Christmas on the Farm is a fun and intriguing snapshot of the holiday season on an 1880’s Michigan farm at the Waterloo Area Farm Museum.
Waterloo Area Farm Museum and Dewey School Museum
Tucked away in the rolling landscape of Jackson County near Waterloo Village is the Waterloo Area Farm Museum, located at 9998 Waterloo-Munith Road. The museum celebrates the Michigan pioneer farmers. In particular the farm founded in 1844 by Johannes Ruehle and his family. Three miles to the north you will also find the Dewey School Museum. This lovely one room schoolhouse held classes from the mid-1800’s until 1956. Both of the historical treasures are kept in working order by the Waterloo Area Historical Society.
Waterloo Area Historical Society
The Waterloo Area Historical Society (WAHS) is a volunteer organization founded in 1962. They began with efforts to save the historic farm from being torn down. Today the society keeps local history alive and maintains the farm and schoolhouse. The Waterloo Area Farm Museum is open 1p to 5pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at the beginning of June and running through September.
In addition to their normal hours, the WAHS host several events to engage the public with re-enactments of life on the farm. These events include Blacksmith’s day in late June, Antique tractor day in early August, Pioneer day in mid-October, and Christmas on the Farm in early December. Each event provides visitors with an immersive experience. Sort of like a visit to Greenfield Village, yet on a farm.
We visited the Waterloo Area Farm Museum in the spring when Mark Twain was visiting. The unique ambience of the farm combined with the passion of the WAHS volunteers drew us in. Seeing the dedication to keeping this slice of Michigan history vibrant provided more than enough incentive to come back for Christmas on the Farm.
Christmas on the Farm
Christmas on the Farm, offers tours of the 10 room farmhouse and a peek into a working blacksmith, the log home, ice house, and milk house. The gift shop, ice house and woodshed are loaded with assorted gifts and homemade holiday wreaths.
Farm House tour
We got our tour of the farmhouse started in reverse order, but it would have been how the family would have entered the house; from the woodshed. They would store wood in the house here. Today it held candies, soup kits, and assorted goodies.
Kitchen and Pantry
Inside the kitchen, volunteers were making dinner on the old cast iron stove and shredding cabbage to make into kraut. The food smelled wonderful. You have to marvel at how our ancestors made use of small spaces.
Moving from the kitchen, you enter the pantry. The size of this room speaks to the prosperity of the Realy family. They Americanized their name when their son enlisted in the Army during the civil war. We learned about all sorts of early kitchen devices and a very unique mousetrap.
Dining room and Parlor
In the dinning room, we found a festive Christmas dinner display and Mike Evans performing old time American and Celtic songs on a banjo. Mike has an excellent voice and his playing was delightful. He provided a bit of history about how the banjo originated with African Americans and eventually became a mainstay in Irish American folk music.
The parlor was used for special occasions such as wedding, funerals, and visits with guests. Here we found women sewing amongst a variety of outstanding antiques. The flood of light from outside gave this room a cheerful glow.
Weaving and Mary’s Room
Today we are a pampered with clothes we buy off the shelf. Back in the late 1800’s you had to be resourceful and make your own clothes. The Weaving room has a functioning loom. A live demonstration of rug making testified to the skill and hard work needed to survive on a Michigan farm.
Mary’s room is an example of a small bedroom where the family would provide housing for a traveling seamstress or the local schoolteacher. In the days of one-room schoolhouses, the teachers were unmarried women and the local community would take turns providing a room.
The upstairs of the house contains bedrooms with displays of where the children slept, the clothes that the family may have worn, and the stash of hidden treasures stowed away in the attic. You know, that crazy old attic where you hope to find a gem to take to Antique Roadshow. In our case, we found in the attic the Pioneer Poet, Will Carleton.
Christmas on the Farm is just one of the several exceptional events that you can find at the Waterloo Area Farm Museum and Dewey School Museum. If you are interested in learning more or better yet being a part of the historical society, stop by their website. In the meanwhile, we have a gallery of our spring visit as well as our Christmas visit for you to enjoy
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