Come help stitch the Marquette County John Muir panel for the Scottish Diaspora Panel that will be part of Homecoming Scotland in 2014.  The artist designed panel was created with local input of the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir.


Help stitch the Marquette County John Muir tapestry block  

By Kathleen McGwin
You don’t have to be Scottish to put some stitches in the Marquette County John Muir Scotland Diaspora Tapestry block.  You just need a desire to lend your handiwork to this special project that will be a part of Scotland Homecoming events in 2014 in John Muir’s birthplace.  If you go to www.scottishdiasporatapestry.org you’ll learn that this world-wide project has participants from countries where Scottish culture spread as Scots left their homeland and settled in new communities or built their own out of wilderness.  Here in Marquette County, the Muir family from Dunbar was just one of many who chose Marquette County in the new state of Wisconsin to settle and bring their own skills, knowledge and culture to their new homes.  

This wool and linen tapestry that will be showcased in Scotland during 2014 and travel around the world after that, is constructed of large linen panels, each depicting a location where Scottish culture flourished and influenced communities around the world.  The artist-designed panels were developed with local input and are being stitched in diaspora communities.  Marquette County Wisconsin Friends of John Muir were invited to participate and now are inviting you to put your own stitches into the panel depicting John Muir's boyhood in Marquette County.  Drop in to Teapot Quilt Cottage in Montello at 505 Main Street during the designated times below and also view the From the Old World to the New: the Dunbar and Marquette County Wisconsin Boyhood homes of John Muir photo exhibit at Vaughn Hall, 55 West Montello Street, home of the Montello Historic Preservation Society where tea and currant scones will be served.  Ann Muir, John Muir's mother baked currant scones each year on John Muir's birthday.  If you have a Scottish heritage story, bring that along and add it to our collection that will be sent to Scotland with the completed panel.  Or share it aloud during the third stitching event, see below.  We will have a scanner at Teapot Quilt Cottage to scan family photos to add to the book. 

Saturday, September 21, 1 to 4
Listen to the songs of Robert Burns while stitching at Teapot Quilt Cottage
Enjoy tea and scones at Vaughn Hall while viewing From Dunbar to Scotland exhibit

Thursday, September 26 1 to 4
Listen to the words of John Muir from The Story of My Boyhood and Youth read by a Wisconsin Friend of John Muir while you stitch at Teapot Quilt Cottage
Enjoy tea and scones at Vaughn Hall while viewing From Dunbar to Scotland exhibit

Sunday, September 29, 1 to 4
Bring your own Scottish Heritage stories to tell or add to a guest book that will be sent to Scotland with the Marquette County John Muir tapestry block
Enjoy tea and scones at Vaughn Hall while viewing From Dunbar to Scotland exhibit

Two supervised "open stitch" days will be added if needed to complete the block. 

Scotland organizers of the tapestry have collected information from stitching communities that will be shared with the showing of the work of art in Scotland in 2014.  Included in that is this information about the Marquette County block.  

 What the tapestry means to folks in Marquette County, Wisconsin
History runs deep in Marquette County, Wisconsin, boyhood American home of John Muir the great naturalist.  Like ancestral roots that help tell us who we are and of what we are made, unraveling the rich tangle of our complex histories gives us that which helps us experience all that it is to be human.  Researching not only John Muir’s back ground story, but also his Scotch neighbors who were a great influence and support for him in his young life has given us an entrancing, charming, and sometimes melancholy understanding of neighborhood life at the infancy of the place we now call home.  The tapestry weaves the tales of this home when oxen plowed the fields and great flocks of pigeons blackened the skies.  Hands that stitch this story today thread each needle not with wool or cotton, but with a deeper knowledge of the people who built the foundation upon which, with each stitch of this tapestry, we now feel in our hearts.

Look closely at the block and you’ll pick out meaningful items that John Muir writes about in The Story of My Boyhood and Youth.  He bounds into his new home with the enthusiasm of a young boy filled with adventure and hope. Here are a few examples of the foundation of the artwork depicting Muir in Marquette County.

 “This sudden plash into pure wildness—baptism in Nature’s warm heart—how utterly happy it made us!..Here without knowing it we still were at school; every wild lesson a love lesson, not whipped but charmed into us. Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!

John writes several times about the lovely white water lilies on the lake next to his first Wisconsin home and later in his life he three times tries to buy the land with the lake rimmed in lilies with its fern gardens that he recalls so fondly.

“To this charming hut, in the sunny woods, overlooking a flowery glacier meadow and a lake rimmed with white water-lilies, we were hauled by an ox-team across trackless carex swamps and low rolling hills sparely dotted with round-headed oaks….. No lily garden in civilization we had ever seen could compare with our lake garden.”

As a lad of just 11, he is enchanted by his new home in Wisconsin.  Fireflies and dragonflies are two of the creatures that charm him and his brother. 

“When we first saw Fountain Lake Meadow, on a sultry evening, sprinkled with millions of lightning-bugs throbbing with light, the effect was so strange and beautiful that it seemed far too marvelous to be real…..We watched the habits of the swift-darting dragonflies, wild bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles, etc…..”

Muir titles a whole chapter of his book Paradise of Birds.   Blue jays and blue birds are only two that he writes about so eloquently.
“Just as we arrived at the shanty, before we had time to look at it or the scenery about it, David and I jumped down in a hurry off the load of household goods, for we had discovered a blue jay's nest...our first memorable discovery……With the first hints of spring came the brave little bluebirds, darling singers as blue as the best sky, and of course we all loved them. Their rich, crispy warbling is perfectly delightful, soothing and cheering, sweet and whisperingly low, Nature’s fine love touches, every note going straight home into one’s heart.”

After the family moves just a few miles away to a new home called Hickory Hill, John is given time in the wee morning hours to work on his own, a break from the farm chores.  He whittles wonderful inventions that he would show at the Wisconsin State Fair, bringing attention to his genius mind and would lead him away from Wisconsin. 

“After completing my self-setting sawmill I dammed one of the streams in the meadow and put the mill in operation. This invention was speedily followed by a lot of others--water-wheels, curious doorlocks and latches, thermometers, hygrometers, pyrometers, clocks, a barometer, an automatic contrivance for feeding the horses at any required hour, a lamp-lighter and fire-lighter, an early-or-late-rising machine, and so forth.”

Join the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir and the Montello Historic Preservation Society in celebrating settler heritage, Scottish culture, and the legacy of John Muir by putting your own stiches in the Marquette County John Muir block of the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.   For more information on the panel go to  www.scottishdiasporatapestry.org.   For more information on the stitching events contact Kathleen McGwin   mcgwin@frontier.com