Quilt made locally to be in a State display
Gaylynn Childs, retired Executive Director of the Geary County Historical Society wrote an article for the JC Union newspaper in 1990 about the work of a quilter whose work surprisingly was recognized at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka. This is some of what was previously written.
In 1978, the late Bettie Roesler of rural Geary County took her simple muslin baby quilt to be registered through the Kansas Quilt project, which led to state-wide recognition for both the quilt and its maker, Bettie’s mother, Violet (Taylor) Horner. The title of the exhibit at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka was “Textile Diaries: Kansas Quilt Memories” and contained quilts which were selected to illustrate the theme of quilts made as a record of women’s lives. Bettie said she was “surprised and honored. Surprised because my mother was not a domestic person, certainly not someone you’d think of as a master quilter.”
Violet Horner was born on the old Taylor family farmstead south of Junction City to John and Meta Taylor in 1900. She was the next to the youngest in the family which consisted of six brothers and one older sister who was grown by the time Violet came along. Violet was named after the wild violets which were blooming in the meadows at the time of her birth.
She preferred to be outdoors and because she worked with her brothers at the outside chores and dressed in overalls and trousers suitable for that work, she was probably considered a “tomboy” at that time in her life. However, even after her marriage, Violet preferred to work beside her father in the fields or with the farm animals.
Violet and Ralph Horner were married in 1920. Times were hard for most young couples just starting out in those days in rural Kansas, but the young couple managed to make do with what they had. Because Ralph worked for the highway department, the family moved around to different areas of the county. They lived in rented farmhouses which were often just two or three rooms at most. But Violet was resourceful and could make a comfortable home. Drapes and comforters sewn from brightly flowered creton, which was a cheap fabric of the day, and walls were papered with newspaper or scrap paper to cover the cracks.
Violet was “not very domestic and didn’t do fancy work”, Bettie recalled and “that mother could be considered (as a master quilter was) most unlikely”.
Fort Riley theater building was short lived
One of the most ambitious and unique undertakings at Fort Riley was the establishment and building of a theater. Fort Riley can boast not only about the first church built (St. Mary’s Chapel) in the area, but also the first legitimate theater.
In the Union newspaper of March 19, 1870, editor George W. Martin reported the organization of the company and described the building in a glowing article titled “The Fort Riley Theater-A Great Success.” In the article he stated that “Some months since, an association was formed among the soldiers at this Post for the purpose of financial success as well as the edification derived from the amusements of the drama. And to this end, after much labor and unceasing energy, success has crowned their efforts in the erection of a fine and spacious theatrical hall, a credit to any town or city east of us, of thirty times the population.”
Historian W.F. Pride described the location of this theater as “just west and ahead of the line of stables. It must have been in the vicinity of the present (1925) Isolation Ward of the Veterinary Ward and as nearly as can be determined that location Is correct.” (This would be across the street and to the south from the old commissary building on Main Post.)
Then as quickly as it came, it was gone. The Union of March 11, 1871, ran the following notice: “The Fort Riley Theatre, with scenery and furniture, will be sold at auction by Booth and Kennedy on Wednesday the 15th.” In the same issue of the paper, Martin lamented the theater’s demise. “Up to today the history of Fort Riley embraces a theatrical as well as a military record. On the 14th day of March 1870, the doors of the Fort Riley Theater were opened and the attractions of drama were presented for amusement and diversion of the soldiers of the garrison. The theatre – the offspring of the dramatic talent in the army was born. It passed through an existence of just one year and one day from the date of its birth and then it ceased to exist.”
In March of 1871, the Artillery School at Fort Riley was also closed. Though W.F. Pride acknowledges that “it was a financial failure that closed the theatre, he also alludes to the affect the departure of the artillery school must have had on the venture.
Efforts to keep the drama alive at Fort Riley were evident in the organization of the Sixth Cavalry Dramatic Association in November 1871, but nothing more is recorded of this group. In February 1872, it was noted that the officers of the Sixth Cavalry gave a Washington’s Birthday ball in the theatre building which was attended by many people of Junction City. Sometime between that date and the winter of 1872, the building was torn down.”
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