The Van Deusen Crazy Quilt

Michigan; United States

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According to family history, the pieced crazy quilt was made by teenager Lois Van Deusen for her father, Roe G. Van Deusen, whose initial is in the lower left-hand corner.

The father designed the stitches, which he drew in a notebook entitled "Fancy Stitches for Crazy Work." In that book he alos made floral drawings in watercolor and pen and ink, which he asked his daughter to duplicate in embroidered form. If her needlework did not perfectly copy his drawings, he reportedly made her take out the stitches and start over. Roe Van Deusen also was a contributor to the Elsie Sun, in which he had a regular column called "Old Saws." Very little is known about his daughter except that she married James B. Darcus on April 27, 1891 and spent most of her married life in Ithaca, Michigan.

The quilt and sketchbooks have been passed down from Darcus to her daughter Ruth Darcus Husted and in turn to her son Clarence Husted, who donated them to the Michigan State University Museum.

Below is his biography from a family history called "Leaves From a Family Tree" by Marie Bates (1967).  
Roe VanDeusen was born April 27, 1820 near Fredonia, Chautaqua Co., New York. His early training was after the strict New England fashion. His early education consisted of what he recieved at his mother's knee, having to look after himself at the early age of thirteen. He began life working for his board and clothes. Later he recieved the small compensation of two dollars a month, however was required to clothe himself. His cothing was invariably home spun until he commanded such wages as would keep him better. He worked by the month in the summer and attended school in the winter, thus obtaining a good common school education. He also learned the blacksmithing trade, but never worked at it after serving his appreticeship.
When his apprenticeship ended, he attended the fall and spring term at the academy at Richfield, Summit Co., Ohio. He then spent summer months on the farm and winter months teaching. At the age of twenty-one he possessed his clothes and books, three dollars worth of property, and twenty-five cents cash. At the age of twenty-five he married Susanna Foss on July 10th, 1845. She was born January 3rd, 1826 in Whitestown, New York.
Their lives changed little for the next twenty-five years. Roe taught school twenty-five terms and was generally known as the School Master. His occupation of teaching naturally led him into discussions and the practice of debate; together with the fact that he had always lived on the frontier, as easly led him to the study of law. He thus became a frequent and very sucessful pleader in the justices' court. He was several times offered admission to practice in the higher courts, but as many times refused. Thus he became interested in public gatherings and in politics, and being an apt speaker and writer, became one of the leaders in the societies in which he moved.
In 1853 he came to Fairfield, Shiawassee Co., Michigan and joined his brother, Ralph, who was two years older. (Cherie's note: he was actually five years younger!) He stayed in Fairfield the summer of 1856, working at the carpenters trade, returning to his family in the fall. In 1859 he made a permanent settlement upon his farm in Michigan. Susanna fell victim to Typhoid fever March 2nd, 1863 at the age of thirty-seven, leaving behind ten children.
One year later, Roe married Sophia Burleson September 5th, 1864. She was twenty-two and Roe was forty-four. Sophia was born in Stuben Co., New York in 1842. She and Roe had five children. When all fifteen children had grown and left home, they made it a custom to meet at least once a year. It was their father's greatest delight to get them all together to have a good time at his house. Roe and Sophia lived on the farm until about 1884, when they moved into the village of Elsie.
The characteristics of Roe G. VanDeusen were multiform; a deep thinker, a great foresight, and originality backed up by good judgement. These made him adored by his children, greatly loved by his friends, feared by his enemies, and admired by all. He had a host of friends and likewise some who were not. In reference to the later class there were two ways which caused some to dislike him. One was throught his being a collector for some large business firms, and as with many another business man of this kind, there were people who did not like to meet him. With others he talked too plain, as he never said anything to a person's back which he would not say to his face.
Roe never made any pretensions of being a Christian, yet loved to see a holy life. He remarked on the occasion of the conversion of one of his children, that he wished all of them were Christians. He was a firm believer in the Holy Writ; not a passage did he doubt, and many of them were at his command at any time.
In early life he was a Democrat, and continued to act with the party until the Kansas and Nebraska trouble. He joined the political organization in Ohio of the Know Nothings, after which he became a Republican and was one of the two delages from Median Co., to the Ohio state convention held in Columbus, which made that party a national one.
Roe was, you might say, a living encyclopedia in law, literature, politics or on any subject he had clear and decided views. He contributed articles to several newspapers, and a little slip of paper, a fragment of some verses written on the death of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Kate VanDeusen, just four lines, and yet they speak volumes, seems to have been a prophesy purposely left, for one Sunday, the people of this little community were very much startled to hear of the death of Roe G. VanDeusen.
The days, how sorrowful and sad,
When hopes are crushed and prospects blighted.
But, oh, indeed, the heavens are glad,
When stricken friends are reunited.
But it can truely be said, as it was of Abel, who "being dead yet speaketh", as you cannot turn around but you come upon some reminder, some monument or land mark set up by his hands. The country has lost a citezen and the village has truly lost a counselor. Andrew VanDeusen, father of Roe, at one time had considerable property in his posession, but at the time of his death had barely enough to pay indebtedness. It was Roe's ambition, as he had stated many times, to begin where his father left off and stop where he had begun; his success need not be questioned.
Roe G. VanDeusen died as the result of an accident which occurred on a late Saturday evening. He was crossing the street in front of his residence, going to the opera house to pick up two little nieces who had seen a show, when he was struck by Ted Blunt's horse and buggy, just stating for home and leaving the bright lights of the town. Mr. Blunt was not blamed for the accident. Roe, though whole and hearty for a man of his age, past seventy-five, was a little deaf, decrepit in his lower limbs, and had poor eyesight, and thus he was more liable to meet with such an accident. Being thrown violenty to the ground caused concussion of the brain, and Sunday morning, September 14th, 1895, at about 10:00, his life went out, without his having become conscious since the accident.
The hub is gone...the shock fell exceedingly hard on his children who always made it a point to call and see him while in town. The funeral was held Wednesday, at 2:00 at the M.E. Church. The services were concluded under the auspices of the I.O.G.T, Rev. Stewart officiating, assisted by pastors Whitaker and Robinson. The business places were closed and hundreds of people were in attendance, and many of them were unable to gain access to the church. Roe G. VanDeusen was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Elsie, Michigan.

Written by MacDowell, Marsha (1887)

MacDowell, Marsha and Fitzgerald, Ruth, ed. Michigan Quilts: 150 Years of a Textile Tradition, Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, MI, 1987, page 57.

Michigan State University Museum


  • Michigan State University Museum


    Michigan Quilt Project

  • 2/22/1887

    Crazy Quilt

    Darcus, Lois

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