Get to know last year’s Artists and Farmers!

Art & Ag Adventure Honoree for 2023

Vera Young

Vera Young a long time resident of Grant, Virginia, will be honored for her Art of Grayson County with the beautiful quilts she has made and in Agriculture by her role as farmer’s wife, homemaker, and community volunteer.

Vera was born the fourth child of Charles and Olga Cox Greer in a little house along Guffey Creek in the Grant area of Grayson County, near Troutdale Growing up, Vera’s ‘chores’ included helping bring in the cows, tending the chickens and eggs, and gathering wood for the cook stove. Soon cooking, gardening, cleaning etc., became life skills to be continued through her marriage to Kenneth Young, His family owned the farm across the road from the Greer home.

Vera and Kenneth were married in 1944 after an engagement consisting of brief visits and long letters; Kenneth was serving in the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II , and had a few weeks of leave, so they decided to get married. Although their parents encouraged them to wait until after the war, they didn’t listen. They went to Bristol, Tennessee, where no one would know them. Vera told them she was 21(she was really 18) and they honeymooned in Bristol. When the war ended, with no jobs available in Grayson County, they moved to Maryland and both worked for Black and Decker Tool Company. Kenneth had an opportunity to apply for and become the Rural Letter Carrier for the Grant Post Office. They built a house on a corner of the Young family farm in 1951 where Vera still lives today. They were married for 70 years when Kenneth died in 2015 at age 95.

Vera and Kenneth became active in the Grange movement in the county. The National Grange movement was organized to promote advanced methods of agriculture as well as to promote social and economic needs of farmers in the United States. In 1959, Vera and Kenneth became charter members of the Goodwill Grange in Grant. In looking for a place to meet, they requested and received permission to lease from the Grayson County School Board the old Grand School building that had been vacant for several years becoming an eye-sore in the community. The members renovated the building, adding electricity, a kitchen, and water; and creating a lawn from a former ball field Fund raisers such as selling table-top ads, preparing dinners for various organization; making and selling molasses; conducting ‘socials’, a total of 2,507 hours of volunteer work by members were needed to accomplish this project.

The Goodwill Grange became a gathering place for citizens of Grant, Volney, Troutdale, and Mouth of Wilson. Vera served as an officer, program leader, teacher of youth; and managing service projects. In 1963 the Goodwill Grange received the Community Service Award from the Virginia State Grange, for renovating the old school house to a community center; conducting a campaign to provide telephone service to the communities; receiving an award from the Sears Roebuck Foundation; and giving financial donations to medical centers in the area and other community needs. Today the Grange Hall is still used as a meeting place for Grange #959, a computer center, and a community center.

The Virginia Homemakers Extension Council [first called Home Demonstration Clubs] began in Grayson County in 1942 with agents from Virginia Tech to help organize and support programs that provided education and programs on family and women’s issues as well opportunities for leadership within the community. Vera was active in her local club in Grant and served as Grayson Chairman in 1989 into the early 1990’s. In addition to conducting meetings, securing and training officers, attending and leading workshops, she led projects on quilting and developing community identity.

During 1993 Grayson County celebrated its Bicentennial. Each Extension Club in the county was asked to submit a quilt square that represented their section of the county, no size or design was specified, so an assortment of ‘squares’ was the result. Vera was given the task of making these into a quilt. Her very original gathering of these representations is a most unique wall quilt now on display in the Baldwin Auditorium of the Historic 1908 Courthouse in Independence, VA.

Keeping busy at home, Vera took care of the house, yard and garden. She made most of the clothing for herself and her three daughters, Tina, Rebecca and Lisa, using scraps of dress fabric for her favorite hobby, quilt making. “I learned quilting from my mother when I was about 16, and I still have it [my first quilt], but it is faded and tattered after all these years,” she said. Other quilts were made at this time, ”Just simple ones to use on our beds”.

In 1976 during the U. S. Bicentennial, interest in quilting and traditional handicrafts was revived and cotton fabrics favored by quilters became more available. “I made my first quilt using fabrics I bought especially for the project, a Grandmother’s Fan pattern, and I have made several quilts using variations of this pattern,” stated Vera. “The last full-sized quilt I made was in 2015 using that pattern”. [picture “Mary’s Quilt]. She has made patterns such as Cathedral Window, Double Wedding Ring, to name only a few. As quilting became more popular as a hobby industry, she mastered the “quilt as you go” method, still using a lap frame for her quilting.

She has made many quilts for her children grandchildren, and great grandchildren, family friends, fund raising raffles, and other donations. “I don’t think there has been a time when I did not have a quilting project in process. I have albums with pictures of most of my quilts from 1941 to today. I still have projects on my mind, but tend to make smaller projects such as baby quilts, wall hangings, pillows and so forth.”

Vera’s quilts have been on display at Holston Mountain Artisans in Abingdon, VA; at Emory and Henry College in Emory, VA, State Grange events, Extension Homemakers meetings, and the annual Stories of the Stitch event at the Matthews Living History Museum in Galax.

With this very full, productive and giving life, Vera Young does indeed represent the art and agriculture of Grayson County. Please come by the Historic 1908 Courthouse during the Art & Ag Adventure on September 9 & 10th where a selection of Vera’s quilts will be on display.

Special thanks to Tina Cunningham and others of Vera’s family.

Laura A. Bryant , 5/2023