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.

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