On the trail of history: Book gives insight to quilts

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By Molly Haines

Throughout the past year, colorful quilt squares have popped up all over on Owen County barns, signs and even one restaurant. Many are curious, but few know the rich history behind the farms and the patterns that adorn the individual barns.

The Owen County Extension Homemakers have spent many hours researching and preserving the history of various quilt patterns. Their latest effort is a 50-page book containing information about each quilt square in Owen County.

The book includes a map of the Owen County Quilt Trail, a 140-mile journey that showcases each quilt square. Also included are GPS coordinates for each location, a picture and history of each individual pattern, as well as a history of the owner’s farm.

President of the Owen County Extension Homemakers, Kim Furnish, said the Quilt Trail project began with the Owen County Vision Project and was put into place by the Homemakers.

“The Homemakers started painting quilt squares about a year ago,” Furnish said. “We started with about five quilt squares on tobacco or livestock barns.”

Furnish said she received many phone calls from people in the county, curious about the barn squares.

“The book was really a result of the many phone calls we received about the squares,” Furnish said. “A lot of people called wondering what their significance was or wanting information on how they could get a square on their barn.”

The Extension Homemakers, along with 4-H members and friends, completed a total of 36 barn squares.

Furnish said gathering information on the history of the quilt patterns was not an easy task.

“Through research we were able to determine the individual patterns,” Furnish said. “A lot of the patterns chosen were connected to farm life in some way.”

Fellow homemaker Judy Hetterman said the book would not have been completed if it weren’t for Furnish.

“Kim is an excellent writer,” Hetterman said. “We really couldn’t have done it without her and all the research she did.”

Hetterman said the quilt trail is essential to preserving farm history in Owen County.

“Agriculture is changing and tobacco is not raised like it used to be,” Hetterman said. “We want to preserve these tobacco barns, beautify them and keep them like they were when we were growing up.”

“The Owen County Quilt Trail” book will be available for purchase at the Sweet Owen Arts in the Park festival June 27. Those interested may contact the extension office for more purchase information. The cost of the book is $15.