Birthday Parties at the Farm & Museum

The museum is now offering a fun day on the farm, learning lots of “old time” skills and crafts. For the perfect and very different birthday party, bring your child and friends to learn to make a candle, pull taffy, churn home made ice cream or butter, collect eggs in the chicken coop, milk the cow and make cheese and butter, play old time games or lots of other American heritage/Laura Ingalls Wilder activities.  Call or email for pricing and scheduling  (330)659-3507  StoneGardenFamily@yahoo.com

Horse Harness, “Shine” & The Mueller Farm

We recently received a call from Roger Miller at Miller Orchards on Baumhart Rd. in Amherst, Lorain County. His family has owned and operated the family farm and orchard (now totaling 500 acres) since 1840. He now has one of the largest apple orchards and the largest cherry orchard in the state. (We visited Mar. 26th, and there was still a nice selection of apples and cider for sale in the family store, despite the 4″of snow and 28* weather.)

The Mueller Family, originally from eastern Europe, came to this country shortly after its founding and settled in Connecticut. They shortened the family name to Miller and decided to venture west. They settled near the village of Plato, founded in the 1820′s, which was later renamed Amherst. They began planting fruit trees and farming in the area known as the Fire Lands of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

(Following the American Revolution a broad stripe of western unsettled lands were given to Connecticut. These lands, in what would later become northern Ohio, were designated The Connecticut Western Reserve. The western part of the Western Reserve was given the name “Fire Lands” because the resale of this land was intended as financial restitution for residents of the Connecticut towns of Danbury, Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, and Ridgefield. Their homes had been burned in 1779 and 1781 by British forces during the American Revolutionary War. “Fire Lands” was later spelled as one word, ‘Firelands’.)

Roger said that his family were always great savers of the farm’s artifacts and he had 5 sets of harness hanging in the barn. They were last used about a hundred years ago when the family switched from horse drawn equipment to tractors. Generally harness needs to be oiled at least every couple years to remain supple, but the Miller harness is in surprisingly good shape for its age.

Roger allowed me to climb up in the loft in one of the barns, and there were many pieces of horse drawn field equipment, a horse and a half hit-or-miss engine, a great Victorian couch covered in leather, a sleigh hanging from the rafters (that had been there as long as Roger could remember), the local school house bell and much much more.

After we loaded the harness, we stood talking for a while. Every farm family has stories they have passed down and Roger had some good ones. Years ago the cattle herd got sick. They finally called the vet who also couldn’t figure what was wrong. The pasture was good, barn clean, no colds or virus, feed was fine, nothing was wrong. They finally checked the water trough. And it held, ….moon shine!

The family farmed so many acres of fruit trees, they kept hired help. One of the men turned out to be a “shiner”. He was stealing the farm corn and cooking it down to make liquor. Roger’s grand-dad was in the habit of checking the barn animals the last thing every night. He’d make sure the lights were out, the doors shut and that all was well with man and beast. But he always felt like “something” was watching him on his rounds.

As it happened, there was. Men from local farms were showing up at his barn, after he had turned in for the night, to pick up their jolt of booze. Once the cow “water” was discovered, the family put two and two together. Grandma remembered seeing a man standing behind a tree after dark one night. Roger’s dad (then a boy) said he had been surprised one night when he came home late from school one evening and saw too many men at the barn and grand-dad recalled how doors he had shut, mysteriously opened by morning. And so the business of their enterprising hired man came to an end. —The unfortunate help later hung himself in the same barn. The family thought it may have been in despair at the loss of his “extra income”, or, more likely, the result of drinking a bad batch of his own miss made hooch.

The harness we received from Mr. Miller is, naturally, of the older style. Until fairly recently all harness was made of leather. In the last couple decades neoprene harness has come into use, especially among the english and some more “modern” Amish. (Neoprene is sort of an all weather “plastic” material that is very tough and requires no oiling.) The museum has two sets of heavy, draft horse, leather harness that was used many years ago on the King Farm in Hinckley and the five sets of Miller harness. We also have a set of road horse buggy harness purchased at an Amish harness shop south of Kidron in Holmes County. Leather harness must be oiled with neats foot oil as required (with heavy use as often once a year). Most harness shops have a large wire basket suspended from the ceiling by a cord and pulley. The harness is loaded in the basket and lowered into a large oil filled vat or barrel and the leather is allowed to soak for several hours. The basket is then raised and the harness drips dry for a couple days.

 

The Museum’s Buggies, Wagons & Sleighs

 

The Museum has a growing collection of buggies and wagons. 110+ years ago horses, harness and wooden wheels formed the backbone of American transportation. Folks also occasionally used bicycles, but the few bikes were little used beyond the paved streets of the cities. Dirt roads were just too rutted and rough. (The first mechanically driven velocipede is believed to have been invented in 1839, with bikes similar to the ones used today coming into use about 1880.) So your non shoe leather summer choice was buggy or wagon and, depending how much snow there was, sleighs for winter use.

Many small towns had buggy building or repair shops. In Bath, Summit Co. Oh. the Jaeger Buggy Shop stood at the corner of Ghent & Ira Rds. The Jaeger Hse. was moved to the nearby Hale Homestead, while the buggy shop is gone. The MWRF&E has two buggies that were donated to the museum quite some time ago by an antique dealer in Bath, who had kept them for many years after she purchased them in Bath. The buggies no longer have their makers tags on them, but they are both very consistent with known buggies made at the Jaeger Works.

Richfield Twp. was home of the Carr Carriage Shop. The building, that stood to the north side of Richfield Tavern on Broadview Rd. still exists (sort of). When the shop went out of business the building was cut in two and each half was rotated 90* to face the road. The halves were then remodeled to become homes (It’s a dream of the museum to some day purchase and “reassemble” and restore the two houses into the Carr Shop). The Carr Carriage Shop was quite famous in its day for building high quality buggies. People traveled from as far as Toledo (a long, long way in the day of horse drawn trips) to purchase their buggies. The only remaining artifact from the Carr is a cupboard now at the museum.

In Loyal Oak stood the McLaughlin Wagon Repair Shop near the intersection of Cleveland-Massillon Rd. (old 21) and Rte. 261. The McLaughlin family owned a fair amount of land in the Loyal Oak area before the turn of the century. Every time one of the sons got married or wanted to start their own business, the patriarch would give the son some land. One of the boys wanted to start a wagon repair business, in part because there was a major stagecoach stop at the corner of 261 & 21. The son built a shop/barn and operated a successful business until the advent of automobiles. He then, reportedly, shut the door, put a lock on it and the land reverted to the family.

Years later a Loyal Oak resident bought the barn and moved it to his property along 261, east of 21 and turned it into a cattle “shed”. He donated a number of items left in the old shop to the museum. They included wheel brakes, axles, the wood stairs to the second floor and several tools and wheels. These items can be seen in the museum’s wagon repair shop, now located in the former Lloyd Davis barn which was moved to the museum from Richfield Twp.

The owner of the McLaughlin barn still has the overhead windlass, that hung in the barn, which was used to lift wagon bodies off the axles when repairing any undercarriage parts. We hope to someday add the windlass to the museum collection.

A very heavy delivery wagon from the Massillon Rd. Grocery Market is presently stored in the wagon repair shop. It was donated to the museum by a gentleman who bought it at auction years ago when the market closed its doors. He had kept it for years parked in his garage. His wife finally said she was tired of parking her car outside in the snow and the wagon had to go. We are lucky to have it.

The Schectner Grocery Delivery Cart was donated to the museum by Mrs. Caulfield, locally well known horse woman and daughter of the Caulfield Family (that at one time owned considerable shipping on Lake Erie). She remembered seeing the cart go flying down the roads of downtown Akron as the delivery boy hurried to deliver the day’s groceries to the store’s customers. There is an open area beneath the seat for the boxed groceries. (An interesting side note about the family is that at one time they owned farms on the ridges on either side of the valley that divides Medina & Summit Co’s. In front of each home stood a large anchor from the family’s ships. Before telephones, every morning a family member could stand at the anchors and wave to each other from across the several mile wide valley and know all was well.)

For many years the “Light Farm Wagon” stood in front of the Richfield Library. I always thought it particularly interesting because it was painted purple and grey. My family, on our fathers side, was Amish, so I have mostly always been around buggies & wagons painted black (much of that part of our family still lives in Holmes Co., Ohio). As can be noted with the Birch Run buggy, Light Wagon and “Jaeger” buggy, English (that is, anyone not Amish) tend to be much more “colorful” than Amish.

When the library building became the Richfield Senior Center, the Center’s director, Jan Weber, donated the wagon to the museum. No one remembers for certain what farm the buggy was used on, but it may have been the (now gone)  Johnson Farm on Broadview Rd. in Richfield.

The Wheatly Family farmed several hundred acres east & north of the intersection of Brecksville (old 21) & Wheatly Rds. The Wheatly’s raised cattle, horses, hay and other crops. The farm was eventually sold to the Stouffer Family (who later were of frozen food fame). Much of the farms equipment went with the sale of the farm, including the very tall and long farm wagon.

The horse drawn wagon was last used to carry the Richfield Garden Club ladies in the Richfield Sesquicentennial Parade in 1956. It then became owned by Mr. Pettigo who operated Richfield Automotive Garage in West Richfield. The wagon was parked in a barn on the Kluz Farm which had been sold to the Pettigo’s. Unfortunately over the next 5 decades the roof went off the building and the wagon suffered a fair amount of weather damage until it was rescued by the museum with the permission of Van Pettigo (Thank you Van). The museum intends to fully restore the wagon starting with the rebuilding of the wooden wagon wheels by an Amish friend who is a wheel wright.

Even though the farm is now gone to “urban development”, the family cemetery still slumbers across Wheatly Rd. from where the family home stood. The three houses and two barns were bulldozed. The museum was able to save the carriage building, four seater outhouse (people were more “friendly” back then), brick smoke house and very large cast iron kettle used to scald pigs and make maple syrup.

The museum has a number of sleighs in its collection. Before autos and snow plows, sleighs were used when winters snows were too deep for horses to pull wagons. The Porter family lived several miles north of West Richfield Center, on Broadview Rd. The last of the Porter daughters (now in her 80′s) recounted going to school by sleigh. It is remarkable how much our country has changed in just the lives of folks still living.

Even the Amish very rarely use sleighs these days because even if there is snow on the roads in the morning, it is always plowed by the (rather zealous) county road crews by afternoon. With the roads plowed and salted, folks driving sleighs simply find it impossible to make the trip home of an evening.

The Amish use a variety of carriages. One seaters are called buggies, two seaters are surries, a one seater with a bed behind the seat, for carrying livestock, groceries or any of the other requirements of daily life, are called hacks. Very light two wheel carts are for fast, easy on the horse, travel, usually to and from off farm work. The museum has 6 Amish buggies of various types.

 

more….

The One Room School Houses of Richfield & Osborn Corner’s Grange

 

At one time there were 12 one room school houses in Richfield Twp. For some presently unknown reason, there seems to be no school designated #11, but there was a school (according to a 1891 history) called the Special School located on (we think) the Huntley Farm on 303 in or near West Richfield Center. Of these 12 schools, it was thought that only two of them had survived to the most recent turn of the century, one at the corner of Boston Mill & Black Rds. and the other at 3091 Streetsboro Rd. (Rt. 303) near where I-271 now passes. But now another school has been “found”.

School Hse. #10 was (originally) located at Osborn’s Corners, at the corner of Everett Rd. and Medina Line Rd. At one time Ohio Revised Code stated that no student should have to walk more than 4 miles to school (which partly accounts for the large number of “neighborhood” one room schools). When the new centralized High School was built in 1864 (pic.6) in West Richfield (the building now being used as the Masonic Temple) it is believed that most of the one room schools closed. But because it is over 4 miles to either corner of the township, the Black Rd. and Everett Rd. schools remained open. It was only later when horse drawn school wagons began to pick up the kids that the last two one rooms closed.

School #10 (pic’s.2&3) then became a Grange Hall and School #5 (pic.1) passed into private ownership (as School #6 [pic.4] had earlier). No one (yet) knows how long the Grange continued to use the former school, but eventually the Grange moved and the building was acquired (probably) by the Osborn family. They moved it to their farm at 2484 Medina Line Rd. The farm was later owned by Pete Schrober, then, in 1963, by the Taucher family. The remaining 13 acres are now owned by Sandy (Taucher) Brubaker and her husband.

( ~~Update: Jan. 30, 2014. In talking to the Ohio State Grange Office we have learned that the Osborn Corner’s Grange #1079 was organized  Nov. 24, 1874 and closed 1930. We do not yet know which of those years the Grange resided in the “school house” but they will search their records and let us know what they find. They do have the roster of founders and the members when it closed and will send that information shortly.)

When the school/Grange building was moved it was “remodeled” to become a barn. It was raised 8′ in the air to create lower level ground floor animal stalls (the whole added lower level seen in pic. #2) and a dirt barn bridge was added at the west wall so equipment could be driven in to, and hay stored in, the “new” barn’s upper level (the schools old ground floor). The original doors were removed or sided over (the east door can still be seen from inside the barn). The interior plaster was also removed, but interestingly, the lathe and wainscoting was left and can also still be seen (pic.3).  The north and south windows are still in place. When the building was in use as a school it probably looked much like Bath School # 12 on Hametown Rd. (pic.5) or the Black Rd. School (pic.1).

The Osborn Corner’s one room school has now finished its history as a barn. The Brubaker family had decided to offer the school/barn to Richfield. They’ve asked the Richfield Historical Society if they would like to move and restore it (possibly in the center of town next door to the Old Town Hall). Or, if the Hist. Soc. is unable to save the building, Sandy has offered the old school to the Museum of Western Reserve Farms.

[For now, we very anxiously await the Society's decision on whether they can save the "Osborn" school. If they are not able to do so, we'd love to move & restore the school here at the museum, where it will be free to visit and open to the public. We would plan to restore it with one end as school and the other as Grange Hall. --We have already begun collecting Grange artifacts, with the possibility the Ohio Grange Headquarters may donate artifacts and mementos once the building is fully restored.]

A couple of stories we have been told about schools #5 & 10 include, … The Sabecki Family now owns the Black Rd. School House. Over the years its rather poorly laid foundation stones (large barn stones just set on the ground with no footer or mortar) have shifted. They are now putting in a proper foundation and replacing the floor joists and flooring and the “school” building, now residence, should last another 100 years. When Bill Sabecki’s dad, Walter, attended the school, he only spoke Polish. His classmates (now long gone) remembered him mostly only saying, “Wha”?, by which they thought he meant “What?”. Karl Knopp’s granddad, Elmer, went to the same #5 school until the “new” High School opened. Everyday he would come home from school to work on the farm, then every evening walk back to school the 3 miles across the fields to play basketball. Buzzy Davis told how his family, when he was quite young, lived near Camp Bradlow on Medina Line Rd. One October for a Halloween prank, some of the local boys “stole” one of the Davis’s buggies, disassembled it, and reassembled it on top of the  Osborn Corner’s School House.

The three Richfield schools are quite similar in size and shape. The Black Rd. School #5 measures 38’6″ X 28″5″. Osborn School #10 measures 34’5″ x 20’6″. The Streetsboro Rd. School #6, sometimes called the Schmidt School, has had additions added to every side, but you can still see the original structure peeking out from behind the many side rooms, porches and front solarium. The Bath School, the only area school restored (by Bath Historical Society) to its original use and look also has approximately the same size and shape. It measures 32’5″ x 24’5″ (with a side addition used as a cloak & supplies room). All are (or were originally) one story with low attics.

In these “modern” days of highly controlled school attendance policy of who may attend which school, it is interesting to remember that our forbearers often conducted their lives in much more sensible manner. Often “corner” schools, like the Osborn Corners & Boston Mill Rd. Schools, allowed students from nearby communities to attend the (out-of-district) corner school, if it was closer to their homes than their own community schools. This may have been particularly noticeable at the Osborn School where it is believed students from Richfield Twp., Bath Twp. (both in Summit Co.) and Medina Co. attended.

Note: -There is also one more one room school house that has been recently moved to Richfield. Several years ago the museum moved the Abbyville School from Medina County to the museum. The school is fully restored and functional as a school (we use it for homeschool classes). For more information about the Abbyville School, please scroll down the website for pictures and history.

Rendering Tallow

Hunting season having just concluded, several friends (most especially Glen) gave us a quite a bit of deer fat. We use the tallow produced from it in our daily cooking and when teaching classes in soap and candle making.

Simply place all the fat in a large kettle and slowly heat. Once all the fat is melted and the water moisture is rendered out, you can strain out any solids and you’re left with pure lipids.  Animal fats are naturally saturated, which are a healthy and affordable alternative to canola or other hydrogenated vegetable oils. These ‘good’ fats are essential for a properly functioning body. You can then keep the purified fat in a crock or other container and store in a cool place until ready to use to make candles, soap, salve, food preservation, waterproofing shoes or eating. It’s the only thing we use for frying foods, making pie crust, or roasting vegetables.

If you don’t happen to have deer fat available, locally you can purchase beef fat at Country Counter (now bought out to become a Giant Eagle store) or at any other grocery store. For smaller quantities you can cook the fat down on your kitchen stove in a regular sauce pan. Once it cools a bit so it won’t burn little fingers, you can allow the kids to dip candle wick (or plain string) in the rendered fat to make candles. It’s a fun winter (or summer) project.

(The directors of the museum are dedicated to the preserving of history and historic “artifacts” and the teaching of the skills of  how to use them. We believe in the using of those tools and methods in our own daily lives. In this way we seek to create a path to and knowledge of a more sustainable future.)

Barrel Making Shop

A couple years ago I received a call from Barbara Gynn, of Brecksville, Cuyahoga Co. She needed the roof fixed on one of her farm’s out-buildings. She called me because several years earlier I had fixed her brother Elton’s barn (He had asked Amish, local builders, contractors and others to fix it and no one could. –I did.). I told her I could fix her building, at her expense, or I could move the building at my cost. She was very on in years and just wanted the building saved, it didn’t matter where. Her family was old Brecksville and she didn’t want another building with so many memories to just fall away. When I first talked to her she was wheel chair bound, and when I finally got it moved, she was in nursing home.

I got it disassembled and several friends (Tom, Robert and Mendy) helped me load it and I got it home and back up. I called her family and they let her know just a day before she passed. I really regret I didn’t get it done while she was still to home, but at least she knew that it had been saved.

Mrs. Gynn’s feelings about her building is of the sort of circumstances that have happened often as I have gathered the museum. Another example is some years ago an old gentleman farmer gave me his hay loader. Nearly the last thing he did in life was to call me from hospital to make sure I had picked it up. I had. –He died (peacefully I was told) an hour later. Mr. Frazee, of Grangerburg, Medina Co., knew his time was coming. He called me to come pick up his equipment because he didn’t want to see it go to a scrap yard. The morning I went over to load his equipment he looked like something was terrible wrong. When I asked him , he admitted to having cried the night before (no small admission for a man of his generation) because losing his equipment meant he was losing a part of himself and his farm life was over. He passed not long after. –I have found that many old time farmers, who spent their lives on the land, care passionately about the tools, equipment, “antiques” and buildings that they spent their lives with their hands on.

So, now, the Gynn Farm outbuilding has become the museum’s barrel making shop. We have a complete set of tools for making or repairing any kind of barrel. We applied a fresh coat of ”Gynn yellow” paint to honor how the original owners had painted all their outbuildings. It makes a quite noticeable sight/site as you enter the museum.

“New” greenhouse

This past summer we built a “new” greenhouse on to the side of the Rev. Searle’s farm barn. It is modeled somewhat on the greenhouse at Zoar Village, which was established in 1817 by German Separatists. Both greenhouses have long, vertical, south facing walls of glass, with 4″x6″ wood posts between the sections of glass (we sawed the red oak posts and roof boards in the museum sawmill). They both also share solid wood roofs and plant benches along the front and rear walls.

For our building we used 40″x 6′ wood greenhouse glass frames with overlapping panes of glass. Since there are no mullion strips, the water runs right down the glass wall and there is no wood to rot. The panels I used were donated to the museum some 20 years ago by a group of friends who salvaged them from historic greenhouses that had been taken down in Kent, Ohio.

Also displayed in the greenhouse is our large collection of whirly-gigs and weather vanes. The wind pointers were collected from various farms in the area. The one we are most happy to have used to point the way from atop the “Babes Apple’s” barn at the corner of Hawkins & Broadview Rds. in Richfield Twp. (That barn and the business it housed are now long gone, but we did manage to save the signs, many apple and peach crates, the ammonia pump and several of the foundation stones.) We also use the greenhouse to display the large collection of handmade bird houses and squirrel & bird feeders that we sell.

We look forward to growing many herbs and heritage vegetable plants in the new museum greenhouse this year.

Newest addition to our buildings.

This week we were given the Darrowville Post Office. Darrowville was a small town located between Hudson and Stow, in Summit Co. Most of the major business buildings were along Darrow Rd,. which is now generally called Rt. 91. When 91 was widened some years ago many of the large old trees were cut down and many of the houses and other buildings were lost. Fortunately, the post office was moved farther back off the road and became an antique and used book store.

The Post Office now resides on the property of Empire Auto. The car dealership has decided to expand their parking lot so the building must go by this Spring. They had many (some quite lucrative) offers to purchase & move the building, but again very fortunately the owner, Chris Bokash, decided that moving the historic building to the museum was most important.

We’ll put in the new foundation for the building here at the museum. Then when we’re ready for the move we plan on removing the roof, rafters and end peaks, then we’ll jack up the building and back a trailer under it. And off down 303 we’ll go, …some early morning when there is little traffic.

At this point we are unsure how the building will be used. As much as we are able we restore buildings to their original use and look. But since the museum already displays the fully restored and equipped Randolph Post Office, we may decide the Darrowville P.O. has a different destiny. Presently one possibility is to locate the Blaine-Stewart Cigar Store (and factory) in the Darrowville building. We will, of course, affix a plaque to the building memorializing its history if we should use it for any other purpose than its original use.

P.S. We are very grateful to Chris. He’s a great guy. If you need a used or new car, we suggest you give Empire Auto a call. …And to those so inclined, we could certainly use some volunteer help in moving and restoring this historic building (or any other we save in the future).

UPDATE:  6/27  The Post Office is now home to the museum. The foundation is in and the back half of the building is set down on it. The front of the building will shortly join it and then the roof will be put back on. When finished, present plans for the building is for it to house the Blaine Stewart cigar Factory.

Museum Displays at the Richfield Library

For a number of years, the Museum has been placing displays at the Richfield Library showcase. The one month displays have included “Weathervanes and Whirligigs”, “Organic Gardening”, “Quilts”, “Dolls and Toys”, “The Doctor is In”, “A Victorian Christmas”, “Wash Day”, “Food Preservation”, “Winter Crafts”, and more. These displays can be seen as you first walk in the library’s main entrance.
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John Casto Print Shop

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                                                                                                                          Photos by Arlan Heiser

John Casto was the head printer at Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron. Continue reading

The Highjack House and Farm

Highjack House

                                                                  Photo by Arlan Heiser  (Picture taken with infrared camera.)

The last murder committed in Summit Co. for which the perpetrator was hung, was done in the Highjack House.

Continue reading

Pittenger Sawmill

Sawmill sign.jpg  Photo by Arlan Heiser

I went for a walk in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park one day. I am told that there are over a thousand Indian sites (mounds, camps, villages, ceremonial places and more) within the area now part of the park. I was dowsing for a mound that was supposed to be somewhere in the woods near Wetmore Rd. Continue reading