According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin’s agricultural significance was first recognized in the 1840’s. At that time, for a span of about forty years, Wisconsin was known for its wheat production, earning the moniker ‘America’s Breadbasket’. Alas, cinch bugs, competition from other states and low yields forced wheat growers to transition to dairy production. Whatever the case, and whatever they produced, farmers in Wisconsin have had some serious influence in this state’s history. Needless to say, a historical museum highlighting farms would be a no-brainer. I visited one in the small town of Two Rivers today.
Last week, I wrote a post on museums that featured local traits. I was slightly disheartened, after sifting through past haunts, because I couldn’t include a spot that showcased local farm history. I mean, given the area, and the state’s nickname, dairy farming would be a can’t miss for such a category. Unfortunately, since I had never written about one, I didn’t feel comfortable including a farming museum in the post. So, today, I rectified that problem.
The Historical Farm Museum, my choice for today’s post, is located in a lakeside town known as Two Rivers, Wisconsin. And this particular place, a Two Rivers Historical Society attraction, avoids a ton of overhead-at least that’s how it sounds. The building is leased for a dollar a year, and is free to the public. However, they do ask for donations. And, considering this museum’s antique farm machinery, a donation seems almost mandatory.
The museum itself, with its exterior sporting red barn siding with white trim, is broken into two separate sections. Both portions, considering how different they are, score equally high on the my interest meter.
The first partition, holding wood sculptures which were crafted by a late local wood carver, gives a sense of farming past. There are replicas of tractor models, a barn scene, carvings of animals and even a man making a late night trip to an outhouse.
Beyond the sculptures lies the real deal. Tons of farming machinery, covering a few eras of Wisconsin agricultural history, fill the sizable room.
I found tractors,
a clover hauler….never heard of one? I was told it won an award at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. More importantly though, it reduced the price of clover.
Horse drawn instruments for conditioning soil and….
ones that fertilized it by spreading poop…. I know, they refer to it as manure.
Of course, you can’t forget about hand tools and blacksmithing.
When I’m done with my tour, I feel enlightened. Although I didn’t find much information about the commercial value of farming, what I did find, and I can almost imagine these instruments in use, was the grit, dedication, agonies and triumphs of past local farmers. It was spelled out for me by oxidized vestiges of sun up to sun down toils.