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Quilting And The Aurora Colony posted: 12/17/2003
by Ila McCallum Printable Page
Category: History Method: All Series: On the Road
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Aurora, Oregon is a town full of antiques and unique history. The town was started by a group of pioneers as a Christian communal community in 1856. The leader of the community, William Keil, led the group from Bethel, Missouri first to Willapa Bay, Washington, and then to the location south of Portland, Oregon, they named Aurora. The commune was abandoned in 1883 after Dr. Keil’s passing.

The ownership of all items in the community was vested in Dr. Keil who provided for all members of the community, both materially and spiritually. The community store was open to all members. If they needed something, they could get it and if they made something, they put it into the stock of the store for other members. Everyone contributed to the welfare of all according to his or her talents. There were bakers, sewers, carpenters, tradesmen, and all manner of occupations that are needed to make a community prosper.

Today the Old Aurora Colony Museum consists of the Ox Barn, which is the main museum building, a log cabin, and the Kraus family home. There also is a farm where school children learn how people of the area lived in the latter part of the 19th century.

Among the many tasks, the community members assumed were quilting and weaving. The Old Aurora Colony Museum has many "Colony Quilts" and coverlets. The quilts were of two types: utilitarian quilts and quilts that are more decorative. Many of the colony's utilitarian quilts had a chevron pattern quilted into the borders, and some of the quilts were made of wool for warmth. The decorative quilts included appliqué and beautiful hand quilting. The pictures show a log cabin quilt and a quilt made mostly of silk fabrics, which was finished using triangles in a mock crazy quilt design.

Today there are many quilt activities associated with the Old Aurora Colony Museum. A group of approximately 15 quilters work with the museum, and spend Tuesday mornings quilting on a large quilting frame that can be pulled up and out of the way using pulleys attached to the ceiling. The quilt group has documented and registered 111 quilts to date. These quilts are from the Museum's collection of "Colony Quilts" and also "Colony Quilts" owned by others who brought them in for registration.

This quilt group sponsors a quilt show every October with the proceeds going to the museum, and this last October approximately 150 quilts were shown. The exhibit consisted of both old and new quilts loaned by area residents and some “Colony Quilts” that belong to the museum. I was fortunate to be named the featured quilter during the 2003 show, and had a wonderful time talking to the many people who came through the buildings.

A special feature of the quilt show is an annual block contest. A theme is chosen and quilters are asked to make 12 ½ inch (12 inch finished) blocks using the theme as inspiration. Twenty of the blocks are chosen to be placed into next year's raffle quilt. The quilt blocks are then set into a quilt top, and the Tuesday quilters hand quilt the quilt. The extra blocks are made into additional quilts, wall hangings, or other items, which are sold at the museum's annual auction. The picture shows the third quilt made from the blocks received in the 2002 block contest, and the quilting is almost complete. If you would like to contribute a block or learn more about the Aurora Colony Museum, visit

©2003 Ila McCallum

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