Quilts & Coverlets of Niagara

The closer you look the more stories are revealed in the stitches of quilts and threads of coverlets.

Star Ties QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

While many blankets were loved to bits, those displayed here were tucked away safely for generations before donation to public museums.

The long process of making a blanket began with raising and processing the raw materials. In the townships that now comprise the City of Niagara Falls, wool from sheep and linen from flax plants were grown on the farm, however cotton or silk had to be imported.

Variable Star QuiltNiagara Falls Museums


Quilts were typically made of three layers: a pieced fabric top, wool filling and fabric backing all sandwiched together with elaborate stitched designs called quilting. So labour intensive was the job that quilters gathered regularly to work in quilting bee's.

Members of Willoughby Historical Society completed two quilts in this display. A quilt group met regularly at Willoughby Township Hall until the passing of quilt leader Marie Henry in 2016. Proceeds from their quilt raffles provided a monetary award to eighth grade students at three schools in former Willoughby Township who excelled in history. Another award was added for Perseverance. The awards were given for fifty-one years.

CoverletNiagara Falls Museums


Coverlets could be woven on a small household loom and pieced together to make larger blankets. 

Later larger looms were set up for business in the peninsula and a jacquard device could be used to create elaborate designs according to a punched wooden card. This is thought to be a precursor to today’s computers. Typically the purchaser of the coverlet supplied wool while the weaver imported required cotton. Coverlets were something of a status symbol due to the added expense and difficulty of making one.

Hixon CoverletNiagara Falls Museums

Coverlet, Maker Unknown, 1842, Artefact L980.P.006

Woven for Nancy Hixson using a jacquard loom, the colour and uneven texture of the yarns imply that they may be home spun. In that case Nancy may have supplied both wool and cotton instead of the common custom in which the weaver provided the cotton (which had to be imported).

Nancy Ann Seburn (1787-1856) immigrated with her parents to Upper Canada from New Jersey after the American Revolution. Having lost her husband and father of four
children, Jacob Wilkerson (1778-1814), at the Battle of Chippawa, Nancy then married Nathan
Hixson (1781- 1856) and together they raised three more children in Stamford Township (now Niagara Falls).

Hixon Coverlet DetailsNiagara Falls Museums

Nancy Hixson: The coverlet passed through the family, remaining in excellent condition before donation to the museum.

Patchwork QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Martha Jane Crawford Kunkel, 1895,

At age seven Martha Jane Crawford pieced together 2,034 squares of fabric to create this quilt.

Artefact L997.D.032.012

A news clipping that she kept neatly inside a book, 'Stella's Nosegay', tells the story of the quilt: "Londesboro. Martha Jane, daughter of Mr. E. Crawford, has completed a quilt with 2,034 patches all put together by herself… Martha Jane has worked out a very creditable monument to her name". The year 1895 is handwritten at the top of the article.

Patchwork Quilt DetailsNiagara Falls Museums

Quilt Back Detail: Martha (1886-1973) came from Londesboro, Ontario, near Lake Huron, where her family farmed. She moved to Niagara Falls and worked as a packer in a plating factory before marrying Abram S. Kunkel (1878-1950). 

They raised a daughter Marion and had a foster son, Milton Crawford. During WWII Milton served in the Lincoln & Welland Regiment and was killed the Netherlands in 1945

Double Rose CoverletNiagara Falls Museums

Double Rose Coverlet, Maker & Date Unknown,

This coverlet belonged to Elizabeth Heximer Gerber, shown at the right on the cover of this booklet with Mary Ann Heximer. Elizabeth’s family lived in Snyder after her grandparents arrived from Germany.

Artefact W992.D.010.003

The items on display are predominantly from families of German descent, having arrived directly from Germany to Upper Canada or having immigrated to the United States first. The style of individual needle workers and of the professional weavers often show hints of this cultural influence as well as nuances of locations along a migration route through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

Elizabeth and Henry Heximer GerberNiagara Falls Museums

Elizabeth & Henry Heximer Gerber Artefact

Elizabeth’s wedding tintype shows her wearing a bodice now part of the Museum collection. Elizabeth (1859-1952) and husband Henry (1862-1915) were said to have been married in 1885 or 86. They now rest at Holy Trinity Church cemetery.


Log Cabin QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Log Cabin Quilt, Amelia Jane Jamison, Date Unknown

This double size quilt was created by Amelia Jane Jamieson
Dell of Crowland Township (today bordering Niagara Falls and Welland)
Artefact L987.D.025.021

Popular in the 1860s the log cabin pattern resembles logs surrounding a hearth. Typically the centre square was red. Requiring an abundance of fabric, skill and time to piece together, one variation is so robust that it does not require backing. This might explain why the underside of this blanket is not “quilted” together but simply stitched around the edges.

Log Cabin Quilt DetailsNiagara Falls Museums

Quilt back detail: the heavily layered look, obvious in this example, is said to have been influenced by designs found on the wrappings of Egyptian mummies displayed at the British Museum in the early 1800s

Woven BlanketNiagara Falls Museums

Woven Blanket, Priscilla Beam Krafft, Circa 1860

Both Priscilla (1844-1936) and husband Frances Westerman Krafft (1841-1926) were born and lived in Stevensville, a village at the south edge of present Niagara Falls. Members of the Beam and Krafft families were in business together.

Artefact W994.D.004.001

Priscilla’s extended relatives included J. L. Kraft, creator of Kraft Dinner cheesy macaroni. Priscilla and Francis rest at the Reformed Mennonite Cemetery in Stevensville.

Plaid Coverlet Detail 2Niagara Falls Museums

Detail of initials: the initials of the weaver are embroidered on opposite corners in pink, ‘P B’. Priscilla likely produced this blanket “from scratch” having processed and dyed the wool herself before weaving on a small loom in the home.

Plaid Coverlet Detail, From the collection of: Niagara Falls Museums
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Dell CoverletNiagara Falls Museums

Coverlet, Maker Unknown, 1855

Woven on a jacquard loom for Catharine Dell. Over the years the edge likely frayed and was re-sewn so that design is no longer visible. The coverlet was passed through generations before donation to the museum.
Artefact L976.D.185

The Dell family came to live in Lyon’s Creek area from New Jersey before 1800. In 1851 Henry Dell deeded one acre of land to the Methodist Episcopal Church, to be known as the Dell Chapel & Cemetery. Much of the family rest there at the corner of today’s Reixinger and Dell

Dell Coverlet Corner DetailNiagara Falls Museums

Detail of Corner: this coverlet could have been made for Catharine Shafer Dell or Catharine Buchner Dell.

Variable Star QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Variable Star Quilt, Mrs. William Wallace, 1895

At this time the quilt maker is known to us only as Mrs. William Wallace, possibly Mary. Mrs. Wallace pieced together the blocks in 1895. The blocks were passed to daughter Lucinda who gave them to neighbour Ada Somerville Plyley in 1924.

Artefact W.2.G.367

Ada became a Curator at Willoughby Historical Museum and brought the pieces to the Museum where the Willoughby Historical Society completed the quilt. The work group included Ada Plyley, Beatrice Brunning, Barbara Chambers, Zettie May Miller, Margory Ort, Candace Thwaites, Nell Weaver, Laura Willick and Ella Woodruff.

Variable Star Quilt DetailNiagara Falls Museums

Quilt back detail: the story of the quilt that took 74 years to complete was covered in the newspaper and historian Francis Petrie spoke on it at a Willoughby Historical Society meeting.

Quilt of HousesNiagara Falls Museums

School House Quilt

Doris Fischer & Willoughby Historical Society, Circa 1978

Artefact W1978.G.018.026

Quilt of Houses DetailsNiagara Falls Museums

Quilt back detail: quilt blocks from Doris Fischer were stitched together by the Willoughby Historical Society and given to the museum in 1978. The motif may be representative of Willoughby Historical Museum located in School Section #2 Willoughby building.

Star Ties QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Star Pattern Quilt, Maker and Date Unknown

This quilt is pieced together using recycled men’s neckties with a sateen backing. 

Artefact W983.D.008.016

Lillian DellNiagara Falls Museums

Lillian Dell: Although we do not know who made the quilt we do know that it is from the estate of Lillian Dell. It is said that Lillian lived to be “at least 104” years old. Many items from her family are held in the museum collection.

Artefact W995.D.005.011.1

Wilson QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Tulip and Rose Quilt. Olive Wilson, 1855

Olive Willson created eight quilts for sale around 1845, before her marriage. Brightly coloured applique tulips and roses may indicate Germanic style.

Artefact L979.D.010

A granddaughter wrote about Olive, “A man at the South end told me my grandmother was well known in Drummondville, as she was quite a horsewoman, a good financier as she carried mortgages there. I believe Cyanamid own some of her property on Beechwoods Road. There were three or four farms. Her maiden name was Olive Willson and Thomas Wilson whom she married was a distant cousin (4th) I believe. I rather think they were from Beaverdams.”

Wilson Quilt DetailsNiagara Falls Museums

Embroidered initials

Drummond Hill Cemetery Sexton William Dalton: “1904. Mar. 6th. Olive, wife of Thomas Wilson, died of Dropssey [sic] at her home in Stamford Township... after a longe [sic] and trying illness. She was born in the Beaverdams and was 76 years 1 month and 26 days old…"

Goose Chase QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Wild Goose Chase Quilt, Maker and Date Unknown

This quilt came from the home of Herman Hexemer in Chippawa and was passed through family before donation to the Museum. The creator of the patchwork that is made to resemble flying birds is unknown. 

Artefact W983.D.023.001

Goose Chase Quilt DetailNiagara Falls Museums

Detail on quilt back: the Hexemer family farmed on the south side of Baker Road between Sodom Road and the QEW Highway. Herman (1895-1979) and wife Mary (1903-1978) rest at Lundy’s Lane Cemetery.

Blue Silk QuiltNiagara Falls Museums

Silk Patchwork Quilt, Maker and Date Unknown

No story exists for this quilt in the Museum files. The quilt arrived to the Museum with a red silk ribbon, 'Stamford Exhibition, 1903, First Premium', and a ribbon for the Centenary of the Battle of Lundy's Lane attached (centenary ribbon now stored separately).


Blue Silk Quilt DetailNiagara Falls Museums

Reverse of quilt showing fabric used for backing: the quilt’s size may indicate that it was made for display or for a child’s crib.

CoverletNiagara Falls Museums

Coverlet, Maker Unknown, 1835

This coverlet of blue wool and white cotton was made for J. A. Garner using a jacquard loom – that is a loom with a mechanized pattern.  The design incorporates an American symbol, an eagle with a striped shield among trees, flowers and starbursts. 

Artefact L982.D.123

Garner Coverlet DetailsNiagara Falls Museums

Detail of corner: the name and date in the corner of this coverlet indicate the ownership details - J. A. Garner. W. S. Cambria, Niagara County, N.Y. 1835. At this time no further details of the owner or maker are known.

Though there are artefacts in the Museum collection from the Anson Garner family it is unknown if they are associated.

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