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Coming Home to Saskatchewan

Part One of Three

By Collections Curator Ruth Bitner
May 2004

The Western Development Museum is a treasure house of artifacts symbolic of the Saskatchewan spirit. History-minded donors who have long since left the province sometimes take the time and trouble to return to the province artifacts which have their roots in Saskatchewan. Some artifacts are returned from neighbouring provinces, others come from more distant places. This series will feature three 'homecoming' stories. 

Part One, below, tells the story of a quilt made by the Canadian Red Cross during World War Two and its journey across the ocean and back. Part Two will highlight the travels of a Depression era saddle and jacket. In Part Three, a hand-built model steam engine makes a return trip to Saskatchewan after many years spent in Ontario.

Part One: Moose Jaw Red Cross Quilt

Folded quilt, white with coloured squares

Moose Jaw Red Cross quilt.
WDM Photo

A quilt made by Moose Jaw Red Cross volunteers during the Second World War tells a poignant story. The quilt was one of thousands made by Red Cross volunteers in Canada and shipped overseas to provide warmth and comfort to families suffering during the war. A tiny tag sewn into a corner of the quilt identified the makers: “Canadian Red Cross Society, Moose Jaw Branch.”

A mother in the Netherlands was the grateful recipient of the simple nine-patch quilt from Moose Jaw. In 1944, for ten days and nights, she and her husband, along with their six children took refuge in a cellar during a particularly intense artillery barrage. The war took its toll on this family--two children died soon after this incident and another in 1948. One of the survivors was 12-year old Willem. Many years later, his mother gave the precious quilt to Willem’s wife, Els. The “Moose Jaw Red Cross” portion of the label was still legible. Els decided that one day, she would return the quilt to Moose Jaw.

Els and Willem immigrated to Canada in the 1950s then moved to the United States a few years later. In 1994 from her home in Oregon, Els contacted the Moose Jaw Chamber of Commerce looking for a suitable home for the quilt. She was referred to the Western Development Museum. Fifty years after leaving Moose Jaw in a shipment of Red Cross relief supplies, the quilt came home to Saskatchewan. The WDM was delighted to accept the quilt, a reminder of how much the work of Moose Jaw’s Red Cross volunteers meant to a Dutch family during the War.

Check out Part Two and Part Three to read more 'coming home' stories.

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