Posts Tagged With: Civil War

Hex Signs and Barn Quilt Making Guide

The history of the Barn Quilt or Barn Paintings in Appalachia can be traced back over 220 hundred years. If we consider Hex Sign painting, Under Ground Rail Road Quilts  and Barn Quilts all as part of the larger history of using large symbolistic language in folk art.

So if this is true then I have unknowingly blessed communities with my Barn Quilt Murals for years. Meaning, that I am a modern folk artist who uses my  Barn Quilt or Quilt Block murals to educated, bless, and protect families, animals and whole cities.

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Traditional star Hex Sign for good luck on  Lancaster Pa. barn.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend a lecture in Elkins, W.V. about Applachin Folklore in West Virginia. The author of the book “Signs, Cures &Witchery” Gerald C. Milnes included in his book information about the creation of Hex Signs and Barn Paintings as part of the spiritual folk language of the Germanic settlers of our mountain region. It was suggested that Barn Paintings were used as symbols that were thought to bless or protect the barn or farm from witches. Witches were not the mythic creatures of our modern-day imagination but working spiritual powers that could devastate a farm or the community. Witch curses were thought to cause wide ranging problems from fires to cows that would not produce milk. So in this way,  Hex Signs, Barn Quilts, or just large barn paintings were used to ward off evil and protect a family’s source of income.

Milnes states in his book,”Some of the first recorded Hex Signs motifs in West Virginia were the double eagle, star, moon, lilies, compass, hearts, and the tree of life”. With women working with their hands inside the home many of the patterns also were incorporated into utilitarian objects they used every day. Pottery, quilts, wall hangings were also covered with these images of blessings and protection. It is not surprising to think that if you wanted to protect and bless your children a mother would create quilts with these motifs.

As I researched more about the link between the motifs sewn into Southern and Appalachian quilts, the more I understood about the Quaker, Dunkard and the Pennsylvania Dutch communities in and North of West Virginia. With large bodies of evidence, It is amazing to see that the symbolic motifs of ( Hex Signs and folk art) quilts were again used as a device for communication and blessings during the  Civil War ( 1861 -1865). If a West Virginia family was sympathetic with the Union and freedom from slavery they could use quilts hung on porches, fences, and clotheslines as ways to lead escaping slaves across borders to freedom. Many Quaker and Dunkard families made Under Ground Rail Road Quilts helping direct slaves to homes or locations that were safe for them during their escape to the North.  Often the individual blocks on the quilt would tell a story. Often a star pattern would let an escaping slave know to keep traveling North, a boat or train track next on the quilt would be read to mean that a water crossing or train crossing was coming up next on the route. A house or cabin image could mean a safe place to stop. The number of symbolic patterns was used widely and I have included some that we still see today.

Quilt Code

The use of Barn Hex signs then fell out of favor in my region. The formalizing of the local Christian Church system slowly changed worship in the rural mountains. As more people depended on the formal church for their spiritual beliefs and blessings. You see less and less folk art in homes and barns. Although the quilt remained a warm and practical way to decorate and reuse materials. The patterns that were used were often the same or like those from the first homesteaders. These important images passed from generation to generation.

From those pattens came some of the first Barn Quilt Murals. The family that sparked the reintrodution of painting quilt blocks on barns is from Ohio.

“The first official quilt trail was begun in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio. Donna Sue Groves wanted to honor her mother, Maxine, a noted quilter, with a painted quilt square on the family’s barn in Manchester, Ohio”. found on Wikipedia 

From their first Barn Quilt trail, regional trails have sprung up all over the eastern United States. Some are based on traditional patterns and others have included more contemporary images and designs.

I am now in the process of painting my 17th Quilt Block Mural. The reason I do not call them Barn Quilts is they are rarely located on a barn. My Quilt Block Murals hang in more urban areas, not farms. Most have come from the traditional images on Appalanchin quilts often the same as the Underground Rail Road Quilts. They are also often paid for as part of downtown revitalization and are seen as a reintroduction of our culture back into the modern cityscape in the towns of West Virginia.  In this way, my Quilt Block Murals are reintroducing the folk art  back into a culture that had generally forgotten about the traditions of Hex Signs, the Under Ground Rail Road Quilts and barn painting in general.

Barn Quilt and Quilt Block Murals in urban locations and the creation of the trails around them, have unknowingly brought back exactly the things that Hex Signs were once used for over 200 years ago. The tourist dollars that are spent traveling the trails, the community that has been built around them with families creating them, and the beauty of art back in the community are all blessings to the rural towns that have them. I like to think that my creations are a larger blessing to my community where they hang.

So I continue to paint them.  Today I am working on one for my very own home after years of painting them for others. It is a much more contemporary pattern then my normal murals. It is my way of blessing my family and my home. I hope that I can continue to be able to be a Hex Sign Painter/ Barn Quilt Muralist/ Quilt Block painter for many more years to come. As I paint the images I hope that they will continue bring beauty, hope, joy and blessings those who see them.

If you are interested I have attached a link to a helpful website that I used when I was first starting out making the Barn Quilt murals. I have also included a list of alternative supplies that I am now using and a tip on pattern making. So please enjoy making your own Barn Quilts or Quilt Block Murals.

This is an excellent site for the process of making and painting your own murals.

The Helderberg Quilt Barn Trail website

The only addition I would like to make to these instructions is you do not have to use wood for the Barn Quilts unless you want to. I have now begun to use a PVC siding product for my murals. The main reason being the weight of the sign grade MDO plywood. MDO plywood is dense particleboard made with glue and is very heavy at the 8’x 8′ size around 250 pounds, even the smaller 4’X4′ is around 125 lbs. This makes painting and moving the boards very difficult. So I tried and have found success with a thin 1/4 inch PVC siding product and a plastic bonding primer framed with PVC trim. PVC can be much more expensive if you are unable to find the MDO Plywood. In my case almost twice the cost, but it was so much nicer being able to move the murals by myself and so much easier to install. If you chose to use PVC you must use a bonding primer. It will adhere to the plastic and allow a good bond to the paint. The cost is the same as a regular primer.

Also when doing a design for your murals think about location as part of the planning. Size Matters! If you have a mural that hangs 15 feet from the ground don’t plan much detail in the mural. The details of small patterns  get lost and people driving by will have no idea what the image is supposed to be. In reverse it is possible to get great detail in smaller indoor patterns. My current project is in my home on a half door measuring only 28×28 inches. The pattern I have chosen is a complex over and under optical illusion of stripes. I looks good placed where it is viewed close up.

Here is the design guide image and the final image panted on the door to my art studio in Buckhannon, WV. As I paint the pattern changed a few things. As you can see I used the traditional colors of West Virginia with the Navy Blue and Gold with a little contrast with white and blue gray. It is a reflection of the complexity of our state and our people.

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Basic pattern for my home “over-under square” Pattern

 

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Finished Barn Quilt  or Quilt Block in our home. I call it “Over and Under Squares”  JoLynn Powers of Buckhannon WV.The photo doesn’t show the color navey blue very well but you get the idea. 

Just as informal project cost for making a small panel similar to this one.  The painting is 28X28the panel is 36×42.

1 half a sheet of 1/2 plywood                                                                        $16.00 dollars

2  1x2x8 foot boards for front and back trim  these were not furring strips but milled boards                                                                                                               $ 8.00 dollars

a box of wood screws  2 1/4 inches                                                               $ 8.00

1 gallon white interior latex paint used as primer and paint (2) Coats   $18.00 dollars

3 quarts interior latex paint, 1 navy, 1bright yellow 1 blue gray   3×23   $69.00

( I mixed the navy with white to get light blue)

1 roll frogg tape  2inch wide                                                                                $9.00

 

Total just for supplies if you did not have this on hand.  about 128.00 dollars plus paper and pens and time, lots of time~ So now you will have left over paint and maybe some scrap wood that could be used to make smaller ones for free!!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, Civil War, DIY projects, Folk Art, Hex Signs, home remodeling, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails, quilts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

1st Land Battel of Civil War reenacted in Philippi, W.V. every June.

My family enjoyed a day full of history, music and food at this spring downtown event.The Blue and Gray Reunion brings history to life in the small town of Philippi, West Virgina every 3rd week in June. People crowd the streets to see re-enactors recreate the 1st land battle of the Civil War. Where men dress as Union solders march their way through the city’s trade mark covered bridge to face Confederate solders who fire muskets at the foot of the bridge. The 3 day celebration is packed with history, music, food and crafts.

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Philippi Covered Bridge build 1876 then burned in the 1980’s then rebuilt. 

Being the only state created during the civil war, West Virginia’s history is forever linked to that tumultuous time in American History. So when I  learned that the first land battle was fought only 25 minutes from my house and they had a festival about the event, that  made it impossible for me to miss.

Our day started on the beautiful Barbour County Court House lawn only two blocks from the Philippi Cover Bridge were most of the canon and musket fire would happen. We took Christopher out to the grass fields where the  solider encampments were set up. He got a first hand look at historically accurate solders accommodations. He asked many questions that the re-enactors answered with responses that were historical correct. The question and answer that surprised even Tom was, “what do you do when not fighting?” The man answered we play rag ball. Christopher and I had no idea what he was talking about and finally he explained that often times soldiers would roll rags into a hard ball and hit it like a baseball with a stick or spend evenings playing cards. We also visited a woman in her tent who had a portable, foot powered, sewing machine and watched as she created a panel for a quilt.She explained that she often made clothes for the solders or did repairs on their tents.

We wandered through the vendor tents on the court-house square seeing a black smith, candle maker and other crafts made by local artists.  Then in the distance we heard solders marching and calling out orders along the back street behind the Court House. They were getting ready for the battle at the bridge. Tom and Christopher chose to stay on the downtown side of the bridge where the  Confederate troops had their camp and were ready to defend the town of Philippi. I crossed the cat walk of the bridge to get some photos of the Union soldiers following them as they marched across the bridge to have a fire fight at the base of the bridge. Canon fire rang out in the valley surrounding the bridge and the smell of sulfur filled the air. I could hardly believe how loud everything was… Compared to a normal day along main street in Philippi.

 

 

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Cannons fired across the Tygert River in downtown Philippi.

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Union troop members march through the covered bridge to meet Confederate troops on the other side and begin the battle. 

As the battle moved to the field along the river I was able to talk to a woman who was wearing a beautiful dress along side the battle field. She had made her own dress and crafted her hat. She explained how each  person at the event had done research on the clothing and uniforms that they wore. She said that correct portrail of the roles was a key point to the people who did historical reenactments. They loved to learn everything that they could the lives of people that they portrayed.  She explained that it was a labor of love and some people would have hundreds of hours of research done before their 1st reenactment. The day before she had been dressed as a morning widow at a memorial service held for those who lost their lives in battle. Dressed in black from head to toe for the funeral services. She and a friend had walked down main street to the local Civil War area church were singing and poetry had been part of the “services”.

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Lovely hand-made dress at the Blue and Gray Reunion. 

The kids loved to see the solders reload their muskets and shoot round after round of black powder into the air. When the battle was over many of the men shook hands and walked away as friends to the local gas station for a cool drink. But only in West Virginia have I ever seen three men walk casually into a “Sheets” gas station with large rifles slung over one shoulder and no one seems to mind. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole town becomes part of the action during these three days. Walking down the street we stop under a tree in the shadow of a house that was used as a hospital  during the war. We see an army doctor performing the first Civil War amputation with a dummy. The “Dr.” explains how the procedure was preformed and how to care for the amputation wound after the limb was removed.  Christopher was amazed that they could do this kind of thing in a tent on the grass. The only thing I could think of was how lucky we are today to have hospitals and better medications than these young men had back then.

 

We then followed the crowd up the street for some live music and a hot lunch on the court-house steps. Then to our surprise the music stopped and a ring filled the air as someone tolled the iron bell in the county house belfries for those who were “killed”. An emotional reminder of the history of my state and the generations of people who lived and died as part of the Civil War.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

 

With our part of the events over we headed home while many more people enjoyed spending time with friends and family at a late afternoon and evening concert. The Blue and Gray reunion was as much fun as education can get for young and old. I only wish that I had planned more time to enjoy the activities that the event offers. The Blue and Grey Reunion organisation website or their  Facebook page  can help you make plans for next years event or help you learn more about the battle and the history of Philippi and the first land battle of the Civil War.

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Friends take time a hot afternoon to get a cool drink and visit while sharing their history knowledge.

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Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Blue and Gray Reunion, Civil War, Covered bridges, historic locations, history, Philippi, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Town that Time Forgot, The Heritage Center of Beverly West Virginia

Often when people travel by car they are so busy trying to reach their destination they never take time to stop and enjoy little towns along the way. Beverly, West Virginia in Randolph county is a  mountain town that time forgot. It is a place to enjoy walking on historic streets, take educational tours and shop and eat in places that remind us of our struggles,our victories as a country and a state.

Driving to Beverly a person leaves the more modern world of strip malls and congested traffic and  returns us to a quieter time. This town is mostly residential, built around a central plan of main street businesses that are all within walking distance. The historic district surrounds a small green town square that is hub of activities even today. The city has added to the historic downtown over the years, investing in other old structures, moving them from other areas in Randolph County.

Cloudy day in Beverly WV looking down Main Street from the Heritage Center

Cloudy day in Beverly WV looking down Main Street from the Heritage Center

As a visitor my first stop was at the Beverly Heritage Center to take the tour of the largest and most important buildings in the Historic District. It is hard to miss the Bank on the corner of Main Street ( US Rt 250/219). I feel in love with its white brick and decorative exterior the minute I drove past. Built in 1900 by  the local Dr. Humbolt Yokum, it was the town’s only bank for 33 years. It is the first of the four buildings that connect as The Beverly Heritage Center.

Main Street Bank Beverly, WV Circ 1900

Main Street Bank Beverly, WV Circa 1900.

Rounding the corner off of Main Street on to Court Street, visitors are able to view the other buildings in the collection and enter the parking area at the back of the buildings. The next building on the side street is the most notable of the four buildings. It is the former Randolph County Courthouse. The Courthouse completed in 1815 is one of several buildings used as a County Courthouse. The location of the county seat would move  back and forth from Elkins to Beverly several times over 84 years. Finally the city of Elkins won the battle for the county seat in 1899 leaving this building to serve other purposes.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and House.

The Courthouse connects with the next building in the row, the Hill building. The Hill building was constructed in 1912 for use as a store, pool hall and bar, it has the smallest footprint of the four buildings.The bar inside is said to have even survived the prohibition era with ease.Then connected to the Hill building is the Bushrod Crawford House Circa 1850. The building housed a family until General McClellan needed a headquarters during the civil war in the summer of 1861. The home was an important location to the General because it’s close location to several battlefields, it had electricity and could supported telegraph communications. The historic value of this simple looking home is priceless to anyone interested in the history of our country.

Beverly Heritage Center Sign

Beverly Heritage Center Sign

In back visitors see the main entrance of the  Heritage Center. Here you are able to take a tour,enjoy a gift shop and look through a collection of found items from around Randolph County and the Rich Mountain Battlefield.

The quality of this restoration project and unique way the four buildings connect into a single unit is flawless. Visitors move seamlessly from a modern addition where offices and tour guides lead you to the historic buildings. Tour Guides explain the history of each room as you pass from one room to the next room through natural looking passages. The tour actually starts in the rear of the Courthouse and passes to the Bank and back to the store/bar then to the house. At the end of your tour you return back into the entry area through a second doorway.

Each of the buildings are handicap accessible and the flooring in all the rooms of the center are of traditional hardwoods. Each of the buildings contain a collection of items that would have been found in a building of this style and age. The Courthouse has a courtroom display that made me think of what it must have been like for a judge in such a rural area in the 1800 hundreds. Thoughts of the of crimes and what judges would have to rule about drifted into my mind.

inside old Randolph County Courthouse, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Inside the old Randolph County Courthouse, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly W.V.

After leaving the courtroom visitors are lead into the Beverly Bank. The inside restoration is just as  wonderful as the masonry work of the exterior. The shiny tin punched ceiling and the arched windows make me almost want to go back into banking. The displays in this room are a collection of found objects that were found on or around the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike that passed through Beverly. Many of the items are things that would have been part of wagon or team of horses. There’s also a lovely desk covered in banking papers reminding me of the importance a bank has to a small community.

Desk with bank papers underglass, Beverly Heritage Center.

Desk with bank papers under glass, Beverly Heritage Center.

McClellan style saddle, used during the Civil War and would have been seen along the roads in Beverly WV

McClellan style saddle, used during the Civil War area Beverly WV

 

Beverly Bank interior with tin ceiling, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Beverly Bank interior with tin ceiling, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

When visitors finish enjoying the Bank, they pass back through the courtroom into the Hill building. This building is home to a beautifully restored bar and pool hall area with a storefront window that has two mannequins who appear to be running for some sort of county office.

Bar Room in the Hill Building of the Beverly Heritage Center.

Bar Room in the Hill Building of the Beverly Heritage Center.

Mannequins about to shake hands in typical 1800s dress, Beverly Heritage Center.Beverly WV.

Mannequins about to shake hands in typical 1800s dress, Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

Finally the tour heads into the Bushrod Crawford House circa 1850 where the Heritage Center has a civil war display area. My favorite portion of the collection is a corner display of a civil war camp site. Making thoughts of long cold nights in the Appalachian woods and the sounds of rifle fire slow my pace through the tour. Visitors also enjoy the story of General McClellan’s use of the house and how important the telegraph was to the battles in this area of West Virginia.

Civil war encampment display at the Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

Civil war encampment display at the Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV.

When finished with the Civil War display visitors pass into another area of the house that has a fireplace and furnishings that remind you that at one time this was a home. Visitors then can shop for handmade gifts and toys popular in the 1800’s in the last room on the tour. Quests slowly make their way back to the modern entry where the tour of these buildings comes to an end.

Fireplace and upright piano in dining area in Crawford house, Beverly Heritage Center.

Fireplace and upright piano in dining area in Crawford house, Beverly Heritage Center.

The continued exploration of the historic district should be seriously considered while visiting. The Heritage Center Staff have walking tour booklets and other information to help you continue to enjoy the town of Beverly West Virginia. Below are some more of the wonderful places I photographed that day.

Bosworth Store/ Museum across street from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV

Bosworth Store/ Museum across street from Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly

Green grass city Square Beverly, WV

Green grass city Square Beverly, WV

Randolph County Jail 1813

Randolph County Jail 1813

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This town has so many  interesting stories and I have only begun to explore them all. My trip to the Beverly Heritage Center was a morning well spent. I will be back and will be taking more time to learn about this wonderful little town that time has forgotten.It was such a pleasure to spend a day with people enjoy old buildings as much as I do.

Categories: Beverly West Virginia, Civil War, Country life, Elkins West Virginia, ghost stories, historic locations, history, Randolph County, rural life, Travel, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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