QUILTS: A Life's Work - Anna Preheim Graber ss66t_i123p.jpg

QUILTS: A Life's Work

ANNA PREHEIM GRABER (2 August 1872 - 29 January 1960)

Compiled by Maxine Ortman
with additional material from
- John S. Preheim
-Winifred Saner


View Quilt Pictures

A Tribute to Anna Preheim Graber

[NOTE: Anna Preheim Graber was my Great-Grandmother. Many of the photos below were scanned in from slides. They do not fully reflect the stunning colors and brilliant designs of these quilts. -David E. Ortman- CLICK ON PICTURES FOR LARGER PHOTO.]

Anna Preheim Graber was the daughter of Peter and Barbara Strausz Preheim. ss1_i1.jpg
In 1874, when she was 2 years old, she left with her parents from Horodisch, a Mennonite colony in Vohlynia, Russia. They, and other Swiss-Vohlynian Mennonites, sailed on the S.S. Chester and arrived in New York on 24 August. They made their way by rail to Yankton in Dakota Territory and eventually settled on a homestead claim in Tuner County in the fertile Turkey Ridge Valley.

Peter and Barbara were the parents of ten children, five sons and five daughters. Two of the daughters died in infancy, one, Lena, of dipthereia. We believe this was their first wooden home built in 1878.ss2t_i23.jpg In it were born 7 of the 8 Preheim surviving children .

Their second home was built on the same yard. ss3t_i28.jpg This property later became the home of their youngest son, Henry, and is presently the home of Henry's son, the Jasper Preheim family.

During their early years in Dakota Territory they experienced many of the hardships of early pioneer life. These included grasshoppers which brought about ruin to crops, prairie fires and severe blizzards. With hard work they were able to provide for the needs of their family and turned their land into one of the most productive farms in the county.

On 27 May 1891, Anna Preheim married Jacob G. Graber. Together they established their home on a farm 2 miles from where Anna spent her childhood. It was located just across the road to the east from the Salem Mennonite (South) Church approximately 4 miles east of Freeman, South Dakota.

Seven daughters and two sons were born to this union. ss5t_i3.jpg
This picture shows Jacob G. Graber and Anna with Children: Adina, Marie, Martha, Emma, Joseph and Lydia.

Jacob G. Graber and Anna with Children: ss6t_i13.jpg
Back Row: Alice, Joseph, Emma, Harold, Lydia.
Front Row: Adina, Anna, Jacob, Martha, Marie.

In 1939, she and Jacob celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. ss7t_i15.jpg
This meant a picture of all the children, spouses and grandchildren. ss8t_i14.jpg

1st Row: Joe L. Graber, Bruce Mueller, Wm. Schrag Jr., Ruby Schrag Unruh, Ellen Graber Ortman, Maxine Mueller Ortman, Geraldine Schrag Cox, Doris Schrag Allsgaard - 2nd Row: Martha, Marie, Lydia, Jacob G., Anna, Alice, Emma - 3rd row: Bill Schrag, Harold, Arleen Schrag Amert, Mildred Waltner Buhr, Adina, Helen Schrag Severson, Florine Waltner Plenert, Wesley Kaufman, Andrew Schrag - 4th Row: David Mueller, Ben P. Waltner, Edna Graber, and Joseph Graber.

After their youngest son Harold got married, Grandpa, Grandma and daughter Marie retired on Harold's farm in this small house ss9t_i16.jpg and most of the quilts were made here - no running water or bathroom facilities, but in the later years REA came along and there were lights.

This is how we remember Grandma Anna. ss10t_i17.jpg Notice the wall telphone and the treadle sewing machine. Grandma loved to piece those small pieces of fabric and left the quilting to her daughters.

Piecing quilts, along with gardening and tending flowers were her hobbies and pastimes. The quilts were a piece of art, often sewn by hand, and were pieced accurately with Anna's precision color matches. Through quilt making, the beautiful colors of the flower garden were brought into the house.

Her second oldest daughter, Marie (who never married), contributed much to the household duties which freed Grandma Anna to work on the thing she enjoyed doing the most ---making quilts. She made over 100 quilts by the time of her death in 1960, at age 87.

How does one make a quilt? A plan for colors and materials to be used for a certain quilt was made first.ssiii44t.jpg Single quilt blocks were often made and kept in a box as samples. These are quilt block samples found in Grandma Anna's quilt boxes.

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This is how the back of a quilt would look after it has been "pieced" (sewn). ssiii30t.jpg

The "Flower Garden" pattern grew out of Grandma Anna's love for flowers They are as colorful as real flowers. Over 30 "Flower Garden" quilts have been photographed.
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The "Field of Diamonds" was also made frequently. What a marvelous piece of mastry!! Many colors were entwined with beautiful color coordinations.
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"Travel Around the World" quilts were often made to use up the left over scraps. Grandma Anna had difficulty with word pronunication and it was delightful to hear her speak about "Treble Around the World" quilt.

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Another variation was called "Many Travels Around the World". These quilts also found their way into the daughters' homes. Of interest is that each little travel design is made from the same material.

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The "Postage Stamp Quilt" used Black fabric for the first time.

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Only one "Sunburst" quilt was made. It was for the oldest gradndaughter for a graduduation gift. What a beauty!

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Pinks, blues and white make a lovely "Lone Star" quilt. Notice the geometric designs.

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Browns, yellows, and pinks make another lovely "Lone Star" quilt.

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Another pattern was the Broken Star quilt. Grandma Anna made only one of these.

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This is an example of the "Pinwheel" quilt. It has an optical illusion effect. Lovely!!

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The "Double Wedding Ring" quilt is a difficult pattern to make!!

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This is a "Dresden Plate" quilt and we believe there was only one of these.

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"No Name Quilt." This quilt was made from very small pieces left over from other quilts. Two quilts were made like this which were bunk bed size for 2 great grandsons

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"The Unfinished Lone Star Quilt". This was a quilt that Grandma Anna started but did not complete. Why?? We will never know. Upon close examination one sees diamond shaped blocks that were pieced up to 3 times to get the diamond shape. Many of the colors do not match and the material is completely of a different texture. Perhaps Grandman Anna was not happy with this started star quilt and left it unfinished for a reason. Somehow it found its way to a daughter's closet, but she didn't want it so granddaughter Winifred Saner retrieved it and finished the quilt. And here it is!!

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This is a picture ss16t_i20p.jpg of Anna Preheim Graber and her Great Grandchildren David E. Ortman and Jean (Ortman)Detrich shortly before her death in 1960. When our Mother Lydia (Anna's second youngest daughter) passed away, David spoke in his tribute, "I feel particularly fortunate to have known all 4 grandparents and 3 great grandparents and I believe that it is grandmothers that often are the glue that holds families together."

For our family, Grandma Anna's quilts have been the glue that has bonded our Graber family closer together.

"We count our quilts our treasures
Those tiny pieces held by carefully sewn stitches
The work of loving wrinkled hands,
For us, Grandma's Quilts hold special memories."

Thanks to funding from the South Dakota Arts Council, the South Dakota State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, Anna Preheim Graber's lifetime of quilts were photographed and videotaped. In 1992, over twenty of these quilts became part of a traveling exhibit throughout South Dakota. Her work hung in art galleries - museums - and at Governor's Arts Awards in the State Capitol building in Pierre.

The slides and a copy of a ten minute video ["Quilts - A Life's Work" by Christina Craton and Tim Schwab, First Light Films 1995] are now part of the Freeman Historical Museum, %Freeman Academy, Freeman, South Dakota 57029.

A Tribute to Anna Preheim Graber
Written by
Maxine Ortman
Winifred Saner

From Horodisch, Vohlynia Russia to Marion, South Dakota
Anna sailed the Atlantic at the age of two,
With parents, Peter and Barbara Strauss Preheim
Arriving in New York state in August of 1874.

The first South Dakota winter was spent in Yankton,
Then 14 miles north to Welchtown,
Three years later a move to Turner County
Became the permanent home for Anna.

Father Peter, a true farmer, labored "in the sweat of his brow,"
Turning the sod of the wild prairie into fertile fields,
Soon their land became a productive tract in Turner County.

Anna learned to do her share of the work.
The oldest of 10 children-gardens needed tending,
Cooking, butter churning, mending and soap making,
Caring for the younger brothers and sisters, all became daily routine.

On May 27, 1891, she became the bride of Jacob G. Graber,
Together they estabalished their home on a farm.
Seven daughters, 2 sons were born to this union.
Her supreme interests in life were her family and home
She served both with unchanging love and untiring devotion.

It soon became apparent that Anna had special talent.
She spent hours cutting out of cloth
Just the right colors, shapes and pieces,
To master a beautiful hand stitched quilt.
Not only did it involve hours of work
But a great technical skill and know-how.

She had no formal schooling,
No Home Economics degree,
She was only self taught.

One could buy at the store a stove, a lamp or piece of furniture
Only to find that neighbors and friends owned identical pieces.
But no two quilts of her's were alike
Her quilts were an in-born form of art.
Her expression of beauty - a rare commodity of the day.

We count our quilts as our treasures,
Those tiny pieces held by carefully sewn stitches.
The work of loving wrinkled hands,
For us, Grandma's quilts hold special memories.

ss98t_i35.jpg Granddaughters with Anna's quilts: Harriet Kaufman, Winifred Saner, Florine Plenert, Helen Severson, Doris Alsgaard, Arleen Amert, Geraldine Cox, Maxine Ortman, Mildred Buhr, Ellen Ortman