The Recorder – Granddaughters, spouses deliver artifacts to Orange Historical Society

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Published: 4/24/2022 11:33:54 AM

Modified: 4/24/2022 11:32:29 AM

Although the seasonal reopening of the Orange Historical Society is not due until June, its first floor, on a recent gray morning, became unseasonably illuminated by vintage lamplight.

Earlier this month, three Historical Society members welcomed four out-of-town visitors delivering recollections of Addie Whitman Robbins in a flurry of anecdotes and donation of biographical artifacts.

Whitman Robbins, who grew up in Orange, died of a postpartum infection in 1909 at age 28, leaving behind her husband and their 20-day-old child, Eunice. Eunice’s daughters, Jean Hodgdon, 83, and Phyllis Cameron, 80, along with their husbands Bud and Al, arrived bearing the special collection set to be curated in time for the museum’s summertime reopening.

Whitman Robbins’ “friendship quilt” was the center of attention during the hour-long visit at the 41 North Main St. museum. The quilt features the self-embroidered signatures of numerous Edwardian-era friends and relatives to whom Whitman Robbins had mailed fabric squares for their completion and return. The individuality of the signees manifests in thread color choices and penmanship styles.

As part of the donated collection, a glossy 61-page hardcover tome titled “Addie’s Friendship Quilt, 1902 to 1907,” by Bud and Jean Hodgdon, features an array of color pictures, vintage photographs and a family history woven within the context of Orange history. Whitman Robbins grew up within the residential environs of the town center, near the southern bank of the Millers River, in the 116 Prentiss St. house her father and brothers had built. That house, Jean Hodgdon noted, stayed in the family until 2014.

Like quilt remnants, memories of Whitman Robbins have been pieced together with care by the pair of descendants and their spouses — none of them having ever met the forebear. Jean Hodgdon recalled a portrait of her grandmother Addie that her mother Eunice faithfully displayed in Jean’s and Phyllis’ childhood home. The Hodgdons’ book provides detail about how Eunice fared, having been left motherless at less than 3 weeks old.

Grinning at the cuteness of Whitman Robbins’ blouse and skirt that the two sisters held up for all to see, Phyllis Cameron commented, “She was tiny.” The ivory-colored outfit they say had been worn by Whitman Robbins in adulthood seems sized for a petite and lean pre-teen of today.

Whitman Robbins and her husband, Harrie, were creative, said Bud Hodgdon, pointing to a photo, from the book he’d co-authored, of a white table the couple had fashioned from mountain laurel branches. In another photo, an apparently teenaged Addie and sister Della sport pant suits detailed with tiny lapels, and topped off with hats while “on holiday in Manchester, Vt.,” reads the simple description.

The Hodgdons had traveled from their Hampden residence, and the Camerons, from Warrensburg, New York, to deliver the biographical collection to the Orange Historical Society.

The Orange Historical Society maintains a website at

Ann Reed is a freelance writer living in Orange and, with husband Terry, enjoys active membership in the Orange Historical Society.

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