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Quilters Form Backbone of Town : Group Formed in 1957 to Raise Money to Save Church

Times Staff Writer

Blessed are the quilters for they shall be called peacemakers.

--Saying posted in the Taylorsville Church

Quilters in this Sierra Nevada hamlet tucked away in a lonely corner of Northern California are the backbone of the community.

They help down-and-out families pay rent and utility bills and keep them in groceries.

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When a house was destroyed in a fire recently it was the quilters who came to the rescue and provided food, clothing and shelter.

They restored the only church in town. They’re digging a well in the local cemetery so grass and flowers will grow on graves. Their list of good deeds goes on and on.

“It could get pretty boring being stuck in a house in below freezing weather and snow all over these mountains if you didn’t have something to do,” said Margaret Cooke, 72, who founded the Taylorsville Ladies Coffee and Sewing Circle 28 years ago.

“Five of us started quilting in 1957 to raise money to keep the church from falling down. It was a wreck,” recalled Lucille Stead, 66. Now, half the women in town are members of the quilting group.

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The women of Taylorsville (population 249) spend most of their spare time quilting. They quilt together at the church on Tuesdays and Fridays with potlucks for lunch. They quilt the rest of the time at home.

They are especially busy during the long, gloomy winter months.

Their quilting circle is well known to quilters throughout the West.

Every year the women of Taylorsville hold their annual May Quilt Show in the picturesque white frame 1875 Taylorsville Community United Methodist Church, a church built with square nails.

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Big Attraction

Quilters from up and down the Pacific Coast come here each May to display old and new quilts in the church sanctuary and the social hall behind it.

On the first Saturday in October the Taylorsville quilters present their annual fall festival in the church selling the quilts they create throughout the year.

The quilters keep none of the proceeds. Total quilt sales at the fall festival this year totaled $5,781, half going to the support of the church, half for the cemetery well.

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“Many of us are not members of the church. But everyone in town uses the church for weddings, receptions, parties and funerals,” explained Marion Kunz, 76, a quilter for 17 years.

Wide Range of Ages

The quilters range in age from 30 to 95-year-old Etta Lewis who lost her eyesight six years ago. She doesn’t quilt anymore, but still lends moral support.

Inside the church is a plush red carpet and red cushions on the 110-year-old original hand-hewn wooden pews. The carpet and cushions were paid for by the quilters.

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“I never met a group of women that make outsiders so welcome,” said Maxine Buzzell, 57, who moved to Taylorsville from Sun Valley eight years ago when her husband, Del (Buzz) Buzzell retired as a Los Angeles city fireman. “We came here as strangers. I never quilted before but I’m a quilter now.”

On a wall in the church social hall where the quilters gather is a bit of prose by Ann Lohn, entitled “Creation”:

“God sewed a patchwork quilt at creation. She called the blue and white squares sky. The rich browns, yellows, blacks, reds, tans she called earth. The cool green and deep murky blues she called oceans.

“God quilted in patterns of tall mountains and deep valleys. She knotted her thread and took the quilt off the frame. Then she flung it into space. . . .”

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