Missing Dixie: a quilt, a story, reflections on the ones who left and the ones who stayed behind

In March 1946, Katherine Cox received one last letter from her sister, Dixie, who had left eastern Kentucky for Dayton, Ohio. “Don’t write to me,” wrote Dixie, “I’ll write to you.” The family never heard from Dixie again. 70 years later, in 2016, Katherine’s daughter-in-law, Bet Ison finished the quilt, Missing Dixie. It tells the story of the 2 sisters and sends a shout-out to the still missing Dixie, “Dixie Audra Cox, Where are you?”

The quilt and story of “Missing Dixie” evoke a powerful response from many Kentuckians and Appalachian descendants. “This is the story of my family” more than one observer has stated. Many observers reflect on their own experience and share their own story. These stories provide a deeper understanding of Appalachia and those elusive but powerful feelings that bind the migrants and their descendants with the “home folks.” They promote a sense of shared history and culture. Finally, they help both Appalachians and others to find and understand the common experiences which bind all of us together.

In this presentation, Bet Ison twists together the story of the quilt and Missing Dixie with stories she has been told in casual conversations by quilt observers and in formal interviews, and with information found in historical sources. She reflects on what these reveal about the ties between “the ones who stayed” and “the ones who left”; and their parallels to immigrant stories of today.