19th and early 20th century Ohioans lived in a time of few conveniences. Fewer than 10 percent of the farms in the U.S. had electricity in 1935 and only 30 percent had telephones in 1950. Work was done by steam and gas engines, horses, and by hand. Candles or gas and oil lamps provided light. Clothes were made from homespun and woven cloth. It was a time of trades and craftsman who created, in their small shops, many of the often artful necessities of daily living. A few people alive today still remember the first cars and planes, first paved roads, the advent of indoor plumbing and the ring of the blacksmith hammer. But most of us have never seen, and even fewer know, how to cast a spoon, make a barrel or weave a basket.
The Museum of Western Reserve Farms and Equipment is seeking to preserve the tools, machines, knowledge, abilities and stories of the master tradesmen and women who are no longer among us. On our fifty-eight acres, located in Richfield, Ohio, we are collecting the equipment used by every trade typically found in a small community of 150 years ago. These include woodworking, pewter casting, candle, soap, barrel, basket, broom, wheel and harness making and more. We have, so far, collected 40 historical buildings to house the various shops including the Eastwood/Rooy slaughter house, Garman Barn, Pittenger Saw Mill, Stouffer Smoke House, Hotz Blacksmith Shop, Granger Barn, Karasec Barn, Randolph Post Office, Abbyville School and Davis Barn and many more. We also have the Blaine Stewart Cigar Shop, the last operating cigar factory in Ohio, a cider mill, weaving mill, ice house, bee keeping, dairy herd, chickens and turkeys, the Casto Letter Press Print Shop and a tin shop. We are moving an average of 5 buildings a year to the farm museum. We have three more buildings to move this summer of 2014. And five to finish restoring. We are also creating 4 new gardens, including two berry gardens featuring lingon berries, blueberries, black & red and yellow raspberries, blackberries, elderberries and goose berries.
We need your help. We are seeking to preserve the tools of the past. We are working to save the skills that built our state and save the historic buildings that are so fast disappearing. We need donations of tools, artifacts, furniture, “antiques” of all kinds. We need help in the reconstruction of the saved buildings. We need you to practice a trade, demonstrate it to others and pass it on. We need ideas and inspiration.—And, of course, financial help.
Some of us have worked at other museums and historical societies. Red tape, bureaucracies and bosses often bind them. The Museum of Western Reserve Farms and Equipment is free of such constraints. We are a group of people coming together to save history, learn skills, have fun and create art.
Please come and join us.
Donations of money, time and goods are welcome and needed soon to save the latest building.
The museum is located at Stone Garden Farm & Village. The farm has been home to the Fry family for the past fifty five years. Before the Fry’s, the farm consisted of 150 acres, 3 houses, 2 barns, several outbuildings and a large two-story chicken coop. Julia and Howard Garman lived in the Victorian house; Ted, their son, lived in the oldest house (now about 200 years old); and their son Charles lived in the middle house, built just after the War Between the States. Their names can still be seen carved into the stones of the bridge of the main barn.
When Bill, Nancy, Michelle and Jim Fry were young, they tended the chickens and sheep with their mother, Frieda. The family had a regular egg route, and the wool was taken to Rastentater Wool Mill in Holmes County. They also spent time in the summers with their father, Judge Logan Fry, and occasionally with their oldest sister, Beverly, and her husband Carl, trimming and caring for their acres of Christmas trees. Every December for the past 43 years has been an enjoyable time of selling beautiful Christmas trees to happy families.
Jim, the family member most like the family’s Amish great-grandfather, has lived in the middle farm house for the past 35 years. He has farmed a variety of crops, including field corn, oats and hay, had one of the largest polled Hereford herds in Summit County, grew and sold retail Christmas trees and pumpkins, and had the largest organic produce gardens in Northeast Ohio. Presently, Jim maintains a large flock of rare breed chickens and turkeys, milks La Mancha goats, boards horses, sells eggs, maple syrup, honey, and his “rusty” metal art work. And, of course, he continues the family tradition of purveying Christmas trees and pumpkins.
On any given day, you might see (or even be able to help with), the usual daily animal husbandry chores, work on any of the various museum trades (most commonly blacksmithing and woodworking), a variety of tractor work, and work on several new museum buildings.
The farm has two cabins for overnight (or longer) stays, and there is also tent camping available. Occasionally, the very large teepee is put up by special request.