Courtships were often very short in the Nebraska Sandhills. The limited opportunities for socializing in the sparsely populated plains, the distance between families, and the need for two people to share the responsibilities of living on the land and raising a family meant couples often made quick decisions. Bert Snyder and Grace McCance followed this model during their brief courtship.
Grace met Bert in 1899 when he stopped by her family’s homestead to see if he could help her father, "Poppie", who was gravely ill. Grace was only 17 when she met the handsome, gray-eyed cowboy.
© Yvonne Hollenbeck, received from Billie Snyder Thornburg
© NO TIME ON MY HANDS, Grace Snyder Descendants
Albert "Bert" Benton Snyder herded cattle in Wyoming and Montana and was one of the best horsemen around. He had watered his cattle nearby and offered to do some chores for the McCance family. Grace assured him they didn’t need any help, but she later remembered his kind manners and his easy way of riding a horse. It was the first glimpse she had of her future husband, and she kicked herself for not having more to say to him.
A few months later, Bert appeared unexpectedly on a fine, large horse while Grace was out gathering wild grapes in a local canyon. Again, the shy couple could think of little to say to each other. Since she was wearing Poppie’s old clothes and was convinced she had made a terrible impression, Grace stood mortified as he rode away.
Perhaps this grape-picking event inspired Grace’s beautiful Grape Quilt with a lovely pattern of grapes, vines, and leaves. Family members remember her sketching the leaf design from the grapevine leaves found in the hills of Lincoln County, Nebraska.
There are 15 grapes in each of the inner clusters and 22 grapes in each border cluster. All are made with the skillful symmetry that is characteristic of Grace’s work. This remarkable quilting pattern resembles the weave in older styles of baskets used for gathering fruit.
© NSHS #RG1255-1-6
In the summer of 1900, Grace went with a different “beau”, Ivan, to visit North Platte for the first time. They wanted to hear Teddy Roosevelt make a whistle-stop campaign speech as a candidate for Vice-President.
The town was already bustling with excitement when a group of enthusiastic cowboys rode onto the scene. The same gray-eyed stranger she had met earlier led the cowboys into the festivities by jumping his horse over a rope barrier, and Grace once again noted his easy manner and good looks. It was a year before Grace saw Bert again.
The next meeting occurred while Grace was gathering chokecherries. Her horse ran off, so she hiked up her skirts, waded across the creek, and hurried after the mare, only to lose the horse each time she grabbed at the reins.
From around the bend, an amused Bert appeared and quickly captured the runaway horse. Grace yanked down her skirts, but was so surprised and embarrassed that again she found little to say. Silently, Grace watched Bert ride away, convinced she would never have any luck conversing with that good-looking cowboy.
Gathering fruit seemed to play a part in Grace and Bert’s chance meetings. A number of years later, Grace made a quilt called Mrs. McGill’s Cherries, which required 504 rounded cherries to complete the design. According to family members, she skillfully appliquéd each beautifully formed cherry in the symmetrical design, all by hand, without any overlaid pattern.
Famous quilter Anne Orr’s original design for Mrs. McGill’s Cherries first appeared in a little known magazine called Land o’ Nod published by Lockport Batting Company in 1938. Grace frequently used others’ designs, and then made them her own. She also quilted 1938 into the off-white background.
Grace left the family farm to teach for a year on the isolated Aufdengarten Ranch 50 miles northwest of Sutherland in McPherson County. Then she moved back to Lincoln County and taught another year of school closer to home.
So, Grace was 21 before she met Bert again at a young adults’ fish fry near her parents’ farm. She knew Bert would be there, so dressed her best this time. As they gathered chokecherries together, Bert invited Grace to go horseback riding the following Sunday. On their first “date”, they rode, stopped to sit in the grass and talk, . . . and then, Bert proposed marriage and Grace accepted, just like that.
Grace and Bert were married two months later on October 23, 1903, in Maxwell, Nebraska, at the home of Bert’s father, Jeremiah Snyder. Grace’s second daydream of marrying a cowboy had come true.
They began their long journey to Bert’s ranch in McPherson County that same day, stopping only to have their wedding picture taken in North Platte. They would spend fifty-three years together before Bert passed away.
A bed covering or blanket, usually created in 3 layers: a decorative top, an interior batting made of cotton, wool, or polyester fibers for warmth, and a backing. Quilting is the process of stitching all three layers together.
Traditional 6-Step Process
- Select a pattern, fabrics for top and back, and interior batting.
- Measure and cut fabrics to the correct size to make blocks from the pattern.
- Piece (sew together) blocks to make a finished top layer. Add embroidered details or appliqués, if desired.
- Make a quilt sandwich by layering the quilt top with batting and backing, usually using a quilt frame to hold the fabrics taut.
- Quilt (stitch) the three layers together.
- Square up and trim excess batting from the edges, sew the binding to the front edges of the quilt, and then hand-stitch the binding to the backing.
A guide design or example used to help create other designs. symmetry
When a design is divided into equal parts, all parts look the same, except perhaps they may be mirror images of each other. weave
Interlaced yarns or threads that create a fabric or basket. Baskets were frequently woven out of straw, with varying, interesting patterns. beau
In needlework, a decorative piece of material applied over a foundation material. batting
Stuffing for the interior (middle layer) of the quilt to make it warmer, usually out of cotton, wool, or polyester fibers. ranch
A piece of land used to raise animals for sale, usually cattle. farm
A piece of land used to grow crops to sell, not just for home use. Animals may also be raised, but the crops are the main product.