Browns Bow Tie

Block Number: H 3

By Ginger Todd

3rd Block on the Heritage Trail

Fred and Elizabeth Brown are the hosts of the third block on the McDowell Quilt Block Heritage Trail and proud to be registered in the Century Farm Family Program. The program formed in 1970 under the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at the N.C. State Fair, with the theme of “Salute to Agriculture”. The award is given to honor working farms that have been in continuous family ownership for 100 years or more and uses verification from courthouse records such as deeds, regional documentation and family history. Considering the amount of urban development and breakups of family owned acreage in today’s world, for a family to have more than 100 years of farming heritage is quite a distinguished and notable accomplishment.

In 1840, Fred’s great- great Grandpa Sam Brown acquired the property, around the time McDowell County became formally organized. The farm, parts of which border the North Fork of the Catawba River, rotated crops of corn and wheat using horse drawn teams to harvest the grain and a shared a community thrashing machine. A few remnants of the original small home exist and more than one barn was constructed through the years, the older one collapsing after hurricane Hugo in 1988.

The home the Brown’s currently live in at 14427 U.S. 221 North in North Cove, was built by Fred’s grandfather Joe Brown in 1910 and still contains many of the original furnishings such as the fireplace mantels, furniture, other family heirlooms, records and even a newspaper article dated back to 1858. There were fireplaces in most every room, no bathrooms, insulation or wiring, and water was carried in. In 1934 the highway was paved and in 1946 power came through the area allowing for a single light switch, a radio and refrigerator. The Browns have updated the old home-place but it still maintains its quaint atmosphere and memories of years past.

Fred has served on the McDowell County Farm Bureau for several years and also provides a strip of his farm land to be used by JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). He recently cut and hayed a portion of the farm acreage for use in practice flight maneuvers, a windsock marking the area of the temporary landing strip. JAARS is a fleet of various aircraft with pilots trained specifically for Bible missions in areas difficult to access and works in conjunction with the Wycliff Bible Translators, based in Waxhaw, N.C.

The model for the quilt block pattern was chosen from a quilt made by Fred’s grandmother Sorrelda Brown. Elizabeth happened upon the quilt in an attic chest and thought it would be ideal to use as the Heritage Trail block design. The pattern “Bow Tie” is a traditional and popular one, handed down through the ages with various individual configurations incorporated. As evidenced by the materials in the quilt, whatever may have been available was utilized, even if the patch designs didn’t match exactly on each side of the bow tie.

After some minor reconstructive efforts to stabilize the 6’ X 6’ wood block, "Brown’s Bow Tie" was installed on the existing barn (built in the 1940’s and now used only for storage purposes) by volunteers Mike Lucas, Jack Raker and Alan Scholl on May 23rd 2012. It is easily visible from the highway and its many bright colors are eye-catching. The block contains 4 squares, divided by a T-strip. Each corner contains 4 “bow ties” in symmetry, on the diagonal, in contrasting colors with a total of 16. The various colors are representative of how the quilters made use of whatever fabric scraps they had to provide a durable, pleasing and functional quilt.

The Brown’s grandchildren were present for the Certificate of Authenticity presentation by volunteer Jill Lucas, and possibly they may continue the tradition of one-family continuous farm ownership in North Carolina. The block "Brown’s Bow Tie" is a reminder of past family ties and the heritage of farm life more than 100 years ago.

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