The Edith Emma Baker 1878 Quilt
Hanging in the upstairs hallway of the Stevens Museum, is an exquisite work of textile art, crafted with passion and remarkable minuscule precision, by a 15 year-old girl, that continues to leave an impression of wonderment on its admirers, 142 years after it was quilted.
A more recent donation, the quilt was presented to the museum, in 2015, from Edith’s niece, Eleanor (Baker) Himebaugh; daughter of Dr. Robert Baker, of Orleans, Indiana. As evident, by it’s condition, it was a cherished family heirloom that was well preserved and cared for. The magnificent quilt has been entered and honored at numerous quilting shows, by the Bakers, even decades after it’s creator had passed.
It is now an eye-catching addition to our collection and we are honored to continue the safeguarding efforts of the pioneer Baker family.
Edith Emma Baker, was born in Pierce Township, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Hart Benton and Adeline (Naugle) Baker. Both of her parents were descendants of Washington County pioneers, Dr. Baker was the son of Dr. Valentine and Nancy (Overton) Baker. Valentine, who was born in Virginia, in 1793, and migrated here with his parents in 1815, settling in Pierce Township. He was an active citizen in the burgeoning new settlement, who opened a mill on what was called the ‘Baker Branch’ of Blue River. He also served as a U.S Army colonel in the Mexican War, along with a term as county associate judge, and a stint in the Indiana General Assembly.
Edith’s father, Dr. T.H.B. Baker, was born near Old Pekin, in 1838. He went to the common schools in his youth, eventually obtaining his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University. Afterwards, he began teaching in one room school houses around the Pekin area. In 1859, he married Adeline, the daughter of Jacob W. and Elizabeth (Young) Naugle. The couple eventually had eight children in all, 4 boys and 4 girls, however, one of the boys died in infancy.
In late August of 1862, Thomas Baker volunteered his service to the 5th Indiana Cavalry, and joined his company on the march to Indianapolis for training. Adeline was left at home alone, with two very young children. Nearly exactly nine months later, little Edith Emma was born, in May of 1863, while her father was away fighting in the Civil War. Almost exactly two months after Edith’s birth, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his Raiders invaded Washington County.
After being honorably discharged for disabilities he received during his service, Thomas toiled around the Pekin area, teaching and farming to intermittent degrees, before enrolling in the University of Louisville Medical School. After graduating in 1876, Dr. Thomas Baker opened his practice in the Pekin area.
Two years later, he would treat his 15 year-old daughter, Edith, for a broken leg. Dr. Baker insisted his patient take ample measures to remain in bed, with her leg elevated, as much as reasonably possible. Little Edith was confronted with a horribly monotonous winter, but quickly settled on what she would do to occupy her time.
Having taken a supreme, early interest in her grandmother Baker’s and her mother’s quilting, she started receiving instructions at a very young age. And according to her niece, Edith was single-handedly producing totally acceptable quilts before the age of 12. So, with countless convalescent hours ahead of her, she determined to make a winged-square variation quilt of the smallest materials anyone had ever used.