Posted by: acooksca | 08/22/2014

Quincy: a Town of Timber, Neighborliness and Barn Quilt

Quincy barn with painted barn quilt

Quincy barn with painted barn quilt

In northeastern California, where the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges meet, lies a lovely region of the state, Plumas County. Rugged river canyons and dense, soaring forests provide an exquisite backdrop to Highway 89 as it wanders through meadowed valleys and gold-rush era mining towns. Cutting across the heart of the county is the Feather River National Scenic Byway 70. It follows historic Beckwourth Trail, established in 1851 by the African American Explorer James Pierson Beckwourth to lead miners from Reno to Oroville. The drive in late summer is under a brilliant sky and there is the soothing smell of sun-warmed pines.

Quincy, Main Street

Quincy, Main Street

Our over-night destination is the county seat and largest town, Quincy (population 1,728). Main Street is a blend of classic stone and wood buildings that now house variety shops, 2 theatres, local art galleries and cafes. We stop at The Knook Café. As Crissy makes our sandwiches we learn she is originally from San Diego but wouldn’t think of returning to a city after 14 years in Quincy. Joe tells us he was born in San Francisco and lived in a succession of ever-smaller towns throughout California before deciding to settle here. In an art gallery Mary is plucking a ukulele, warming up for a performance tonight with the Pukes (Plumas Ukulele Group) at the evening farmers’ market. She and her husband left Belmont in the Bay Area to work in L.A. but choose Quincy to retire to. They each talked about leaving behind the crowds and congestion for the serenity and beauty of the mountains. And they found Quincy, one of the ten “America’s coolest small towns, 2013” according to Yahoo Travel.

Quincy has a legacy of timber and neighborliness and acceptance that continues today. In the early 1900s timber replaced mining as the main industry in the area. By 1940, 400 African Americans worked the mill in Quincy, comprising 40% of the town’s population. By all accounts Quincy Lumber gave equal pay to its white and black employees and many African American men worked in skilled positions nearly impossible to gain in mills of The South.

Quincy, Cottage on Main Street

Quincy, Cottage on Main Street

Though segregated housing was the norm, little else was divided by race. African American children began attending local schools in 1940.  For the era their presence represented remarkable integration.  In fact by the spring of 1954, a black senior, John Clark, was elected student body president at Quincy High School.  White adults entertained at “the Sump,” a black club in the Quincy Hotel. While undoubtedly there were some problems, the white and black citizens of Quincy achieved degrees of acceptance rarely seen in other parts of the United States at that time.

While visiting Quincy we both remark on the feeling of goodwill we get from everyone. We ask about the route for walking to the fairgrounds on the outskirts of town and several folks offer to drive us.

Quincy, Barn Quilt in town

Quincy, Barn Quilt in town

We find the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds across from the thriving Sierra Pacific Industries lumber mill. The fair is in full swing. We join hundreds of others checking out the ribbons on pies and jams, seeing which 4-H animals won prizes, watching miniature pigs race and strolling past the carnival rides and games. In the Arts and Crafts building hand-sewn quilts hang awaiting the judges, some in traditional geometrics and some modern impressions. Many are magnificent and they give us a clue to an emerging tradition here in Quincy, barn quilts.

We have been seeing single large quilt blocks, some 8 feet square, painted on barns and buildings. Each is as unique as a family crest and in eye-catching colors. We are told this idea of painting a quilt design on a barn was discovered by a Quincy resident while on vacation in the east (Ohio in particular has a strong history of barn quilts) and the artistic expression has captured the county. The area now has 100 examples of this neighborly public art form in town and throughout the countryside. The barn quilt trail is yet one more reason to take a meander through hospitable Plumas County


Plumas County Scenic Byways driving tour:

Plumas County Barn Quilt Trail:

Spacious accommodations in a historic building on Main Street (with a wine bar):

America’s coolest small town in 2013:–2013-213138510.html

More about black workers in the Quincy lumber mill






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