Lowe cousins’ quilt projects to debut at show
HUGHESVILLE – A show scheduled for the first weekend in March and hosted by the Susquehanna Valley Quilt Guild (SVQG) will feature quilts made by nine local cousins to honor common ancestor, S. Jane (Smith) Lowe (1852-1935). Dubbed the “Lowe Cousins’ Quilt Projects,” the results became more than just assembling fabrics, but also making the the journey that the activity took them.
The idea for the project evolved from a late 1920’s quilt made by Jane Lowe for great-granddaughter, Arlene Bartlow. Recently, Bartlow passed the red and yellow covering on to the stewardship of cousin, E. Ann (Smith) Burke.
At the time, it was believed to be the ancestor’s only handiwork to survive the decades. It was then the idea was born to produce quilts in her honor. Jane’s descendants were solicited into the project that resulted in nine of the relatives who agreed to participate. Representing four of the seven family branches are: Ruth Wallis, Cindy Mueller and Emily Shultz from Muncy; Nancy Jarrett, Elimsport; Barb Reese and Carol Shetler from Hughesville; Ann Burke, New Cumberland; Linda Hartley, Pennsdale; and Brenda Bock, State College.
Last February, the cousins met for a three day ‘sew-in’ at Montoursville’s quilt shop, The Gathering Place. For continuity, each was provided three identical fabric selections to which they added their individual stashes from their private collections. It wasn’t all work, for breaks were taken to eat meals out with one excursion leading to a Lewisburg tea room.
During the process, some met for the first time while others were acquainted, but hadn’t realized they were related. Five were already members of the local quilt guild.
The quilters each made nine blocks and in July met for a quilt block exchange at Moreland Baptist Church. In the fall, they gathered again to compare progress, share tips and attend a local quilt show. Though the blocks are the same, the results are very different and are a lesson in placement and color.
As time progressed, word of the group’s efforts circulated among other relatives, and more of the ancestors’ works were identified. One is a blue and yellow quilt handed down through the generations to Penelope Shetler, while 15 unattached blocks came into the possession of Nancy Jarrett.
Questions about the ancestor no one knew were broached whenever the group met. Only Ruth Wallis was born before Jane Lowe’s death, but was too young to remember.
From research and interviews with relatives now long gone, Carol Shetler was able to piece together some basic facts. Jane (Smith) Lowe was the daughter of Jonathan David and Elizabeth Houseknecht Smith of Franklin Township. She wed Robert Lowe, a farmer and lumberman, and the couple resided on a farm originally part of her parent’s estate. Current owners are Charles and Connie Smith.
Jane’s closest sibling in age was the late Hester Farnsworth and the two were remembered for baking the lightest, most delicious angel food cakes, hand whipped in those days. It had also been quoted that Jane “switched every hickory nut tree between North Mountain and Turbotville,” supposedly gathering nut meats for desserts. Jane’s reason for traveling between the two areas was to visit immediate family members. Blocks pieced by Barb Reese and Emily Shultz are of baskets.
A buggy appliqued to a country scene fabric was fashioned by Carol Shetler, for surely Jane’s mode of travel was by horse and buggy. To accentuate family ties, two cousins chose the “Tree of Life” pattern, an applique by Ann Burke and a pieced pattern of a tree by Nancy Jarrett.
Jane’s husband died in 1918 and is buried in Moreland Lutheran Cemetery. Growing to adulthood the couple’s children were Jonathan, Nelson, Zaney, Rosa Bartlow, Capatola “Cappy” Gray, Julia Houseknecht, and Phoebe Gardner. Deceased children were Emma and Amanda who are both buried in Old Lairdsville Cemetery, the same plot as their mother.
After the husband’s death, Jane resided in Moreland Township in a home currently owned by June and the late Brady Lowe, the latter being Jane’s youngest grandchild. According to her obituary, she died in Muncy at the East Water Street home of Phoebe and Samuel Gardner, her daughter and son-in-law.
Excitement is growing among the cousins and the upcoming SVQG show with Nancy Jarrett as chairperson. Jane’s quilts will be displayed along with the newest ones, adding another chapter to the Lowe family history. The cousins can’t help but wonder if 77 years after her demise, Jane Lowe would be proud of their efforts.