The history of farm life from 1710 onward was recalled this past summer at the Hans Herr House, oldest building in Lancaster County, PA, and oldest Mennonite meetinghouse in North America.
Mennonites were farming the land in Lancaster County while it was still part of Chester County. They formed the first permanent settlement in this fertile area, and some of their descendants are still active in agriculture.
Old machines were part of the action on Heritage Day in August, 1987. B. Snavely Garber, who lives near the Hans Herr House south of Lancaster, had cut oats before the event using an old McCormick binder. Farmers in Lancaster County were among McCormick's first customers when he was making his mechanical breakthroughs in Virginia. Garber demonstrated the way the binder works to the crowds attending Heritage Day.
A Frick traction engine, and a Frick thresher, were in their full glory on Heritage Day. Frick machinery had a strong following in Lancaster County because of the connection with Frick and the Landis brothers, all Lancaster County natives who moved to Waynesboro, PA to make engine history.
Steve Friesen, director of the Herr House museum, has made an extensive study of Mennonite rural life under a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. He works with member committees and volunteers to prepare events such as Heritage Day.
The day's activities in 1987 were geared to show adults and children alike what had been going on at the farm for over 270 years.
Oxen pulled plows to demonstrate the pre-industrial manner in which the soil was made ready to receive seed. Primitive tools and implements were shown. A craftsman exhibited the way his father and grandfather had carved hay forks from the branches of trees. Home occupations and crafts of many kinds were shown, including butter making, soap making, quilting and making of wheels for wagons. Horses and gas engines were part of the day's story.
The event is an annual observance, with different themes. For further information, write to Steve Friesen, Hans Herr House, 1849 Hans Herr Drive, Willow Street, PA 17584.