Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Taste of Family History

     I recently posted a picture of a "beyond cool piece of [The Mr.'s] family history" on my personal Facebook page, and asked our friends and family to take a gander at what they thought it might be without any additional hints or descriptions.  We got some pretty fun answers in response with a washing machine and bread dough trough ranking among the highest.  I will also admit the "giant mouse trap" and "bathtub for kittens and puppies" were rather inventive, but unequivocally wrong.  

     So we're left with the question that everyone now has, "What is it!?"

     It's a BUTTER CHURN!  The refinished churn still has bits of its original yellow paint clinging to the wooden cracks, and it also still rocks gently back and forth on its homemade stand (as the original one is no more).

     From dimensions and overall design, it's believed to be the Davis Swing (Butter) Churn No. 3, which was patented in 1877 by the Vermont Farm Machine Company. There were twelve available sizes in all, which ranged from 4-gallon capacity for at-home use to 300-gallon capacity that was suspended from the ceiling beams of creameries. This particular size (the No. 3) would have an 8-gallon capacity, and includes a glass peep-hole window in the top, and a drain hole on the bottom. With no paddles or plunger inside, the swinging motion of the whole churn back and forth would make the butter instead. To make the butter churning easier, a treadmill could be attached to the churn so sheep, goats, or dogs could act as the power instead of young children. A new churn in 1889 would cost around $8.00 from the company, a folding frame cost an additional $1.00, and the animal treadmill would be an additional $16.00.

Who Needs A Churn That Big? 

     Why a farm family of course, and on my husband's father's side they were all farm families!  This particular heirloom came from my husband's paternal grandmother's family.

     The Mr.'s Third Great Grandfather Moab H. Showalter (1853-1930) had moved to Washington County, Maryland around the spring of 1888 with his already expanding brood of eventually nine children.  Just a few years earlier, the local newspaper had already begun to run ads for the Davis Swing Churn, which was quickly becoming a labor and time saving device.  It would make sense that Moab, his son Amos Tobias (1885-1951), or Amos' son Paul Daniel (1920-2003) would find a use for such a butter churn on one of their farms.

     Moab owned two farms in Maryland, one being 110 acres and the other 120 acres, living in the area of Marsh Pike near Hagerstown, Maryland.  His son Amos would also eventually farm in the same area.   Although Amos mainly sold Stark Delicious, Grimes' Golden, Stark's Golden, Roman Beauties, Stayman, and Jonathan apples, Irish Cobbler potatoes, and oak lumber in the local classified ads, when he discontinued farming at the old Heilman Farm in 1936, he sold off 50 head of guernseys and cattle, at least fourteen of which were freshened at the time. By 1954, Amos' son Paul had the second highest producing dairy herd average in Washington County at 36.3lbs butterfat.  He also sold off "lots of old milk cans" when he rented his farm out in 1970.

     Until we get more clues from other relatives, any of these three men could easily have been the original owner of the Davis Swing Churn that Great Grandpa Paul had pulled out of the old pig pen on the farm and refinished.  Now, we plan to have it grace our own "farm kitchen."  

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