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A piece of local history tied to World War II is slated to be put on permanent display inside the Cleveland County Courthouse at Rison.

The item is a 8.16 by 9.41 foot “Service Men’s Quilt” made in 1944 by the Cleveland County Home Demonstration Clubs. The quilt features the names of local people that served in the armed services during that time. It was raffled as a response to the 7th War Bond Drive to help raise funds for war bonds for the war effort. Over 900 names of men and women are on the quilt.

A ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Cleveland County Courthouse on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11. The framed quilt will be officially donated to the county during this time and put on permanent display for the public to view.

“The patriotic red, white and blue quilt has 36 squares with 24 names of World War II veterans from Cleveland County embroidered on each square with some names embroidered on the side panels,” said Annette Rawls, a member of the Cleveland County Historical Society. “The names, written in cursive, were embroidered using red and blue thread on a white background. After the embroidery was done, the squares were sewn together with blue strips with red and white corners. After being pieced together into a quilt-top, it was then quilted by hand.”

The quilt had an interesting journey as an heirloom piece before its destination to the courthouse. The raffled quilt was won by Artie Elizabeth Hamilton Ryburn, who had helped make the quilt. Ryburn and her husband, Alexander Ryburn, a schoolteacher, were descended from early Cleveland County settlers.

Artie Ryburn later gave the quilt to her older son, Doyle Ryburn, who served in the U.S. Army and whose name is on the quilt. The quilt was later given to Pamela Ryburn Pruett, daughter of Artie Ryburn’s younger son, Wayne Cleve Ryburn, who served in the military during the American occupation of Japan at the end of World War II.

“Dr. Pruett and other family members decided to return the quilt to Cleveland County for display where it would be meaningful since it represented many Cleveland County families,” said Rawls.

A plan was worked out to display the quilt in the Cleveland County Courthouse.

“Family members and future generations will be able to see the names of their relatives who served in World War II and to reflect on the contribution these service men and women made to the history of the United States,” said Rawls.

The Cleveland County Extension Homemakers Council, the current version of the Home Demonstration Clubs in the county, and the Cleveland County Historical Society have also published a 40-page booklet, “The Service Men’s Quilt, Cleveland County, Arkansas, World War II” that explains the history of the quilt.

“A mid-book index lists the name of each individual on the quilt and has a picture of each square and the names on that square beside it,” said Rawls. “Many others from Cleveland County who may have enlisted in 1944 after the quilt was made, or for some other reason did not get their name on the quilt, are shown in a separate alphabetized list in the booklet. This publication sought to list all who served in World War II from Cleveland County. In researching the history of quilt making during war time, we found that it was a common practice for women who stayed at home to make quilts for their sweethearts, brothers and sons or for whoever was at war at that time. Most of these women are not known, but we do know a little about their history and patriotism from the quilts they left behind. Many of the World War II quilts have been collected and are being exhibited across the nation in quilt and art museums and exhibits. By displaying our Service Men’s Quilt we are helping to preserve Cleveland County’s history of World War II. The Service Men’s Quilt and booklet together
honor the courage and sacrifice of those who served during World War II from Cleveland County and will serve as a reference for anyone researching WW II veterans or for those compiling family histories.”

The Cleveland County Courthouse, which was built in 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is located at 20 Magnolia St., Rison.

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