Home‎ > ‎

05) Mary Alberta Ramey-Bowers



                This is the story of a mountain girl, born and raised in the hills of Oconee County, dirt-poor, rich in spirit, values, and love.

                The late Alberta Ramey-Bowers, her family and friends called her “Bubba,” began life with her brother and sister in the community of Mountain Rest, SC, raised by god-fearing parents who knew well the importance of education for all their children, and saw that they received proper instruction in the three R’s as well as the Ten Commandments.  The rural schools, so prevalent at the time, were being dissolved; Bubba, her sister, Margaret and brother Bob rode the school bus to town, attended the Walhalla High School, lived with the Methodist preacher and his family in the big old parsonage sitting beside the Methodist Church, worked in the Chicopee Mill, and met and married her husband, Dr. James H. Bowers.

                Life, as it was for most folks then, was not easy.  James went to Clemson, Bubba worked; later, to attend medical school, they moved to Charleston.  Bubba kept the house, bore and raised the children, Jane, James and John, and took in sewing augment  the meager stipend James had received to attend med school.

                That dream was accomplished.  They moved home, back to Walhalla, and started a lucrative practice.  All was well until-- perhaps it was the eternal “itch” that folks get to move on to greener pastures, fewer demands of time and energy and a better life style-- struck.

                Years later they were both to come back home.  Bubba had been through nurses’ training and retired.  James had found a new life.  Always a stitcher, she had helped herself by making bride’s wedding dresses while working, but when she returned to the hills she found a new love:  quilting.


The skills that Bubba had developed all through the years became a valuable asset to the Walhalla Auditorium Restoration Committee that restored the old Walhalla Graded School Auditorium into a Civic Center.

She and two other ladies constructed a quilt a year to raffle for construction costs.  When that was done, she began helping the “Save Our Church” group which later became “Old St. John’s Meeting House.”


The quilt block that can be viewed on the side of Old St. John’s was Bubba’s making.  She had been working all along on quilts for her children and grandchildren, but this one, called “Storm at Sea,” was stitched for her oldest son, James.  It was constructed of all straight pieces, yet the pattern becomes an optical illusion, creating the waves of the sea with all those light and dark pieces.  In the middle, Bubba placed a red heart.

                                           Heart taped for pattern transfer                "Storm at Sea" 

                                                                           Original Quilt                                                                                       "Storm at Sea"

Workers Chris Martha and Judy

That quilt was selected to become the quilt block for Old St. John’s and was the sixty-sixth installation of the Upstate Quilt Trail, sponsored by the Mountain Lakes Region of the SC National Heritage Corridor.  A group of men and women, all volunteers, work steadily at their project two days a week in the Oconee Conservatory of the Arts situated in the reclaimed old high school building from which Bubba, her brother and sister, graduated.

To the right; Workers Chris, Martha and Judy 

Gil Huggins

After a sponsor has indicated an interest, a quilt and its creator are chosen.  The work to produce the blocks, in sizes from 2’ X 2’ to 8’ X 8”, depending on the location and the need of space for the pattern, begins. 
 Gil Huggins, Oconee’s Quilter of the Year, 2010, is one of the several that transfers the pattern, to scale, on the block.

Lynn Geibien

Other artists then choose the colors, mark the areas to be painted with “frog” tape, and begin the application.  The wood is all finished marine blocks—the wood used to build boats.  When the pattern is completed and allowed to dry, two, three or more coats of sealer are applied to give the creation a weather-resistant, long-lasting finish, said to endure at least five years.   To the right Lynn Geibien taping the area that will be the block.

Artists painting block

Artists painting the block

But, the group is not finished yet.   With the Blue Ridge Electric Coop furnishing the trucks and labor, the block is then carefully mounted, and all the information concerning the latest creation is fed to the web page:  www.upstateheritagequilttrail.org


The history and reason for the Trail (to preserve the quilting tradition, encourage tourism), may be read there, as well as the story of the quilt, the quilter, and the location.  GPS indicators can be found to steer the wandering quilt trail viewer.


   Blue Ridge Electric workers and Old St John's
    "Glad this is done-three today"


Above left: Lynn Geibien, Mary Dee Rudy, Verla Warther, Chris Troy and Martha File,
dedicated workers in the Quilt Trail project

     Above right: Helpful supervisors.. with obligatory mascot ..that say the job is well done


What a purpose the SC National Heritage Corridor and the National Heritage Corridor have chosen.  What a wonderful way to preserve the arts—the quilting, the creator, the skillful mapping of the pattern, the painting, all the physical and mental coordination that must take place to achieve the goal of one quilt block.  Well done, Upstate Quilt Trail, and well done, Bubba, a creator and stitcher.

Contributed by Maxie W. Duke, aka grannyduke@aol.com