The Fabric Quilt

Mr. & Mrs. George Ward Commemorative Quilt

In October 2009, Wardsville’s quilt committee began designing a fabric quilt to

Photo by John Kendall. Quilt by Eleanor Blain, Sue Ellis, Denise Corneil

commemorate their community’s founders, Mr. and Mrs. George Ward. The initial idea came from Denise Corneil, an artistic community leader.  She had caught sight of the rural folk art phenonomen called “barn quilts” sweeping the United States.  She was impressed by the news that the Temiskaming International Plowing Match 2009 in northern Ontario had created a barn quilt trail featuring over 90 barn quilts.

Eleanor Blain and Sue Ellis, experienced quilt makers, got interested and they quickly came up with a scheme to create a quilt involving as many women as possible.  It did not matter whether they were skilled needle workers.  It would be a communal project to involve as many mothers and daughters as possible.

But they needed a story line for their bicentennial  quilt. It was common knowledge that Wardsville was founded by a George Ward.  In 1810, Mr  Ward was asked by the British Government to establish a stopping point for travellers along a section of Longwoods Road between Thamesville and Delaware, in Upper Canada – the “Western District” as it was called. There were still Ward descendants but no one lived in the area.

Wardsville is blessed by a local historian, Ken Willis, who had written a book about Wardsville.  The booked provided details about an older retired soldier with a young family, setting up a way station to supply provisions and fresh horses for the military.  There was barely a trail through the Carolinian Forest now called Skunk’s Misery.  It was a nasty section of deep dark forest where travellers, settlers, and regiments were getting lost.

Ward and his family carved  a settler’s homestead out of the forest and called it Ward’s Station.  Two years later war broke out.  On March 6, 1814, the Battle of the Longwoods took place a couple miles east of his homestead.  Ward and his wife suffered many trials and tribulations.  Accused of treason by the British, George Ward went to his grave in 1837 still trying to clear his name. His remains are buried in the Wardsville cemetery.

With a romantic and somewhat mysterious life line to work with, the quilters poured over heritage quilt block patterns.  Thirty blocks were selected to tell the story of Mr. and Mrs. Ward.  The feminine side of the story could not be omitted. It was clear Mrs. Ward played a critical role. Barn quilt block designs were carefully selected to represent the family’s struggles, the Battle of the Longwoods, and the social history of that time. There story was 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 International Plowing Match Quilting Competition. Entered in the Group category, this beautiful quilt took second prize.
By Mary Simpson, November 22, 2010

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