ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Underground Railroad Quilt Block Meanings

Updated on August 6, 2018
Quilt showing many of the Underground Railroad Quilt squares.
Quilt showing many of the Underground Railroad Quilt squares. | Source

A Little Bit of Background Information

Back in the days when slavery was prevalent, and the Civil War was quickly approaching there were people who were bound and determined to help slaves reach their goal of freedom. Thank Goodness for these people.

So, how did the Underground Railroad begin? It is believed that it might have been started by Quakers. Two Quakers in particular were thought to have saved 3,000 slaves themselves. The home of Levi and Catherine Coffin's home was used for years as a station, or stop along the way to freedom.

These were indeed courageous people that made up the Underground railroad. The punishments were stiff for helping a slave escape. For the white people helping the slaves the punishment could be whipping, prison time, or hanging. The punishment for the black person was even worse...whipping, hanging, or burning.

Beautiful example of a Wagon Wheel pattern quilt.
Beautiful example of a Wagon Wheel pattern quilt. | Source

Wagon Wheel

This particular quilt square sends the message for the slaves to pack their wagon, or to prepare to leave on a wagon to begin their trip on the Underground Railroad to freedom. It could also mean that there were compartments built into the wagon to hide slaves.

Excellent example of a bear claw or bear paw design.
Excellent example of a bear claw or bear paw design. | Source

Bear Paw

This pattern tells them to take a mountain trail out of view of the area. They need to follow the trail of bear tracks to the food and water that has been left for them.

Beautifully sewn vintage log cabin quilt.
Beautifully sewn vintage log cabin quilt. | Source

Log Cabin

The log cabin quilt square represents the message that the person in that spot is safe to speak to. It can also represent that they need to seek shelter. In many cases it indicated that this was a safe house.

Impressive north star pattern quilt/
Impressive north star pattern quilt/ | Source

North Star

The North Star quilt block tells them to follow the North Star to safety

Impressive example of a flying geese quilt.
Impressive example of a flying geese quilt. | Source

Flying Geese

This quilt means to follow the flying geese to safety. The slaves could follow the geese to water, food, and a place to rest.

Adorable example of a sailboat pattern quilt.  How cute is this?
Adorable example of a sailboat pattern quilt. How cute is this? | Source

Sailboat

The Sailboat quilt block tells the slaves to take a sailboat across the Great Lakes to safety.

This is a quilt from early 1900's/  What a pretty pattern.
This is a quilt from early 1900's/ What a pretty pattern. | Source

Drunkard's Path

This square mean that they need to walk a zig-zag path. They need to avoid walking in a straight line to avoid the people hunting them. The zig-zaging walk and doubling back would help conceal the fact that the slave was trying to escape. If I slave was walking south no one would bother them.

Beautiful colorful bowtie quilt pattern.
Beautiful colorful bowtie quilt pattern. | Source

Bow Tie

The Bow Tie block means to dress in disguise. The slaves need to change clothes.

This antique quilt is a Rose Wreath hand appliqued quilt by Jeffie Beaver (Mrs. A. W. Smith 1894-1985).
This antique quilt is a Rose Wreath hand appliqued quilt by Jeffie Beaver (Mrs. A. W. Smith 1894-1985). | Source

Rose Wreath

The Rose Wreath quilt square sadly was informing the slaves that someone had died on the journey. It was traditional for slaves to leave handmade flower wreaths on the graves.

This interesting quilt is made with the tumbling blocks pattern.
This interesting quilt is made with the tumbling blocks pattern. | Source

Tumbling Blocks

This code tells the slaves to box up their belonging that they want to take with them on their trip on the Underground Railroad.

This is a double monkey wrench quilt square pattern.
This is a double monkey wrench quilt square pattern. | Source

Monkey Wrench Quilt Pattern

Historians believe the first quilt the seamstress would display had a money wrench pattern. It meant gather your tools and get physically and mentally prepared to escape the plantation.

Underground Railroad Quilt Squares

Which quilt square is your favorite?

See results

© 2018 Susan Hazelton

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 months ago from Sunny Florida

      SweetiePie I like them all in varying degrees. I think my favorite would be the tumbling blocks

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 

      7 months ago from Southern California, USA

      I love the sea boat pattern quilt.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      11 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I love to quilt myself, it's true that it does give beautiful historic stories. I love all the quilt square designs, especially the tumbling blocks, I am not sure why.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      11 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I am fascinated by the symbols and how they displayed them It was a labor of love.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      11 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What an interesting article. The title drew me in right away. My family's roots have been in Massachusetts for many generations; they were originally Quakers, and a few participated in the Underground Railway to help runaway slaves. Quilt making is a beautiful, traditional art form, and tells stories rich in history. You have given us beautiful examples of the meanings of quilt designs...The Bow Tie is among my favorites.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      11 months ago from Houston, Texas

      There were many such signs and meanings behind these quilts which were used to point escaping slaves in the right direction towards safety. It was an ingenious way to impart meanings important to this effort. Sometimes these quilts would be casually thrown over a porch banister or hung out on a clothesline. Thanks for assembling this interesting post.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Hazelton 

      11 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I am glad you enjoyed this article. I was amazed to find out the different codes used to help the slaves escape.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      11 months ago from sunny Florida

      First of all yes thank goodness for those who established the Underground railroad. And thank you for this interesting story about quilting...my sister is an avid quilter so will email this to her. Angels are on the way ps pinned

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)