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President Eisenhower & His Mother’s Quilts ~ Around The Frame

As you read this, another city election has come and gone. I spent Election Day as I have the last few working as a poll worker.

This year Election Day, once again, fell on my birthday as it happens every few years. The last memorable time it did was 2000 the year of the “hanging chads.” I wondered if the election dilemma would be resolved by my son Robert’s birthday, December 4, and it was. According to my mother, she went to the polls, voted to re-elect President Eisenhower and I was born on Wednesday, the day he was officially declared the winner. My grandson Eldon, born on November, 3, 2021 was also born on a Wednesday the day after Election Day, but 2021 did not have any national or local elections in Indiana. The year I turned 18, I saw one-term Mayor Ivan Lebamoff defeated by one-term Mayor Robert Armstrong. Alas the election fell on November 5, so my opportunity to vote had to wait. Fast-forward into the future when Eldon turns 18 on November 3, 2039, he will be able to vote for mayor on a November 8 Election Day!

When people think about President Eisenhower, most likely his war years, the creation of the interstate system, and his V.P Richard Nixon come to mind. Many people think Ike is a Kansan, just like they think Gerald Ford is a native Michigander. So here’s the low-down on Ike:

Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was born in the bedroom of a two-story house in Denison, Texas on October 14, 1890. He was the only one of David and Ida Eisenhower’s seven children born in Texas. David brought his wife and their two young sons Arthur and Edgar from Hope, Kansas in 1889 to pursue a new life in Texas working on the railroad. The Eisenhower’s rented a simple frame house near the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad yards where David worked as a wiper, earning less than $40 a month cleaning the steam engines.

When Eisenhower was nearly 18 months old, his family returned to Kansas where his father secured employment with Belle Springs Creamery as a refrigeration engineer. It would be another 23 years before Eisenhower returned to Texas, this time as a second lieutenant in the Army infantry, stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. While in San Antonio, he met Mamie Doud, a young socialite from Denver, Colorado. After a brief courtship, they were married on July 1, 1916.

Eisenhower was always the pride of Denison. The community acquired his Birthplace home in 1946 and he was hailed as a hometown hero when he came back to visit that year. He returned on a presidential campaign trip in 1952, and Eisenhower’s Birthplace became a state park while he was president in 1958. He made his final visit in 1965 to dedicate the Eisenhower Auditorium at Denison High School (now Scott Middle School). In 2003, the Birthplace home was refurbished with 1890s-era furnishings.

Eisenhower was the first U.S. president born in Texas. An enterprising young man, Eisenhower sold sweet corn and cucumbers to neighbors to earn money. He also learned to make tamales from his mother’s recipe, selling three for a nickel. In 1948, he became president of Columbia University in New York. When Russia launched the space race with the Sputnik satellite in 1957, Eisenhower responded with the creation of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. As president, Eisenhower ordered total desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces. After Dwight D. Eisenhower became president in 1953, his administration developed a proposal for an interstate highway system, eventually resulting in the enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.

Ida Eisenhower was the mother of seven sons (Doud Dwight died at age 3 of scarlet fever in 1921). Living out in the country in the 1890s carrying water to a house was women’s work. Ida had to carry her own water from the water well in the yard to the house. It was typical for women to make 6-10 trips a day to a well or pump for their household needs. That’s quite impressive when you consider each bucket of water weighed more than eight pounds!

Each week when Ida did her baking, she used a cast iron coal-burning stove. The house had no fans or air conditioning, so the heat during baking hours would have been intense. Coal could have been delivered to the house for $3 per ton, but Ida and the children gathered much of what the family needed from along the railroad tracks where coal fell from the trains: The “Biblical Ruth” of her time gleaning from the railroad beds. Ida had access to a small grocery store, but nothing could be truly refrigerated so it was typical to have a garden and to eat seasonal fresh produce.

When the busy mother did have leisure time, she enjoyed her knitting and needlework. Besides knitting, Ida Eisenhower was a quilter, and she didn’t do it alone. Her sons would piece the tops and she in turn quilted them. One of their creations is a tumbling block quilt that is on a bed in Ike’s birthplace home in Denison. In Abilene Kansas, the Ida Stover-Eisenhower Memorial Quilt Show is presented by the Dickinson County Historical Society in her honor. The quilts encompass many designs and experience levels. The only judging is by the attendees for People’s Choice. Ida, I think, would be delighted to know that it is an inclusive quilt show.

As Eldon gets older, he will be introduced to quilts and will watch his grandma make them. I can point with pride to a photo of Ike and let him know that he helped his mother with her quilts, and he became President Dwight David Eisenhower! If you are like Ike and want to learn more, go to: thc.texas.gov/historic-sites/eisenhower-birthplace-state-historic-site and eisenhowerlibrary.gov.

Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts. If you have a quilt or other textile story to share, contact her at 260-515-9445 or bornagainquilts@frontier.com

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