Pilgrims and Pioneers: Travelers Through Mountains
Pilgrim's Progress was published in 1688. "Throughout the next two centuries this scriptural allegory was printed and read more often than any book other than the Bible". 2 So it is not surprising that the Delectable Mountains became a much loved theme for quilt patterns. Add to that the fact that America's pioneers were in a sense pilgrims and their journey also required travel through mountains that were both beautiful and dangerous.
Like the pioneers Christian, the pilgrim in "The Pilgrims Progress", both yearned for and feared the Delectable Mountains. He and his companion Hopeful had just escaped from Giant Despair who had imprisoned them in his Doubting Castle where our good pilgrims were beaten and starved. As they traveled on what a joyous moment it must have been when they came to the Delectable Mountains, a sign that they were nearing their destination the Celestial City.
But Christian and Hopeful knew there were dangers in the Delectable Mountains as well. Those not of good faith could fall and be dashed to pieces at the bottom of the mountain. The pioneers too had to brave dangers through treacherous mountains. One can imagine why many pioneers identified with "Pilgrim's Progress" and like Christian they clung to their faith in God to get them through.
Twelve year old Lucinda Anne Leonard was to go through a harrowing near death experience from illness and exposure as her family traveled through the rugged Cascade Mountains. It was thought to be a short cut to their destination in western Oregon. Instead of saving time her family were a part of what is known as the Lost Wagon Train of 1853.
Their journey would have ended in tragedy if it were not for the fact that word got out about starving people unable to get through the mountains. A group of concerned settlers packed food and supplies and went searching. To everyone's joy they found and rescued the grateful people of this wagon train.
The Leonard family had brought a Delectable Mountain quilt made by Lucinda's grandmother with them on their journey. Lucinda's decedents still treasure this quilt that made it through the mountains with their great-great-great-great-grandmother. I did the illustration to the left to give you an idea of what this quilt looks like though Lucinda's quilt had more varied fabrics. 3
It is fun to search through books and online to see the many variations there are in how the blocks are arranged in Delectable Mountains quilts. Below are illustrations of some Delectable Mountains quilt patterns.
I've designed a quilt pattern for you that has a surprise in the center. Go to the Delectable Mountains Pattern to see this design and get the free pattern.
© 2007 Judy Anne Brenemanprint a printer friendly version of this page
1 p 115, The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan (this edition has the original illustrations)
2 p 113, "Small Endearments: 19th Century Quilts for Children", by Sandi Fox
3 pp 90, Quilts of the Oregon Trail, by Mary Bywater Cross