With creativity, artistry and contagious pride, Shawano County has become the barn quilt capital of Wisconsin.
On bright red, weathered gray and crisp white barns all over the county, 297 quilts stitch the history of a community devoted to faith, family and farming. Launched in the summer of 2010, the Barn Quilt Project has developed into its own tourist attraction. You can download a map, or pick one up at the Shawano County Chamber of Commerce, and make a summer project of seeing each one.
I wandered mapless on one of the busiest Sundays of the year, which is how I found myself dodging traffic on highway 47 and ducking around a fleet of friendly but impressively swift Amish buggies.
Still, I enjoyed my afternoon. Shawano County’s side roads beg exploration and I invite you to give them a whirl.
In addition to the general map, which gives a history of each participating barn, the Chamber has bike maps for various routes tracing the quilts.
Turns out I only saw a fraction of the quilts on Sunday. But, armed with a map and an actual plan, I intend to see them all.
Meanwhile, please enjoy these pictures of a lovely, though somewhat harrowing, Sunday afternoon drive.
The Amish have a pleasant presence in Shawano County. I happened to get caught in buggy traffic following a Sunday gathering, but it resulted in some friendly greetings and a couple of sweet photos.
This one is my favorite.
This stamp is called Rural Connections but I’m deliberately showing the whole farm because I think it’s beautiful. There is a lot of history in those barns. The farm is in its fourth generation of ownership, starting in 1911 with William and Wilhelmina Wasmund. Their sons, Herbert and Harold, then owned the farm for a short time. It continued with the Wasmunds’ daughter and son-in-law, Helen (Wasmund) and Andrew Rank, then to their son and daughter-in-law Ronald and Shirley (Temple) Rank. Today, it is owned by Ron and Shirley’s son, Kevin, and his wife, Kim (Schlender) Rank.
Lucky Clover An antique Oliver tractor built in 1941 is the focal point of this stamp. Jeff and Carolyn Lehndorf, who own this barn, have a collection of 33 antique Oliver tractors. The quilt pattern is called “Lucky Clover,” and the tractor image on the barn quilt is of an Oliver 80 Row Crop, one of eight of that model they own.
Sunflowers Reed and Mary Lee Johnson grow more than 300 varieties of flowers at Windswept Acres. About 35 acres are in production of cut flowers, supplemented with four greenhouses that allow the Johnsons to grow flowers not normally found in this area.
Rainbow Iris This is another representation of the Johnson’s cut flower business.
I pulled off Highway 47 for a bit to catch my breath and enjoy this view. Rural Wisconsin is beautiful in almost any season and Shawano County is especially so.
Never Forget James Starks sponsored this quilt in memory of his great grandfather Samuel Harvey Starks, who served in the American Civil War.
All Star. The Ebert farm hosts the “All Star” quilt because Marilyn’s deceased son David was a member of the Shawano All Stars. “We think the quilt is a fitting tribute, not only to David, but to all those persons who have been and are members of this special team,” Mary Jo Brunner said. Keith and Sandra Ebert purchased the 80 acre farm from Clarence and Doris Jandt in 1978. Throughout the years, the farm has always been operated as a dairy farm. The Eberts have a herd of 40 Holstein cows plus young stock. The original barn on the farm was built in the early 1900s.
Corn and Beans The Woldts, along with son Rodney and his wife, Carol, run a 100-cow dairy operation about a mile away. The Woldts’ grandson, Brandon, hopes to farm there someday, which would be the fifth generation of Woldts to dairy at that location since the farm was started in 1892.
Old Glory Barn Chevron Built in 1919 by Tom’ Zernicke’s great-grandfather Frederick Zernicke, a carpenter by trade, the land was once owned by his great great grandfather David. Louis Zernicke, Tom’s grandfather farmed there all his life. He had two sons, George, Tom’s dad, and Clarence, who was a dairy farmer. Tom bought the farm from Clarence in 1985 and has cash-cropped the land since then as well as raising some steers until 10 years ago. “I am happy and proud to be the fifth generation of the Zernicke family tree on this farm,” Tom said.
Family Traditions. Our friends Ron and Nicolle Wussow, together with their children Kaila and Colin, own this farm, which we visit every chance we get. The barn quilt was sponsored for the Wussows as a memorial for Ron’s uncle, Dale, by Dale’s wife, Linda. “Dale was very instrumental in my love of farming,” Ron said. “He was also a believer in John Deere equipment and had a very successful career as a 4-H member and leader. That’s why we decided to include the 4-H emblem and a John Deere tractor as part of the barn quilt pattern.” Nicolle’s great grandfather, August, and his wife, Ella (Bahr) homesteaded the farm in 1893. Later they sold the farm to one of their sons, Paul, and his wife, Emma (Regal), Nicolle’s grandparents, in 1947. In 1971, Nicolle’s parents, Roy and Mary Ellen (Gunderson) Fischer, purchased the farm and they still live on the property today.