The history of the hex that decorated many of the early barns originated from the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers from the 17th and 18th centuries.  At that time the cost of paint prohibited the painting of barns and outbuildings.  By the 1830s the cost of paint decreased and farmers began painting their barns the way they decorated their homes, using imagery reminiscent of quilts and wall stencils.

     The “Hex” of today draws people to the beauty of design and color.  The modern day story begins with one woman’s love for her mother and how it turned into one of the fastest growing grassroots art movements in the US and Canada.

     It all started over ten years ago with a simple idea by Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio: pretty up an old barn for her mother, a celebrated quilter, by hanging a wooden square painted to look like a traditional quilt block. But why stop with just one square? Donna Sue got together with her neighbors and created a driving trail of squares hung on barns thinking it would attract tourists looking for a day trip who might then stop and spend money on gas or food or crafts made by local artists. The idea sparked a grassroots phenomenon and a new form of American folk art. 

     The Tourism Committee of  Gothenburg plans to bring a Barn Quilt Trail to Dawson County by working with the committees of Cozad and Lexington to make this a county-wide attraction.  A Barn Quilt is painted on plywood or signboard to represent a quilt design.  The blocks often tell a story unique to the maker or location.  This outdoor art form is a way for art to be accessible to all, and a way to beautify the community.

     The Historical Museum has a wonderful Pony Express Quilt which tells the story of stations, the riders and the trail.  To be a part of this project to bring art and history to our local citizens as well as the many travelers that visit the Pony Express Station, four patterns from blocks on the quilt were selected, painted and placed on the north exterior wall of the museum.  Each represents a station prominent in the Pony Express story. 

FORT KEARNY: The first division of the Pony Express ran from St. Joseph, Missouri on the Missouri River to Marysville, KS, then turned northwest following the Little Blue River to Fort Kearny in Nebraska Territory.  There were 26 stations along the way.  Fort Kearny was a US military fort and also a stage stop, so it was  natural that the Pony Express riders  would stop there to deliver mail to the  military personnel.

SACRAMENTO:  Division 5 of the Pony Express Trail ran from Roberts Creek, NV to Sacramento, CA and involved 48 stations along the way.  Along this journey were some of the most treacherous trails.  This ride included crossing the Great Basin, the Utah-Nevada Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe, before arriving in Sacramento.

Sacramento became the western end of the trail for the Pony Express in 1860.  On the first trip eastward, the mail was carried from San Francisco up the Sacramento River.  The first Pony Express rider left the Sacramento station at 2:45 a.m. on April 4, 1860 on the first leg of the 1,966 mile trip, riding into a rainstorm.  The mail reached its final destination in  St. Joseph some 10 days later.

GREAT SALT LAKE:  Division 4 of the Pony Express ran between Salt Lake City, UT and Robert’s Creek, NV, having 29 stations along its route.  Salt Lake City served as a home station for both the stage lines and the Pony Express riders.  Robert’s Creek Station has the distinction, not only of being one of the original Pony Express Stations (built in 1860) but it was also the first station to be attacked by Indians.

An interesting piece of history concerning the Salt Lake Station states that on November 7th, a rider left the western end of the telegraph line at Fort Kearny with news of the election of Abraham Lincoln.  Despite heavy snow, the mail and the election results reached Salt Lake in three days and four hours.

SWEETWATER:  From Fort Laramie in Wyoming, the Pony Express Riders followed the Sweetwater River, a tributary of the North Platte River, flowing about 150 miles through Wyoming.  This station provided access to the South Pass from the plateau area of southeastern Wyoming.





History...a window into the past for future generations.