Wagon Wheel Barn Quilt Square Installed at the Rural Museum


Barn Quilt installed on the front of the Rural Museum.

The Edinburg Historical Society wanted a barn quilt for the front of the Rural Museum. The Wagon Wheel design was chosen because Barker’s Store was supposedly part of the Underground Railroad. Robert Tyrrell agreed to paint the barn quilt square. Bob Tyrrell, 88, is descended from the Arad Copeland and Anna Trowbridge who built the bridge to get his cows to pasture. His aunt Nellie Tyrrell was a school teacher in Gloversville and became the first Edinburg Town Historian and Curator of the Nellie Tyrrell Museum.

Bob lived in Gloversville all his life and has a camp in Edinburg. He was a carpenter learning the trade from his father Lewis owner of E L Tyrrell & Son in Gloversville. Bob inherited the business and now Bob’s son Tim is continuing in his father and grandfather’s footsteps running the business.

Bob and his wife Betty donated the Copeland Covered Bridge to the Edinburg Historical Society in 1997. The Copeland Covered Bridge is the only queenspost truss bridge in New York State and the only covered bridge in Saratoga County and was placed on the NYS National Register in 1998.

The Wagon Wheel also called the Carpenter’s Wheel was a signal to slaves to pack the items needed to travel by wagon or things needed while traveling. It could also mean to pack the provisions necessary for survival, as in packing a wagon for a long journey, or to actually load the wagon in preparation for escape. Some records indicate this symbol meant a wagon with hidden compartments in which slaves could conceal themselves to soon be embarking for the trip to freedom.

Slaves could not read or write and it was illegal to teach a slave to do so. Codes, therefore, were part of the slaves’ existence and their route to freedom, which eventually became known as the Underground Railroad. Most quilt patterns had their roots in the African traditions the slaves brought with them to North America when they were captured and forced to leave their homeland. There is still controversy among historians and scholars over the quilt code theory and whether slaves actually used codes concealed within quilt patters to follow the escape routes of the Underground Railroad. Oral histories leave no written record but the stories passed down through the generations from the slaves themselves, following the code of secrecy, these stories were never told.