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 www.auroracolonymuseum.com.
©2003 Ila McCallum