Rosa Smiley was born in 1901 in southern Kentucky. Her father was a farmer and a banjo player. She learned the skills of cooking, sewing, planting, harvesting, and preserving food at an early age, and spent most of her life close to the red clay, rocky land along the backwaters of the Cumberland River.
A few years ago I revisited the old home site I remember that sits above the bluffs of Buck Creek. Although the house is gone, there are the remains of the spring house where Rosa cooled milk from their cow and drew the pure water she carried back to the house. She was the post-mistress at the little Hail, Kentucky post office that was in a small shed beside the house. And she quilted.
Rosa left a great legacy of beautiful hand-sewn quilts, and she taught her daughter the art, a tradition that has been passed on to her granddaughter and great-granddaughter. The cloth for the quilts came from the colourful remnants of old dresses and blouses, with the backings often made from flour sacks. These quilts were made to be used in daily living, given as gifts, or stored away for future generations.