On July 26, 2015, in a small town in Iowa, the descendants of some of the original Benton County homesteaders gathered for the 100th annual Brody Family Reunion. One of the treasures brought to the reunion by a distant cousin was an almost 100-year old postage stamp quilt, hand-quilted by my great-great grandmother. At any distance, the quilt is an amazing piece of handiwork.
With each closer look, one’s appreciation for the love and attention paid to this heirloom only grows.
What appears at first glance to be a precise, machine-measured covering is a collection of meticulous, individually-embroidered stitches.
Close up, one can marvel at the slightest variation from each carefully placed stitch – the thousands of tiny segments of thread, woven in and out of the fabric, through the hundreds of postage stamp-sized fabric squares.
This quilt was just one of many special mementos shared during the reunion weekend, as family members old and new became acquainted or reacquainted again. Members gathered from all over Iowa, and traveled from as far as California, Washington, Alabama, and Utah, to name a few states. Babies were cradled in the arms of those approaching their own century mark. The potluck table was loaded with salads and cupcakes and pies, as the aroma of the roasted pork and ham filled the church hall. Professions and vocations ran the gamut, as did political beliefs, spanning both ends of the spectrum.
Over 100 years, the family tree grows many branches, each still drawing strength from the original trunk. That old wide-arching tree, just like the arms-length view of the hand-crafted quilt, have a lot in common as illustrative symbols of the family tree and relation’s ties. They remind us that just like no two branches are quite the same, and each carefully pieced quilt may have some slight variations or imperfections, we have much more in common than we even want to admit at times.
We are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends and community members, wanting the best for those we care about, and feeling pain when we lose those we love. We may talk a little different, check a different box in the voting booth, spend our leisure time in different ways, but we are family. Pull one thread, and you find it’s connected to the rest of the quilt. Find a calico quilt block in this corner, and sure enough in an opposite corner you might find a similar pattern. Maybe they don’t match exactly, but they coordinate closely enough to complement each other and complete the pattern that is so pleasing to the eye from afar. If the quilter used the same fabric for each block, how dull that finished bedcover would be! It is the diversity of pattern and contrast in color that create the fascinating beauty of the hand-pieced quilt.
I prepared a press release for local news outlets, and share it with you here to provide additional background information on the woman behind the quilt and the enduring tradition of the Brody gatherings:
Hugh and Joanna (Osborn) Brody established their homestead in Polk Township, just a couple miles south of Urbana, shortly after the Osborn family moved to the area in 1840. Joanna Brody was the guest of honor at the annual family reunions, which were held in the Urbana area every summer beginning on August 24, 1916, with 125 family members in attendance. On July 26, 2015, over 200 descendants of Hugh and Joanna Brody are expected to gather at St. Mary’s Church in Urbana for the 100th Annual Brody Family Reunion.
The September 6, 1921 edition of The Vinton Eagle published Joanna Brody’s obituary, “Benton’s Oldest Settler is Dead.” She had lived 78 of the last 81 years on the same homesteaded farm, before coming to her final resting place in Kisling Cemetery. After coming by wagon from Indiana, the Osborn family landed in Center Point. Hugh Brody married Joanna Osborn in 1843, and they had 11 children. At the time of Joanna’s death in 1921, she was reported to leave 50 grandchildren, 90 great-grandchildren, and 19 great-great-grandchildren.
Brody kith and kin from all over the country are again returning to the area, filling the Urbana Inn & Suites for the weekend to reconnect (or to connect for the first time!) and share family history stories, photos and other memorabilia. A new page will be added to the reunion record book that was purchased in 1917, recording minutes from the business meeting at the reunion, and continuing the tradition of documenting family births, deaths, marriages, as well as special program features of this year’s get-together.
Hugh and Joanna Brody and adult children, with my great-great grandmother, Rebecca Jane Brody, sitting at the far right of the front row.
The words from that first reunion in 1916 ring as true today as they did 100 years ago, from the “Address of Welcome” delivered by Reverend David Shepherd, son-in-law of matriarch Joanna Brody:
Brody Family Reunion, ca. 1939
“Man is a social being and it is meet and proper that there by family reunions of all family relatives from time to time, which has been the case with well-ordered families for ages past and will continue to be as long as time shall remain. These reunions are calculated to draw the relatives closer together, though each family are doing for themselves. By these reunions we become more interested in one another’s welfare and thereby preserve a spirit of unity and love for the best well-being of all.”
The unity and love of the Brody family lives on.
Ciao! ~ Kat
This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Close Up” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.