Block Number: 171

“Sunburst” is block #171 on the McDowell Quilt Trail, hosted by Angela Smith and her grandmother, Lorraine Smith.  The installation is in memory and honor of Mary Elizabeth Lester, Angela’s great-great grandmother (Lorraine’s grandmother) who made the original quilt the block is patterned after.  Mrs. Lester who made the quilt over 100 years ago, also served as a midwife throughout the community.

Angela has several quilts that her grandmother Lorraine has made and given to her, but the one she has that her great-great grandmother Lester made is especially cherished.  She chose it for the block’s pattern because of its imaginative colors and intricate piecing, well preserved after so many years.  Angela stated:   “I support the arts as much as I can and think the quilt blocks throughout McDowell County are a really neat tradition.”  “I am glad to have been able to be a part of exhibiting some of my heritage, be creative and express myself while contributing to my community’s beauty”.

The family origin goes back to Seven Paths, N.C, in Franklin County, and Lizard Lick, N.C. just outside of Raleigh in Wake County (which obtained their first traffic light in 1997 and is on the list of unusual place names).   Angela however currently lives in Glenwood in a home around 97 years old.  She has been busy remodeling the house, which still has the original California Red Oak flooring and other quaint features, while maintaining its historic value.

In the late 1800’s a huge three-story mill was built across from the home by Joseph G. Pyatt.  It ground wheat, flour, corn meal and a variety of feeds for animals.  There were several small stores throughout the area, but just a little further down the road from Angela’s home was an important small store opened around 1911-40 by L.A. Rayburn.  The store also served as the local Post Office, and although no longer the official Post Office, boxes still remain on the site for mail delivery to the local residents.

At some point, for a short period in time, it is believed that the lower level of the home located on the main street of Glenwood, was once a small local general store. The owner worked in the large grain mill across the road from the home and occupied the upper level,  and the ground-level store was evidently only opened to the public “upon demand or need” for small cooking and utility marketplace staples. 

Present day Glenwood is located in McDowell County five miles southeast of Marion on U.S. 221. The book Glenwood Was Once An Incorporated Town, by James Haney, states that back in the late 1800’s the town was called Nealsville after a large family farm owned by Joseph Neal.  An eighteen by twenty foot one-teacher, one-room school house with poplar log benches served the area from 1853-99.  As the community expanded considerably and business grew, the town was incorporated in 1908.
Through the years the town’s growth subsequently subsided and the incorporation was lifted in 1944.   The following year, 1945, the name Nealsville was officially changed to Glenwood.

The popular and well-recognized eight-pointed star pattern is often referred to as Starburst and a multitude of other names. It is a distinctive star quilt made with a wonderful variety of colors with one large star covering most of the quilt top.   The pattern is quite intricate involving interconnecting diamonds/parallelograms forming stars within the larger star.  These star quilts were commonly used for special occasions such as weddings and are often made to honor and recognize athletes.

“Sunburst” was installed by volunteers Mike Lucas and Jack Raker on Saturday, December 20, 2014 on the home at 282 Glenwood Drive.  The 3 foot by 3 foot block adds a bright touch of color and is easily visible as one travels down the main street, adding historic quaintness to the old home.  Although her grandmother was unable to attend the celebration, a framed Certificate of Authenticity was presented to Angela by Chairwoman Jill Lucas, highlighting the graphic of her block along with others already on the Trail.

For more information on the McDowell Quilt Trail, and how you can host a block, visit or call Mike Lucas at 828-443-6476. Grants are also available for the Rural Heritage Trail if a structure is eligible.  The Quilt Trail is non-profit and operates under the direction of McDowell Arts Council Association.  Its goal is to preserve the art and local heritage of quilting through the stories and beauty of the blocks.  The Trail also endeavors to promote tourism as people visit and tour our trail, staying overnight at local motels, dining at our eateries and visiting our stores.

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