Stories create the fabric of our lives.
And two talented Salmon Arm fibre artists have crafted unique stories of local pioneer women into quilts, which were on display at Haney Heritage Village & Museum Saturday.
Shuswap Quilters Guild members Blanche Hartnett and Sharon Adair also stitch with Pritchard’s Di-Versity Heritage Quilt Group.
When Di-Versity instructor Dianne Jansson challenged members to make a quilt based on one of the province’s pioneer women, Hartnett had her candidate in mind immediately – Delina Noel, known as B.C.’s Matriarch of Mining and a member of her husband’s family.
Adair chose Sarah Agnes McGuire, who owned a large portion of what is now downtown Salmon Arm, inheriting it from her son who died of consumption in 1892.
“Women didn’t own property in those days,” says Adair, noting that shortly after her son’s death, McGuire arrived with her three youngest children and settled in her son’s two-storey wood home.
Described as an energetic person, McGuire is said to have made an indelible imprint on the community, something Adair chose to create in sepia tones.
“I went with sepia because, to me, we’re talking about the past and I just felt the sepia gives you that older look,” she says. “I used log cabin blocks because the house was wood and the lady of the lake block because the little lake, which is now McGuire Lake, was on her property.”
Adair also added a storm- at-sea block because of the treacherous storms that can build up on the lake. Also incorporated is the jetty McGuire built on the lakeshore so paddlewheelers could dock.
A block showing the railway crossing was included because the CPR was significant to the growth of Salmon Arm, and the apples stitched onto the quilt are a reminder of the community’s early reputation as an apple exporter.
“I did the urban block because of the 12 acres that became the downtown business and residential area,” says Adair, pointing to the nine maple leaves adorning the quilt, each representing one of McGuire’s children, and one fleur de lys for the child that was born in Quebec.
A member of several quilting groups, Adair has long had an interest in working with fabric, a pastime she describes as her stress release.
When the challenge was issued last summer, Hartnett immediately thought of her husband’s great aunt, another pioneer woman who was involved in many activities normally off limits to women in the late 19th century.
Born in Lillooet, Delina Noel’s family originated in Quebec and sent their daughter there for a convent school education.
A year after her return in 1898, the 19-year-old married Arthur Noel and headed into the Bridge Valley area of B.C. to build a log cabin and a fascinating life.
The young woman sought, and received, her husband’s blessing to become proficient in all aspects of the mining industry, and took over management of his ore-crushing mill in 1902.
In 1909, Noel climbed into a stage coach for the long and hazardous trip to Vancouver’s Hastings Street assay office to deliver her own gold brick.
Between 1900 and 1929 when they separated, the Noels discovered, developed and sold mines. Among them were Bralorne and Pioneer, two of the province’s most important gold mines.
Divorce did not dampen Noel’s interest in mining. She carved a career for herself as a prospector and mine entrepreneur, earning a B.C. Governor General’s Centennial Medal in 1958.
But mining was not Noel’s only interest; as well as enjoying a lifelong love of playing bridge, she ran her own trapline and was a crack shot, who took down and skinned a grizzly in 1906 – one of the largest ever recorded.
Noel was still active in mining at the age of 78, when she was awarded the Dogwood Medallion by the province in honour of her 58-year contribution to the mining industry.
But she was too busy to go and get it, says Hartnett.
“When she was 78, the doctor told her to slow down, so she started rolling rocks off the road instead of carrying them,” says Hartnett, who has crafted Noel’s history and achievements into her quilt. “Finally the strenuous life she had led proved too much even for her gallant spirit and she died in Vancouver of a series of heart attacks on Oct. 15, 1960.”