Masseys And Maples
Colorful barn quilts tell farm families’ stories.
By Marilyn Cummins | Photos By Hiliary Breadner
Look closely at the center of the Caswell Farms barn quilt, and you’ll see a familiar logo.
“Masseys have been a long-term thing on our farm and are the main brand here,” says Murray Caswell. His father, Wilfred, traded a team of horses for his first tractor—a 1953 Massey-Harris Model 30. The tradition continues with the four modern Massey Ferguson® tractors that Murray, his brother, Kevin, and Murray’s son, Grant, use on their family dairy and beef operation in Meaford, Ontario.
With three generations of Caswells committed to Massey Ferguson tractors, the logo was a natural anchor for the design, installed in 2016. When the family bought the farm next to their homeplace in 1996, the farm and its circa-1895 barn were already named Maple Grove for the maple sugar “bush” (forest stand) on the land. So, the Caswells chose stylized maple leaves to complete the traditional quilt block, a design called a “barn quilt” when painted on large wood or metal signs and mounted on a barn or outbuilding.
In 2015, Murray’s daughter, Kimberley Lewis, and two other volunteers proposed starting a quilt trail in Grey County as a way to help fund and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the local Rocklyn Agricultural Society’s fall fair in 2017. Their For the Love of Grey Barn Quilt Trail launched with an initial 15 barn quilts, including the Caswells’, that tell the history of farm families who have helped lead the agricultural society through the years. As of fall 2018, 25 quilts had been purchased and mounted on barns and garages across the countryside in Grey County, with more on order. All are mapped and profiled on the trail website.
The trail’s founding trio—chairperson Lorraine Irwin, dairy farmer/graphic designer Hiliary Breadner and Kimberley—all work full-time jobs, yet they squeeze in time to design and paint all of the quilts. Each one of the 8-foot-square signs requires 30 to 40 hours of work over many days, since the bright colors are painted one at a time, three coats each. The women appreciate and enjoy when farm families help paint their own quilt, as Kimberley’s mother, Mary Lou Caswell, did.
“When the families paint with us, it’s interesting to hear the stories of how they started farming in Grey County, how they picked their pattern and what’s symbolic about the colors,” Kimberley says. “I love the point when the quilt starts to come alive and jump off the board as we put the layers of color on.”
To see all the barn quilts on the trail and learn the story of each one, visit www.fortheloveofgreybqt.com.