The mystery of the Queensborough quilts: does it sound like an installation in the Nancy Drew series? (Some readers thought a post from last fall, “The mystery of the old steps,” did.) Anyway, this is not about Nancy Drew. It’s about one of the great figures in mid- and late-20th-century Queensborough history, Goldie Holmes.
I’m pretty sure almost everyone who lives in the Queensborough area knows who I mean by Goldie Holmes, but for those from elsewhere: Goldie was our village’s famous “Quilt Lady.” Her quilts showing local buildings and scenes were folk art par excellence, and were recognized as such by artists, galleries and collectors. Her work was well-enough known that Goldie was the subject of a CBC-TV program back in the 1980s, when host Sylvia Tyson interviewed her about her life and work. You can read all about it, and find a link to the CBC show, in my post here, from last December.
In addition to all that, Goldie and her husband, Art, were my family’s kitty-corner neighbours in Queensborough. And they were very, very nice people.
Okay, so what’s the mystery? Well, I’ll tell you.
That first December post I did about Goldie was followed by a second one, titled “Goldie’s famous Queensborough quilt, and its narrow escape.” It recounted how Goldie’s most well-known work, a quilt featuring prominent houses and other buildings in Queensborough, had at one point been destined for the home of a collector in the United States but, through a happy twist of fate and the kindness of strangers, ended up instead at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, just a few miles from Queensborough. There it is on display so that local residents and visitors can admire and appreciate Goldie’s work. (You can read the whole story here.) I particularly love that quilt because two of the buildings featured on it are St. Andrew’s United Church and – the Manse!
But wait! Wait just a minute! Mystery alert!
It seems the quilt now on display at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre is not Goldie’s only “Queensborough quilt.” How did I stumble on this conclusion? It was thanks to a photo I came across while flipping through the local history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township the other day. There was Goldie in front of her Queensborough quilt, and I stopped flipping to admire it – only to realize that it’s not the same quilt as the one on display at the heritage centre.
Look at the bottom row of panels in the black and white photo: on the left is Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay‘s general store, and on the right is McMurray’s. From this I think I am safe in guessing that this was the first Queensborough quilt, because the two stores were probably the most important buildings in the village. (Though it seems strange – mysterious, even – that St. Andrew’s United Church, which at the time Goldie made these quilts was the last church in the village still open, and was very much a hub of the community – should only have put in an appearance on a follow-up quilt.)
So here are the questions I am left with:
- How many Queensborough quilts were there? Obviously at least two; were there more?
- What order did Goldie do them in?
- And the most important question of all: where is that other quilt? Is it preserved? Is it safe? Is it (perish the thought) lost?