Searcy County Quilt Trail
Searcy County is located in north central Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains. The county seat is Marshall. Take a drive around beautiful Searcy County and you’ll find that it’s “Always in Season!” Come see each quilt block in person! Searcy County is the “Elk Hunting Capital of Arkansas,” and the “Chocolate Roll Capital of the World!” The county hosts about 48 miles of America’s First National River, the Buffalo National River, in addition to a renowned bakery, great restaurants, the only year-round drive-in movie theater in Arkansas, an incredible furniture store, fabulous backcountry horseback riding, stunning night skies, awesome waterfalls, photogenic barns, amazing lodging options, fun motorcycle roads, world-class hiking, epic bicycling, farm tours, and fabulous old towns and buildings! Quilts and quilting have been a part of the culture here since the first settlers arrived. Every quilt has a story, bits of people’s lives, pieced and stitched into it. Likewise, each of our quilt blocks tell a story about the people and places that make Searcy County special. Enjoy the stories shared here about each block. We welcome your comments at the bottom of the page!
#2-01 Dogwood Blossom is located at 544 Cozahome Road, Harriet, Arkansas. Painted by Jack Benefiel, the six foot by six foot quilt block is on the barn at Dogwood Hills Guest Farm of Harriet, not far off of Arkansas State Highway 14. Dogwoods are one of the prettiest small trees in the Ozarks with beautiful white blossoms during spring and very nice foliage in autumn as well. Dogwood Hills Guest Farm has a three-bedroom private farmhouse with a deck and a hot tub and beautiful views. A working farm with 72 acres of hiking trails just minutes from the Buffalo National River. They also offer family farm tours and monthly farm-to-table dinners. More info at https://www.facebook.com/DogwoodHillsBB/
#2-02 Apple Blossom is located at 4533 Highway 66, Leslie, Arkansas…between Oxley and Leslie. Painted by Jack Benefiel with pattern supplied by the Searcy County Quilt Guild. The six foot by six foot quilt block is on a barn owned by Mike and Janie Crow. Mike is the 4th generation of his family to farm there. The location is on a working cattle farm but near the old Elberta Fruit Farm that no longer exists. In the early 1900s there were thousands of peach, pear, and apple trees in the area.
#2-03 Crossroads quilt block hangs at 103 Oak Street, Leslie, Arkansas. Painted by Jack Benefiel with pattern supplied by the Searcy County Quilt Guild. The six foot by six foot quilt block is located in historic Leslie at “Antiques And” near the intersection of Arkansas State Highway 66 and US Highway 65. The Leslie downtown is a Commercial Historic District. This crossroads town of less than 500 residents harkens back to a bygone era of Americana. A railroad spur, the Dinky Line, once hauled mighty white oak timber from the hills to the world’s largest barrel making factory in Leslie in the early 1900’s. Today Leslie is home to antique stores, shops, multiple parks, restaurants, and a wood-fired brick oven that produces Old World Sourdough Bread. A motorcycle route, the Leslie Lasso, and a gravel grinder bicycle route called Ozark Grinder Trail transit Leslie.
#2-04 Mariner’s Compass adorns the corner lot of the Gilbert General Store at 100 Frost Street, Gilbert, Arkansas. Painted by Jack Benefiel and Kathy Bergeron. The historic Gilbert General Store is a short walk from the Buffalo National River where thousands of “mariners” in canoes, kayaks, and rafts journey along America’s first national river. The Gilbert General Store, built in 1901, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under the name Mays Store. The community was founded in 1902 and today is a resort town known as the “Coolest Town in Arkansas,” in part due to its cold winter temperatures. The proprietors sell provisions and supplies; rent cabins, canoes and kayaks; and provide shuttling for river excursions. GilbertStore.com
#2-05 The Berry Shed quilt block is at 200 West Fair Street in Marshall, Arkansas. It was designed by Darryl Treat and Kathy Bergeron and painted by Kathy Bergeron. The six foot by six foot quilt block is on the end of the old berry shed in Marshall just off of US Highway 65 and captures the rich agricultural history of Searcy County that was once known as the “Strawberry Capital of the World.” The Flintrock Berry Growers Association produced some of America’s cleanest strawberries during its heyday from the 1950s till the 1970s! Peak production of strawberries in Searcy County was 1958. That year there were 643 members with 2,240 acres of berries being grown. The berry shed standing today was built in 1949. A second shed was constructed in 1956 to the west of the current building. That building was destroyed by fire several years ago. The berry shed also was home to a vibrant green tomato industry and today lives on as a venue for the Searcy County Farmer’s Markets. Find info at Facebook.com/SearcyCountyFarmersMarket
#2-06 Oak & Reel quilt block is found at 6861 Highway 27 North, Marshall, Arkansas. It was designed by Darryl Treat and Kathy Bergeron and painted by Kathy Bergeron. The six foot by six foot quilt block is located on a barn between Morning Star and Harriet along Arkansas State Highway 27. The quilt block depicts the leaves of the Southern Red Oak. Hardwoods, and oaks in particular, make up much of the Ozarks forest. The timber logging industry has been vital to the Searcy County economy for more than 100 years and local sawmills are still in operation near this quilt block.
#2-07 and #2-08 Bowtie and Pinwheel quilt blocks at 2146 Old Highway 66, Leslie, AR 72645. Located two miles from the Highway 66 Country Mart in Oxley on the Ozark Grinder Trail bicycle trail. The barn was built in 1950 by Odie Paxton, current owner Luther Branscum’s grandfather. Oak trees were logged and milled on site to build the barn. Janice Branscum, Luther’s wife, made the frames and painted the quilt blocks. Each are four by four feet. Luther’s family has owned the farm, Tick Creek Farm, since the 1800s. Tick Creek Farm is still in operation as a working cattle farm. Tick Creek runs across the road from the barn. Hay is still stored in the barn.
#2-09, A modified “At the Depot” quilt block was chosen by the St. Joe Depot Railroad Museum at 110 US Highway 65 in St. Joe. The block is five feet by five feet and was painted by Cynthia Garmoe. The Missouri & North Arkansas (M&NA) Railroad began about 1895 from Missouri to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With that success, the railroad was built to the town of Harrison. At that time the owners of the railroad saw a need to extend on farther southeast and eventually to the Mississippi River at Helena, Arkansas. The railroad came through Searcy County in early 1900 and St. Joe in 1902, the year this depot was built. This was a very big event for each town to get a railroad stop and a depot, bringing increased economic prosperity and population growth. After World War II there was less need for the ore Searcy County was producing. There were also better roads with larger trucks. Another railroad strike was also a factor in the closing of the railroad, which came in 1946. After which, the rails were taken up and the steam engines were scrapped. However, the depot buildings were spared. The almost 120-year old St. Joe Depot is still standing today. In about 2009 the Mayor of St. Joe, the late John B Henley, was successful in purchasing and repairing the rundown old depot building. The depot was restored more than 96% to original condition, down to the colors. Today the Historic Railroad Depot Museum is operated by volunteers and is open every Saturday 10 am to 4 pm, except during winter. The St. Joe Depot Railroad Museum is an incorporated 501(c)(3) charity. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
#2-10, The Bob Russell quilt pattern was designed by Bob King and painted by Cynthia Garmoe in honor of Bob’s grandfather, Bob Russell. The block is four feet by four feet and the silhouette is taken from a photo of Bob Russell and his trick horse Danny at the Leslie Homecoming Rodeo in the early 1970’s. He was a true cowboy who would ride his horse to check on his cows almost every day regardless of the weather. Bob learned his cowboy skills from his father in-law John Robert Steen. John Steen was the first (and maybe only) person to do cattle drives from this part of the state to the stock yards in Missouri in the early 1900’s. Bob had a natural ability with horses and soon become a master horseman. In 1950 Bob, his family and several other horse-loving families came together and formed the Searcy County Saddle Club. (The name was later changed to Flintrock Saddle Club as a sign of support for the local strawberry growers.) They soon built an arena in Marshall and on July 4, 1952 the saddle club had its first rodeo with Bob Russell serving as the club’s president. For over three decades Bob Russell trained horses, served in the local saddle club, and worked rodeos throughout Arkansas and Missouri. However, he was most well-known for his trained horse act. Over the years he thrilled rodeo audiences with his first horse, Old Bob and then later with Danny. He always concluded the act by having the horse get up on a small box in the middle of the arena showing his version of James Earl Frasier’s End of the Trail statue found at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The silhouette on this quilt block represents that image. The stone structure on which the block hangs was built by Bob Russell in the 1940’s. He got a job as a rural mail carrier and needed a place to park his truck. He used the attic of the building to store hay for his horses.
NOTE: DO NOT LET YOUR GPS SEND YOU TO “OLD” HIGHWAY 27 WHICH IS AN UNPAVED ROAD. THIS IS ON HIGHWAY 27 WHICH IS A PAVED ROAD.
The Dresden Plate quilt block pattern was chosen to represent and promote the Pedestal Rock 40 and Lick Fork 62 Gravel Grind Bicycle Ride held the third Saturday of October each year. It is a 6 foot by 6 foot quilt block and was designed and painted by Cynthia Garmoe of Witts Springs. This quilt block pattern was one of the most popular quilt patterns made in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the same time period that the Witts Springs School was constructed. The Pedestal Rock 40 and Lick Fork 62 bicycle ride is held the third weekend in October each year. Bicyclists from all over the state and surrounding states come for a day of enjoyment, good food and enjoy a beautiful ride through the Boston Mountains. The Pedestal Rock 40 has a 10, 20, 40 and a 62 mile ride all on a paved road. The Lick Fork Gravel Grind has an 18, 30, 45, and a 62 mile ride, with at least 80% being gravel road. It also is very challenging with the Lick Fork 62 having 6,700 feet of elevation change on the ride. The quilt block is along the Ozark Grinder Trail, a fabulous gravel grinder bicycle trail covering multiple counties. It is also just off the Bear Creek Growl motorcycle route. Witts Springs is a mountain hub for outdoor fun, sitting at approximately 1,900 feet in elevation and is a launching point for hiking the nearby Ozark Highlands Trail, rock climbing at Stack Rock, horseback riding in the Ozark National Forest, waterfall photography at Falling Water Falls and Six Finger Falls, and camping at the Richland Creek Recreation Area & Campground. The Witts Springs community was known to have had Subscription School before the Civil War. The district has had 4 or 5 school houses. After one of them burned, the school used an old church for some time. The present Witts Springs School Building was started in 1934 and finished in 1935. The building is a rock structure built out of native stone, all collected in the surrounding area. It is a double rock wall structure of sandstone and rough sawed pine lumber. When the building was constructed there was no electricity in Witts Springs so the building was built with high ceilings and high windows to let in natural light. The building served as the Witts Springs High School until it closed in 2005. Through the impressive work of community volunteers, the building is about 70% restored and serves as a community building for the Witts Springs community. When restoration is completed the building will serve multiple purposes; family gatherings, weddings, parties, receptions, bed and breakfast, and for the community’s signature bicycle rides.
The Crossed Canoes quilt block pattern, four feet by four feet, was painted by Cynthia Garmoe and is located at 9826 Highway 65 South, Saint Joe, Arkansas 72675. From local historian James Johnston, “Silver Hill got its name because in the 1880s and later a man known in Searcy County as “Indian Woodard” came in and told people that he had discovered a rich silver mine. He blindfolded men from time to time and led them individually into a mine where he took off their blindfold and showed them stacks of silver, either as ore or as blocks. Then he blindfolded them and took them out. None of the men was ever able to locate the place where they had been taken. Based on what some of the men said, it was believed that the mine was somewhere on Silver Hill. Many people dug around the mountain looking for the mine, but never found anything that looked like a mine. Unlike other Indian mine scams in 1880s Arkansas, Indian Woodard never tried to raise money from the locals to investigate the mine. He has relatives in Madison County, Arkansas and in Oklahoma. He was a Sioux Indian from Nebraska, if I remember correctly, who was a Union Civil War veteran.”
Today gold, not silver, is mined in Silver Hill in the form of tourism dollars as thousands of floaters canoe, raft, and kayak down America’s 1st National River, The Buffalo National River! Silver Hill is home to both Buffalo River Outfitters and Silver Hill Float Service. A National Park Service report shows that 1.5 million visitors to Buffalo National River in 2017 spent $62.6 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 911 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $71.1 million. Silver Hill is the gateway to the Buffalo National River Tyler Bend Visitor Center! The quilt block also bears the #33 for the long ago departed Silver Hill School District #33.
The 4 foot by 4 foot Ohio Star pattern was painted by owners Jay and Suzanne Jackson at 14466 N HWY 65 Saint Joe, AR 72675, across the highway from Ozark Timber. Suzanne said, “The older I get the more interest I have in old quilts and old barns. I wish they were able to tell all the stories they know. I can remember being a little girl and watching my Great-Great Aunts sit around sewing quilts with other family members. The Ohio Star, to me, is simple yet meaningful, like the times that I spent as a little girl watching that generation in my family quilt. This barn quilt dedicated in memory of Helen Bryan and Iness Bryan.”
Bear Tracking pattern was chosen by Tom Wimberly and painted by Kathy Bergeron. The 6 foot by 6 foot quilt block is located in Oxley along both a bicycle trail and a motorcycle route. Address is 6899 Highway 66, Leslie, AR 72645. Currently, there are about 5,000 black bears in Arkansas. There is a well-regulated hunting season and the bear population is rising slowly. Bears have often been seen in the Oxley community. Oxley is a good staging site for some local attractions including Stem Rock Natural Area that features fabulous geological outcroppings including a free-standing pedestal rock. accessed by a 1.5 mile round-trip hike or bike from the paved side road just 1.1 miles from the Oxley Store. It’s also a good place to set off and enjoy the Ozark Grinder Trail on bicycle. The Oxley store, now known as the Highway 66 Country Mart, was built around 1968 by Aretha Passmore. It was operated by Loretta Smith, Aretha’s daughter for many years. Loretta built an addition to the store in the early 1970’s to make it the size it is today. Owned by several different people, Russell Treat and Carl Mayes among others, it was bought by Jim and Frieda Wilson in 2002. The present owners are April Boyd, Jim and Freda’s daughter, and her husband Victor Boyd who have operated the store since 2007.
The Airplane pattern at the Searcy County Airport at 894 Airport Road, Marshall AR, is four feet by four feet and was painted by Cynthia Garmoe. The block can be viewed only during daylight hours. A pedestrian gate allows foot traffic to enter the airport and view the quilt block. Caution: please stay well clear of all taxiing aircraft. The Searcy County Airport (4A5) in Marshall is a Level 2 general aviation airport regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics for the benefit of the flying public. The airport is a great fly-in or cross-country destination located in a scenic tourist area very near the Buffalo National River in the beautiful Ozarks. It has a Precision Approach Path Indicator, (PAPI) and features a 4003′ x 75′ lighted (MIRL) runway, runway strength 12,500 SW, rotating beacon, 120′ x 150′ hangar, 18′ side walls, 60′ stack doors, 8′ loading dock, and a large paved apron. One hundred octane aviation fuel is available and credit cards are accepted. Bathroom and pilot’s lounge. Industrial land is located nearby for development! https://www.airnav.com/airport/4A5
The 6 foot by 6 foot Canine quilt block at the Searcy County Fairgrounds at 105 Armory Street Marshall, AR was hand-painted by local artist Patricia Estes with materials donated by Betty and Tommy Wimberley. The Border Collie prominently displayed on the block is a livestock herding dog, particularly fitting for Searcy County since it is livestock country. The most recent farm census data showed $12 million in market value of livestock sold annually in Searcy County. Average farm size is 285 acres and 168,795 acres are farmed in the county. The quilt block is mounted to the Searcy County Youth Show Arena. 2018 was the 93rd Searcy County Fair.
Stars and Stripes three feet by three feet quilt pattern was chosen by Vickie Garner because she had made this pattern into a quilt. Painted by Cynthia Garmoe, it is located at Highway 16 West at 123 Lily Pad Trail, Witts Springs, Arkansas. The Witts Springs community formed Witts Springs Community Voices several years ago to revitalize their community. Plenty has happened since, including restoration of buildings on the former Witts Springs school campus which is now available for groups to rent and enjoy the beautiful mountain setting with plenty of nature to explore by hiking or cycling, both mountain bike and motorcycle.
Farmer’s Daughter three feet by three feet quilt pattern was chosen by Vickie Garner because she had made this pattern into a quilt. Painted by Cynthia Garmoe, it’s located at Highway 16 West at 123 Lily Pad Trail, Witts Springs, Arkansas. The traditional pattern is believed to be from the Civil War era and is certainly a nice tribute to the farmers and their daughters (and sons) who have farmed the hilly and rocky farmland around Witts Springs for generations.
The four feet by four feet US Air Force quilt block was painted by local artist Cindy Garmoe. It is located on the back (north) side of Brigadier General Joe Wilson’s barn at 8057 Lick Fork Road near Witts Springs, approximately five miles from Hwy 16. The Quilt Block represents Gen Wilson’s 30+ years of worldwide service in the US Air Force as a Jet Engine Technician, Crew Chief, and Maintenance Officer/Commander on T-37, T-38, F-105, F-4, F-16, A-10, RC-26, KC-135 & C-130 aircraft. Gen. Wilson deployed and supported combat operations in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Occasionally today, Air Force C-130s can be seen training in the skies above Searcy County near the Wilson’s home.
#2-20 The four feet by four feet Hippie quilt block was painted by local artist Cindy Garmoe for resident Kay Moore. The quilt block is located at 2451 Browntown Road, Witts Springs, Arkansas. When Kay asked Cindy to make a barn quilt, she specified flowers like she stuck on the bumper of her yellow Volkswagen bus in her early years. Cindy said, “you want a Hippie Quilt!” So the beautiful Hippie quilt block hangs on Ms. Moore’s 100-year old barn. Come see it and please turn around in her driveway as the road past her house is basically a jeep trail. Browntown Road is just off the scenic Lick Fork Road where every October the very challenging Lick Fork Gravel Grind is held for gravel grinding cyclists.
#2-21 Bear’s Paw on Bear Creek quilt block is located 4 miles north of Marshall, AR or 7.5 miles south of St. Joe, AR at 6403 US Highway 65, St. Joe, Arkansas. The block is five feet by five feet and set as a diamond to give a nod to our state flag. It was painted by Cynthia Garmoe and placed on the barn/office at Bear Creek Log Cabins Vacation Rental. Pat and Libby Conner own the ranch. Libby Ferguson Conner’s great grandfather and family came to Searcy County in 1867. Bear Creek runs through the family’s 1200 acre working ranch as it makes its way to the Buffalo National River. The quilt block depicts the many aspects of what to expect here on the ranch in Searcy County and the Ozarks in general. The natural resources of Arkansas are plentiful, and vacationers and locals alike enjoy site-seeing, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing in our many clean water streams in the area including the one right on the property. The many hills and valleys are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and ATV or Side by Side travel. You can expect to see an array of wildlife and possibly photograph white tail deer, elk, American Bald Eagles, and an occasional Black Bear, fox, otters, ground hogs, raccoons, Great Blue Herron and many other species. The Buttresses here along the creek are a unique geological land formation unique to the state and are a sight to behold. Bear Creek Log Cabins offers several cabins for family gatherings, reunions, weddings, retreats, and a couples get away. We are just minutes from Tyler Bend Visitor Center on the Buffalo National River. We are glad to be able to share the hospitality of our heritage here in the Arkansas Ozarks.