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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Franklin History Uncovered A Misfortune Reveals Treasure for One Franklin Resident

By Lyn MacLean
A wave of serendipity falls upon us in the most unexpected of ways. February 3, 2023, weather was forecast for unprecedented freezing temperatures. I prepared by opening the sink cabinets and kept the faucets running with a slight drip.  
The next morning, I came downstairs to see my Golden’s wet paw prints shining in a straight line beckoning me to follow them to the kitchen. Then, I saw it, water everywhere! Our 50+-year-old home caught up with us. The pipes had burst. I proceeded to the basement to find water everywhere, including boxed mementos from my deceased parent’s home that I thought were placed in a “water-safe-space.”
The Find
For 13 days I worked to discard damaged items. This process began an emotional journey for which I was not prepared. Keeping their boxes seemed to be the only way I could really honor my mother, or at least respect what was important to her. Unpacking the last boxes, I discovered a plastic bag that uncovered a memory I had tucked away in my ten-year-old mind.   
The contents included chintz fabric and a hand sketch that I witnessed my mother drawing, erasing, and perfecting – sewing materials for a quilt square that my mother had volunteered to make for Franklin’s bi-centennial celebration 45 years ago in 1978. I could not believe that it was dry, almost like she gave me this gift. I conducted research about this quilt to satisfy my own curiosities and now share with you.
Quilt: Woven Legacy
The Franklin bi-centennial celebration was a grassroots effort by local residents to celebrate the 200th year from when Franklin was incorporated on March 2, 1778. This was a chance to remind town residents of Franklin’s deep-rooted history.  The celebration that year included a Bi-Centennial parade. In addition, a commemoration coin was created to highlight the origins of the town name and displayed the Little Red Brick Schoolhouse honoring this as the hometown of the American education reformer Horace Mann. Another legacy project for this event was the creation of a bicentennial quilt. This project was directed by Mrs. Loretta DeBaggis, the Franklin Youth Services Bicentennial Quilt Committee chair. Thirty-three volunteers asked to sew two replica applique squares to incorporate into two 116” x 72” quilts representing 40 historic and landmark locations within the town. Example sites included were the Ray Memorial Library, Little Brick School, and others, like my mother’s assignment, the Wittrup House. One quilt was to be auctioned off to raise funds for the Franklin Youth Services group. The second was to be on display for the town to commemorate the event.
I was fortunate to interview Mrs. Loretta DeBaggis, who now resides in Florida. Her heartwarming love for the project shined through with comments such as “We had a great time, we laughed and had so much fun doing it.” She made clear that the vast scale of this undertaking was time she happily served. Mrs. DeBaggis donated the fabric and notions for the quilt from her decorator shop above the Mill Store, where she sewed drapery, costumes, and tablecloths. Upon reflection, this quilt is a swatch kaleidoscope representing many Franklin families far beyond the actual sewers.  
Mrs. DeBaggis selected the various historic sites she wanted to be represented in the quilt. She drew many of the patterns for sewers who were not comfortable with the sketch component of the process, and her mother spent countless hours hand-quilting each square into the entire quilt. When I asked Mrs. DeBaggis which was her favorite square she replied “The town dump!”  She shared that her husband had built the quilt frame and also a sewer, he asked if he could make a square. She suggested he represent the Town dump, since he enjoyed scavenging the dump weekly for treasures. Since “Sesame Street” was quite popular at that time, he chose to have Oscar the Grouch emerging from a trash can, providing a touch of whimsy to an intentionally primitive style quilt. Oscar provided a nod to our youth, helping them connect to this project.  
What’s Next?
We have five years before we reach Franklin’s 250th anniversary, a remarkable milestone. If our town wishes to highlight its amazing history once again, then it will be individuals stepping up to volunteer, initiate ideas, and implement action to keep the heart of Franklin’s heritage beating. Will you be one of those trailblazers? Time will only tell how many individuals have the time to help decide how to best embrace the 250-year mark. As much my pipes bursting was a hardship to my family, deep down I like to think that my mother led me to find her hidden treasure. I am honored that her effort and stitched signature are on display for her grandchildren to view in that very notable quilt.
Thank you to the volunteer sewers for sharing their skills with our town. Many have since passed away. However, their extended families can view their artistic work on continuous display in the Franklin Historical Museum located at 80 West Central Street, Franklin.