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Quilt presentation covers family history at Trail Center
Area quilter Merlene Baird addresses the audience during a quilt presentation Saturday at the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO Janet Fleske

LARNED — A Russian proverb states you live as long as you are remembered. Merlene Baird has taken that proverb along with her family history and applied them to cloth as a way to remember and commemorate the heritage of settlers in central Kansas.

In conjunction with the Santa Fe Trail Center, Baird shared her talent of quilt making Saturday at the Santa Fe Trail Center.  

“Mrs. Baird grew up in Oklahoma, although her family was originally from Kansas,” said Trail Center Director Seth McFarland. “Her grandparents Charles and Alice Hope homesteaded near Lakin, Kansas, around 1900.”

Both of Baird’s grandmothers were quilters. “And she still has quilts from them as well as a quilt sewn by her mother,” said McFarland. He added that one of Baird’s quilting awards was from a show in Hannibal, Missouri, when she received the best of show with her mother’s quilt.

Baird, who holds three degrees from Oklahoma State University, served as an extension agent in Kinsley. She later taught home economics and art at Fort Hays State University for more than 25 years. 

Today, Baird and her daughter, Gina, are both avid quilters. Gina is also a dealer for the quilting machines she and her mother use to make the quilts. Gina followed in her mother’s footsteps both as a quilter and a teacher.

Baird is the regent for the Fort Larned Daughters of the American Revolution. “The Kansas Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution are working with the Santa Fe Trail Center to create quilts to commemorate the Santa Fe Trail’s Bicentennial,” McFarland said.  

The quilts will be exhibited in 2022 as part of the five-year historic commemoration of the Santa Fe Trail.