Laura Keeperly

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Marble Springs 2.0 screenshot of Laura Keeperly

What we know

1872 - 1925
Youngest daughter of Tim and Anne Harmon. Born and bred in Marble Springs. Married Fred Keeperly, a foreman at her father’s mine, the Black Queen. When the mine closed in '93, Fred sought work at the quarry. Two children, Sophronia and Jeptha Keeperly, as well as two miscarriages and one stillbirth, buried in the graveyard.


Laura’s first was a Nine-Patch variation;
the corners cut into triangles to make
the most of Aunt Dell's Sunday poplin
with its clean red lines. And to hide
a corner pocket filled with maple leaves,
pungent saps, and sharp milk quartz.

The mountains framing pine trees
and cornflower skies led to a Lone Star
with a border of triangles and Amish bars.
Kneeling on it, Fred proposed to her.
His scrapes from the mine reopened
and were staunched by the clove-scented border.

Her Tumbling Blocks became hexagons—
squares surrounded by diamonds
that juggled into triangles when held to light.
Rachel Cole said it was the best she’d seen.
The Ladies Aid girls all laughed
at her crowded colors.

Then Sadie down the hill got married.
Laura made her a counterpane.
Ruby said it wouldn’t work—
all one color white like that.
But the quilting made iced diamonds
like water flowing fast over worn granite.

After the Panic, Fred gave up.
Went to the quarry.
The children came.
Laura fashioned a Broken Star
out of her Sunday satin
that was ruined when Fred
came home drunk.
Up close, it was squares
falling over themselves.
Away, it was a grey star
growing out of blocks green like rain.

The Ladies Aid one from Pastor Horner's old suits
won the State Fair in'18. Laura called it
Night-Stars and Quartered-Moon.
Emmy said it shone like tree branches
and mossy springs babbling out of dark cloth.
Doc Nancy said it was babies tears.

Scraps over time became tiny triangles
worked into variegated quilts
that were always uneven.
It was hard to sew
when you had run out of coffee.
Then flour.

A Jacob’s Ladder came last of all.
Coal-ash cotton from Fred’s funeral
mingled with scarlet-ribbed satin that
the children sent from Kansas.
She’d been saving it for a long skirt,
and there wasn’t any need now1.
This quilt was left unfinished.

Fox and Geese, Log Cabins,
and Rose Hoops were left
chasing themselves in her hope-chest.
Laura always had had a way with patterns,
the women allowed.
The men sold the cot,
sawed the trees,
dammed the stream,
and sold the scrap quilts for debts.





Bishop, Robert.The Romance of Double Wedding Ring Quilts. New York:
E.P. Dutton, 1989.

Duke, Dennis, and Deborah Harding, ed.America’s Glorious Quilts. New York: Park Lane, 1987.

Ferrero, Pat.Hearts and Hands: The Influence of Women & Quilts on American Society. San Francisco: The Quilt Digest Press, 1987.

Portal caption and links

Drawing of a quilting hoop, quilt, needle, and thread.
Sadie Stoner
Emmy Mateson

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Portal for secret connections
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