“Barnyard” Crazy Quilt
Mittie Belle Agner Barrier (1894-1977)
McKissick Museum Collection 1990.38.00.188
Decades after the crazy quilt craze of the 1880s, 23-year-old Mittie Belle Agner Barrier hand-pieced a less high-style version that she embellished with a riot of images conjuring nature’s fertility and the words, “Happy Easter.” That amidst the pansies, cardinals, roses, lambs, squirrels, daffodils, and ducks, she also depicted a spread-winged American eagle and the date 1917 suggests she perhaps made this quilt as a hopeful patriotic gesture in support of troops towards the end of WWI.
Mittie Belle Agner Barrier (1894-1977), Salisbury, NC, ca. 1916, Mittie Belle Agner Barrier (on left) with her sister Laura Jane Agner Barringer and her sister’s two children, Lydia Louise Barringer (standing) and infant James Paul Barringer.
Mittie Belle Agner Barrier (1894-1977) 1990.38.00.188
Born and raised in Salisbury, NC, Mittie was the oldest of six children of James and Joyce Agner. Her father was a farmer and postmaster, and her mother helped manage their Rowan County farm. The 1920 U.S. Census lists Barrier’s occupation as quiltmaker.
She married Fletchard Dewey Barrier in 1923. Her husband was a farmer and truck driver, and they lived for a time with his parents on the Barrier family farm. By 1940, they were living on her family’s farm with their two children, Karr and Lillian.
Mittie’s husband died in 1950 in a work-related accident and she remained a widow the rest of her life. She outlived both of her children. Her daughter Lillian, a high school teacher, died suddenly in 1971 and just two years later, Karr “collapsed at the dance hall” and died soon thereafter.
Mittie Barrier made clothing for family members and used leftover fabric scraps to create many of her quilts. She was best known for her two “barnyard quilts,” made before she married. Her crazy-patchwork blocks feature embroidered animals and plants, some found on the family farm, others drawn from popular print sources. She sketched the images on paper and then stitched around the paper templates to create the various scenes.
The barnyard quilts were displayed at local quilt shows, where the charming motifs and colorful stitches captivated viewers. Photographs of the 1920 quilt appeared in multiple publications. Until shortly before her death in 1977, Mittie continued to greet visitors to her home by asking, “Have you come to see my quilt?”