It all started in 2009 with one quilt square mounted on the Oconee Heritage Center in Walhalla.
Today, the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail has more than 250 quilt panels mounted on barns, businesses, homes, and public buildings across Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties. One of the most recent squares was mounted on the building of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce on September 13th—a replica of a mid-19th century quilt pattern known as Noon Day Lilies.
The idea was based on similar quilt trails in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Oconee County was the first county in South Carolina to embrace the quilt trail concept after a group of dedicated citizens came together to establish the Oconee Heritage Quilt Trail in an effort to promote Oconee County. The first quilt square was sponsored by the Wynward Point Ladies Group and was mounted on the Oconee Heritage Center in Walhalla in the fall of 2009.
The quilts are unique designs and each painted quilt panel is a copy of an existing quilt that usually has some historical connection with the sponsoring family or organization. The quilt panels are painted by volunteers on weather-resistant wooden panels using quality outdoor paint.
The tagline of the project is, “Every Quilt Tells a Story, and Every Story Leads to a Discovery”—and the stories of each quilt can be found on the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail website. The current owner of the quilt that is replicated on the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce comes from several generations of Pickens County residents; the quilt was a prized possession of her grandmother, the daughter of a circuit rider preacher who established several churches in the area.
Another quilt, called “Resting Place,” is the design of Gail Sexton, who made her first quilt in 1971 but did not begin quilting in earnest until the mid-1980s. So, while many of the quilt squares have a historical significance, others are the creations of contemporary quilters who have taken an interest in keeping the art form alive.
A pdf map of the quilt trail, along with GPS coordinates, can also be found on the website. Please keep in mind that these quilt squares are on private property and should be viewed and photographed from public roads. Many owners may allow a closer look if you ask their permission.
A festival celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail—called the Airing of the Quilts—will be held in downtown Westminster on October 5th.
Article by Sherry Jackson, with updates by Sharon Purvis