When Marta Norris saw that the beds at the Haislip-Hall Farm House held nothing but bare mattresses, she decided that she had to do something about it.
Norris, a quilter, decided to make a quilt for one of two beds upstairs at the circa 1850 restored farmhouse at the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre. She said she was impressed with the work people did to restore the house and wanted to be a part of the project.
Norris took a tour of the house with Lisa Struckmeyer, a historic interpreter at the historic center, and saw the craftsmanship that went into the restoring the house to its original condition. "When I saw this place, and Lisa was telling us about the determination of the workers to do everything so precisely, the way it was 200 years ago, I just had to do something. The contribution on my part was just a little drop in the bucket."
Struckmeyer said she was impressed with Norris' determination. She said people often talk about helping out at the center, but few come through. "Many people care, and they want to do things. Sometimes they come back and do things, and sometimes they don't. She was so precise and kept her word… it was a wonderful, impressive experience."
The mission Norris set for herself required research, persistence and hard work. The quilt needed to mirror quilts made in the 1850s. Struckmeyer helped with the research and found a photo of a quilt that fit the bill on the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's website.
The example found was a quilt that was probably started by Rachel Young Roseberry when she moved with her family to Brentsville from New Jersey in 1853, according to the website. Roseberry's quilt, known as an "album quilt," was made with the intention that family history and other notations would be inscribed, in ink, in the quilt's white spaces.
Once Norris and Betty Ratliff, who helped Norris with the quilt, had an example to follow, they were able to get to work. They found white, red and green fabric that matched the period at a specialty quilting store and decided on a pattern that would be consistent with the time they wanted to represent.
Norris, a retired English as a second language teacher who taught in Prince William and Fairfax counties, said the quilt took about two months to finish working two to three hours a night.
Bill Backus, the site manager at the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre, said the contribution by Norris and Ratliff, who are members of Haymarket Quilters Unlimited, was immeasurable. "It's a great addition to the Haislip-Hall House. We're trying to interpret that house from the 1850s. It really helps us interpret not only that building, but also the town during that time period."
For more information about the Haislip-Hall Farm House and other historic properties in the county, you can visit www.pwcgov.org/history.