YSI will be taking the cover off a 2011 project during McMinnville’s Fourth of July celebration tomorrow morning — a Civil War Underground Railroad quilt.
The quilt is set to be unveiled during the Freedom of Expression Art Show in the Chamber’s Community Room. Doors open at 8 a.m.
Lending inspiration for the quilt was one made by the grandmother of local resident Lena Jones. It features an Underground Railroad pattern and has been documented as such.
“My grandmother made it,” said Jones. “I had no idea it had any value other than sentimental. I used to let my daughter take it outside and hold tea parties on it. All the kids in the neighborhood would come. It was the tea party quilt.”
The quilt was passed down through the family. It is now considered a family heirloom and tea parties are a thing of the past.
“My grandmother gave it to my father and he gave it to me,” said Jones. “Now I keep it in the guest bedroom. No more tea parties.”
YSI students, under the direction of team members Jimmy Haley, Carol Neal and Kevin Dunlap, studied freedom and the Civil War for this year’s YSI theme of “Fit and Free.” Then, the project was to paint a quilt of their own.
Haley says the quilt is a double bow tie design with red stripes that go in diagonals across it.
“The kids range from 6-12 years old,” he added. “They did a pretty good job on it. We want to unveil it during the city’s downtown activities July 4.”
While the inspiration for the design came from Jones’ heirloom, the idea for the quilt came from the Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail which wants to establish a driving trail of quilts placed on historic barns throughout the Upper Cumberland. A trail currently exists in Algood and Cookeville.
None are in the city of McMinnville.
“The Chamber wanted to begin one,” said Haley. “We can promote the city and bring people in. We wanted to link it with the Civil War so we thought an Underground Railroad quilt would be good. We are told ours will be the first one in the city.”
There is a bit of controversy behind the history of quilt-adorned barns. While some historians say the quilts were used to signal safety for slaves, as well as a safe place to eat and stay, others do not, says Haley.
“It is a little controversial whether these were actually used as signals,” he said. “Slaves couldn’t read, so some historians believed these quilts were supposedly hung as signals to them. When they saw a quilt, it would tell them if it was safe or not.”
After its Monday viewing, plans are to include it in the Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail. It will hang on the barn located on Caldwell Street, behind Little Ceasar’s Pizza. The barn is owned by Colonial Building Supply/ ACE Hardware.