MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Every county has something that tells its story, but in Ohio’s Knox County, it’s tough to beat the agricultural museum located on the county’s fairgrounds.
Open since 1984, the museum has undergone several expansion projects and now houses more than 5,000 items detailing farm and rural life for more than 150 years — mostly in Knox County.
“These are the kinds of things that belong in museums,” says committee member Richard Morey, as he shows a special exhibit — an indoor springhouse.
Lots to see
From antique tractors and attachments, a trashing machine, sewing machines and various kinds of antique home appliances, every wall and corner of the museum speaks of an earlier period.
At the very front of the museum is an old Centerburg Model T school bus made from wood and on spoke wheels. Morey attended Centurburg when he was a kid, but the bus pre-dates his years.
In fact, a growing number of exhibits pre-date him, and most of the members of the museum’s committee. It’s a fact of life that the county is changing, and so is the technology it uses.
But the walls of the museum house something its organizers hope will never be lost — the history of their county — their unique identity.
The building is organized into wings, based on when they were constructed. The main wing is the largest at nearly 200 feet long and features most of the farm exhibits.
Other additions were added in 1997 and 2008, to include a room dedicated to antique household furnishings and farm tools, and a room mostly dedicated to old sewing equipment.
Morey is one of a core group to have been involved with the museum since its start. He knows the exhibits very well and has even donated a few of his own.
He points to a large wooden half-barrel, which he said pioneers would have called a “hogshead.” Barrels of that side were transported on Conestoga wagons, a kind of wagon that actually was very popular in Ohio and Pennsylvania, having originated in Pennsylvania’s Conestoga Valley near Lancaster.
Lessons to learn
A Conestoga wagon is among the displays inside the museum, and despite what many viewers think, it’s bowed bottom was not designed for floating across rivers.
Instead, Morey said the curved bottom was a feature that helped keep cargo from shaking out of the wagon, causing it to shake toward the center, if anything.
Other displays include a horse-drawn hearse with coffins inside, butchering tools, a corn cutting sulky, a five-faucet shower, early laundry washing machines and early corn planters.
And the museum — as large as it is — is only one part of a bigger display.
Outside sits the Tiger Valley School House, restored a one-room school house that was located in eastern Knox County. It was dismantled and erected near the museum in 1993.
Then there’s the 1881 log house, which was moved to the display from the village of Gambier. It’s lower level is neatly displayed with a stove and sleeping quarters.
From the cabin, visitors can step outside to the spring house, built in 1850, and the smokehouse, built in the early 1900s.
Lastly, there’s a small building called the Hiawatha building — the last remaining structure of the Lake Hiawatha Park — a once-popular lake resort that occupied the current fairgrounds in the early 1900s.
The Knox County Agricultural Museum is open all days of the Knox County Fair, and during special events held at the fairgrounds. For more information, visit www.knoxcountyfair.org/agmuseum.htm.