Visit a farm museum this month
MUNCY – Even though development for the gas industry is all around, the Sones Farm and Home Museum keeps Muncy’s past with all its former industries in full perspective stored neatly on display inside a three story red 1860’s German Bank Barn that rests on the property located along John Brady Drive in Muncy Township.
Owners, Oliver and Mary Sones have devoted their lives to restoring and keeping the treasures from early decades by maintaining a visual history lesson for all to enjoy and remember.
For those who are too young to remember what it was like to farm before the 21st century, they can gain a great understanding of early years by experiencing first hand the early foundations of transportation, communications, medicine, preparing food, caring for animals, hunting for food and creating power. Both guided and self-guided tours are given to students and organizations by Oliver Sones himself, who started the museum 7 years ago with his wife Mary. Filled with private collections, including his own, three floors showcase antique furnishings, one of kind hand tools and memorabilia dating back to the 1700’s.
This month the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) held their regional meeting and auction at the Sones Farm and Home Museum for the first time. Formed in 1933, the purpose of the EAIA is to encourage the study of better understanding of early American industries in the home, in the shop, on the farm, and on the sea.
Many of the tools on display were made by hand and are now obsolete. The EAIA preserves them, puts them on exhibit and classifies them as to how they were used in early America.
Some of these tools are quite unusual depicting the lives of those we can’t identify within our current time. For example, EAIA member Bill McMillen from Glenmont, New York shows a shoe measuring stick, a straight hardwood piece well made back into the 18th century. McMillen said he started working in museum and building restoration work using old tools and trades as a hobby and has done extensive research on carpenters, tinsmiths and wheelwrights.
Many craftsmen, dealers and tool collectors attended the auction and display. “This is a chance for like industries to get together and share traditional crafts,tools and traditions,” said member Tom Graham. He points out a ‘spud’, a tool with a rare brace used for debarking trees, which is now done by machines. Patrick Renehan from Montoursville said that it’s difficult to find good tools today that aren’t imported.” Early American tools were made by hand from iron, steel, and hard wood.
Oliver Sones proves his point by holding up a horse measuring cane made in the late 1800’s and valued at $300. “This was used to see how many ‘hands’ high a horse was.” Sones has hundreds of reference books in his museum and enjoys looking through them to identify the uses of the tools and their time periods.
When entering the Barn and the museum, one of the first things to notice is an 1830’s ax from Mill Hall where it was made in the AXE Factories during the Civil War era. A primitive horse treadmill sits in the center on the first floor, and a working water wheel that powers a corn cob crusher gives a clear understanding and essence of the times. Railroad displays, a butter churn from 1887, Sprout Waldron’s payroll from 1899, a pea huller, logging saws, and old washing machines are just a few steps into a live history lesson.
Mary Sones has everything well labeled and helps with the research using some of their existing agricultural books dating back to the 1700’s. Two years ago, they received an award from the Philadelphia Society of Agriculture, the oldest agricultural society in the world, for starting the museum.
A few days after the EAIA meet, six 7th graders from a Communication’s Class at Muncy Jr./Sr. High School volunteered their time to come after school to view the Sones Farm and Home Museum in order to see how life was like on a heritage farm. “They had just read a novel about a group of kids who venture onto a heritage farm and run into an escaped convict,” said their instructor, Karen Shaffer. Shaffer and co-instructor, Cathy Henne brought the students to the museum and spent over two hours visiting the museum with Oliver and Mary Sones. They asked questions about the thrash machine, saw an old gas station and took pictures of the 1921 Model T Ford, the Conestoga Wagon, a 1903 Mail Sleigh and the Hurr’s Dairy Horse Wagon. They will be working on old history and writing projects for the next few weeks said Shaffer. The Sones thoroughly enjoyed sharing their old treasures with them and when he was asked how he knew so much, his wife Mary replied, “Mr. Sones worked on farms all his life. He reads a lot and about how things work.”
“You have a real treasure here in Muncy,” said Tom Graham from Wilkes Barre. Sones Farm and Home Museum is open to the public on weekends from May through October. Private tours are available by calling 546-6334.