Published: 04/24/2022 11:33:54
Modified: 04/24/2022 11:32:29 AM
Although the seasonal reopening of the Orange Historical Society is only scheduled for June, its first floor, on a recent gray morning, was unusually illuminated by a vintage lamp.
Earlier this month, three members of the Historical Society hosted four out-of-town visitors delivering memories of Addie Whitman Robbins in a flurry of anecdotes and donations of biographical artifacts.
Whitman Robbins, who grew up in Orange, died of a postpartum infection in 1909 aged 28, leaving behind her husband and their 20-day-old child, Eunice. Eunice’s daughters, Jean Hodgdon, 83, and Phyllis Cameron, 80, along with their husbands Bud and Al, arrived with the special collection which was to be kept in time for the museum’s summer reopening.
Whitman Robbins’ “Friendship Quilt” was the center of attention during the hour-long visit to the museum at 41 North Main St.. The quilt features the self-embroidered signatures of many friends and relatives from around the world. Edwardian to whom Whitman Robbins had sent fabric squares for completion and return. The individuality of the signers is evident in thread color choices and calligraphy styles.
As part of the donated collection, a 61-page hardcover book entitled “Addie’s Friendship Quilt, 1902 to 1907”, by Bud and Jean Hodgdon, features an array of color images, period photographs and a story family woven into the context of Orange l’histoire. Whitman Robbins grew up in the residential suburbs of downtown, near the south bank of the Millers River, in the house at 116 Prentiss St. that his father and brothers had built. This house, noted Jean Hodgdon, remained in the family until 2014.
Like quilt scraps, memories of Whitman Robbins have been carefully pieced together by the descendant couple and their spouses – neither of whom had ever met the ancestor. Jean Hodgdon remembers a portrait of her grandmother Addie that her mother Eunice faithfully displayed in Jean and Phyllis’ childhood home. The Hodgdons’ book provides details of how Eunice coped, having been left motherless at less than 3 weeks.
Smiling at the cuteness of the Whitman Robbins blouse and skirt that the two sisters held up for all to see, Phyllis Cameron commented, “She was tiny.” The ivory-colored outfit they say was worn by Whitman Robbins as an adult looks cut out for today’s petite, skinny pre-teen girl.
Whitman Robbins and her husband, Harrie, got creative, said Bud Hodgdon, showing a photo, from the book he co-wrote, of a white table the couple fashioned from laurel branches mountains. In another photo, Addie and her sister Della’s seemingly teenage joggers detailed with tiny cuffs and topped hats while “on vacation in Manchester, Vermont,” reads the simple description.
The Hodgdons had traveled from their residence in Hampden, and the Camerons, from Warrensburg, New York, to turn over the biographical collection to the Orange Historical Society.
The Orange Historical Society maintains a website at orangehistoricalsocietyma.org.
Ann Reed is a freelance writer living in Orange and, with her husband Terry, is an active member of the Orange Historical Society.