Checkerboard Quilt, c. 1865
In 1863, Irish immigrant Hester Wright lived in a log cabin with her four-year-old son and newborn daughter in rural La Prairie Center, twenty miles north of Peoria.
Hester’s husband, William, may have been one of the thousands of Irish workers who came to Illinois to build the railroads and canals that became so vital to the supply infrastructure of the Union Army. The Peoria branch of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad passing through Marshall County was completed the same year the Wrights married.
Although little La Prairie was reported in an 1858 Illinois Directory as just a cluster of buildings, it also had the reputation of being an anti-slavery town and a safe haven for slaves traveling north to Canada. Through the war, the La Prairie Ladies’ Loyal League sent shipments of clothing to regional sanitary commissions.
Hester Wright sewed the quilt pictured here. The quilt top was hand and machine pieced from cotton material, and then the layers were hand quilted.