indiana are more commonly known for the Amish/Mennonite communities, Iowa also has a fairly large Amish and Mennonite population. Mennonite’s moved into Iowa in the mid 1800’s. New Market, which is 28 miles from Athelstan, had a Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church that incorporated in 1894.

DSC00222With no names to trace, these three unsigned blocks will remain a mystery. All we know for sure is that this family knew Nellie Morris and her family in 1934.


Information on Amish/Mennonite communities in Iowa from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (www.gameo.org) follows:

“By 1839 the wave of Mennonite westward migration had reached Iowa, when John C. Krehbiel from the Palatinate settled in West Point Township, Lee County. By 1845 enough settlers had located there to make it possible to organize a church (General Conference Mennonite), but this was postponed until 1849 because of the murder of their minister. In 1850 they completed the building of their new church, the first Mennonite meeting house in Iowa.”

“By far the largest Iowa Amish and Mennonite settlement, established in 1846, was the one in Johnson and the bordering counties of Iowa and Washington. Their church was organized with 27 members by Joseph Goldsmith of Lee County in 1851. The 16 congregations of the settlement in 1953 had over 2,850 members. At first the Johnson County group adhered strictly to the Amish discipline, but during the late 1870s a more liberal element withdrew from the Old Order. Since then, a majority has joined the more liberal Amish Mennonite or Mennonite (MC) churches, and the Johnson County Old Order membership in 1953 was only 464.”

“The Shambaugh, Iowa, Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church was organized first as a Brethren in Christ congregation, but joined the Mennonite Brethren in Christ conference after 1883. Near by was the New Market Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church, incorporated 12 May 1894. Their third church is the one at Trenton in Henry County. This latter church, organized during the 1880s, became one of the first members of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Conference, founded in 1883. Later another congregation was established in Council Bluffs and in the mid-20th century the Grace Missionary Church (UMC) was organized in Iowa City.”


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