Thursday, April 8, 2021

Pieces of the Santa Fe Trail - Kit In The Korner

In the words of Marian Russell...

"It is my desire that these memoirs may help to preserve to posterity the truth and the warmth of an unforgettable period in American history; the stirring decades in which sturdy pioneers blazed trails across a strange and wondrous land of prairies, plains and mountains.

Dear to me is the memory of that cloud of dust that swirled away behind a lumbering herd of buffalo, of curlews dipping in a moist meadow, of cows in a line ambling to the milking shed, of trips across the Great Plains in a covered wagon, of my honey-moon in little Camp Nickols on the Santa Fe Trail.  I like to remember how the Santa Fe Trail traffic flowed like a river through Santa Fe's great arched gateway.

I am the third and last child of William and Eliza St. Clair Sloan, who were of Scottish ancestry.  They named me after Lady Marian Wallace whose tragic story touched my mother's heart.  I was born in Peoria, Illinois on January 26, 1845.  The first child of my parents' union died in infancy.  The next, my brother, William, lived to manhood and shared with me many of the incidents of  which I write.

My father, an army surgeon in the Mexican War, was killed at the Battle of Monterey.  He passed from my life at such an early age that I have no remembrance of him.  An old daguerreotype shows him in a gaily-flowered waist coat, with long straight dark hair and serious eyes like brother Will's.

I became so familiar with my mother's face.  She was a small very dark but lovely woman.  She was courageous, educated and cultured. One hundred years ago educational advantages were difficult for a boy and girl to obtain, yet mother managed to give both Will and me educations far beyond the average.

At times I seem to see her standing by a flickering campfire in a flounced gingham dress and a great sunbonnet.  Behind her looms the great bulk of a covered wagon. 

From the shadowy background of infancy come pictures of amazing clarity.  Across a room of immaculate cleanliness I send my toddling feet.  There is white Chinese matting on the floor, and in a corner a stand table, the top of which I cannot reach, bearing a big conch shell and a vase of flowers.

Out of childhood come other memories:  The vegetable garden behind the house in which we later lived in St. Louis was a wild unexplored jungle in which strange beasts might be found hidden among the currants and cabbage.  Once a wild Indian with a feather in his hair arose with blood-curdling war whoops from among the tomato vines.  On closer inspection the savage turned out to be brother Will, yet the vegetable garden remained a wild jungle.

My step-father killed a snake in my jungle garden.  It was a rattlesnake with eleven rattles.  I stood with my hand in my mother's and, from a safe distance, looked at the dead snake.  Suddenly, the dead snake opened its mouth wide and out jumped a big green toad.  For a moment, it stood blinking its eyes at us, then went hopping off amid the cabbages.  I think perhaps that the memory of the rattlesnake and the hop-toad has always inclined me to believe a wee bit in ghosts and goblins.

The world!  What a vast mysterious place it seemed to my childlike eyes!  What a trackless continent the vegetable garden!  What marvelous explorations I could make in our attic!

Then there was the street; the street that stretched long and dim from our doorstep.  It led to a strange unknown world, of that I was certain.  Through the long summer days it beckoned and so at last I did follow.  Soon the street became dreadful and unfamiliar, and an almighty and devastating sadness descended upon me.  I wanted my mother.  But all around stretched St. Louis, a dreadful and strange St. Louis.  I was tired.  I was sick and I wanted my mother.  I climbed some white wooden steps where a door stood hospitably open.  A woman's sweet voice bade me enter.  I would not talk to the woman.  How could she know of a street that invited and enticed small children away from their mother?  She gave me bread and milk in a blue bowl and gray kitten came and softly rubbed against me.  I was comforted.

There were no radio patrol cars in St. Louis in 1848.  When three year old children strayed away from their mothers they depended upon "word of mouth".  Soon an old black man came along that now frightening street.  He was ringing a bell as he walked, and his soft voice was calling "Little white chil' lost.  Have you seen a three year old chil' in a blue pinafore?  Little Marian Sloan is lost from her mother."  So, I was found and, fast asleep, I was carried home to my mother.  I only remember cradling my head on a warm neck before slumber engulfed me."

Marian's mention of that little grey kitten was the inspiration for this block that I am calling - Kit in the Korner.  

Having grown up just a short distance from Bent's Fort I have had many opportunities to visit the National Historic Site.  I recall one visit in elementary school to the site before the restoration.  It was really quite unimpressive... there wasn't a lot to see.  There were simply ruins of the fort.  The adobe walls had melted, crumbled and deteriorated back into the earth from the years of exposure to the sun, wind, rain and snow as well as numerous floods of the Arkansas River.  

After the Fort was rebuilt and dedicated in 1976 we once visited with my cousins.  My older cousin, Kim, was quite gullible and believed just about everything that she heard.  She had noticed that many of the blankets, shipping crates and items available in the the trading post were marked "Property of the US Army".  In addition to the rooms, store, kitchen and blacksmith shop being set up, there were animals on site as well.  There were horses, and possibly donkeys and oxen in the stable area.  There were a few resident cats as well.  

When Kim mentioned the US Army markings on everything, I casually replied with, "yeah, even the cat is marked on its nose."   She actually looked!  Oh my... we all howled with laughter. 

Now is the time for you to head over to Payhip to get the Kit In The Korner pattern.  You will need to set up an account, if you haven't already, but rest assured, the pattern will be free and will remain free for the duration of the sew along. 

I have never been "lost" as Marian was.  I cannot imagine the feeling of fear she must have felt, but that little kitten brought her comfort.  

Are you a "cat person"? 
Or are you more of a "dog person"?
Maybe you are not a "pet person" at all...     

Either way, leave a comment... I love hearing from all of my friends!

Quilt Happy!

Don't forget to use the hashtags #PiecesoftheSantaFeTrail #PiecesoftheTrail #PiecesoftheTrailSewAlong and tag me on instagram @MelvaLovesScraps or share to my fb page Melva Loves Scraps 
Be sure to come back and link up your block for a chance to win a fat quarter too!

Linking with:

Put Your Foot Down at For the Love of Geese
Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty
Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More
Friday Foto Fun at Powered by Quilting
Finished or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts
BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts
Sunday Stash at QuiltPaintCreate
Patchwork & Quilts at The Quilting Patch


  1. thank you for the QAL - I hope to make the blocks but look forward to the stories

  2. Thank you, Melva! I love both cats and dogs!

  3. Too funny!! So there is a fort up here that was built just like Bents Fort - when they first built it they were supposed to let school children go through - but now it is used as a wedding destination. and me? Totally a Dog person, although - a good mouser cat is smiled upon haha!

  4. I'm ready to read these stories! Thanks for a very entertaining QAL! I am a dog person all the way.

  5. I am enjoying the stories. Dogs are okay, but I much prefer cats of all kinds & horses.

  6. Yep, cat person. I don't have any these days, but my older son still has a therapy cat, a Manx-Russian blue. She's a sweet little thing. What a love section of history you've included with this block. Thank you!

  7. If only more would read about the past , we would all appreciate the present and future more.
    Stay safe and sew on ! ( I love all furry creatures, even had a raccoon as a pet!)

  8. Thanks for sharing the stories. Marian has a great way with words - her mother did indeed do well in educating her.
    We don't have any pets. If I were to have one it would be a dog.

  9. Thank you for the story of days gone by. I love cats, dogs are too needy!

  10. Thank you for sharing this memoir with us. I love the story of the snake and the frog that escaped, and I can see why that would stick in a child's memory. As for me, I love dogs and cats in equal measure, and have one of each.

  11. I loved reading Marian's story. I'm more of a dog person than a cat person; but I'm totally an animal loving person!

  12. Lovely block. I love cats and dogs, even if I have no pets at home ;))
    Thanks for linking up today!

  13. I live in No. Colorado, and have visited Bent's Fort with our kids when they were Scouts. Such an interesting place!

  14. I'm loving your stories. I've made a block, but don't have a blog to display the picture of it.

  15. I found your blog late and am trying to play catch up. I would love to have this block but it is not showing free. Is it too late to get it free? Thanks for sharing the blocks and the story behind them.

  16. Finally found you again! So looking forward to reading the story. Pattern for kit in the corner not free.