The 1948 Friendship Quilt

In February of 2009 Donna Lee (Kirchner) Wilson, who now lives in Alexandria but was raised in Barcroft, contacted the BSCL. Mrs. Wilson had found an old quilt in a family cedar chest:

"Hi, I have a great 61 year old quilt embroidered with the names of many old Barcroft residents. It is dated 1948. My family (Great grandparents) were early residents of Old Barcroft in the early 1900's (Kirchner) on South 8th Street. (I think it was called another name at that time.) I grew up at 500 South Taylor Street. My grandparents lived next door at 412. Later in my high school years we moved to 611 South Woodstock Street, North Barcroft when Robert O'Hara built the new section. I have this quilt and would like to donate it. I think for history, it would be fun to know the early settlers. (O'Hara's , Sopers, Hazels, Darnalls, Muses,Woods etc..) I could not recognize one name on your list as being there when I grew up.. I know Susan O'Hara Christopher left a few years ago and the rest of us left before she did. Where our parents and grand parents had remained for a couple of generations we left."

We contacted Mrs. Wilson and picked up the quilt, excited to find that it was in perfect condition and had the names of about 500 Barcrofters and others embroidered on it.

Friendship quilt 1

Donna Lee (Kirchner) Wilson and the quilt

Friendship quilt 2

The quilt, 8 feet by 8 feet

Friendship quilt 3

A quilt square. There are 25 of them.

Virginia Woods, then a resident of Barcroft and a member of the Barcroft Bible Church, remembered the history of the quilt. It was made to raise money by the ladies of the Barcroft Bible Church, then located on Wakefield at 9th St South, for their first missionary, Pastor Marshall Southard. He had been the pastor at the church for about six months before leaving for the Congo to do missionary work. The quilt was presented to him at a shower organized at Mrs. Armstrong's, who lived across from the church on Wakefield St. At the shower the ladies presented the pastor with kitchenware, linens and the quilt. He probably thought it would not be needed in the Congo's tropical climate, and apparently left it with the Kirchners, with whom he had been living.

Mrs. Potts did the finishing work on the quilt. She was a good seamstress and often organized sewing projects. People donated 25 cents each to have their names embroidered on the quilt. Virginia does not know why the Woodbridge Methodist Church is in the center of one of the squares. Another square with Truman and Dewey on it was probably to fill in extra spaces.

An Internet search shows that Marshall Southard taught at Bunia Seminary (now renamed Shalom University) in the Congo. Many years later he and Thelma Southard were still on the Barcroft Bible Church blog raising money for the school. The church is now located in Fairfax County, and is still raising funds for its missionaries. On the Web it is

Added a few days later:
Virginia Woods has been in touch with Marshall Southard! He remembers the quilt, and always thought he had taken it with him to the Congo back in 1948. He told Virginia we should turn it over to the Barcroft Bible Church. On February 21, 2009 we passed it on to Virginia to do that.

Friendship quilt 4

Virginia Woods (r) and Barbara Swart, documenter of the quilt.

Before we passed it on the Virginia, some of our neighborhood quilters saw the quilt.

Friendship quilt 5

The former owners of Mary Ann O'Rourke's home are on the quilt.

They commented that the design is a classic that dates back to pioneers going west and the wagon wheel, sometimes presented to families leaving to go west. It was frequently used as a fund raising quilt, often connected with churches and ministers. The fabrics are cotton and the colors have lasted so well because the quilt was stored and was never in the sun. The batting in the center is very light, but it seems to be cotton batting and not a flannel cloth. The embroidered names on the various squares are in different styles, but some embroiderers did more than one square.

Friendship quilt detail

Closeup of Virginia Woods' embroidery.

Here are more photos of the quilt.

Here is a list of the names on the quilt.

Here is a schematic of the names and squares.

Updated on: October 29, 2023.