The Museum of Redlands / AK Smiley Public Library Heritage Room recently received a framed cross stitch sampler dated 1799, donated by Theresa Law of Oak Glen.
Law is 103 years old, with vivid memories of her origins in southern Paris, Maine, first arriving in Redlands in 1942 for her husband’s combat training at General Patton’s desert training grounds, his subsequent return to Redlands after his death in France, and relocating to Oak Glen to grow apples and bake up to 600 pies a day for their coffee on tourist weekends.
The Museum of Redlands seeks to share the history of the Inland Empire and the place of Redlands in Southern California. Thus, memories of Law’s orchards and the apple pie restaurant would be important. But the sampler just received could also be used to recount Law’s long-standing relationship with Redlands. She is a founding member (1981) of the Citrus Belt Quilters organization, which is interested in many types of fine sewing work. And she is a member of the local Arrowhead chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, preserving many late 18th-century artifacts representing the political formation of the United States.
Handing over the sampler, Law explained that the work was “made by Trial Taft, great-great-great-great-grandmother Taft (and given) to John S. Colby, my first husband, who was killed in action. September 1, 1944. “
The 222 year old silk thread sampler on mint condition linens features hand sewn alphabets and numbers in five fonts, with the lettering “Trial Taft of Oxbridge in the County of Worcester Ended This Sampler December 25, 1799. “
A precise cross-stitch floral pattern borders the bottom.
Theresa Law, who until six months ago (before being shut down by the COVID pandemic and her own hospitalization with the virus), could be found every day for the past decade sewing aprons decorations for tourists at the back of her Oak Glen quilt store and later at Mom’s Country Orchard Store at 38695 Oak Glen Road, owned by her daughter Allison Mathisen.
Maintaining his Maine accent all these years, Law loves to accurately tell his family story. Of her future first husband, she said, “Her father was a minister of the Congregation and (John) sat behind me in the fourth grade.
John Seagrave Colby then graduated from the University of Maine at Orono while Theresa attended Farmington State College for two years. She took a summer job with the telephone company which didn’t want her to quit and go back to school because she spoke French, and there were frequent phone calls between French-speaking Canada and the cannery of beans from Maine.
John Colby graduated in 1941. At that time, a man could volunteer for the draft with the promise of a two-year commitment.
“It was September 1941,” Theresa said. “And Pearl Harbor in December changed everything. Those two years were no longer true, so right after our marriage (in Arkansas on April 30, 1942) he enrolled in the OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Fort Knox.
She agrees it was a busy time to keep up with her husband’s assignments because wives knew their husbands were going to be sent overseas.
The wives of the officers had pooled their gas coupons to follow their husbands to Nashville where the wives rented rooms to live together during the week. Two of the four couples then used the two-bedroom house when the men came home on the weekends, and two couples had to rent additional hotel rooms for those weekends.
Law said that when her husband was posted to the Desert Training Center where General Patton trained troops near what is now the Chiriaco summit in the Mojave Desert, they had to take the train to Redlands. Although regular troops could get off the train at Rice Station in the desert, civilians had to travel to Redlands as the nearest stopping point.
Through the knowledge of a relative in Maine, a connection was made with Redlands Schools Superintendent Henry Clement (Clement Middle School), whose family helped Law find accommodation in an apartment from one house to another. two floors at 740 W. Palm Ave.
She recalls: “The apartment had a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom, and we rented it for five months from October to April. John could come to Redlands on the weekend.
“It was not easy, but the women wanted to stay with the husbands, and we made the most of the time we had,” she said.
Colby was only in France three weeks when he was killed in action and buried there in the Anglo-American cemetery of St. James, just three months after D-Day.