By Susan Fisher
For the first fifty years, Jane Splawn’s life followed the usual path. She was born and raised in Chattanooga, married and moved from place to place while her husband was in the Marines, then settled in Decatur to raise their family.
In 1978, her world was turned upside down when after 27 years her husband asked for a divorce. Jane said she spent a lot of time wondering what she did wrong until a friend of hers told her, quite sternly, “You are a real good person.” With that encouragement and some typing lessons, Jane got both a job with the Florida East Coast Railway office in Atlanta and on with her life.
Office work was quite a change for her. Jane has a musical background. At age fourteen she began playing piano for church services. This led to choir directing and singing in various choral groups. Both of her children are also musical. Son Ray is a musical education teacher and elementary school bandleader while daughter Susan is a bassoonist in the Columbus symphony and is married to a music professor.
Jane’s mother and grandmother were both quilters, but Jane had been strictly an embroiderer since childhood. While she was working for the railway, her mother urged her to take up quilting. Cutting the pieces by hand with scissors was so frustrating to her (she says the pieces always seemed to be crooked) and then piecing them by hand so tedious that she boxed that project up and just put it away.
In 1980 she got interested in genealogy. She began by asking different relatives
if they knew anything about her father’s father and grandfather and then the
search was on. Quite literally. Twenty-five years ago genealogical research
meant going to the records not to the Internet. Six times she loaded up her
parents, dropped them off to visit relatives and friends near Spartanburg and
then continued on to North Carolina to the state archives. Her interest became a
passion and Jane traced her father’s family back to 1620 when they arrived on
She says she waited until 1990 “to get busy.” She took a four-week intensive study program at Samford University and traveled annually to the National Genealogy Conferences, teaching at the National Archives.
Eventually the sheer volume of her research papers threatened to take over her house. This is when she got her first computer; so basic that it didn’t have a hard drive, just two floppy disk drives. She began to enter her findings and those of other relatives who weren’t convinced that the computer would help. When she got the next generation of computer with a hard drive, her floppy disks were incompatible, so she got to enter everything again. Today she uses a computer built for her by her younger brother, Bill.
Five years ago, Jane moved to Dawsonville. Hanging on one wall is a quilt her mother made of tiny squares cut from her dresses and Jane’s. Having that quilt in view reminded Jane of the one she had started fifteen years earlier. While she hunted for that box, in February of 2001, she went to her first Piecemaker’s Quilt Guild meeting. She said that everyone was so kind and welcoming, but it was quite overwhelming. She knew nothing about quilt guilds and their activities. The Block of the Month, which seemed to be so popular with the members, was a mystery to her, so she took advantage of a Block of the Month class at Quilted Hearts. Given a choice between two color palettes, traditional and “out of the box”, Jane chose the latter because she likes bright colors and things.
As she says, “The rotary cutter changed my ideas about quilting!” Gone was the
tedious hand cutting. Although she hasn’t done much hand quilting, she’s made a
lot of tops. She had one closet removed from her large bedroom to accommodate
her quilting. She sleeps at one end of the room and sews at the other. Another
bedroom was converted to a study for her computer and library of 300
But what about that quilt she started so long ago? Jane’s still hunting for that box!