Quilt made 100 years ago using fabric scraps from coffin

Casket scraps become museum quilt donation

NEW ULM — The Brown County Historical Society received an uncommon donation Wednesday from a former St. George resident.

Marge Anton Marschel of Waite Park donated a quilt made by her grandmother, Elizabeth Fesenmeier Klingler, formerly of St. George.

Marschel made the donation on behalf of herself and her late sister, Mildred Anton Schreiber, formerly of New Hope, because the quilt was made by their grandmother.

What makes the quilt so unique is how Klingler made the quilt nearly a century ago.

“Never used, the quilt passed down to me was made from fabric scraps from a coffin used at Forster Funeral Home of New Ulm sometime prior to 1940. The coffins were made here and lined with fabric here,” Marschel said.

Funeral homes and furniture stores were often owned by the same people. The thinking was if a business could build furniture, they could build coffins.

She said her grandmother and mother, Florence Klingler Anton, made many quilts and clothing, often during the winter.

“They made many things from old clothes and feed sacks that sometimes had flowered patterns,” said Marshel.

“I thought the Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) would be interested in the quilt because of the ties to Forster Funeral Home,” she added.

“It’s pretty unique. We have donations from funeral homes in town, but nothing quite like this,” BCHS Collections Curator Ryan Harren said of the quilt donation.

“We have a pretty big quilt collection from as far back as the 1800s. They’re all unique in their own way,” he added.

Harren said the quilt may become part of museum quilt display that includes a wicker child casket and a suit that belonged to former New Ulm funeral director Elmer Pollei.

Growing up in St. George in a house on the Fort Road in St. George, Marschel said grandmother and grandfather Joseph Klingler moved to St. George after he retired from farming in the 1930s.

Marschel, her sister, their parents and her grandmother lived together on 10 acres with apple trees, grapevines, an outdoor sauerkraut jar, big vegetable and flower gardens in St. George. Livestock included 100 chickens, three cows and a pig.

“I consider the New Ulm area home. I come back here frequently and have many good memories. My grandmother’s eyes sight was very limited in her later days, but she knit many slippers from yarn for people when she lived in the St. Alexander’s Home,” Marshel added.


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