Barn quilts thread together family stories of this PA county: Hop in the car & take the tour
The Harnish family adorned their Burnt Cabins Grist Mill with a barn quilt to commemorate the grindstone that has been influential in family businesses that thrived for over 175 years.
For the Layton Family, who farmed the land for six generations, the barn quilt represents a mother's love and devotion to the lost art of quilting.
Fiona, a Scottish Highland cow, is the centerpiece of the Mellon family's barn quilt, a reminder of how rewarding it can be to nurture and care for furry friends.
These are just three stories from the 208 that make up the Frontier Barn Quilt Trail.
Mike Crampton brainstormed the idea of incorporating a Barn Quilt Trail as a way to increase local tourism across Fulton County. The original goal set by a group of volunteers back in 2014 was 20 barn quilts.
"We had exceeded every goal that we set," Crampton said. "We started out with a goal of 20, and within less than a year we raised it to 50. Then we went to 100, then 150, then 200. When we realized that we had the largest Barn Quilt Trail in all of Pennsylvania, by a good margin, everybody said, 'OK, we've done our job, we're out of here.'"
Crampton, who is involved with both the Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society, saw a need in the community for something special, an attraction that would draw travelers to Fulton County.
"The community was trying to figure out how we could increase tourism, and I came across this Barn Quilt thing," he said. "For almost four years, I tried to talk people into helping me get it started, and we just couldn't get it off the ground. I finally realized the problem was when I would mention to people about creating a Barn Quilt Trail, people thought that I was talking about hanging an actual quilt on a barn. They would always look at me kind of weird."
It was difficult convincing people to get the project off the ground, until Crampton and his wife hung their own quilt, an acorn and oak leaf pattern reminiscent of an oversized quilt block, or quilt square, on their own property.
"In 2013, we had just finished building a barn ourselves, so we made a barn quilt and hung it on our barn," he said. "I invited some people from the community to come out and look at our barn quilt, and it took off from there."
Crampton refers to the trail as a "living thing."
"This whole project was pulled together by volunteers," he explained. "We started back in July of 2014. We had our first meeting and talked about developing a trail, and we didn't know how to do it or how to get started or how we would fund it. We came up with this idea of selling barn quilt kits where people could paint their own barn quilt, or for an extra charge, we would paint it for them."
The McConnellsburg Alumni Association loaned the trail volunteers space in the basement of the old McConnellsburg High School, where people across the community painted quilts to add to the trail.
Some quilts pay homage to local history, some represent family history, others feature favorite pets or farm animals. But each one is unique. Visitors can pair their drive with full background stories of each quilt listed on the trail's website.
"We learned a lot about how to make the lines and the points and the circles real crisp so that there was no bleed-through on the paint," he said. "We also learned if we could paint four or five barn quilts at the same time, that was the most efficient way to do it. We had volunteers - tree trimmers and guys that had boom lifts who volunteered their time to hang the barn quilts."
Years later, Crampton's devotion to the idea of a Fulton County Barn Quilt Trail has paid off.
"We've had people from all over the country call us and ask us to send brochures," he said. "We've had many of the local retail outlets and restaurants let us know that 'hey, we just had some people in from Missouri that said they came here to see the Barn Quilt Trail. It's been a success."
Carley Bonk is a Watchdog Reporter for the USA Today Network - Pennsylvania. Her coverage spans across the southcentral region of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @carls_marie.