Barn Quilt Trail

Posted 12/06/05 in EVENTS


We are very excited to be a part of the Southwest Ontario Barn Quilt Trails!

The Hidden Quilt: 

Ten years ago, two staff members of the Woodland Cultural Centre discovered four quilts behind the walls of the Mohawk Institute. Their location: the third floor wing on the 'boy's side. Who made them? Whose are they? How long did this hiding spot exist? We don't know. What we do know is these handmade quilts were considered 'contraband' to the survivors at this Residential School.
The Mohawk Chapel (1785) and consequently the Mohawk Institute (1831) was erected through the efforts of Anglican Mohawks, displaced veterans from the American Revolution. The first children who attended the school would have been the direct descendants of Six Nations veterans of the war of 1812, who served as faithful allies to the crown. The current structure of what was once the Mohawk Institute was erected in 1904, prior to that the site and building have gone through major structural changes, due to intentional fires set by students.
With such a traumatic subject as Residential Schools even in our contemporary society, it is often a struggle in how we present any issues associated with this topic. Many victims still live in our community with vivid memories of the horrors they endured here.
What we have been able to research and through oral history of quilters, and Residential School survivors is that the pattern is one of the oldest quilt patterns known. The pattern of the square is a variation of the 'Dresden' design. The fabric appears to be remnant pieces datable to about the 1950's. There is some suspicion that this quilt may have been made by a former student(s); the girls sewing work was often sold to local businesses, unpaid child labour, without which the school could not have functioned. The hiding spot: a place of reprieve from the oppressive and abusive treatment at one of the oldest and longest running Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

The decision to reproduce this quilt as part of the Barn Trail was not made in haste. Our hope in presenting this quilt is to offer a prominent place to honour and pay tribute to the legacy of survivors, and their families. Your experience(s) at the 'Mush Hole' were not in vain.

We dedicate the 'Hidden Quilt' to all those who walked these halls before us.



Barn quilt trails use colourful, decorative murals based on quilt block designs as markers on barns or other agricultural buildings to signal historical points of interest. It is currently the largest Barn Quilt Trail in Ontario, and stretches across five counties including Elgin, Oxford, Norfolk, Brant and Middlesex!

See ours today, which is located at our entrance, or check out the website for more Barn Quilts!

click any image to enlarge.