Thursday, September 15, 2011

This post isn't about my family history, but it is history. I went to the Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum in the Thumb of Michigan. They were having their Family Days fall festival, with lots of exhibit, docents explaining everything, crafts for sale, and a farmer's breakfast for $6. It was great fun. Part of the appeal for me is that the house was built about 1915 and the barn in the early 1920's. The farming era covered by the museum includes the period of change from steam power to locally produced electricity to rural electrification. It was most interesting to see early electrical appliances, such as a GE refrigerator with the compressor on the top, and an early electric range. The house was built late enough to have running water, upstairs and downstairs baths. The owner, James Purdy, owned the local bank and a lumber yard - he was well off, especially during the depression.
Agricultural equipment includes corn shellers, a two-man barrel lifter, a sock knitter (not ag, I know), bean sorters, etc. Many tractors and steam engines were on display. The most interesting was the rural electrification video and display. They have an old video about rural electrification, promoting the program. The Thumb farmers were very early adopters. Soon after the passage of the Rural Electrification program (a New Deal program during the depression), Thumb farmers applied for funds, and built a power plant at Ubly. They had to raise poles, run wires and everything. It was generally a remote area at the time. The Thumb of Michigan is veritable vegetable basket. In addition to corn, soybeans, and wheat; they grow cucumbers, dry beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and melons. You can get vine fresh tomatoes, just picked corn, or fresh potatoes at roadside stands in late summer.

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