OHIO VALLEY — With Mother Nature unable to make up her mind about the weather, day-trippers can take a short drive near their homes and discover unique trails throughout Gallia and Mason counties without leaving their vehicles.
Quilt trails are one-of-a-kind trails that stitch together communities through the unique language of quilt squares. The first quilt trail in West Virginia began in Mason County in 2001. There are 30 quilt squares on area barns spread across multiple driving trails. In 2007, the Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau started the Quilt Barn Trail in Gallia County as a way to promote local history and tourism to the lesser visited areas of Gallia.
Former Gallia Tourism Director Bob Hood and the late Ray McKinniss, Bob Evans Farm manager, witnessed the original quilt trail started by Donna Groves by the Ohio Arts Council. McKinniss and Hood brought the idea back and implemented it locally.
“Originally, Bob Evans gave the initial seed money and all the materials and labor for the first two squares at the farm,” said Hood in a previous interview with Ohio Valley Publishing.
Denny Bellamy, director of the Mason County Convention and Visitors Bureau, has credited local quilters Mollie Yauger and Jane Coles with helping jump start the project, along with help from the late Dwight Jeffrey who sadly passed away earlier this year. Bellamy also credited other local volunteers, including students from the Mason County Career Center who helped cut the wooden squares. He said the trail evolved over a period of time with the most recent quilt square dedicated a few of years ago. He added, grants were received to complete the trail without any cost to the taxpayer. Quilt squares cost around $300, each.
“The 30 we built didn’t cost the owners a dime,” Bellamy said in a previous interview with Ohio Valley Publishing. “We bought the material, we bought the paint and went to the carpentry class at the career center who built all the quilt squares…then those went to Mollie Yauger’s farm, Dwight (Jeffery) sketched the design and Mollie and Jane’s quilt club members would paint them.”
Bellamy added, local high school students would put up the squares as part of their community service fulfillment for graduation.
“The process of building it (the trail) was over a period of years,” Bellamy said. “It takes time and you’ve got all these people working on it. It (the trail) was all done with volunteers and then we taught everyone else how to do it in the state.”
In Gallia County, the bureau worked with local quilters, artists, property owners, and various organizations to establish the trail and add quilt squares to various barns, spread as far west as Ohio 233 in Greenfield Township, south of Mercerville on Ohio 218, and just north of Addison on Ohio 7.
Local retailers and contractors made deals to supply materials at reduced rates for citizens making the quilt squares at their farms. Every quilt was self funded by landowners, who purchased the supplies and labor. Eventually, the Ohio Arts Council made a grant for the quilt trail, which helped fund the project. An educational grant was also secured with the help of the French Art Colony at the time. Gallia County Local Schools also helped support the project, employing art students to paint the squares after being stenciled by the FAC.
Each of the barns on the list feature a quilt pattern painted on to an eight-foot-by-eight-foot square and then fastened to the side of the barn, visible from the main roadway where it can be seen by tourists and have some kind of historical story or reason to be on the trail. According to Hood when the quilt trail was started, each barn that was added to the list told a piece of history or culture in Gallia. “The Tobacco Leaf” is a quilt on the Massie Farm at 1154 Ohio 775.
“Everything had to do with the community and property owners. One features a tobacco leaf and the impact of farming in Gallia,” said Hood.
The first barn to participate in Mason County belongs to Yauger and her husband Raymond and has a Maple Leaf design, located 12 miles south of Point Pleasant on U.S. 35. A square representing a log cabin rests at the West Virginia State Farm Museum. A pineapple quilt square greets visitors to the Mason County Tourism Center with the pineapple being a traditional symbol of hospitality. This underscores how the quilt square visually represents concepts and meaning to quilters and homesteads.
In Gallia County, the initial squares to go up were numbered and a small ceremony was held to commemorate each new quilt square.
“The first ceremony was at Bob Evans. The second was on Route 7. Fifty to sixty people attended that ceremony to hear the story of the farm and these people,” Hood said. “Many of these properties would come down from generations and generations, there were always stories about the properties and the squares fit that history.”
Two quilt squares are located on Bob Evans farm in Rio Grande, “The Gallia County Quilt Barn Trail” and “Central Star Quilt Square.” A patriotic square is located at 778 Ohio 850 in Bidwell on the property of Rex and Louise Greenlee. The “Ohio Star”is portrayed on the Fisher property at 332 Kraus Beck Road near Gallipolis. The Lester Farm has the “Log Cabin” square at 3215 Ohio 233 in Greenfield Township. “Jacob’s Ladder” is on the Altizer’s property at 3835 Ohio 325 near Patriot. At 9 Evergreen Road near Bidwell is the “Snail Trail” quilt square.
“Texas Broken Star” can be found at 4743 Ohio 7 near the power plants on the Fellure’s property. “The Ohio Star” is on the south end of Gallia at 11665 Ohio 218 on the Fowler Farm. On the old GCCVB building is the “Unconventional Pineapple” at 61 Court Street. “Century of Progress” is visible on the Niday Farm at 844 Lincoln Pike. Located at 5673 Ohio 325 near Patriot on the Trout property is “5440 or Flight.” Also on the Trout land is the “North Star” square. At 7009 Ohio 775 is “The Carpenters Wheel” on the Carter Farm. Also on Ohio 775 at 1154 is “The Tobacco Leaf” on the Massie Farm.
Many more quilt squares can be found throughout Gallia County, with an estimated total of more than 50.
In Mason County, a Star Lily square is on the Johnson homestead at 9343 Ripley Road, Point Pleasant. This design was reportedly chosen for the thousands of lilies that once bloomed on their property. Then there are some quilt squares that need no explanation like, a Modernized Milky Way square which appears at the Cottrill dairy farm, at 10273 Ohio River Road, West Columbia; or, the Grandmother’s Daisy square that is at Bob’s Market and Greenhouses at 211 Second Street in Mason. There’s even a Hope of Hartford square on the Hartford Community Center Building along W.Va. 62 north in Hartford.
The trail goes on to include, a Delectable Mountains square located on the USDA Agriculture Service Center on First Street in Point Pleasant. An Indian Arrowheads square on the Simon Farm at 201 Ohio River Road, Point Pleasant. A Bicentennial square on the Lanier property at 55 Staffhouse Road, Point Pleasant. A God’s Eye square is on the Burris farm at 5200 Seven Mile Ridge, Apple Grove and more.
The list goes on and on. For those who wish to find Dreama’s Star, Turkey Tracks, Postage Stamp, The Ohio Star, Hunter’s Star, Lucky Star, Hole in the Barn Door, Jacob’s Ladder, Mariner’s Compass, Star of Bethlehem, the Carpenter’s Wheel and more, stop by the GCCVB at 441 Second Avenue in Gallipolis, 740-446-6882, or the Mason County Tourism Center at 332 Viand Street in Point Pleasant, 304-675-3457.
Editor’s note: This article features material previously published by Ohio Valley Publishing. Previoulsy reported locations and owners of quilt barns are subject to change. Check with local toursism centers for the most up-to-date lising of locations when setting out on your journey.