PUNGOTEAGUE QUILT

AMERICAN RED CROSS QUILT

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STORY OF THE QUILT

On 5 January 1918, this notice appeared on page 5 of the Peninsula Enterprise.


Less than a month later, on 2 February the paper included an invitation to see the completed quilt on display at the Red Cross Headquarters of the Pungoteague Branch.





The quilt was made by Ella Susan, Mrs Smith Kendall Martin (1858-1950) of Harborton, Accomack County, Virginia, and presented to Pungoteague Branch of the Eastern Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross. Ella’s husband had farmed in Pungoteague but by the turn of the century he was running a lumber business in Pungoteague.

The names on the quilt were written by Dion George Agathoin (1857-1920); Canadian by birth, he had come to the Eastern Shore in the 1870s. It seems he had an aptitude for careful hand work as he was awarded a premium at the Grange Fair, Accomack in September 1885 for ‘scroll work’. Around the time the quilt was made, he was a bookkeeper for a lumber company, possibly Smith Kendall Martin’s business.

The names to be inscribed on the quilt were collected by Nellie B, Mrs J H Hiden (1868-1964). Nellie was the wife of Dr Joseph Hart Hiden, a physician in Pungoteague for over thirty years.

The newspaper report of 2 February indicates that $60.00 had already been received. A further $75.00 had been pledged by the time the quilt was complete. The organizing committee comprised Henrietta Adalaide, Mrs C B Mears (1876-1961), Lois Emma, Mrs R S Bull (1877-1949) and Albertine French, Mrs Stanley D Ames (1893-1982).

It is not known whether President Wilson and his wife personally contributed the 50 cents for their names and address.

Despite the reference in the press cutting above to the “Franco-American Hospital”, according to the message in block F10 of the quilt, it was intended to be hung in the Virginia Room of the Anglo-American Hospital at Wimereux, France. This is believed to refer to the British Red Cross Hospital No 5, also known at Lady Hadfield’s Hospital.

On September 21st 1918, the Peninsula Enterprise published a letter from Sarah Humphrys, secretary of Lady Hadfield’s hospital acknowledging receipt of the Red Cross quilt.

It is likely that Mrs Taylor is Cleve Estelle Taylor née Martin, daughter of Mrs Smith Kendall Martin.

Sarah Humphrys indicated in her letter that she was not able to give any statistics about the hospital as it was not permitted to do so. After the end of the war, “The Hospital” of 12th July 1919 published by the Hospital & Institutional News included an item about the Lady Hadfield hospital; opening on 2 December 1914 it received over 3,000 British officers, 36 American officers and 10,657 non-commissioned officers and men. Quite an achievement for for a ‘busy little hospital’ with a staff of 23!


No evidence has been found of how the quilt came to Britain nor how it comes to be part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, UK.

Images courtesy of Newspapers.com

Image courtesy of virginiachronicle.com