There are about 150 barn quilt trails documented in 48 states and Canada with almost 10,000 quilts painted on barns, commercial buildings, garages, front porches, water towers, gates, fences, and hanging from mailboxes. “Even though the history of quilt trails [is] rooted in the surprisingly recent past, the blocks themselves tell stories from much longer ago.”
For hundreds of years, farmers have decorated their barns with folk art, including quilt blocks, to reflect particular meanings. In the early 2000, quilt trails blossomed thanks to the work of an Ohio woman who wanted to honor her mother by painting a quilt block on their tobacco barn. For example, The Trail in Pocahontas, West Virginia was established in 2013 when West Virginia celebrated its 150th birthday. The Pocahontas County Quilt Trail tells the story of the history of the region by using famous, historic quilt squares. 
“Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio initiated the Barn Quilt Movement in October 2001, however, according to Donna Sue’s interview in Quilters’ Save our Stories (Q.S.O.S.)* by The Alliance for American Quilts, the concept started much earlier.
“Donna Sue got the idea for barn quilts as she watched her grandmother from Roane County, West Virginia quilt during family visits. As her family traveled through the country on back roads, her mother created a car game where they counted barns. Different types of barns would earn points. Barns with advertising were worth 10 points. Red barns were worth even more points. German Pennsylvania Dutch barns with hex signs and wonderful colorful geometric designs on them were worth the most…50 whole points!
“From this childhood experience, barns left an imprint on Donna Sue that she carried with her throughout her life. Eventually, Donna Sue and her mother settled in Adams County (in southern Ohio) on a farm with a barn. Donna Sue thought their barn—a tobacco barn—was one of the ugliest barns she had ever seen in her life! In 1989, Donna Sue said to her mother, Nina Maxine—who goes by Maxine—that she would paint a quilt square on it someday. The concept grew from there.
“In 2000, Donna worked to create a driving trail of numerous quilt squares where people would come to Adams County to see the barns with quilt squares, and ultimately create economic opportunity for the mostly rural communities. The first committee meeting took place in January, 2001 and the first quilt square was installed in October of that same year. In just under a decade, the Barn Quilt Trail has grown to encompass 27 states and two provinces in Canada.”
1. Colorado: The Colorado Classic Quilt Trail
2. Georgia: The Southern Quilt Trail
3. Iowa: The Barn Quilts of Sac County
4. Kentucky: The Boone County Quilt Trail
5. Michigan: The Barns of Old Mission Quilt Block Trail
6. Mississippi: The Oktibbeha County Barn Trail
7. Missouri: The Boonslick Area Quilt Trail
8. New York: The Country Barn Quilt Trail of Western New York
9. North Carolina: The Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina
10. Ohio: The Adams County Quilt Trail
11. South Carolina: The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail
12. Tennessee: The Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail
Barn Quilt Links
Where Tradition Came From
Quilt Trails from barnquiltinfo.com
Colonial Quilt Squares
Quilt patterns on barns date back to colonial America. After the colonists became established and had spare income, they painted small patterns on the ends of the barns as a way to celebrate their heritage. Marilyn Carrigan, executive director of the Truman Museum in Truman, Minnesota, says, "The history of the barn quilt begins about 300 years ago with the arrival of immigrants from the Rhine region of Germany. They came for religious freedom. These groups included Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans and other Reform groups. Many settled in Pennsylvania, especially in Berks, Lancaster and Lehigh counties." The designs can still be found in the Amish communities today. The designs were also believed to protect the farm and bring good fortune.
The Meaning of the Amish Star
Suzi Parron of Stone Mountain, Georgia is a lover of barn quilts. She's writing a book on the subject and posts her progress on a blog: "Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail: Making my way across the country documenting this grassroots art movement." You can hear her enthusiasm in the quote below:
"By the time I got to Woodstock, I had seen about 800 quilt barns! Hard to believe, but true. And still--when I round a corner and see a great barn with a beautifully painted quilt, I say to myself (aloud, mind you). Oh, WOW."
See her blog at: http://americanquilttrail.blogspot.com/ Maybe leave a note of encouragement too.