Barn Quilt trail taking shape in Rowan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 26, 2015

By Dicy McCullough

For the Salisbury Post

Anyone who knows Adele Goodman knows she loves history, her family and country living. That seems a natural progression since Adele’s family tree goes back several centuries, with many of her ancestors living in the same house that she now lives in on Corriher Springs Road in western Rowan County.

The family “home place,” otherwise known as Henry C. Corriher’s home place, sits on top of a rolling hill surrounded by beautiful Rowan County farmland. The day I went for a visit, Adele invited me inside to browse in what she calls the history room. On the walls of that room are pictures framed from top to bottom in order of descendants from the oldest to the youngest.

I’ve known Adele for a number of years, having met her through the Mount Ulla Historic Preservation Society (MUHPS). Members and scheduled speakers often come to meetings with familiar names like Hall, Corriher, Knox, Heglar and Graham, sharing their family history and efforts they’re making to preserve old home places, some dating back to the late 1700s.

During the years that MUHPS has been in existence, projects like the promotion of the N.C. Scenic Highway in the west Rowan area have been undertaken to increase and preserve the beauty of the land. One of the more recent projects has been encouraging local farmers to make their barns a focal point of the landscape by adding a barn quilt.

A barn quilt is a quilt-square pattern painted on weatherized material large enough to be seen from a distance. The idea of barn quilts originated with Donna Sue Groves in Adams County, Ohio, in 2001 as a way to preserve quilt patterns for future generations. Once people saw her barn quilt, the tradition began to catch on locally, eventually spreading to other states and across the country.  One reason someone might want a barn quilt is to bring business into an area that might not otherwise have much traffic. Although people often travel to see the quilt and then stop to shop at local stores, visitors mostly enjoy the sheer beauty and nostalgia that barn quilts have to offer.

I learned about this art form several years ago when I wrote a column about the barn quilt trail in Iredell County. My sister-in-law, Hope Cline, paints barn quilts and has several on that trail. She also painted the one that hangs on a barn just outside of Cleveland in the west Rowan area. If you’re traveling west on Highway 70 from Salisbury, look to your right just before the Cleveland town sign, and you’ll see it.

After Adele learned about barn quilts last year through the MUHPS newspaper, she immediately wanted one. Not knowing who to contact to paint hers, she asked around at church and in the community. It took several connections until she discovered the perfect painters, Pam Bostian and her cousin-in-law, Susan Bostian. Although Adele grew up with Pam and Susan, she had no idea they had this talent.

These two ladies are meticulous in their painting technique, making sure to get all the details just right, using a professional grade sign board called MDO that will stand the test of time. After priming several coats, they tape off the design, painting one color at a time to get rich, deep colors. The final step in the process includes several coats of a weather-resistant poly to seal and protect the paint. After the last step, the quilt is ready for hanging.

The day I went to Adele’s, I was excited she invited me on a tour of the barn quilts in the west area. Pam drove us around, sharing stories about the good old days and why this art form is important. Needless to say I spent quite an interesting afternoon with two ladies who are passionate about barn quilts. Pam is so passionate she actually talked to Donna Sue Groves personally, making sure her work holds true to the original vision.

When a family chooses a quilt design, it’s often from an old family quilt or heirloom that has been passed down. Other times, the design has some kind of special meaning. For example, Henry Goodnight loves sunflowers, so traditional sunflower quilt blocks were incorporated into a unique design for his barn. Wanda and Franklin Corriher’s barn quilt honors Wanda’s father, a carpenter. It combines two patterns, the Carpenter’s Wheel and an eight-pointed star. Wanda says looking at the quilt every day reminds her of her dad, Walter, and it is named, “Walter’s Wheel.”

Lonnie and Julie Hoffner’s daughter, Kerri, recently married at their family farm with the reception in the barn. A barn quilt was painted reflecting the colors of the wedding. The barn quilt at Adele’s house is called “Mildred’s Star,” named after her Mamaw Mildred, who loved seeing the evening star at night. Mildred died in 2012.

A half mile down the road from Adele’s is the Corriher Bros. Dairy farm. Their barn quilt became a “blessed” distraction when Nell Corriher was at the end of her life. Excited about the quilt, she wanted her family there when it was hung. Many evenings during that special time, the family shared stories and sang hymns together. They named the quilt, “Gottes Segen” from the German meaning, “God’s Blessings.” Nell passed away not long after the quilt was hung.

Hanging a barn quilt in this area has become like a community event, with food, fellowship and fun. Sometimes there’s even ice cream and cake. Some of the families in the west area, such as Larry and Carolyn Poteat on Highway 801, are excited they have their barn quilts ready and can’t wait to see them hung. Carolyn’s are painted to match the handmade quilts made by her mother years ago.

Owners of the Mary L. Dairy Farm on Highway 801, Maurice and Mary Lee Parker also have a barn quilt ready. I’ve known Mary Lee and Maurice for over 30 years and have been to their farm many times. I was excited to hear we would be stopping by not only to see their barn quilt, but also to see the original handmade quilt from which the pattern was chosen. The original quilt was made by Maurice’s mother years ago as a wedding gift to Maurice and his new bride, Mary Lee.

One of the first things I heard as we drove up to the farm was the family peacock voicing its opinion in the backyard. When Mary Lee saw us, she came over and gave us a hug. Taking time to catch up on old acquaintances, she then invited us in to see the recently completed barn quilt.

It was hard to believe the intricate details Pam and Susan had copied perfectly onto the barn quilt from the handmade quilt stitched so long ago, but there it was right before our eyes.  Mary Lee was delighted with the outcome and can’t wait to proudly display it on a barn for generations to come. She said, “People don’t quilt like they did years ago, so unless we save that history somehow, children and grandchildren won’t understand.” With a slight smile, she added, “What better way to preserve that history than on the side of a barn?”

As we talked and admired the beauty around us on our way back to Adele’s, she said, “Our countryside is beautiful without the quilts, but the addition of art makes it even more beautiful.” With excitement and passion in her voice, Pam added, “We want to color the countryside!” Listening to the enthusiasm of both Adele and Pam, I had to chuckle when they told me some folks have admitted to nearly running into the creek and ditches while staring at the quilts.

Now that the west Rowan area is onboard with the idea of barn quilts, the hope is that others around the county will get excited about the idea, too. Realizing there are barn quilts in other parts of Rowan County, Adele, Pam and Susan would very much like help with contact information for future reference. The hope is connections will be made to document all of the barn quilts in the county for a map and trail that visitors and tourists can follow.

If you would like to order a barn quilt, have an existing barn quilt hanging in Rowan County or want to learn how to paint your own, please contact 704-664-4562.

Dicy McCullough is a local children’s author with books available on and in local bookstores. Her latest book, “Tired of Being Obedient,” recently made the top 100 list for children’s books on Amazon. Contact her at 704-278-4377.

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