Barn quilt trail used to communicate messages to freedom seekers

Nov 23, 2022 at 07:00 am by Dale-RB

Plymouth resident Jill Manring engineered a local barn quilt trail with a group of volunteer painters earlier this year.

The idea for a barn quilt trail was inspired by the belief that quilts may have been used on the Underground Railroad to com- municate messages to freedom seekers. Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard tells the story of how symbols were used to direct escaping slaves. Much of their research was based upon interviews with Ozella Williams, an elderly African American quilter, who shared stories that had been passed down for generations.

Plymouth’s Barn Quilt Trail consists of the following:

BEAR PAW – Welcome Center and Bird & Bear Shoppery 107 E. Water Street. This pattern could have meant to follow a mountain trail out of view, then follow an actual bears’ trail that would lead to food and water. Stay away from roads.

BOW TIE – Fields Thrift Shop 108 Washing- ton Street. This pattern was a signal to change from the clothing of a slave to those of a person of higher sta- tus. Disguise yourself as a freed slave. Someone will bring you nicer clothing so you don’t stand out as a runaway slave.

NORTH STAR – 188 West Main Street. This symbol was used to show the direction of the Big Dipper constellation...

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