Signings of Joplin resident Edith Svenson's book "Friendship Quilt" led to impromptu reunions and a chance to reminisce about times past.
Four people sat down to a game of pinochle at a book signing in Gildford, Svenson said.
"I suppose I know every single person on there," 85-year-old Laura Aageson said while looking at the quilt that hung in the Havre-Hill County Library on Saturday for a second book signing. The quilt, which was the subject of Svenson's book, contains the name of Aageson, formerly Laura Miller, along with 329 others that were stitched there 75 years ago.
It was sewn in 1930 by the Fairchild Lutheran Ladies Aid to raise money for charity. Svenson guesses that people paid to have their names included and for a chance to win the quilt. Svenson's mother, Constance Ergenbright, won the quilt and it has stayed in the family since.
Five years ago Svenson began a history of Fairchild, a now defunct town north of Gildford, using the quilt as her main source. She wrote about each name she could find, asking for reminiscences from family members and noting major dates. She estimated there were only about five names she could not track down at all. When Svenson could not find the person or the person's family, she did the research herself, combing through county records, reviewing old newspapers, and even walking through cemeteries.
Svenson printed 200 copies of her book and has sold 155 so far, 40 in Gildford alone, she said.
Visitors to Svenson's two book signings last week were people whose names appeared on the quilt, had family members on the quilt, or were interested in the regional history described in Svenson's book.
They brought that history with them to the book signings.
"We did not know about Fairchild because there was the river here and no bridge," Betty Flechsig recalled. Flechsig is from Simpson, across the Milk River from Fairchild.
Flechsig's husband, Walt Flechsig, said he knew about Fairchild growing up, but agreed the river was an obstacle.
"We didn't associate with them because of the river," he said. At times a bridge existed but was swept away.
Walt Flechsig remembered another kind of obstacle homesteaders faced. For Flechsig's father, moving wheat to Gildford was a three-day round-trip.
"He stayed at this lady's parents,'" he said, gesturing toward Aageson, whose father, Henry Miller, sheltered Flechsig's father.
The Miller house was halfway between Simpson and Gildford. With a full load of wheat, it was a two-day trip to town, but only a one-day trip back without a load.
Laura Rathbone told the people gathered in Havre on Saturday that even a trip to church could be treacherous.
Rathbone's mother, Sena Almos, along with Lutheran pastor Nils Magelssen and his wife, Haldra, nearly lost their lives when they were caught in a blizzard, she said. The three wandered blindly in the night but survived, though Almos lost a foot as a result.
Rathbone laughed again Saturday at what must be a decades-old family joke, the idea of the Lutheran minister being taken to the Catholic hospital. The couple, she said, escaped without major injury.
Some names on the quilt can be connected to regional and national history, Svenson said. One person on the quilt, Wilma Yeats, is related to writer William Butler Yeats and to the founder of Great Falls, Paris Gibson.
Another man was said to have known Abraham Lincoln, Svenson said.
As Aageson and Flechsig recalled the connection between their two families, they said they also regretted the history that was lost because they never asked their own parents to tell it.
"When you're young, you're too busy making a living," Flechsig said. "When you get older, you start thinking about history."
The two congratulated Svenson on her effort.
She told them the small town of Fairchild is remembered in one other way besides her book. Svenson's son Mark farms the old family homestead and named it Fairchild Farm, she said. The entrance to the farm is across the road from the location of the old post office.