Wilmer Wilcox loved to go to farm auctions and collect farm equipment and tools. One day his wife said to him, “What are you going to do with all of this?” And the Farm Museum in Troy was born. To preserve the agricultural history in the area, Wilcox, a Canton farmer, donated 900 pieces of farming artifacts to start the museum. It was built in the northeast corner of Alparon Park near the Mitchell House, which is now part of the Farm Museum and Historic Village complex.
The most important aspect of the farm museum is educating our youth about the farming past. There is a wealth of fascinating information to be learned there. Johann Dickerson, one of the museum’s volunteers had much to say about the history of farming in Bradford County, as well as how the museum works.
Dickerson said,” When I was a little girl, there were farms every five miles or so. Today there’re huge dairy farms. You have to be a huge dairy farmer to make a living at it.”
According to Dickerson, Bradford County was once known for the 3 B’s – buckwheat flour, butter, and the boys we sent off to war. During World War I Bradford County made 220,000 pounds of butter for the navy alone, which had to be produced and delivered between May 15th and August 15th 1909. Troy Creamery contracted this with the navy. Of course the real contract was with the cows!
The farm museum is run solely by volunteers who have even more wonderful stories to share. The average age of the volunteers is 60 to 100. Dickerson remarked that they would love some younger blood on their staff. Perhaps one of the 400 to 500 Bradford County 4th graders who visit the museum each spring will fit that ticket. Students learn a great deal from the volunteers at the museum and village.
There are two groups of tour guides. The women volunteers, Johann Dickerson, Melba Campbell and Bev Smith, give a tour of the village which includes the barber shop, school house, church, and the 1823 Mitchell House. The men volunteers take groups around the museum, sugar shack, and the carriage house. Martha Jean Wood has been responsible for organizing student tours and obtaining sponsors to pay their expenses. She has just retired and Barb Pulver will be taking her place.
Dickerson speaks fondly of the volunteers. “Ralph Knapp knows more about everything than anyone I know. He can tell the students about tractors or how to make soap. He’s here for us and helps with everything!”
George Wilcox was a farmer and is a wealth of knowledge. One day, when he was discussing horseshoes in the blacksmith shop, a student asked him, “What are we going to do when you are gone? Who’s going to tell us about all of this?”
Wilcox replied,” That’s why you’re here. So you can learn and take over.”
Marty Roloson is one of the friendliest guides at the museum. According to Dickerson he just beams as he shows people around. One visitor said of Roloson, “Marty is like a ten year old boy in a candy shop. You can tell he loves it here!”
All of the people who have had their hand in the making of and keeping up of the museum have put their heart and soul into it. It’s no wonder the museum is so well liked by visitors. During a bus tour from Pittsburgh last year, a gentleman said,” This is the best historical museum I’ve ever been in!”
Many people think they can walk into the farm museum, just zip through in twenty minutes and see everything. They end up spending two or three hours there. A tour group from Philadelphia was touring the Grand Canyon first, and then came to the farm museum. When their tour was over, a woman said to Dickerson,” The last thing I wanted to do was leave the canyon and come to a farm museum. I just love it! It was fantastic! I wish we had more time here!”
And the museum keeps growing. The current project for this year is to build a shop along the back side of the museum. They want it large enough for carriage repairs and general maintenance. The inside shop will be turned into a library.
The museum’s fundraising events include tea parties of all kinds held at the Mitchell House. But their biggest event of the year is coming up soon. The Troy Rotary Club works with the farm museum to put together the annual Pennsylvania Heritage Festival, which will take place this year on September 18 and 19. The rotary club sponsors “A Taste of Pennsylvania” which is a juried craft show in which everything has to be made or produced in Pennsylvania. Exhibitors will be set up in the grange and merchants buildings. There will also be musical entertainment and live demonstrations throughout the day in the historic village area. For more information about the festival contact Johann Dickerson at (570) 297-3371 or email www.paheritagefestival.org.
As Wilmer Wilcox wrote:
“These tools that grandpa used so long ago,
Are here displayed for all to see.
Come in and look around and join the show,
To understand what farm life used to be.”