Sunday, October 17, 2004

Travel Adams County, quilt to quilt

Painted quilt squares like Mail Pouch signs of yesteryear

By Chris Klein
Enquirer contributor

The success of the Adams County barn quilt project will be celebrated Saturday, national Make a Difference Day - the largest single day of volunteering in America.

The public is invited to honor those involved with the project and enjoy live music, magic acts and fall harvest food 1-5 p.m. at Stricklett Farm, 3560 U.S. 52, Manchester. The event will be hosted by the Adams County Historical Society and Travel & Visitors Bureau.

A map to each of the 22 barn quilt squares in Adams County can be found at Web site. Or call the Adams County Chamber of Commerce: (888) 223-5454.
The Harshaville Covered Bridge is the last remaining covered bridge still in use today by cars as well as horse drawn wagons in Adams County.

It was built before the Civil War, around 1855. In July of 1863, Confederate Calvary Gen. John Morgan led more than 2,500 troops on a raid through Ohio. When the raiders passed through the county, they crossed this bridge.

The bridge is one mile east of Ohio 247 on Grace's Run Road (11/2 miles south of Ohio 32) in Harshaville.

It was such a simple idea. Donna Sue Groves wanted to publicly recognize her mother Maxine's love of quilting. To do so, she would paint a single giant quilt square on the side of her tobacco barn. It would be colorful. It would be eye-catching. And she figured the neighbors would enjoy it.

But before the first pigment slapped wood, organizations including Adams County Economic Development, the Edge of Appalachia and the Ohio Bicentennial Committee caught wind of the idea. So, too, did a group of Adams County quilt makers and barn owners. Their combined efforts, boosted by partial funding from the Ohio Arts Council, resulted in a blanket of quilt squares that stretches throughout this lush countryside.

The group's original plan was for 20 quilt squares on 20 barns, enough to make a sample quilt if constructed of fabric. But the enthusiasm didn't stop at 20, and today 22 barns display quilt squares. Finding them is a pleasant way to spend an autumn day.

An hour and half drive east of Cincinnati, Adams County is acres upon acres of rolling fields and densely wooded hills. Traffic congestion is unknown in most areas, thanks, in part, to the many Amish families who live there. The pace is a bit slower. Driving behind a horse-drawn buggy is an invitation to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

Finding all 22 quilt squares in Adams County will require a map, provided by the Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

As with most good ideas, the barn quilt concept is spreading. In Ohio, the folks in Monroe County have 15. Brown County is home to one barn quilt square, and four other Ohio counties are planning quilt square projects.

The enthusiasm for barn quilt squares doesn't stop at the state line. Ten counties in Tennessee boast quilt squares, while Iowa's Grundy County has 14. Kentucky, West Virginia Oklahoma, Oregon and Ontario, Canada, have barn quilt plans in the works.

Groves, 56, is amazed at the way her simple idea has taken hold.

"In my 30 years of community work, it has been the best and happiest of projects," she says.

A West Virginia native, her appreciation of quilting stems from several generations of quilt makers. Her love of barns grew from a childhood spent traveling West Virginia's back roads.

"I grew to love all the Mail Pouch, Rock City and Cave City barns we saw during our travels. It's community art."

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Travel Adams County, quilt to quilt