THE RYLSTONE QUILT

George and Louisa moved from Jindera to Rylstone, a long way from the Victorian border village where their ten children were born. George, a brickmaker by trade, may have foreseen an opportunity for employment following the establishment of the Cement Lime and Coal company prior to the first World War as a suitable reason to uproot his family and take them half-way across the state. Or perhaps the mining industry in the district was the lure. Whatever the purpose, George and Louisa arrived in Rylstone and continued as normal, involving themselves in the community as they had done previously.

In Jindera George had taken on several voluntary and paid roles, fencing the common area on which stock would often graze, acting as the caretaker for the School of Arts grounds, and as a member of the football and cricket clubs. Louisa was also frequently mentioned as one of the regular group of caterers at a range of community events. The party held to farewell them before they left Jindera acknowledged that they would be sorely missed.

George went to Rylstone in 1911 and Louisa, accompanied by her son Charles, left by motor car separately. In today’s modern cars this journey would take more than 6 hours and so their journey would not have been made in a single day. Federation, and probably Elsie and Gordon, the youngest of their children, were also in Rylstone with their parents but how and when they arrived is not certain.

When the First World War started George and Louisa were still in Rylstone. Fred and Gordon were too young to enlist in the war and George was too old, but they were still able to make a significant community contribution to the war effort. George and Louisa were both Australian born. Louisa’s parents were German immigrants and George’s father arrived in Australia from Rotterdam but may have been German. In both wars Australian-born citizens with German ancestry were housed in internment camps but George and Louisa appear to have been excluded from this fate.

During both world wars, signature or autograph quilts were prepared by towns and communities to raise funds to support the returned soldiers. Made from a bed sheet sewn onto the backing material, members of the local community signed the quilt in pencil and made a monetary contribution to have their signature embroidered on the quilt in red cotton. The Rylstone signature quilt, unlike the traditional red on white quilts, was embroidered in white on a cream background. It is the only known surviving World War 1 signature quilt and is in the possession of the Australian War Memorial.

In prime position at the top of the Rylstone quilt are the carefully embroidered names of Louisa, George and Federation Dopper. Their prominent position on the quilt might suggest that Louisa may have been an organiser or even the embroiderer, however, the actual organisers were all mothers of Gallipoli soldiers. Maybe the Dopper’s were able to contribute more money towards the appeal and thus claimed a top spot. Whatever the reason, their names are easy to find if you know where to look.

This stunning quilt not only raised a considerable amount of money, suggested to be equivalent to about $9,000 in today’s money and donated to the Red Cross, but may have been the reason why eleven Dopper men enlisted in the Second World War. They included both Federation and Gordon as well as two of Charles’ sons and seven other grandchildren of George and Louisa, including four sons of their daughter Mary, whose husband Adolphe also had German ancestry. Whatever their background this family certainly embraced the values and attitudes of their new homeland.