Longwoods Barn Quilt Trail
In 1811, the original Indian trail along an almost uninterrupted tract of Carolinian Forest known as “the Longwoods” was widened to accommodate gun carriages. Two hundred years later, this same section of road, the old King’s Highway #2, is an “arts corridor” lined with barn quilts.
The aim of this project is to tell the story of the people through the arts – quilting, painting and storytelling. The main attraction will be barn quilts lining an arts corridor down the LongwoodsRoad where key stories, landmarks, and sacred places will be represented by colourful abstract murals installed on heritage barn.
The project goal is to install sixty 8 foot square murals on barns along a 65-kilometre section of old Highway 2 (Longwoods Road) running from the Tecumseh Monument, near Thamesville, to the Delaware Speedway. This LongwoodsBarnQuiltTrailis also a section of the planned Route 1812, a heritage trail that loops from Amherstburg to Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. The Longwoods Barn Quilt Trail also links to Chatham-Kent’s Tecumseh Parkway at the west end.
Wardsville Beginnings. The Longwoods Barn Quilt Trail began in the summer of 2009 when the village of Wardsville started preparing for its 2010 bicentennial. In 1810, Mr George Ward was asked by the British Government to establish a stopping point for travellers along a rough forested section of Longwoods Road between Thamesville and Delaware in Upper Canada – the Western District it was called.
In October 2009, Wardsville’s women began designing a story quilt to tell the story. Denise Corneil had caught sight of the rural folk art phenonomen called “barn quilts” sweeping the United States. The quilters were impressed by the news that the Temiskaming International Plowing Match 2009 in northern Ontario had created a barn quilt trail featuring over 90 barn quilts.
Over the course of the year, a story quilt about the Wards was completed. Volunteers painted thirty 8-foot blocks. Stories were researched and written to go with each block and shared via social media. Local firefighters installed the murals for all to see up close during the bicentennial celebration June 2010. Another team installed them on barns and significant locations throughout the community. Heritage Canada and local sponsors paid for the materials.
But there were many more stories to tell. Why not extend the barn quilt trail along the 65-kilometre section of deep dark forest between Fairfield (Moraviantown) and Delaware? Barn quilts could tell many more family stories about the war.
The Wardsville organizers started promoting the barn quilt concept throughout southern Ontario. “Every community can tell its story”, they said. Using social media, barn quilts were promoted as a means to promote and enhance rural creativity, the arts, Ontario heritage and culture.
Southwest Ontario Barn Quilt Trail. Museum curators looking for ways to reach out into the countryside beyond their portals saw the potential and stepped forward to sponsor trails throughout five counties: Middlesex, Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, and Brant. The barn quilt trail vision fit with the strategic plan of SCOR, the South Central Ontario Region. The Sand Plains Community Development Fund invested.
Longwoods Road. In Middlesex, women living up and down Longwoods Road started meeting montly to share what they knew about the War. Not much really. They knew about a couple of local battles, Tecumseh, and the Red Coats. “But what about the suffering of the people?” they asked. “Who lived here? Did our communities really endure a scorched earth policy? What happened to the families who followed Tecumseh and his warriors? How did the women and children fare whose homes were destroyed?”
Honouring the First Nations. The first thing realized was that if the British did not have the First Nations on their side during the first two years of the war, southwest Ontario might now be part of the U.S. Upper Canada might have fallen into American hands! Our First Nations neighbours were heroes, yet this part of the story was rarely told.
Special invitations went out to the women living in the neighouring First Nations communities and they joined in, drawn in to the project by their love for quilting and curiosity. The project embraced three principles:
- Legacy of respect through acknowledgement of Haudenosaunee contributions to the War of 1812
- Acceptance of First Nations’ interpretation of events and outcomes as valid
- Legacy of condolence and building an enduring peace by renewing the Chain of Friendship
Two Quilts. The quilters sorted through hundreds of quilt block patterns, selecting designs that spoke to them about what life must have been like. “Broken Dishes”… “Moravian Star” …“Broken Heart” and “Rail Fence” to name a few. Two quilts were designed: a settler quilt and a First Nations quilt. The quilts are connected by a shared border so they can be displayed together or detached for separate travels.
The researchers dug into the archives to learn about the social impacts of the war, studying the conflict from a women’s point of view. They wrote a story for each quilt block: Mrs. Westbrook watching her husband, the “traitor”, torch their farmstead. Mrs. Edwards surveying the carnage at Battle Hill, bodies abandonned until the snow melted. Mrs. Ward, thankful that the broken British troops retreated eastwards instead of landing on her door step requiring medical treatment and amputations.
Painting the Barn Quilts. Community organizations stepped forward to enlarge and transfer the patterns to a a special MDO plywood designed to endure the weather. Offered $200 per barn quilt as a fund raiser, there was an enthusiastic response. The 2nd Bothwell Scouts responded enthusiastically: “we look forward to being part of this amazing event. It will be a great opportunity to learn more about our heritage and history past alongside of community involvement and friendships gained.”
Sponsors. Dulux Paints, a company that wants to “enrich people’s lives by bringing visual delight and lasting care to their surroundings” caught the vision and donated the paint. Northcott Silk Inc. donated the fabric for both quilts. The Sand Plains Community Development Fund and EON – Elgin Oxford Norfolk Association of Curators, Archivists, and Directors sponsored 20 barn quilts.
Celebrating our Agricultural Heritage. What better way to share our history than by hanging paintings of folk art on our disappearing timberframe barns, artifacts from another period of our history. The owners of the remaining heritage barns along the Longwoods have generously offered to host this artwork.
519 693 7002
April 25, 2012