Photo Special to the Sun

The quilt shown, “In the Garden,” was created by Mary Ann Foshee Britton — from design to final stitch — in the early 1900s. Some of her descendants, from left, front: Hank Hope and Wren Hope, children of Holly Hope, back row left, and, from left, back row: Mary Britton Hope, Becky Mallory and Hadley Grieb, Holly Hope’s niece, are shown with the heirloom, which is the pattern for a new Downtown Quilt Square.

The “In the Garden” quilt block will be unveiled at Asbury United Methodist Church on Sunday, Aug. 23.

A “Thread Cutting” ceremony and reception will be held from 2-3:30 p.m. at the church at 201 S. Main St. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

The family of Mary Britton Hope is dedicating the “In the Garden” 8-foot by 8-foot square in memory of their grandmother Mary Ann Foshee Britton, who designed and created the early 1900s heirloom that the block represents.

Asbury Church has been the meeting place of the Brittons and their descendants for several generations. Methodism or the Methodist Movement in Greeneville dates back to the 1790s.

When the Methodists reorganized in 1865, the Northern Branch, or Methodist Episcopal began to meet locally in the home of Mr. and Mrs. David Britton along with Bishop Gilbert Haven.

In 1874, the lot where the Asbury United Methodist Church currently stands was purchased from W.C. Maloney. The Maloney Hotel previously occupied the site.

A new church building, which was a large frame structure with a tall steeple, was dedicated in 1875.

Since that time, a parsonage, a new church structure, a three-story educational building, a chapel and a parking lot have been added to the site along with various remodels and renovations.

The Quilt’s Story

Here is the story of “In the Garden” as shared by Becky Hope Mallory:

At age 17, Mary Ann Foshee married Charles Thomas Britton on Sept. 2, 1888. They began housekeeping in a small cabin along a creek near the Baileyton Highway.

After having six children (five boys and one girl), Mary Ann decided the family needed a larger house.

In 1905, she began designing and even built a cardboard model of the home she wanted. Her two middle sons “Tine” and “Les” (ages 10 and 11) drove the wagon with the felled trees from the farm over the hill to Cox Mill.

Her father, John Harrison Foshee, helped plane the boards and build the house, all under Mary Ann’s fastidious supervision.

Quite possibly the other children, Sam, Minnie and Spencer had instructions on how they could help. The house still stands proudly on the Baileyton Highway.

In the parlor of this house hung quilting frames that were lowered from the ceiling after all the other chores had been completed and “Ma Britton” would quilt away. Other ladies from the community would gather near the fire and share the long process of piecing and quilting a quilt.

Ma Britton, a devoutly Christian woman, has been described as “as broad as she was tall.” Her children and grandchildren often spoke of how embarrassed they would become when she began her weekly church “shouting” as she walked the aisles of the church.

Another report came from grandchildren who complained of sore knees during the long nightly prayers while spending the night with Ma. In her later years, although she had to be helped up, she insisted on praying always on her knees.

Sometime after the house was built, Ma had a vision or dream in which she said that God told her to make a quilt representing Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. She accepted the challenge and designed and created the quilt using old cotton feed sacks.

Only this time, with this quilt, no ladies in the community came to help. Those same quilting frames were hoisted up and down for as long as it took for Ma Britton to compete every stitch herself.

Mary Ann Foshee Britton was preceded in death by her husband and oldest son, Dade. When she died in 1944, the law stated that since her son Dade had minor children all of the estate would have to be settled by auction.

The day of the auction, Sam, her fourth son told his wife, Ora Britton, that he would buy Ma’s quilt even if it meant he would have to sell the farm.

According to Becky, “… that’s how we have this quilt in our family today, and although it has always been a mystery just how much he had to pay, he bought the quilt and got to keep the farm.”

Downtown Quilt Project

The “In the Garden” quilt block is the fourth project of the Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Project and will be the first block to be installed this year.

Volunteers donated roughly 24 man-hours in the creation of this square.

The production team was lead by Holly Hope.

Amy Saxonmeyer, the organization’s artistic director, created the layout and painted, along with the assistance of Holly Hope and her mother, Becky Hope Mallory.

At one point during the painting process, four generations of family members (19 people) came to the studio and signed their names to the bottom of the square, which provided a special way for all of them to take part in the process.

As stated by the committee’s artistic director, Amy Saxonmeyer, in a news release: “The Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Committee strives to tastefully enhance and decorate our lovely town in a way that respects and celebrates local history. It is our intent that this project involve community participation and provide an opportunity for local talent and creativity to be expressed and shared — now and on into the future. It is our vision that this project as it grows will become an increasingly vital part of Greeneville’s list of historic attractions and as such help to bring tourism and economic growth to the area.

“I am especially pleased to say that this project provides an opportunity to showcase some of the contributions women have made throughout our community’s history.”

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Emily Bidgood, project/development coordinator, initial funding for the Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Project was provided by the Appalachian RC&D Council, and a grant from the East Tennessee Art Fund.

The council is responsible for the purchase of all quilt square materials. Further funding generated through donations are managed by the council and designated for the Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Project.

The Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail Project planning group, designated as a committee of the Greeneville-Greene County History Museum, meets once a month at the museum. Space has been donated both for meetings as well as a room for production of the painted quilt squares.

As the Greeneville-Greene County History Museum is dedicated to preserving Greene County heritage, its support of the Downtown Greeneville Trail Project falls in line with the organization’s mission.

The project’s core planning team consists of: Christine Huss, chairperson; Linnie Greene, co-chairman, public relations chairman and museum liaison; Amy Saxonmeyer, artistic direction chairman, PR co-chairman and production team leader; Lois Blanks, Newcomer Club liaison, communications chairman and production team leader; Emily Bidgood, Appalachian RC&D Council; George Blanks, frame production and installation coordinator; Holly Hope, selection committee chairman and production team leader; Mary Hill, Wesley Heights Community liaison; Andy Daniels, Main Street: Greeneville liaison; and Beverly Selmeski, Downtown Greeneville Historic Tours representative.

Local Quilt Stories Sought

Greene County residents are asked to submit their family quilts and quilt stories for consideration. The committee is also seeking building owners in the downtown area to submit their locations for consideration in showcasing a painted quilt square.

Anyone interested in making a donation, acquiring an application or simply learning more about the Downtown Greeneville Quilt Trail may contact the Greeneville-Greene County History Museum during regular business hours. Call 639-3278 or email: christinehuss9@msn.com.

The Quilt Trail of Upper East Tennessee is also coordinated by the Appalachian RC&D Council. The council’s mission is to improve rural economy and conserve natural resources. To learn more about the trail’s 120 (and growing) squares, visit the QuiltTrail.org website and download the “Follow the Quilt Trail” mobile app on iTunes or Google Play for smartphone or tablet.

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