During 2010, Wardsville organized a weekend-long bicentennial celebration which attracted “kith and Kin” to the village for a historical experience. Highlights included a large community based art project, the Barn Quilts; a re-enactment about George Ward; the Legacy Photo project; written documents about George Ward and setter life at the time; a time capsule; and a reunion of the Ward descendents, the Lutchin family, and the Twin Valley Community & School.
Heritage Canada came through with a generous grant called Building Communities through Art and Heritage which allowed Wardsville to take on an ambitious rural civic art project, called the George Ward Commemorative Barn Quilt Trail.
It all started with Mr. and Mrs. George Ward
The conflict was a terrible disruption in the settler’s lives – people like Mr. and Mrs. George Ward, the founders of Wardsville. Wardsville paid respect to the role that the citizenry played in the War.
In 1810, Mr George Ward was requested by the British Government to establish a stopping point for travellers along the section of Longwoods Road between Thamesville and Delaware. The British were aware that war was imminent, Mr Ward was asked to supply provisions and fresh horses for the military. Ward was also a player in the Battle of the Longwoods on March 6, 1814. He homesteaded the area called Wards Station, now Wardsville, creating a home for his wife and family. He suffered many trials and tribulations not only with the environment but as well at the hands of the enemy. He managed to live out his days here and died in 1837. His remains are buried at the historical Wardsville cemetery.
The Fabric Quilt
In October 2009, Wardsville’s quilt committee began designing a fabric quilt to commemorate their community’s founders, Mr. and Mrs. George Ward. The initial idea came from Denise Corneil, an artistic community leader who puts Martha Stewart to shame. She had caught sight of the rural folk art phenonomen called “barn quilts” that are sweeping the United States. She was impressed by the news that the International Plowing Match 2009 in Temiskaming created a barn quilt trail featuring over 90 barn quilts. And so the work began.
Because George Ward was a significant player in the War of 1812-1814, barn quilt block designs were carefully selected to represent his life line. The Ward family’s struggles, the Battle of the Longwoods, and the social history of that time were brought to life through the choice of quilt blocks, colours, and quilt design. A tremendous number of hours go into a quilt: from selecting fabric to cutting shapes to the hundreds of hours of stitching. Sue Ellis and Eleanor Blain stepped up to the plate. They invited everyone to lend a hand. Many experienced and non-experienced quilters visited the quilt frame at Beattie Haven Retirement Home to put in a stitch or two.
When it was unveiled at Wardsville United Church May 14th, the crowd gasped in awe. The following Saturday, the George Ward Commemorative Quilt was rolled up and taken to Shedden for the 2010 Plowing Match Quilting Competition. Entered in the Group category, this beautiful quilt took second prize. It will be on display in St. Thomas at IPM 2010 in September.
From fabric and thread, to wood and paint: 30 barn quilts
While the quilt will likely never keep toes warm throughout a wintry night, it did warm the souls of the people who made the stitches and proudly call their home Wardsville. From selecting fabric to cutting shapes to threading the needle, the quilt slowly took shape. To honour the work that went into the George Ward Commemorative quilt and to tell the Ward story visually, the quilt blocks were transformed into 30 huge “Barn Quilts” that were hung on barns and important buildings in the community. Rural eye candy.
Identical block designs were painted on special plywood in the same vibrant colours as the fabric blocks – except they are eight feet square and visible for miles when hung on the side of a barn. Rick Sommer advised on the construction and painting. Tom McCallum coordinated the installations. The local retirement home, Beattie Haven, opened up its basement to use as the painting studio.
Wardsville understands that the George Ward Commemorative Barn Quilt Trail is the first Barn Quilt “Story” Trail in North America. Denise Corneil has talked to Suzi Parron, teacher, writer and barn quilt lover from Stone Mountain, Georgia who is writing a book about barn quilts. Suzi says that idea of linking the quilts to a historical theme has never been done before.
Mary Simpson, Secretary, Your Wardsville