November 4, 2013

Area program honors agriculture, quilting

Barn quilt squares going up in White, Carroll counties

by Mitchell Kirk

---- — MONTICELLO — The memory of a rural Monticello woman's late friend lives on through a barn quilt square on her home.

Decked in shades of gray, tan, white, blue and red, the 8-foot square serves as a memorial on a barn owned by Les and Phyllis Condo of Monticello, which the couple has converted into their home.

The square was created in memory of Phyllis Condo's friend and fellow Hallmark Club member Nancy Skinner, who passed away of pancreatic cancer last year.

"I felt like it would be nice to remember her this way," Phyllis Condo said.

Unveiled in August, it was the inaugural square of the Barn Quilts of the Hoosier Heartland of White and Carroll Counties, a group working to honor the area's heritage by getting a barn quilt square up in every township of the two neighboring counties.

Led by a committee of four, the group first started exploring the initiative in 2009. Skinner worked to get the program started as well.

Liz Rice, chairwoman of the group, said the squares represent a link between the area's agricultural heritage and a celebration of quilting.

"They did that to provide for their families but also to add some beauty to their homes," Rice said of the area's quilters of the past.

Rice said the initiative started being planned after she visited a barn quilt square trail in Ohio in 2009.

"I've always liked the barns and I just thought it would be a really neat thing," she said, adding that there are barn quilt square trails in 43 states and nine in Indiana.

The group is already getting started on a trail of its own, an attraction Rice said will hopefully encourage people to "travel the roads less traveled." She added it will also encourage people to maintain their farmsteads, what she refers to as "county castles," which could be visited any time of the year and boost tourism in the area.

The colors and designs on the squares are encouraged to represent something meaningful to its owner, like the blue and yellow on the one owned by Idaville resident Ward Johnson, who is of Swedish ancestry. The purple in the square was the favorite color of Johnson's late wife, Betty, and the cross shape represents her faith in God.

Johnson's square, presented late last month, was the second organized by the Barn Quilts of the Hoosier Heartland of White and Carroll Counties.

"The whole family wanted to do it," Johnson said. "We wanted to beautify the farm and make memories."

The two-story, wood-framed barn, which was built in 1932, was recently completely refurbished to serve as a venue for Johnson's granddaughter's wedding.

"It was a beautiful event," he said.

Barn Quilts of the Hoosier Heartland of White and Carroll Counties has hand-painted squares done on aluminum panels for about $400. Carroll White REMC volunteers its labor and vehicles to secure the squares.

Rice said two more signs are currently in the works, which she hopes to have up by the end of this year.

"I think as more of these go up, people are gaining interest," she said.

Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact Denise Schroeder with the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service at or 219-984-5115 or Janet Dold with the Monticello Chamber of Commerce at 574-583-7220.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK