A FAMILY’S TREASURED ANTIQUE SQUARE AND COMPASS QUILT – Around The Frame

About a month ago Beth Conway contacts me asking if I could meet with her and her father John to help them gain some insight into an antique family quilt. The quilt is a beautiful hand quilted red/white quilt that is one of the most popular two-color combinations as far back as the 1840s and still popular today.

Beth shares a photo of the quilt’s maker Anna Westmire at age 73 taken in Miller, South Dakota where the quilt was made. Anna (1828 -1916) is John’s great-great grandmother.

Anna Westmire (1828-1916) and her square and compass quilt.Most recently the quilt was passed down to John and his late wife Mary Lou by his paternal aunt Mrs. Constance “Opal” Neerman (1894-2004) who lived 110 fun-filled packed years despite losing her eyesight. It’s remarkable to think: Constance was 22 years old when Anna died: old enough to remember her great-grandmother’s life stories harking back to pre-Civil War times. She in turn lived into the 21st Century to relate them to her descendents.

Searching quilt historian Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns we come across the pattern name: Square and Compass, the symbol most associated with Freemasons. John’s father Clarence was a Mason and his mother Frances was a member of Eastern Star. It would be fair to assume Anna’s husband John was also one, hence the choice of quilt pattern.

The history of the Masons is quite interesting. Going back to the Old Testament to the workers who built King Solomon’s temple. The term “Lodge” initially referred to the workshop built on the site of a major building project.

The square and compass are not only tools used in the building trade, they have a symbolic meaning too. The square symbolizes virture: “Are we square?” is asked once a negotiation has been completed to make certain both parties involved are satisfied with the result. Squares measure flat surfaces so it also symbolizes earth and everything on it.

The compass on the other hand measures three-dimensional objects by circumscribing them. It symbolizes man’s need to keep their desires in check. The compass symbolizes the heavens and all that is above the earth.

The Waynedale Masonic Lodge #739 opened sixty years ago in 1955. Past Master Ron Buskirk related to me how the lodge members discovered a need and created a special Angel Fund to provide necessities to area children. At the upcoming Waynedale Annual Community Picnic (August 22!) Masons will be on hand giving tips to parents and children on how to keep safe. Children accompanied by a parent can participate in the child identification program.

If you haven’t been to one of their free-will breakfasts hosted most first Saturdays of the month, you are missing out on a real treat! The food is great and the camaraderie is better. It’s a great place to meet people over scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and pancakes!

The history of the Freemasons is rich in culture, ritual and charity work. It’s no wonder Anna Westmire chose to make a beautiful square and compass quilt to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts where quilts are purchased, sold and restored. Located at 4005 South Wayne Avenue, she can be contacted at bornagainquilts@frontier.com or 260-515-9446.

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Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer