Hanging on a back wall in the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History are two framed quilts that, from far away, don’t look that spectacular. But take a closer look, and you will see scenes of Meridian and Lauderdale county’s rich histories painstakingly stitched into their fabric.
The quilts were made in the 1980’s by a group of ladies at Deville Manor, according to Archive Records Manager Ward Calhoun. For a long time, the delicate quilts were displayed only sporadically at the archives, and kept safely in a cedar chest in the interim.
After a long search, friends at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson finally clued Calhoun in to an able framer, and the quilts were framed for display at the archives, where residents of the city and county are invited to come and look at them anytime during archive operating hours.
One of the quilts depicts a history of Meridian, while the other shows scenes from Lauderdale County’s history. The Meridian quilt is adorned with things like Jimmie Rodgers and the Key brothers, while the Lauderdale County quilt has an 1833 map of the county stitched upon it, along with historical places like Stuckey’s bridge.
“They’re truly, truly magnificent works,” says Calhoun. The quilts can be viewed at the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, on the second floor of the courthouse annex. The archives are home not only to the quilts, but to numerous other historical artifacts. Hundreds of books and records are also available there to anyone wishing to research the history of the area.
Ward Calhoun tells the story of the quilts on www.meridianstar.com, as part of the video series History of Meridian by Ben Lockridge.
Other videos in the series include the story of Commander Howard Gilmore, the first submariner to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWII, as told by Calhoun and archives volunteer Ed Shields. Gilmore was a Meridian High School graduate and a submarine commander who gave his life to save his ship and his crew while battling the Japanese ship Hayasaki.
The story of Major Constantine Rea, a stubborn and passionate civil war soldier, newspaper editor, and politician from Lauderdale County is told by Calhoun in the video series, as well as the mystery of Ike Pringle, a black confederate soldier, who, after being freed at the end of the war, continued to attend confederate veteran meetings. County historians have been unsuccessfully trying to decipher his part in the war for years.