Mary Lee Quilts, El Dorado, Kansas 

Who Was Mary Lee Quilts?

A recently acquired quilt pattern collection included two mimeographed patterns from "Mary Lee Quilts, 719 S. Star, El Dorado, Kansas."  Of course we instantly think of Scioto Imhoff Danner and her 1930s-1950s business, Mrs. Danner's Quilts, conducted by mail-order from the same Kansas town, and through department store appearances across the country.

A search for "Mary Lee Quilts" at revealed a 1934 Waterloo, Iowa, department store ad identifying Mrs. Thomas Carrell.  Then a search for "Mrs. Thomas Carrell" revealed a similar 1933 ad from an Emporia, Kansas, department store.  Both ads are shown below and neither ad mentions Mrs. Danner.

Did Mrs. Danner inspire Mrs. Carrell's pattern business?  Were the two businesses connected in some way?  How long did Mrs. Carrell continue her business?

The two Mary Lee patterns I acquired are Pomegranate and Bow Knot Border Design.  Both are appliques.  Pomegranate is the same design as Mrs. Danner's Ladies' Dream shown in her Book 1, page 25, ©1932, and as Capper's Weekly's Bluebird Nest or Bluebirds' Home published April 8, 1933.  (This design is No. 14.843 in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique.)  Among the Mrs. Danner's quilt patterns listed in the November 1931 Hutchinson, Kansas, department store ad (see Mrs. Danner's page) is a Bow Knot Border as well as her beloved Ladies' Dream.  Both ladies sold a Dolly Varden design.

Emporia (KS) Gazette, May 1, 1933

Waterloo (IA) Daily Courier, April 3, 1934

Who Was Mrs. Thomas Carrell?

Nema Armina Cash was born January 26, 1887, in Mullinville, Kiowa County, Kansas, daughter of Henry Edward and Eva Alice (Ward) Cash.  She married Thomas S. Carrell of Casey, Illinois, January 23, 1904.  He was a retail clothing merchant in El Dorado, Kansas, in the 1920s and early 30s and died in 1956 after which Nema remarried.  Nema Carrell Epler died October 22, 1986, in Wichita, Kansas.

Thomas and Nema Carrell moved from Crawford County, Illinois, between 1910 and 1920 to El Dorado where Thomas was working for A. G. Haberlein, a men's furnishings store.  By 1927, he had partnered with C. W. Small as Carrell & Small Clothiers, and their son, Thomas Cash, known as T. Cash Carrell, was a bookkeeper for the Citizens State Bank.  By 1933, only Cash remained in El Dorado and he, too, had left by 1936.  El Dorado's surviving city directories and telephone books failed to reveal information relating to Mrs. Carrell's quilt pattern business, and the address on her quilt patterns, 719 S. Star, proved to be a mystery as John Skinner, an oil field driller, was the resident of record in 1931 and 1935, while Thomas and Nema's last known home address was 1019 West Pine in 1930.

Nema's death notice in the Wichita Eagle/Beacon simply says:  "Nema C. Epler, 99, of Wichita, homemaker, died Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1986.  Service is pending.  Quiring-Old Mission Mortuary."  A visit to the mortuary proved to not only be unsuccessful, but I was met with an unwilling and uncooperative attitude.  Neither Thomas Carrell nor Nema Carrell Epler were mentioned in El Dorado's newspaper after their respective deaths in 1956 and 1986 so her second husband's name is not yet known or where she is buried.

Mrs. Carrell's story will hopefully continue in time.  Stay tuned.

© Wilene Smith, September 7, 2010, all rights reserved

Where is El Dorado, Kansas?

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