I've been going to auctions since I was a little girl, but I've never been to an auction quite like the one we attended Saturday, and I never expect to see another one like it in my lifetime. The newspaper listed a Copperclad wood cook stove and since this is one of the items that we need, we wanted to attend. I spoke with the auctioneer and he said that I could come look at the stove on Thursday forenoon. When I arrived, after traversing a mile long driveway that resembled a cowpath more than anything else, I looked the stove over and decided that so hideously ugly a contraption couldn't possibly reside with us. However, also listed were some cast iron cauldrons and a copper cauldron, so I went to look at those. The elderly lady then showed me through the house and that's when I learned the unique history of this farm. The farm has been in her husband's family since the first decade of the 1800's when Christian Zurcher immigrated from Switzerland. When he bought the farm the house was already standing, though it was only a log cabin then. Karl, who is 82, is one of 4 people who jointly own the farm today; he is only the third generation since the original Christian first bought it. That does work out, but only if fathers were still siring children when fairly old. ;-) So, the farm has been in the same family for 200 hundred years; apparently somewhere around 1940 the family decided that enough progress had come and they never updated the house afterwards. One of Karl's sisters had lived in the house until her death 2 years ago, she was still canning on a wood stove. By the way, these weren't Amish people or of any religious persuasion that might account for the details that I am going to relate.
Now, for the most interesting part. I have never, ever, seen a farm with so many original tools and artifacts. When they quit farming with horses, they hung the harness in the tack room, and there it still was on sale day. When feed stopped arriving in burlap sacks with the elevator's name printed on the side, they bundled them together in the granary and there they still were on sale day. When they quit molding their own candles they put the candlemold safely away, along with crocks of all descriptions, cast iron, copper kettles, the original dry sink, Hoosier cupboard, wash stands.......... This family seemingly knew the value, not the cost but the value, that these items had. You've heard of people that know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, I presume? This family was the antithesis of that belief. They didn't hoard junk but only treasured artifacts. Now, if my possessions were to be auctioned there are a fair number of antiques, but only because they were acquired, they haven't been passed to me intact through 200 years of family history.
All of the original buildings were there: along with the bank barn, chicken house, pig barn, sheep barn, honey house, tool shed, harness room, and granary, were the smokehouse, icehouse and backhouse. There was farm machinery that hasn't been in common usage for a hundred years, tools that I've never seen outside of a museum.