Maple Leaves

Block Number: H 7

by Ginger Todd


On Wednesday, March 20, 2013 another McDowell County farm structure was recognized and preserved as an outside historic structure with the installation of a large 8’ x 8’ quilt block. Peggy Payne had read an informative article in the McDowell News about the formation of the Rural Heritage Trail and that grants were available for blocks on outbuildings that may qualify. After discussing the idea with her family she contacted the McDowell Arts Council Association and proceeded with the steps necessary to host a block on her family barn.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the Payne property was neighbors with the small community of Curfew (now the Zion Hill area) which boasted a one-room school house. The McDowell Board of Education was founded in July 1885 and there were two small schools in operation in the early beginnings of the West Marion area , as shown on a map which indicates that West Marion Elementary wasn’t even in the making yet. Records from 1923-24 show that the Curfew School was in the Montford Cove Township, (#4) and served grades 1st – 7th. It is interesting to note that the school attendance records of the Board of Education of McDowell County for that same year indicate the following attendance: Grade 1: 2; Grade 2: 5; Grade 3: 9; Grade 4: 0; Grade5: 7; Grade 6: 0; Grade 7: 0, a grand total of 23 students for the year!

There was also a Curfew Post Office, records indicating that L. Reed was Postmaster from 1901 until 1921. For a short time Ms. Winnie L. Reed took over as Postmaster but service was discontinued and it was closed in the fall of that year when the route was changed and mail was sent to the Old Fort Post Office.

It was more than a decade later that the late Garrett Wayne Condrey built the barn in 1937 on acreage he purchased from Wiley Baker. In 1947 the land was sold to Arvalee and Merle Payne, parents of Robert Payne, Peggy’s late husband. During the 1950’s the Paynes raised cattle, chickens and hogs, as well as a vegetable garden and grew, cut and stored their own hay in the sturdy barn, well patrolled by several cats. Peggy’s mother-in-law Merle, taught her how to properly can and preserve the vegetable produce from their garden.

In the early 1960’s Robert’s parents deeded him a portion of the land that had the barn on it and another portion to his brother who continued the cattle business for a few years. In 1968 Robert and Peggy tore down the old farm house and built a new home. After leaving the cattle line of work, the land and barn were rented as horse pasture for a short time. Today the barn houses no animals, serving as a storage shed, but holds a multitude of fond memories. Peggy recalls with nostalgia the wonderful times her children, then later her grandchildren, all had running among the fields and joyfully playing in the barn and loft hideaways. The children are all grown now, but the barn serves as a landmark, a symbol of rural life and the American spirit.

Although Peggy is not a quilter, her mother-in-law Merle made several throughout the years. The Maple Leaf name and pattern chosen for the block is taken from a quilt Merle Payne and Mae Elliot Gibson (Peggy’s sister-in-law’s mother) made together. The quilt block is easily seen on the barn, which sits atop a knoll at the merging of East Payne Street and West Payne Street. The community considers it quite an attractive asset.

Peggy was joined by her sister-in-law Gayle Payne and other family members, as well as several neighbors for the presentation of the Certificate of Authenticity by Chairwoman Jill Lucas. Peggy says “it’s a wonderful way to brighten the community and remember the history of farm life”. She expressed her gratitude in having the chance to host a block and extends deep appreciation to the McDowell Rural Heritage Trail for providing the grant to make it possible to be a part of representing local history.

Quilt Trail volunteers Jack Raker and Alan Scholl assisted Mike Lucas, builder and artist of the block, with the installation. The block, #H-7, portrays a cluster of Maple leaves as they change color through the seasons in each of the four corners. Clockwise, the upper left corner is in shades of red, the next three corners in shades green, yellow and orange. The traditional nature-related theme with its vibrant colors is outstanding, bordered in tan with a cream background. With a beautiful mountainous background, this would make a nice off-the-main road outing to visit the barn and block while visiting some of the others on the Trail also.

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