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Rural Heritage Museum opens at Ag Center

May 14, 2001

Rural Heritage Museum opens at Ag Center


All parents should take their children to the newly dedicated Washington County Rural Heritage Museum to see what farming was like in Washington County at the turn of the 20th century, says Leon Thomas, a Hagerstown collector of farm toys.

The museum contains a complete old-time general store and many other displays including wagons, buggies, sleighs and plows used by local pioneer ancestors and displays of farm implements and tools. The Keedysville Post Office, as it was in 1917, is also in the museum.

The museum was dedicated Saturday during a daylong celebration at the county Agricultural Education Center off Sharpsburg Pike, south of Hagerstown. There was also a dog show, an antique car show, a tractor pull and farm demonstrations.


"I think it's very nice," Thomas said after touring the museum. "It is something the county has needed for a long, long time."

Without the museum, it's possible that within 20 or 30 years nobody living in Washington County would really know what farming was like around the turn of the century, he said. The museum can help people get a glimpse of that life, and the more people who see it, the better, he said.

"I think it's great," said Kathy Eckstine of Hagerstown.

She thinks residents of cities such as Baltimore should visit the museum to learn about farming in Washington County.

Her son, Chris, 14, said: "I like it. It shows modern farmers how they used to do it back then."

Thomas can recall going into a general store where there would be farmers spitting tobacco and telling stories.

The general store at the museum doesn't have any real farmers, but it has many items that would be around them in typical general stores. There is an 1888 cash register, a phonograph, two types of butter churns, types of medications that were sold, two scales, a cashbook with accounts from 1913 and 1914, a cracker barrel, bottles and other items.

Many of the artifacts in the museum were loaned by the Washington County Historical Society.

Former Washington County Commissioner John Shank said he is pleased the museum has opened. He has worked, both while a commissioner and after he was off the board, since 1994 to get the center developed.

He has worked for about a year on getting the museum built.

The museum was built with state, county and private funding.

The next big project at the Ag Education Center will be a rural living history village, complete with an old barber shop, farmhouse, hog pen and other facilities, said Frank Artz, vice chairman of the Rural Museum Board.

The Rural Heritage Museum's hours will be 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It won't be open on weekdays, at least initially, Artz said.

The museum also contains a gift shop selling farm-related items that were used around the turn of the century. The items range from string holders to crocks and pottery to reproductions of war plaques, said Marjorie S. Peters, who runs the gift shop.

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