Thoughts about three blocks in the Quaker Valley Quilt by Judy Pyle
Quilt researchers Deb McCauslin and Judy Pyle were truly puzzled when faced with the quilt blocks of what looked like Margaret E. Balch, Minerva E. Botch and Mary E. Betch. The other 71 names on the quilt, although difficult to decipher, eventually became clear; not so with Margaret, Minerva and Mary. They remained elusive long after speculations were made as to the provenance of the quilt, talks were given, and notecards of the quilt blocks were published.
The provenance of the quilt said that it had been made in Somerset County for the purpose of fostering Unity, and was taken from Somerset to the Amish at Menallen Meeting every year until the Civil War, where it was put away for safe keeping. Because Menallen Meeting was a Quaker meeting, researchers began looking for Quakers in Somerset and Bedford Counties. Although there were meetings in both counties, no one by that name appeared. The 1850 US Census was not much help, either. A Mary E. Belch, with her mother, Maria, was listed as a member of Robert Sheads’ home in Gettysburg, but that was the end of the trail. Minerva and Margaret seemed to have vanished. Because all of the other names on the quilt were either Quakers who moved west to Ohio and beyond, or were from the Biglerville/Bendersville area, Gettysburg just didn’t seem right. Who knew?
In early research, Pyle found a reference to John Belch, but, because it was before 1850, only heads of households’ names were recorded in the 1850 US Census. And, as it turned out, John Belch had died in 1849 in Martinsburg, PA, which was why the family wasn’t enumerated.
In November 2012, however, the Belch girls were discovered in a Sheads folder in the Adams County Historical Society archives. Two—Sarah Emily and Cornelia Rebecca— had married local men, Robert Sheads and Joseph Weible; Mary and her mother, Maria, who died in 1851, had moved back and forth between those families. Salome Sheads, wife of Peter Sheads, and the mother of John and Robert Sheads, kept excellent records and recorded the maiden names of the women her sons had married—a boon for researchers. According to Salome Sheads’ records, her son, John Sheads, married Lovina Belch, who is listed in the 1850 and ‘60 census as being born in MD. Perhaps she was a cousin of our girls.
In February, 2013, Pyle found more references to the Belch family in an online publication,:
247 Mary Potts5 (Jonathan4, David3, Ezekial2, David1) daughter of Jonathan and Deborah (Wright) Potts, was born Nov 10, 1802 in Bedford Co, and died March 3, 1850, in Blair County, PA. She married John Belch, son of James and Catherine (Buchanan) Belch. He was born Feb 19, 1798 at Hagerstown, MD, and died Mar 2, 1849 at Martinsburg, PA.
Children of John and Mary Potts Belch
637 Jane Belch b. Dec 8, 1824; m. Samuel McFadden
638 Sarah Emily Belch, b. Oct 26, 1826; m. Robert Sheads of Gettysburg, PA
689 Margaret Belch b. June 11, 1828; d. June 14, 1885, m J. Strain
640 James Belch, b. March 16, 1830; m. Eliza McKennan (in 1855) (daut Jas McKennan) J. Ed. Lawyer in Jefferson cty MO d. MO 25 Aug 1883, Jefferson City MO
641 Minerva Belch b March 26, 1832; m. Henry Musgrave
642 Mary Belch, b. April 14, 1834; unmarried
643 John Belch, b. Aug 13, 1837
644 Cornelia Rebecca Belch, b. May 31, 1842; m. J. Edward Wible
645 Ralph (Raphael) Belch, b. June 17, 1846, m. Fanny Ferguson lived in Kansas City MO.
In Margaret Walmer’s Minutes of Menallen Monthly Meeting, Deborah Wright and Jonathan Potts at Menallen Meeting, where they were married May 12, 1790. They then moved to Bedford, which later became Blair County, where Jonathan built a log cabin. Minutes from Menallen Monthly Meeting state: Jonathan Pots son of David and Alice Pots of the township and county of Bedford and State of Pennsylvania and Deborah Wright Daughter of John and Elizabeth Wright of the Township of Monalon county of York and State aforesaid…. This twelfth day of the fifth month one thousand seven hundred and ninety … at the Meeting House in Monalon.
Deborah Wright was the daughter of John, b. 1739-40, and Elizabeth (Hammond) Wright, b. 1749-50, both of Castleshane, Ireland. Deborah’s sister, Ruth Wright, married Thomas Hammond. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married Eli Thomas, of Salem, Ohio, previously of Menallen Monthly Meeting. Eli and Ruth Hammond Thomas were the parents of Hiram A. Thomas, who Rebecca Wright married in 1854.
That the Bedford Belches were related to Menallen Wrights should have been no surprise, but it was still unexpected. However, it makes perfect sense, since the quilt may have been made by Wrights for the marriage of Rebecca Wright to Hiram A. Thomas, whose block sits at the middle of an X close to the center of the quilt.
The comings and goings of the Bedford Friends were noted by George Wilson of Bendersville—about a mile from Menallen Meeting— in the 1845 entries in his diary: on the 15th of October, he notes “then comes from Bedford B Bowen & daughter.” In his 1st Day, (Sunday) November 30, 1845 entry, he notes that “Joel, Jane and Lydia Wright called, and left Jane Belsh (sic).” The next day, he took her to N. Wright’s. Jane Belch was the oldest sister of Minerva and Margaret, and by 1850, had married Samuel McFadden and was living in Bedford County.
Mary E. Belch stayed in Gettysburg until her death in 1910, the result of Chronic Interstitial Nephritis, (kidney disease) with La Grippe a contributing factor, according to Dr. Walter H. O’Neal, who signed the death certificate. The person who gave information about Mary, her parents and their birthplaces was R.A. Belch of Kansas City, MO. That would be her brother, Raphael. Mary was buried in Evergreen Cemetery on July 3. J.W.Garlach acted as undertaker for the burial. The certificate also has other “particulars”: Mary was “light,” Single, a “retired lady” born in Blair County. Her parents were John Belch, born in Maryland, and Mary Potts, born in Pennsylvania.
In 1860, Mary and her brother, Raphael, were both living at the Sheads residence. The Sheads had had both Mary and her mother, Maria, at their home in 1850, which is the year that Maria died. In 1870, Mary was living with Robert Sheads and his wife, Emily, Mary’s sister. In the US Census in 1910, taken in April by Salome Myers Stewart, Mary A.E. Belch was a boarder with Martha B. Aughinbaugh in her home on Stevens Street in Gettysburg. Aughinbaugh’s home was next to Winfield Horner’s.
Mary E. Belch’s headstone, Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA
This stone is with family stones of Weible and Sheads.
Above photo by Judith Pyle
Photos of quilt blocks by John Herr, courtesy of Menallen Monthly Meeting, Biglerville, PA
 Historical Collections relating to the Potts Family in Great Britain and America, p. 514.
 Blair County was created from parts of Huntingdon and Bedford Counties in 1846.
 I cannot find my Walmer book, so don’t have a correct citation.
 Meeting Records; MS. Chart of Wright Family, made about 1840, by General William Wiermian Wright, etc. At Warrington Mo. Mtg., 10 Mo. 14, 1775, one Elizabeth Wright produced a certificate of removal from Grange, near Charlemont, Ireland.
 Diary of George Wilson, (fragment) ACHS.