Serendipity, The Wrought Iron Fence, and Joyce’s Garden

Several years ago three friends and I drove over to Valley City, a favorite little town 40 minutes west of here. An old fellow had a very large barn cupola he wanted to donate to the museum. He told a story about a group of guys who planned to tear down a local barn, but wanted to save the ornate cupola set high on the peak of the steep roof. Nobody could figure out how to get it down. Finally one young fellow (whose family wasn’t there to stop him) took a rope and made the rather scary climb to the top of the roof. He tied the rope around the construction and threw the end of the rope off the back of the barn. He then tipped the cupola over and down the front of the building. The guys on the ground slowly lowered the quite heavy roof ventilator to the barn bridge by playing out the rope a bit at a time.

Unfortunately, the cupola then sat, unmoved, in the gentleman’s back yard for the next 50 years. When we first saw it, it looked really great. But, like so many other buildings I have looked at, it sat whole from simple gravity (and paint) holding it together, instead of being whole from structural integrity. It fell to pieces when we tried to move it.

And then was to happen one of my favorite parts of museum collecting. ….Serendipity.

I asked him what else he might have that might suit the museum. He took us over to a barn/garage he had at the back of the property. It was stuffed full of “stuff”. We looked in, managed to squeeze thru the door, pushed past a grindstone mounted to a table and picked our way over, behind, under, around, other mostly junk, to find twelve sections of wrought iron fence. He said it once surrounded and protected a cemetery in Grafton. He went on to say that when he was much younger the Grafton Trustees decided to replace the fence with something newer because the wrought iron needed fix’n and it was becoming a maintenance problem. Our new friend had picked it up, thinking he might use it some day, but instead put it away. And there it waited through the decades for our arrival.

We made a quick deal with him, loaded the fence onto the trailer and brought it home, …where it sat for another couple years. We had the same problem as the old gentleman, we also just hadn’t the time to fix and paint it. But, now, in this winter and spring of little snow and cold, we are finally repairing the broken and bent pieces, and painting it once again its original colors, -gloss black, with gold tipped spear points. We have fixed it to new posts and it now surrounds the museum’s Victorian Garden.

We have a number of gardens, trees and areas where passed friend’s ashes are placed. There’s Harvey’s Garden, the final resting place for our great friend and most excellent dowser Harvey Lisle; and Rill’s Tree, a Dawn Redwood she donated to the museum shortly before she passed, perhaps somehow knowing it might be her last place for resting in the shade. There’s a baby, lost many generations ago, buried in the front yard by the horse chestnut tree, a Vietnam veteran amongst the ash trees and Mark is at the Stone Circle.

Now Laura has suggested that the Victorian Garden, with its “new” 120 year old wrought iron cemetery fence, be named Joyce’s Garden. She was a very well liked friend who was always so helpful to the museum and the gathering of its collections. Laura thought the naming appropriate because some time ago Joyce gave us two metal garden chairs. I then went to work with the welder and created two Victorian ladies sitting on the chairs (Laura thinks they may be one of my better art projects). And, as they ever so properly sit by the newly fenced garden, waving a friendly hello with their hair slightly mussed from the breeze, they always remember us to our missed friend Joyce, the lovely lady of Seville.

Peninsula Cabin

We had quite the surprise the other day. We received a post titled “Cabin”. I thought it was someone inquiring about staying here. Instead it turned out to be a wonderful lady, living deep in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, offering us a cabin. We have always wanted one for the museum, so we were quite excited, even sight unseen. So we went to look immediately. And happy we were.

Years ago a previous owner of the property had collected cabins and eventually ended up with five on his land. We hadn’t known, until our visit that day, that one of the cabins had already been moved into “town” in Peninsula, and had been serving as an occasional art gallery. In recent years I had displayed some of my metal art at their seasonal, weekend long “Cabin Art” shows. I have always really liked and admired that cabin.

Usually folks have an “archetype” picture of cabins. We think of them as being built of large hand hewn logs that took 3 men and a dog to lift and stack for walls. And, in fact, almost all surviving old time cabins are built like that. Big logs could take the weathering of time and season, so they simply lasted longer -even to present day. But the early settlers were coming to the Western Reserve that was deep woods and little else. Building a large house was a future luxury they could not initially afford.

Folks would try to leave the Colonies or original States in the Spring so they would have enough time to make the long and arduous journey, and still have sufficient time to prepare for winter in an unsettled land. The earliest wave of them had a tough trip. Some took canoes or small boats through the Great Lakes then south into the new lands down rivers such as the Sandusky, Cuyahoga and Grand. Others made part of the trip on the Ohio River then north up the branches of either the Muskingum, Tuscarawas, Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. And many made the months long trek overland. But, how ever they came, it was long, it was hard, and many of them never made it. Those who did usually got to their piece of land with summer fast upon them. So there wasn’t a great deal of time to prepare for snow, cold, hunger and want. There was much to do.

A usually small party of people, mostly alone in the wilderness, were faced with myriad tasks. You had to hunt, fish, gather food, pick any available fruits and nuts and preserve them all for winter. You needed reliable water, and stores of firewood. You had to clear land for planting a garden. You needed to provide shelter and food for any animals you had. You constantly had to be aware of and protect against the dangers of wilderness life. You needed to cut and prepare logs. And you really needed to build something to shelter in.

The Peninsula cabin we hope to move here soon is one of those very early cabins.  We were told that it originally stood in southern Ohio. Instead of the large hewn log cabins, it is built of smaller logs that could be more easily handled by a few people. It is small, only 12×12, since there was likely little time to build bigger. And it has a flat roof (which is less efficient but easier to build than a peeked roof). At some point the board or shake or possibly sod roof was replaced by metal, and larger windows were added. Originally any windows would have been much smaller and often covered with oil skin.

We plan to return it to more of its first look and use. We may remove the more recent cement chinking between the logs and replace it with more traditional chink, we’d like to replace the windows with earlier ones, and we’ll place it on a stone foundation, rather than the block used by its previous mover. And the roof will once again be covered with wood shakes.

We admire its original builders for all the tough work they did to just survive. We are very grateful the gentleman who moved it locally and thereby saved it. We are very thankful it was later offered to us. And we are thrilled to have it for the newest addition to the museum. Our thanks go out to the many generations of folks for saving this piece of Ohio history.

The Lady Who Wouldn’t, and the Tractor That Will

A few years ago the museum acquired another tractor for its collection, a 1940 9N Ford. It took quite awhile in the gettin’.
                                                                 A couple generations ago a family had a farm on several hundred acres along Hawkins Rd. in Richfield Twp. It had a nice old farm house, big well maintained fields, and very large barn that had exceptionally wide roof boards. Near the house the family built a really nice outdoor, stone fireplace which was featured in a long ago Cleveland newspaper article and was apparently somewhat famous for quite a while. The barn lasted until about 15 years ago when it was torn down, in part because of the depredations of a pack of ground hogs who undermined its foundation. But, at least, those large roof boards were saved and sold to panel a restaurant in Cleveland. The fireplace still stands, but is suffering a great deal from the weather of the past 60 some years. And of course the farm had several tractors, tillers and other equipment.
                                                                                 The family eventually sold the land in three pieces. The house and barn and about 30 acres went to a couple of guys (both named John) who raised and raced sulky horses. (For many years I made hay for them on about 20 of their acres, and stored it in their barn for the horses. During those years I also acquired several of the original farm’s nearly eight hundred pound tillers. Those things were brutes. It’s hard to imagine them easier to use than horses, but they must have been.) Another 30 or so acres went to a guy living in Hinckley, who let me make hay every year for feeding my Hereford cattle, and it helped him by keeping the land mowed. The remainder of the land was sold to a couple of city folks who put up a small building, an outhouse and a picnic table or two near the pond, and used the area as a place to get out of town on weekends. When they bought the land, they acquired one of the farm’s tractors to keep the fields mowed. But they didn’t seem to be much at maintenance and they ended up parking the no longer running tractor in a small shed. There it sat for the next 40+ years.
                                                                                                                                                         About 38 years ago they hired me to mow the fields. I continued to do so for a number of years, until they got divorced and neither one of them would agree to pay me for the most recent hours of mowing I had done for them. Over the years I have occasionally wondered about the tractor, so now and again I checked on it. It began to sink a bit into the dirt from just the action of freezing and thawing. And the shed began to fall. It was a shame to see a once nice tractor go to rust (as I have seen so many tractors and various other equipment rot in fields, left behind on once productive, now abandoned, farms.). Every so often I would contact the old lady about paying me the due on the work I had done, and I also asked her about selling me the tractor. But she was an plain ornery person (as so said everyone I ever talked to about her, –including her family) and she wouldn’t talk about settling or selling.
                                                                                                                                                             When finally the old lady sold the land I went to talk to the new owner. He said sure I could have the tractor just for the hauling it away. There was just one problem. The lady had specified in the land contract that she would maintain ownership of that darn tractor, and she could come get it whenever she wanted. Of course by then she was in her nineties and hadn’t been out of her house in years (according to her family who lived in the other half of the family duplex). She was just by gosh going to hold on to that tractor until the bitter end. But, fortunately, the new owner wanted it gone, so we decided I could store the old rusty Ford until she came and got it. And it’s been here now for some time.
                                                                                                                                                                  So, at last she is gone, having left a bit of havoc in her wake. The tractor is now “free”, and we have asked our good friend Ward and his apprentice James to restore it to running. We’ve so far spent far too much money on parts and labor to fix it, we could have bought a similar tractor in good condition for less. But sometimes it’s just the doing of something that matters, not the practicality. We’ll use it to make some hay for the animals and do some work around the museum. And it will recall the stories of the folks that first owned it, and it will remind of the lady who just wouldn’t let it go.
                                                                                                                                                               Four or five years ago, before I had the tractor, the grandson of the original owners stopped by. We got to talking and he mentioned how much he had liked that tractor when he was a kid visiting his grandparents on their farm. We took a walk and he was quite sad to see it in its depleted condition in that falling shed. I hope he stops by again sometime, and sees how great that old Ford looks now. I ‘spect he’ll even take it out for another spin like he did so many years ago.
                                                                                                                                                     –Historical Note: The 9N tractors were mainly sold before WW2. They were/are about a twenty horse utility tractor widely used on farms of the era. With the start of the war, Roosevelt imposed price freezes on many of the goods sold those days, mostly to prevent price gouging and inflation from war caused shortages. Ford couldn’t afford to sell the 9N’s for the prewar price, so they came out with a “new” tractor, the 2N. The 2 and 9N’s were virtually the same tractor, with the only difference being that Ford removed the battery and starter from the 9, and installed a magneto and starting crank to make it a 2N. The 2N was thus considered a “new” model tractor so the price could be raised (even though it was a bit harder to use).

Agritourism, the Museum & the Law

Last August the Ohio Legislature passed the Ohio Agritourism Law. It says, in effect, that any farm that opens up to visits by the public can not be sued for any injuries that occur on the farm as the result of the normal hazards of farm life. This is a tremendous help to farmers who no longer must fear of losing their farms to the whims and vicissitudes of America’s over supply of lawyers. (To quote Shakespeare, “The first we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.)

The Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment is located entirely at Stone Garden Farm & Village, in Richfield Twp. Our farm, and its museum, are now listed and posted as an Agritourism Farm. We try to make your visit to the museum and farm as enjoyable and safe as possible, but please be aware that visits to any farm carries with it inherent risks due to the many displays, pieces of equipment, animals, fences and tools that are normal to any farm or farm activity (and farm museum). Thank you for your visits and your caution while visiting.

 

The Older the Guy, the Bigger the Toys

This has been a year without winter. There was little snow or cold in January. That was a very lucky thing for the museum. It gave us time for a very big outdoor job.

Arno is a friend of many years. He is one of those old guys that we like so well, and that many others, …don’t. He is just a friendly old cuss who seems to inspire certain reactions that aren’t always “pleasing” in most folks. But we like him. Once you get past his ways, he is a great story teller. His body is failing him now, but his mind is sharp. He can tell you stories about the local life you wouldn’t believe. –Along with his many tales, Arnie has also been an extremely dedicated collector.

Some months ago he fell in his home and his family found him several days later. He’s now living out his days in a care center. And his house has been sold. His children are becoming somewhat well seasoned in age, and were unable to clean and clear everything out. So they called us before the sale was final.

I had been over to visit him many times over the years, but had never really explored all he had. It was both awesome, and very, very daunting. The house, two garages and barn were stuffed. Lost in the piles of things were 5 cars, the most notable being a 1930 Franklin. We spent three weeks sorting, moving, hauling, …stuff. There were many days of loading scrap metal and taking it all to recycling. We burned enormous amounts of cardboard boxes and trash. Eventually three huge dumpsters were loaded and taken away. Arnie was a super collector (aka: well inventoried hoarder)!

All the work was a great benefit to the museum. The Franklin was sold to a Franklin collectors group in Pennsylvania to be restored (it was too modern for the museum), and the money will be used to acquire an earlier Model T. We found many automobiliana & gas station signs and license plates that now grace the ”garage” at the museum. There was a wonderful 1950′s Shell gas pump, which will also be passed on in order to get a 1910 era pump (also for the garage). We found lots of parts for a 1936 Silver Streak Pontiac sedan, which also are being “converted” to acquire other museum car equipment, and there was all kinds of lifts, pumps and jacks that have become part of the museum. And then there were all the books, badges and buttons, all great for display and research.

It was quite the task, but well worth it. The only problem with it was how it again reminded me of how often guys spend their lives creating great collections, then it all drifts away in their later years. It seems such a loss that such fine assemblages of history are lost. Fortunately for Arno, and the museum, much of his collections will continue on.

A Tale of Two Families

Back in Aug. 2016, Mike Sangiacomo at the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote a long and wonderful article about the museum. These 6 months later it is still having a great effect on the museum. In the last couple of weeks two families, each of whom saw the article, called to donate their family’s treasures.

-David Krone’s family came to the U.S. in 1866 when David was just 9 months old. By 1900 David had established his own farm in the town of Dover (named after the Dover Land Company, who originally owned a huge tract of land west and south of Cleveland. The town was later renamed Westlake because of post office confusion over where to deliver letters, to the Dover near the lake or the Dover farther south.) He married Anna in 1912, and they had 3 daughters. Sadly, Anna died of consumption in 1925. The middle daughter, Eleanor, married Paul Burmeister in 1950 and they also raised their two children, Mark & Mary, on the farm.

Just before her passing in 2009, mom (Eleanor) asked Mark and Mary to never sell or throw away the family farm tools. Her children (now also beginning to approach “senior hood”) cast about for somewhere to donate the treasured goods and eventually found the museum. They loaded up a really large closed trailer and the pickup, and delivered everything. It took a half hour just to unload. When we finished we stood on the barn bridge talking, and Mary and Mark told me some family stories.

Many of the farms west of Cleveland grew grapes. And consequently the farmers produced a certain amount of wine. When the various produce and fruit was ready for sale, the farmers would hitch up the horses and drive into Cleve. They would sell most of their produce and wine to Italians and negroes living on the Westside. In return Grand-dad learned from the negroes to make what became a farm favorite meal, soup/stew made from “junk” meat (pork hock, bacon & other smoked meat), Kentucky Wonder Beans (a long, tough pole bean), and onions. When the sell’n was done, the farm folk would then trade wine with each other to see whose had the best “flavor”. Then the horses would find their own way home, without the benefit of directions from the now happy farmers.

Grand-dad’s favorite horse was Jimmy, a big brown draft. When Jimmy died, Grand-father ( an often rather formal German) put on his best suit to say goodbye. Mary remembered a big black truck coming to pick Jimmy up and take him away. It was one of the few times she saw her grand-father tear up. It was also the end of an era. The family gave up horses and purchased a REO truck that David modified to carry produce, and a 1945 Farmall tractor.

But the rest of the farm continued as was. The “kids” remember still using the cistern and outhouse when they were young. They also recalled how Grand-dad had field tiled all the back field so the ground would be dry enough for growing food instead of cattails.

Eventually, as more neighbors moved in and the now named Westlake built up, the government built offices next door and cut the tiles and caused the family land to once again return to swamp. The family couldn’t afford to sue the big bully next door, so generations of farming came to a close. Finally the farm was sold to the Westlake Methodist Church in 2011, and the equipment was moved to a barn in Columbia Station.

It took a full day to put away everything Mary & Mark had brought from their mom’s farm. The gas stove went to the bakery, the grind stones to the wheel making shop, the harness to the barn, Jimmy’s horse collar to the collar shop, the large kettle to the slaughter house, a hand operated orchard sprayer to the cider mill equipment, the barn doors to the blacksmith shop for building a wall, and so on. Perhaps the single best item (besides the stories) might be the wood cistern pump. They hardly exist anymore. Many farmers just quit using them and left them to rot where they were. But the most incredible thing was the family saved the wooden water pipe that was connected to the bottom of the pump for drawing up the water. I’ve only ever read of them, this is the first I’ve seen.

Thank you, Mary and Mark, for saving and donating your family history, stories and equipment. It is all much appreciated.

-This past week another brother and sister called. Their mom had recently moved to a care center and the family home was to be sold.

The house, also in Westlake, was down a long dead end road. It was surrounded by trees and woods that provided a wonderful playground for growing up (so unlike the “tract” housing where so many children are raised these days).

Mom was quite a collector. Throughout the house were the many mementoes of the many trips to Asia that mom had always wished she could take. She never got there except in her dreams and by reading. Her house was awash with hundreds and hundreds of books, enough to make any library proud.

Mom was also quite a weaver. The basement was filled with looms (and of course boxes of weaving books). The family called to donate a wonderful (and huge) barn beam loom. It is the biggest one I have ever seen. It took quite a lot of work to disassemble and move. We marked all the joints with chalk, pounded out the wood pegs holding everything together, and pulled apart the mortise and tendon pieces, and carried all the heavy posts and beams across the basement and up the steps to the truck. Mom had also collected quite a pile of really old frames, heddles and miscellaneous parts. More modern heddles (usually a hundred and fifty years old or newer) are made with metal reeds. Mom had heddles made with willow sticks. –Those are really rare because of their great age and the usually long period of time when they were no longer used or cared for.

As we looked thru the house we also found and acquired a fine 120+ yr. old Ingram wall clock (to be displayed in the future museum clock shop), an old, old soap dish and a nice old wood barrel for the barrel shop. The family really didn’t think we could get everything loaded up, but years of moving buildings helped and we got it all on.

A couple days after we got everything home, we had the happy idea of putting the loom in the Girl Room. A room in the main barn is so called because it contains and displays all the things a girl of seven would have been expected to know how to use in order to be a useful person. The collection includes cook stoves, washing machines, irons, sewing machines, canning jars and equipment, portable tin bath tubs, grain grinders, mouse traps, and such. (The tubs were upended and stored, then carried in to the kitchen once a week for a bath, “whether you needed it or not”).

It took a couple days to clean and rearrange everything, and then reconstruct the loom. We also spent a good deal of time setting up the frames for holding the spools of strings used to warp the loom. It all makes a really great display and addition to the museum.

Model T Tire Equipment, a Gas Station Air Pump and Other Tire Changing Tools

These days, automobile and truck tire changing is highly mechanized and rather easy. You put the tire on a machine, push a foot lever, and the changer does most of the hard work. Tire off, tire on, put it on another machine, spin it, put on the balance weights, done. Good for another 20,000.

But early tire changing was much different. Continue reading

Moving Day

The very first building we moved to the museum was the Eastwood/Rooy Slaughter House. Continue reading

The Morris and Crane Farms

 

The Sharon Golf Club has a problem. The course was founded in 1965 by a group of young business men from the Akron area. Continue reading

Museum Broom Shop

To us it seems America is fast losing its traditional skills. One example is that at one time many towns across Ohio had horse collar shops. We have been told there is only one left in the state, Coblentz Collar Shop in Millersburg. Other disappearing trades (except for hobbyists) include tin making, pewter casting, rope making, barrel making and broom making. Continue reading

Halter Feed & Grain Mill

In 2009, the owner of Halter Feed & Grain retired. After 50 yrs. of operation by the family, the Mill, located in Robertsville, Stark Co., was sold at action. The museum was able to save two feed baggers, conveyer belts and pulleys, the Halter Feed sign and a very nice printed Halter feed sack. We have now set up the Halter Mill display at the museum.

Over the years we have also collected many other feed mill items and equipment, including the Garman Farm hammer mill, several platform scales for weighing bags of grain, a quite rare oat crusher used for crimping oats to make a better more digestible horse feed,  a seed sorter, grain grinding mill, a number of table top corn grinders, hand trucks, feed and supplements signs, a neat price list sign board from Ashery Feed Mill, lots of feed bags and more. Next to the mill will be parked the Museum’s 1919 Model TT feed delivery truck.

This collection makes a new and interesting display to come see the next time you visit the museum.

 

The Winter of 2014/2015

 

 

It’s almost mid-March and there’s plenty of cleaning up to do from this (almost) passed winter. During February we never had a day above freezing. As a consequence, the snow just continued to build up. The result of that was that we had our first ever building collapse. Continue reading

Quotes We Like About Farming & History

“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: that was the American dream.”    ~Edward Abbey

“A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia. “    ~David McCullough

“Our food crisis began when we stopped caring about where our food came from. It began when we no longer knew the people that grew our produce and raised the animals we eat. It began when we stopped cooking and started eating out of boxes and ate fast-food in our cars. It began when we started trusting companies that rely solely on profit to feed us. Monsanto exists because of our neglect. How we became so disconnected from such an important part of our very being is hard to understand.  –It’s Time to Reconnect! Support Local Agriculture!”    ~Anonymous

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.”    ~Pearl Buck

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”    ~Mahatma Gandhi

“The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.”    ~David Thelen

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”    ~Abraham Lincoln

“History is never antiquated, because humanity is always fundamentally the same.”    ~Walter Rauschenbusch

“It is hard for us today to realize how very widely communities were separated from one another when they depended for transportation wholly on the railroad and the horse and wagon – and when telephones were still scarce, and radios non-existent. A town which was not situated on a railroad was really remote. A farmer who lived five miles outside the county seat made something of an event of hitching up and taking the family to town for a Saturday afternoon’s shopping. (His grandchildren make the run in a casual ten minutes, and think nothing of it.) A trip to see friends ten miles away was likely to be an all-day expedition, for the horse had to be given a chance to rest and be fed. No wonder that each region, each town, each farm was far more dependent upon its own resources – its own produce, social contacts, amusements – than in later years. For in terms of travel and communication the United States was a very big country indeed.

No wonder, furthermore, that the majority of Americans were less likely than their descendants to be dogged by that frightening sense of insecurity which comes from being jostled by forces – economic, political, international – beyond one’s personal ken. Their horizons were close to them. They lived among familiar people and familiar things – individuals and families and fellow townsmen much of their own sort, with ideas intelligible to them. A man’s success or failure seemed more likely than in later years to depend upon forces and events within his own range of vision. Less often than his sons and grandsons did he feel that his fortune, indeed his life, might hang upon some decision made in Washington or Berlin or Moscow, for reasons utterly strange to his experience. The world at which he looked over the dashboard of the family carriage might not be friendly, but at least most of it looked understandable.”  ~The Big Change: 1900-1950 by Frederick Lewis Allen, published in 1952.

–Come to the museum. Learn about America’s agrarian past. And learn how to use those past skills and knowledge, to raise your own animals, grow your own food, make your own everyday tools, goods and clothing. Stop by anytime to talk, or take one of the museum’s many homesteading & self-reliance classes.