Monday, June 18, 2012

Excursion to the 19th Century

 Eighteen of us piled into four vehicles and made the drive from Ouabache State Park to Berne, a distance of perhaps 18 miles.  We arrived at the Swiss Heritage Farm and Museum where we were treated to a tour of the premises and some interesting history.
This area was settled in the mid-nineteeth century by Swiss immigrants.  Not only is the first picture representative of transportation in earlier times, it is the primary mode of transportation yet today for those who adhere to certain of the Amish traditions.
In the museum there was a chart in time-line form delineating the history of the Mennonite, Amish and Brethern sects.  This particularly fascinated me as I have long known just enough about the history of these Believers to be void of a clear understanding of the development of the traditions.  Over the years there have been numerous splits and  mergers of the various conferences but they all have a common heritage, their roots in Swiss history.
The magnificent red barn on the property was not built where it now sits, but was moved-- imagine that-- moved, not dismantled, from its original site some miles distant.  The interior is most impressive and one gets the sense that this thing was built to withstand the ravages of time.
Our visit to the schoolhouse resulted in a "lesson" from Miss Charlotte who gave us a brief history of the development of education in the Northwest Territory.  A section in each township was set aside for the support of a public school.  While school attendance was not mandatory, it was the law in the territory that each child must have the opportunity for a public education.  Many of us in the classroom were retired teachers, and for us this was a review of some things we had already learned. 
The farmhouse, like the barn, was built to last.  Those timbers used in the construction will still be solid at the resurrection of the saints.  I photographed the ceiling in the kitchen, shown here, because it exemplifies the handiwork of these pioneers.  Remember, no power tools, and all the lumber started out as standing trees on the farm.  The garden was in the front yard of the home, because it was the pride and joy of the occupants who depended on it for sustenance and hundreds of quarts of produce were canned every summer to tide them over the winter.  (Just as it was at home when I was a kid.)
Finally, a most impressive stop next to the apple orchard.  Here was the cider mill.  On our way over BBBH said, Oh, I've seen cider presses.  Indeed.  But we had never seen one like this, which is said to be the largest cider press in the world.  The principal beam shown here weighs well over four thousand pounds.  The screw was carved, by hand of course, from a single log. 
Enlightening tour, fun day.


Shelly said...

That is fascinating and something right up my alley. I love visiting places like that, and especially old schoolhouses. We are leaving for a conference in the morning and I'm sure my fellow teachers and I will not learn nearly as much as I've learned from this informative post.

Lin said...

Looks like a great day! I love visiting places like that to see how they did things a long time ago. Isn't it amazing the craftsmanship? And we think we have "improved" on everything!

vanilla said...

Shelly, hope your conference is a good experience. Usually there is at least one tidbit that is worth garnering. :-) It will be a different day.

Lin, pride of workmanship. Just thinking of those old farmers 150 years ago making those boards with an adze and jack plane leaves me in awe of their patience and skill.

Chuck said...

Very interesting post indeed. Sylvia and I both trace our ancestry to Swiss Mennonites.

Vee said...

Interesting! While admiring the simple way of life of these people, I enjoy the conveniences of my life too much to want to live as they did (and in the cases of some, still do).

vanilla said...

Chuck, I'm glad you found the tour interesting. My best friend Wes who is gone now, surname Reiff, came from Swiss Mennonite background.

Vee, yeah; our "social networking" would have to be actual face-to-face interactions with others. ;-)

Sharkbytes said...

I love places like this. This is Berne, Indiana?