Quilting and herbs keep two local groups connected to Bay City's heritage

Plants and quilts keep the people of Bay County connected to their heritage.

The Old Thyme Herb Society of Bay County and the Bay Heritage Quilters Guild work hard to keep people connected to their past and to keep old-fashioned skills alive.

Ashley BrownThe Old Thyme Herb Society and Bay County Quilters Guild are each part of the Bay County Historical Society.
Both organizations are connected to the Bay County Historical Society, but their roots run back to the skills that are the community’s heritage.

The Old Thyme Herb Society of Bay County keeps historic skills alive while celebrating our past.Old Thyme Herb Society of Bay County

Susan Vandenbrooks, a member of the Old Thyme Herb Society, says the herb society does more than plant gardens around the Trombley House, which is located on the west side of the Saginaw River.

Members of the society also teach people how to identify and use herbs. They educate the public about some of herbal plants that are typically considered weeds. For example, dandelion leaves, roots, and flowers have been used to treat infections. Clover blossoms can be used to make tea.

“The herb garden was adopted by the Herb Society to be planting things that would have been first of all native to our area and typical of what would have been grown in the garden in the 1830s,” Vandenbrooks says, adding that it took a lot of research to make sure what they were planting was accurate.

She says plants such as sage, comfrey, bee balm, lambs ear, and daylilies are just a few examples of herbs.

People sometimes are surprised to hear that herbs have uses beyond flavoring food.

“Herbs are not all culinary, they can be for other uses – for medicinal, for fragrance, and a lot of herbs were called strewing herbs and they were used to control pests.”

Strewing herbs can be scattered around places such as the basement to keep bugs away.

The Old Thyme Herb Society maintains a large garden at the Trombley House on Bay City's West Side.The Old Thyme Herb Society maintains a large garden at Trombley House. The garden includes 44 quadrants and is guarded by a statue of the patron saint of gardens, Saint Fiacre of Breuil. That’s not the only religious part of the garden. Vandenbrooks says the garden includes a biblical area where only herbs mentioned in the Bible are planted.

To promote the use of herbs in gardening, cooking, and medicines, Old Thyme Herb Society offers programs through the Bay County Library System and is planning an Ice Cream Social on Sat., Sept. 14.

During the Ice Cream Social, visitors can try their hand at vintage games, churning butter, flying homemade kits, and making herbal sachets. Western High School students will be asked to volunteer during the event.

The Old Thyme Herb Society welcomes anyone interested in studying or learning about herbs. The society meets on the third Wednesday of each month. They gather to garden on Monday evenings.

Bay Heritage Quilters Guild

Pieces of scrap fabric always come in handy, whether to make herb sachets or to piece together a quilt.

The Bay Heritage Quilters Guild often sews quilts to donate to nonprofit organizations. In the past, the quilts have gone to veterans in need or to children when they enter the foster system.

The Bay Heritage Quilters Guild meets at the Bay County Historical Museum and is an active group that helps keep the art and skill of quilting alive in the community.

One long-time member said they do a lot more for the community than promote the work of sewing.

The guild makes Fidget Blankets for McLaren Hospice and a couple of other charities, including Rayola, which helps children in the foster care system and in need. In the last eight years, the guild has created and donated 60 quilts to Miracle Quilts For Veterans.

The guild started in 1988 when a group of people took a lap quilting class together and decided they wanted to continue quilting together. They began meeting at the Bay County Historical Society shortly after it moved to its current location.

The museum invited the Quilt Guild, as well as the entire community, to an open house to celebrate the new space. To commemorate the occasion, the Quilt Guild members made capes and dressed in costume. Since then, members of the guild have made quilts recognizing events over the years.

The Quilters Guild takes beginners with or without a sewing machine, and hand quilters or “checkbook” quilters. The guild meets on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. at the Bay County Historical Society.
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Read more articles by Denyse Shannon.

As a feature writer and freelance journalist, Denyse Shannon has written professionally for over two and a half decades. She has worked as a contractor for daily and weekly newspapers, national and local magazines, and taught introductory media writing at her alma mater – Central Michigan University. She also holds a Master of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University. She and her husband live in Bangor Township and enjoy sailing on the Bay, and are avid cyclists.