Touring Smith County’s Quilt Trail
By CHRIS TRAMEL
While driving the highways and byways of the picturesque communities of Smith County, one might notice the strangely designed markers that grace the sides of some of the old time barns or hang from the front of a country home or even a business front. The signs have no words, no numbers to indicate their meaning, only intricate designs of geometric shapes or woven images.While the markers may seem as interesting works of art or home décor, to those in the know, they highlight some of the more interesting places to visit in the county.
The Smith County Quilt Trail was started in 2010 to increase tourism throughout the area. “Our goal is to get folks to come see the beauty of Smith County and get more tax dollars in the county through tourism,” said FCS Agent Janie Pedigo with the Smith County University of Tennessee Extension Office. The Quilt Trail is a program that emphasizes historical places, local businesses and points of interests around the county.
“We got a grant for $5,000 here, through the UT Extension Office,” Pedigo explained. “I worked with Soil Conservation and the local Chamber of Commerce to get this off the ground. We utilized some of the money to help pay for some of the high school students in Gordonsville, and a local art teacher, to paint twelve of our twenty quilts. They’re located all over Smith County. We also used the grant to pay those who erected a quilt to build the frames. Through the grant we purchased 2,000 brochures and started our www.smithcountyquilttrail.com web site.”
Pedigo said the quilt signs that mark historic sites and businesses in the area are not just random images. Many have personal meaning to those who erected them. “There’s a lot of history in these quilts because many of the folks that have quilts on our tour actually use old quilt patterns that have been passed down to them through family members. Not all have done that, but some have. For example, our ‘Star Upon Stars’ quilt pattern out in Lancaster at the home of Billy Woodard was passed down from his grandmother, whose name was Tennessee.” Pedigo continued, “The quilt, ‘Star of Bethlehem,’ out in Defeated, came from a grandmother of Jackie Carver, who has The Barn in Defeated and owns Sanderson Funeral Home. The Barn is a building that people can rent out for family reunions and events. It’s very nice inside with kitchen and bathroom facilities.”
“‘Lula’, one of the quilts out in Lancaster, is owned by Doreen Stewart who found this quilt with an image of an African American lady wearing a work apron. It reminded Doreen of her grandmother. So, she affectionately named her quilt, Lula, after her grandmother. That’s the pattern that she has at her home which is also a tea room.”
While many of the quilts mark local businesses, the locations of the businesses draw visitors to some of the natural beauty and historic sites around the county. “These not only hold historical significance, but there’s a lot to see on our quilt trail,” Pedigo explained. “There are several locations out in the Defeated area. The ‘Victorian Lady,’ the ‘8 Point Star’ quilts, and several others, are in an area where we also have Defeated Creek Campground. It happens to be one of the most beautiful and most visited campgrounds in the State of Tennessee. It truly is magnificent for those who want to take a drive, take a picnic in the park or want to camp there. There are even bike trails and walking trails.”
One of the oldest and most historic homes in the county, as well as the State, is also part of the Quilt Trail. “Out in the Dixon Springs area we and one of the oldest residential homes in the State of Tennessee.” In 1787, Major Tilman Dixon and Colonel William Walton staked out their Revolutionary War land grants in what is today known as Smith County. Dixon settled in what is now known as Dixon Springs, while Walton laid the foundations for the town of Carthage. Upon Dixon’s sprawling 3,840 acres, he built an eightroom log home, outhouses, barns and quarters.
There, the home became a common stopping place for travelers, a hub for commerce and a starting place for local government. The house became the site of tavern, an inn and even served as the newly formed county’s first courthouse. Throughout the years the home saw notable travelers, including Duke of Orleans Louis Philippe, later King Louie XIV of France, on his famous “Tour of America.” General George Washington had laid out the Duke’s itinerary in 1797, and the tour included the Duke’s two brothers, Count de Montpensier and Count Beaujolais.
Today, the home stands almost as it did 200 years ago, furnished with antiques and reproductions that represent Major Dixon’s recorded inventory. The site also features collections of old documents, as well as items such as tomahawks, knives, guns, homespuns, glass, china, silver, paintings and native American relics.
Another site that represents part of Smith County’s past is the Walton Hotel. “In the downtown Carthage area the ‘Double Diamond Hex’ quilt is located at the home of C.D. “Digger” Poindexter who owns the old hotel on Main Street,” Pedigo explained. The historic Walton Hotel was constructed in 1905 by Monroe Fisher, and named for the founder of Carthage and owner of the town’s original hotel, William Walton. In the years to come the hotel was frequented by riverboat and railroad passengers and was known for its good food and quality lodging.
“If you want a place to stop for a delicious lunch, there’s the old Walton Hotel,” Pedigo said. “You can stop there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. It’s been refurbished, and they actually now have rooms to rent. It’s home cooking at its best.”
Another place to see some of the distinctive history of the area can be found in downtown Carthage. “While people are here, they’ll also want to see our ‘Underground Railroad’ quilt at our Smith County Heritage Museum. Inside you can see the history of Smith County, and the exhibits change constantly. It’s a wonderful look at the things that have been pertinent to Smith County over the years.”
While history is an important part of the tour, there are also several sites that offer some unique shopping opportunities. Craft, jewelry and antique shops are plentiful along the trail. “We have several businesses here in Carthage that also wanted to be on the tour,” Pedigo said. “Our ‘State Flower’ quilt is located at the store called Magnolias, right on Main Street. It is a wonderful little shop with gifts for brides and brides-to-be. There are a lot of things for babies, jewelry, home décor, all those kind of things are offered at that store, so it’s a wonderful little shop.”
“The ‘Wildflowers of Tennessee’ is on one of our Main Street buildings, Step Into the Past Antiques, owned by Teresa Turner. Her quilt pattern is an original pattern that was thought up by her and our artist here in town.”
“The ‘LaMoyne Star’ quilt, which is located at Hilltop Shops, has a boutique, Sweet Teas, and several other shops located in a beautiful old home up on the hill.
Whether it’s shopping for crafts and antiques, an interest in the history of Middle Tennessee, or just a relaxing drive through some of the most beautiful parts of the State, the Smith County Quilt Trail is well worth the drive. For more information and driving directions visit the Smith County Chamber of Commerce or www.smithcountyquilttrail.com