Rural Heritage Quilt Trail
Monroe County, West Virginia

Patchwork, people, and the pastures

History of the Rural Heritage Quilt Trail in Monroe County


Quilts remind us of a sense of home, family, and tradition, much like the people and places of Monroe County.  A drive through Monroe will not consist of views from the interstate, as interstate travel is not an option.  Traveling the county’s highways require travelers to take one and two lane roads.  It can be very enjoyable and relaxing as there is beauty everywhere you look.  Including the Rural Heritage Quilt Trail on your trip through or to Monroe County is a great excuse to view not only the quilt squares but also the wonderful pastoral views, historic structures, and of course the mountains.

 

Monroe County’s Rural Heritage Quilt Trail officially opened April 30, 2011.  The original trail consisted of just over 20 squares.  Now it recognizes nearly 60.  Many of the quilts have historical relevance to West Virginia and Monroe County.  The quilt patterns, barns and buildings, communities, along with the people, have such fascinating stories extending beyond the elements of the trail. 

Farmer’s Fancy was the first square created for the trail. The pattern was found in a quilt that Greenville resident Leona Mae Jones Long made in 1925.  The commercial name of this pattern is unknown but has been found in other West Virginia quilts, some dating back to the mid-19th century.  Fawn Valentine, a Greenbrier County resident and author of “West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers,” selected this design based on the beauty and historic value of the design.  Farmer’s Fancy first debuted at Union’s annual Farmer’s Day celebration in 2010.  It was at this time that the Mountain Heritage Quilters Guild presented eleven sewn quilt squares that represented the county’s heritage.  The community was invited to view and vote for the blocks they thought should be painted and erected for the trail.  Seven patterns selected were Dresden Plate, Honey Bee, Maple Leaf, Paddle Wheel, Primary Basket, Spool, Turkey Tracks, and Union.

Even today the quilt trail continues to grow.  Some squares continue to pay homage to the area’s rich heritage, while others have incorporated personal interests.  The array of patterns and square presentations is a testimony to the pride and ownership of the county’s residents.

There have been many people instrumental in the Rural Heritage Quilt Trail.  Former Monroe County resident and artist Joan Menard was the driving force behind the idea and start up success.  An AmeriCorps worker, Menard used her knowledge, talent, and connections to the highly recognized Ohio quilt trails to build and share her vision for Monroe.  She worked with Mary Legg-Moses of West Virginia State University to develop initial plans for West Virginia’s second quilt trail (Mason County the first).  Legg-Moses secured grant money for the effort.  Menard elected to use funding to purchase supplies for square construction.  Various groups and individuals were then included to paint and erect trail quilts.  Volunteers were part of groups such as 4-H, Energy Express, Monroe Arts Alliance, and the Adult Drawing Group.  Additionally, professional artists like Menard and regional artisan Robert Tuckwiller participated. 

As the interest in the trail increased, more people have assisted.  Some materials have been purchased from a mini-grant from the Monroe Arts Alliance, funds from  Friends of Monroe, Inc., but also a large amount of private donations, especially as the trail has expanded.

Cathy Abernathy deserves recognition for her efforts of organization and coordination of people and events.  She is also credited with the maintenance of the trail’s website.  After initial creation of site by Americorps worker Brian Caulkins, Abernathy continued the development a website to include name and location of each block, photographs, and facts related to the blocks. 

Another way travelers have been able to obtain trail information through technology is through the smartphone application I-Treks.  Jeff Bray of Lewisburg developed the app as a personal tour guide, allowing visitors to hear information and history on the quilts and communities as they drive.  Relying on satellites, this app works even with no cell service.

The original Monroe Quilt Tail Committee was made of volunteers from West Virginia Extension Service-Monroe County Office (Travis Cullen, Don Dransfield, Helen Graves and Brian Wickline), artist/former AmeriCorps volunteer Joan Menard, former AmeriCorps volunteer Cathy Abernathy, quilter Doris McCurdy, West Virginia State University RBS coordinator Mary Legg-Moses, and former Monroe Art’s Alliance director Judith Bair.  Joan Menard and Cathy Abernathy have served as project coordinators.  The Quilt Trail is currently supervised by the Monroe Tourism office.  Helen Graves, former Tourism Director oversaw activity on the trail until her retirement in 2013. 

The quilt trail pays homage to the county’s Appalachian heritage and long-standing rural values.  This trail has been a wonderful way for the county to share that with visitors to the area.



 

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