Finding the family Mariner Compass Quilt – Part I

It was a beautiful fall day as I eagerly drove to introduce myself  along with my two aunt’s Betty and Mary to visit a distant relative in Oklahoma that I had never met before. Through a series of events, I had discovered that she held in possession a quilt that had been passed down through the generations…in the famous Mariner Compass quilt pattern.


Lil Marshall and me

What a delight to make my acquaintance with this spry and gracious 95 year old relative who was a girl after my own heart – she loved quilts. We chatted endlessly about this beautiful quilt and the maker Almrya Turner Wallace my Great Great Great Grandmother.

Mariner’s Compass is the name quilters use to refer to star designs that radiate from the center of a circle as opposed to the star designs that grow from a square, like Ohio Star or Sawtooth Star. If you are going to call your design a Mariner’s Compass it should probably have 16 or 32 points like the compass card on a magnetic compass or a map. Barbara Brackman says that this is one of the earliest named quilting designs in America.

Mariners Compass Pattern Quilt

Mariners Compass Pattern Quilt

“Although the design source is lost in history it probably had something to do with the design as seen on navigational maps. Certainly there is a large proportion of existing antique quilts from the Atlantic Coast area made with this design. Any quilter who is interested in this design would benefit from a study of sailing charts as far back as the 16th century,” says Quilt Designer Judy Mathieson for Woman’s Day.

Here’s what I learned about the history on this quilt:  Almyra Turner was born in October 1836 and came to Texas at the age of 3 when it was still a Republic. By the time she was fifteen years old, she was quilting. She was married twice first to Mr Buie and then to my Great Great Great Grandfather John Wallace.   Her daughter, Effie Wallace Marshall received the quilt upon her death and it has been in the care of the Marshall family since 1909. One hundred years!

4 Comment(s)

  1. Lil Marshall went to be with the Lord this week. I’m so glad to have made the trip with my aunts to meet this wonderful lady. She was a great keeper of the family heirloom. We send our prayers to the Marshall family during this time.

    tanya | Mar 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Oh Tanya, I’m so happy you took the opportunity to meet Lil Marshall last fall!

    Who is new keeper of the family heirloom now? To whom will this beautiful quilt be passed down to?

    Ellene | Mar 10, 2009 | Reply

  3. Yes I’m so thankful to have made the trip to meet Lil and her family. It was a great time to visit and share stories of family history. Hope to return and visit her son and daughter-in-love(law) someday soon. I believe her son is the keeper of the heirloom now.

    tanya | Mar 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. Tanya

    I saw the announcement about your return to political life. Congratulations, the county would do well to re-elect you.

    You should visit the National quilt museum here in Paducah. There are some amazing quilts on display.

    gary adkisson | Nov 18, 2009 | Reply

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