Hit the Road To Explore Gee’s Bend

February 2023

In the Southwest rural corner of the state of Alabama, there is a small parcel of land called Gee’s Bend. Gee’s Bend is surrounded by the Alabama River and it is only accessible by ferry. It was founded by a wealthy landowner Joseph Gee who moved to the area in the early 1800s. Gee brought several slaves with him to the area and later sold the land along with the slaves to Mark Pettway. After the Civil War, the freed slaves founded an all-black-owned community there that was isolated from the rest of the state.

Freedom Quilting Bee Collective

About a century later, the women of this isolated community began the Freedom Quilting Bee Collective which became an outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement. The women were dedicated to community development and sold crafts as a way to raise money for their projects. However, their efforts were thwarted in 1962 when the ferry service was shut down and once again Gee’s Bend was isolated from the outside world. It would be 44 years later before service was restored to Gee’s Bend. Despite this, the women of the quilting collective would garner attention from fashion designers in New York City which started a revival in patchwork quilting.

The Official Pine Burr Quilt

In 1997, the Alabama Legislature designated the Pine Burr Quilt the official quilt of the state. The Pine Burr quilt pattern, boasting an intricate, three-dimensional design, has deep roots in the African-American community, particularly among the women of Gee’s Bend. Loretta Pettway Bennett, who created a Pine Burr quilt that she later donated to the state archives, learned how to make the quilt pattern from her mother Quinnie Pettway, a Gee’s Bend quilter. The Gee’s Bend quilts have become well sought after for exhibits at museums across the country. Their notoriety and popularity sparked the development of Alabama’s Quilting Trail, and Auburn University is working with Wilcox County on the development of a learning center to study housing and quilting, a retail shop, an exhibit and a cafe. 

It is worth a road trip to Gee’s Bend to purchase a quilt, learn the art of quilting or learn the rich history of the area. 

Where to Stay

Roland Cooper State Park


This 22,000-acre area is located in the Dannelly Reservoir in Roland Cooper State Park. The 236-acre park features a nine-hole golf course with a clubhouse, spacious vacation cottages, a modern campground with a bathhouse and laundry, and a scenic picnic area with tables, grills, pavilions and a comfort station. 

Where to Eat

GainsRidge Dinner Club


Located in a home built in the 1820s, the Club began serving food in 1985 in their indoor and outdoor dining rooms. The restaurant serves seafood, sandwiches and desserts. Their Black Bottom Pie is a must try and is one of the 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.  If you do go, you may be joined for dinner by one of the home’s friendly ghosts. 

What to Experience

Visiting Gee’s Bend by Ferry

The ferry makes daily runs between Camden and Gee's Bend. The quilters usually gather at the Boykin Nutrition Center by 8:30 a.m. and quilt until 1:30 in the afternoon Monday through Thursday. You’ll also want to leave the area before dark because there are no street lights and you could run into many dead-end streets. 

Camden Shoe Shop & Quilt Museum


The Camden Shoe Shop & Quilt Museum is owned and directed by Betty Anderson. The museum pays homage to Anderson's parents and grandparents as well as to their hometowns of Camden and Gee's Bend. Betty gives tours and educates tourists about local and regional history, quilting and Civil Rights. 

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