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Serving: MO

Barn quilts tell a story

Mindy Ward barn with quilt painted on it
QUILT TRAIL: This barn quilt in New Franklin, Mo., is part of the Howard County Barn Quilt Trail. Missouri has five such trails. The first quilt trail was in Adams County, Ohio, in 2001, by Donna Sue Groves who wanted to honor her mother by painting a quilt block on the farm’s tobacco barn.
Discover the hidden gems in the fall foliage this year.

The pop of yellow from the roadside caught my attention. I had to make my son-in-law slow down to get a picture. There at almost eye level with the truck window was an old, faded red barn with a vibrant yellow and maroon barn quilt.

In Missouri, there are many barn quilt paintings adorning old barns or even new machine sheds. Typically, they are off in the distance on a tall two-story structure. But this one near New Franklin really grabbed a driver’s attention as it was right alongside the road and directly in line of sight.

Looking closer, it resembled a basket filled with grain. I’m not sure if that is what the owner intended, but set against the backdrop of Missouri farm fields, it was perfect. It let those passing by know that this area of the state was one that produced food for them.

History of barn quilts

According to American Barn Quilts, the history of these types of barn paintings can be traced back almost 300 years, to the arrival of immigrants from Europe, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Many believe this notion of painting or quilting wood into a barn started in Pennsylvania. It served as a way for travelers to identify families and often served as road markers before today’s signs.

There was a time in the early 2000s when barn quilt trails were hugely popular in the country. Ohio was the first state to start a documented trail for lovers of quilting, barns and Americana artwork to follow, according to BarnQuiltInfo.com, a website that tracks barn quilts across the country. According to the website, Missouri has five quilt trails documented — Howard, Cooper, Saline, Ozark and Perry. Sure enough, my stumbled-upon quilt in Howard County is listed.

Finding meaning

Turns out my initial assumption of a basket of grain was a little off. The barn quilt is known as 4 Prairie Flower at the Quenetee place. It was designed and painted by Connie Shay. According to the website, “The barn is located near the starting point of several trails west, and she felt the design was a reflection of the pioneer spirit and movement.”

There are many barn quilts across the state that may or may not be on a designated quilt trail, and there is no better time to head to the country and see these works of art than the fall when leaves change and harvest is in full swing.

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