Leahs Trees

Block Number: H 13

Ginger Todd
McDowell Quilt Trail


Lucille Burnette is the host of the 13th block on the Rural Heritage Trail which is funded through grants from the McDowell Quilt Trail. The block is in memory and honor of her mother-in-law Leah Ricketts Burnette and is patterned after one of her favorite quilts she made years ago.

Leah’s story goes back historically several generations. She was born in 1909 and was later given acreage in the Mackey’s Creek area by her father Charlie Eugene Ricketts long before developments and paved roads existed in the area. She married Lee Burnette and the homestead was farmed mainly with corn crops plowed by “Myrtle” and “Bob” their two work horses as they didn’t have a tractor yet back in those days. When her husband died the property and barn (built in the 1930’s) was passed on to their son Earl Eugene Burnette and his wife, Lucille (host of the block) and now belongs to her since his death in 2003.

Growing up in the depression of the 1930’s Leah Burnette was a truly intelligent, independent and hard working woman who loved nature. She always enjoyed having family and friends up to her home on the top of the knoll which she referred to as her “Garden of Eden”. Her husband Lee worked at the Old Fort tannery before it burned and later was employed by Drexel Furniture before becoming a full-time farmer. The farm animals and garden supplied nearly all the food the family needed.

After their son Earl was born Leah had a job at the James Hosiery Mill, walking two to three miles in all kinds of weather to hitch a ride with a gentleman who had a vehicle and for a small fee would drive her to work. She was one of the first women to hold a supervisor’s job in the area. Leah later opened J & B Department Store in Old Fort in addition to jobs she also had at C & A and Hugh’s Department Store. She was active in the Old Fort Order #175 of the Eastern Star and served as Worthy Matron. Along with all her hard work in those days, she enjoyed music and was known for her dulcimer playing. The instrument was made by Clyde Hollifield, well known for his craftsmanship as well as his puppet shows in the area, and Leah was often accompanied by her husband Lee who played the banjo.

A favorite story is when she wanted to get her granddaughter Teresa a pony for her first birthday. A black pony with a star on its face was available in Newton but daughter-in-law Lucille wondered how they would get it back to the farm. As Lucille says, only feisty “Granny Leah” could come up with an idea. She took the back seat out of their Oldsmobile, covered it with paper and an old quilt, rolled down the windows and loaded the pony up. Needless to say they drew a lot of attention on their drive home through towns on Highway 70 (there was no Interstate 40 in those days) with the pony’s head out the window neighing at every stop!

Leah was a woman of faith and courage, very strong and active even in her later years. When confined to a wheel chair in a nursing home, she visited residents up and down the halls to cheer them up. Lucille remarks “she will be remembered for always wanting to do for others”. In 1999 Leah died at age 89, her husband having passed on seventeen years prior. In her last days she said “Tell everyone I love them and pray for Jesus to come get me”.

The barn still stands after more than eighty years and used for miscellaneous storage including the loft for gourds to dry. Built with whatever size lumber available in those days, the barn is constructed with various lengths and widths of boards, often not matching up exactly and not perfectly level, making the installed quilt block appear to be out of level. However, it serves as a fine backdrop for Rural Heritage Trail Block #H-13 which may be seen just past 1199 Mackey’s Creek Road on the left, McDowell County, N.C.

“Leah’s Tree’s” is a six by six foot block made of two panels and was installed by volunteers Mike Lucas, Coy Gibson and Jack Raker. Chairwoman Jill Lucas presented the Certificate of Authenticity to Lucille as host. Other family members who live nearby also attended the ceremony representing four generations: Joshua Settlemyer (great-great grandson); Lisa Settlemyer and Michelle Stamey (great granddaughters); Genia Ledford and Teresa Thomas (granddaughters).

Other descendants of Leah who could not be present for the occasion and will one day one day inherit the property are: David Thomas, Kelly Thomas Blasky, Taylor Settlemyer, Leah Blasky, Katie Blasky, Jason Ledford, Chelsea McLaughlin, Caleb McLaughlin, Canon Stamey, Thad Ledford, Hudson Ledford, Keenan Ledford and Lucy Ledford. Leah’s family tree includes several generations branching out to present day.

The McDowell Rural Heritage Trail is a part of the McDowell Quilt Trail and works diligently to preserve and remember our farm heritage, once the mainstay of life in our area. Rural Heritage blocks consist of traditional quilting patterns and are funded through grants if an older barn or farm-type building is eligible.

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