Patches From the Past
Scraps of Fabric, Sewing & Quilting History

The Aurora Colony Museum in Oregon

~ visit another time and a unique culture ~

entering the museum

Walking into the Aurora Colony Museum in Aurora, Oregon you find yourself in the time of Oregon's pioneers. There is a feeling of softness, of the earth.

Although the little town of Aurora is not far from the city of Portland with it's tangle of freeways and rushing traffic just by leaving the southbound freeway you find yourself in rural country with rambling old farm houses. Nestled in that countryside is the community of Aurora. You can easily spend the day in Aurora between the museum and antique shops, all within walking distance.

Aurora: An American
Experience in Quilt and Craft

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The pioneers of Aurora were no ordinary Oregonians. The were a part of a German religious colony that practiced communal living based on how they believe the early Christians lived. Most members had migrated west during the 1850s and 60s. Through the museum exhibitions and video you will learn of their ways and see why they prided on their handiwork.

Almost everything was made by the members. For example wool from colony sheep was carded, spun and woven to be used for making clothing and quilts. Women were also known for producing fine lace as well as their culinary skills. The men were known for the fine baskets they wove as well as their woodworking. Their crops and products not only sustained the colony members but were sold to outsiders earning needed money for the community.

petticoats, baskets and a fine quilt

But all was not drudgery in the Aurora Colony. In fact they were famous throughout the Northwest for the music played by their German band. Note the profiles depicted with their instruments in the photo at the top of this page. Music and dancing were a part of colony life as well as enjoyment of great food. Their German food was so popular that the train stopped in Aurora for meals even though it was almost to the destination city of Portland. Note the quilted petticoats in the photo to the left. We can see that even though outer clothing was plain, some women must have enjoyed being a bit daring with their petticoats.

the museum grounds

The museum has a wonderful collection of colony quilts ranging from their finest to those made for everyday use. Though not currently displayed in the museum, I was able to view a quilt that demonstrated how even their utilitarian quilts made of scraps reflected a desire to make something beautiful. As with most museums, just a few quilts from their collection are exhibited at a given time. But this little museum is not stagnant and some of the exhibits are rotated every few months. Recently they showed quilts and objects from the life of Emma Giesy who is the main character in Jane Kirkpatrick's fictional "Change and Cherish Historical Series". Their current temporary display is on the George Wolfer family.

family cabinOnce you have thoroughly explored the main museum you are ready to go out the back door to see other colony buildings. Structures that have been moved to the museum grounds include a small log cabin, a family wash house, as well as exhibitions of tools, etc showing the men's part in the community.

Go to the Old Aurora Colony Museum website to learn more. There are several events each year including a quilt show and living history days so be sure to check their site for upcoming events. Look for their short articles on colony history as well.

2008 Judy Anne Breneman (do not reproduce this article without permission from the author)

Books about Aurora

(nonfiction by Jane Kirkpatrick)

Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt and Craft

(historical novels by Jane Kirkpatrick)

A Clearing in the Wild (Change and Cherish Historical Series #1)

A Tendering in the Storm (Change and Cherish Historical Series #2)

A Mending at the Edge (Change and Cherish Historical Series #3)

[ Aurora Colony Quilts | Family Memories | Wedding Dresses | Talking Quilts ]
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