MEADVILLE — David Underhill was clearing land that he had bought in what today is Huron County, Ohio, when he learned that the British and their American Indian allies were nearby.
It was 1812, and Underhill and a handful of other settlers were ready to flee south when they learned that the nearby army was actually the U.S. Army commanded by William Hull.
Underhill’s story of making a home in territory disputed by two armies is celebrated in a quilt that will be on display at Meadville’s Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum beginning today. The quilt is part of a traveling exhibit of 26 War of 1812-themed quilts.
The War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Exhibit features 30-by-70-inch “cot-to-coffin” quilts made in 18 states and three Canadian provinces.
Each quilt is true to the period in terms of the patterns, colors and fabrics used, said Kara Dunn, of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, which sponsors the traveling exhibit.
Many of the quilts also tell a story of the war and the people involved. Interpretive panels accompany the quilts to share their stories.
Cambridge Springs quilt artist Jill Meszaros researched her family history for inspiration for the “Underhill Tree of Life” quilt that she made for the exhibit.
She thought about David Underhill’s wife, at home in eastern New York state in 1812, while she stitched.
“I envisioned her at home with the children while he was making a new home for them in Ohio, working on a quilt to pass the lonely hours without him,” Meszaros said.
Every quilt, new and old, is a history lesson, Meszaros said.
“They tie us to the past and to women just like us but living in a different time period, women who expressed themselves in fabric and thread,” she said.
Meszaros’ quilt won second place in People’s Choice balloting during the exhibit opening in Sackets Harbor, N.Y., this spring.
Meszaros will lecture on quilting styles of the 1812 era during the exhibit. Linda Bolla, of the Erie Maritime Museum, will lecture on the nations involved in the War of 1812.