Kay Rader with the Lawrence County Historical Society is helping to prepare the local museum for opening day this Sunday.
Kay Rader with the Lawrence County Historical Society is helping to prepare the local museum for opening day this Sunday.

Archived Story

Museum opening features Underground Railroad exhibit

Published 9:36am Thursday, April 4, 2013


The splashes of fabric in the quilts that are draped throughout the Lawrence County Museum today gild the grandeur that is Ironton’s Gray Mansion.

But in the days when abolitionist the Rev. John Rankin lived there, quilts were more than coverlets for the bedrooms. They were signals for those seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad.

“You could have quilts on the line and those after the slaves wouldn’t think anything about it,” Fondalene Alfrey, museum president, said. “Certain patterns would mean stay away or all clear or you can come here.”

The quilt show, along with a display about the history of the Underground Railroad, are part of the reception historical society members are planning for the opening this spring of the museum.

“We just think and think and think some more,” Kay Rader, museum member, said about how the organization comes up with their special exhibits. “The museum has so much information. We go through it and bring it together.”

The opening reception will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday with refreshments of cake and punch.

The museum has a collection of 15 quilts. Some are vintage and others more modern.

Throughout the afternoon guest speakers will be in the various rooms of the mansion talking about aspects of local history including Chris Saunders on Burlington and Jim Hale of Huntington, W.Va., on his family’s involvement with the railroad.

On April 27, the museum will host its annual spring sit-down four-course tea with vintage fashion show from the museum’s clothes collection. The theme will be fashions through the seasons. Tickets for the tea are $20 and can be purchased from Rader.

Also museum memberships are available for $15 for an individual and $20 for families.

“We are trying to keep Lawrence County history alive,” Alfrey said.

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