Collection grows at Buckeye Agricultural Museum and Education Center

Collection grows at Buckeye Agricultural Museum and Education Center

Image Credit: Mike Plant

Persistence, patience and some heavy lifting have turned dreams into realities for the Buckeye Agricultural Museum and Education Center in Wooster.

Operated by Friends of Wayne County Fair, the museum is seeing its mission to preserve and teach agricultural history take shape as its collection grows. A fourth gallery added this past summer is the core section of one of the oldest barns in Ohio.

A team from the museum and an Amish crew rebuilt the Billman-Buchholz barn, log by log and piece by piece, in the museum this past summer.

“We now call it the oldest Ohio barn in captivity,” said museum curator Paul Locher, who played a key role in securing the two-story bank barn that once sat on the site of Wooster High School and Follis Field. “It was worth waiting 31 years for.”

David Billman of Washington County, Pennsylvania built the barn from 1814-15 and later sold it to James and Mildred Buchholz. Wooster City Schools purchased the land from the Buchholz family in 1992. Before the district could clear the land for the construction of the high school, Locher visited the barn and discovered it was in good enough condition to save.

Wayne County Fair board members and volunteers spent several days unstacking the 250 logs and loading them into trailers for transport, a move that happened a couple more times before the barn’s pieces wound up in a shed at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

“Each one of those moves involved dozens of workers and numerous trucks, cranes and skid loaders and a whole lot of sweat and blood,” according to a museum sign detailing the history.

The barn’s pieces were removed from a storage barn at the Wayne County Home just prior to a fire that destroyed that structure.

“All parties persisted in seeing the dream (for the barn) through, and now it will serve as an educational tool,” Locher said.

From the historical aspect of early Ohio history, he said, the barn tells the story of what it was like to build a structure of its kind in that time period.

After Billman purchased his land from the U.S. government in 1814, he likely spent the first year clearing the land to build a shelter that would become the nucleus of a developing farm. Evidence suggests Billman and his party worked through the summer 1814 to cut trees and construct the left side of the crib barn. He and his family probably remained on the property, living in primitive conditions — possibly along with animals — in a portion of that crib, and his crew continued to cut trees and hew them into beams and building materials for the right side of the barn.

Over the years the barn would house livestock, grain, hay and potatoes.

Locher devised the code for reassembling the barn. Without the code a museum sign reads, “The logs would have been just random pieces in an impossible-to-assemble jigsaw puzzle.” Some of Locher’s original cardboard and aluminum tags on the logs have been included in the barn’s exhibit.

Beams, joists, flooring and other early materials harvested from the original structure have been reused throughout the museum, which traces the development of Ohio agriculture from 1800 through World War II.

“Our desire is to make young people realize how hard our ancestors had to work to settle the land,” said Ron Grosjean, museum board president and retired Wayne County Fair board member.

Pioneer-era hand tools of all types are among the thousands of agricultural artifacts on display. Horse-drawn equipment includes an original Conestoga wagon, a doctor’s buggy and a one-row corn planter. Other highlights include early corn shellers, a Huber tractor, Champion threshing machine built in Orrville and a 1923 Russell Steam Engine built in Massillon. The exhibits also display early equipment used in dairy and poultry production and ice harvesting, as well as original cheese-making and fruit-processing equipment used by Jerome Smucker, founder of the J.M. Smucker Co. in Orrville.

Also featured are local artist Vivian Wolf’s original paintings used for the covers of the Wayne County Fair books and signs from early Wayne County agricultural businesses.

“It’s a living museum,” board member Bob Troutman said. “You’ll never finish.”

Now that the museum has its collection in place, Locher said, it will focus on educational efforts.

With the help of educational consultants, Friends of the Wayne County Fair are working on lesson plans in hopes of bringing fourth-grade students to the museum for field trips in conjunction with their studies on Ohio history.

Grant money is being used to update technology to make each exhibit more interactive and provide audio walking tours.

Seeing all the pieces for the museum come together has made the journey worthwhile for its supporters.

“We’ve been dreaming about this for 30 years,” Grosjean said. “A lot of older fair board members who have since passed away had their heart and soul in this. It’s neat to see it happen.”

The museum is located across from the fairgrounds at 877 W. Old Lincolnway and is open the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is a $5 donation per individual or $15 for a family. Appointments also can be made for visits outside of regular hours by calling 330-845-2825.