Norm McWater has been a collector since childhood. He had the foresight to rescue this cheese vat from going to scrap. He knew one day there would be an agricultural museum in Hastings County.
Many people have contributed to the development of the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage, now known as Farmtown Park and they each have a different story to tell.
Norm McWater has a long career as a cheese and butter maker, a dairy inspector and a bee keeper. He collected and donated many of artifacts in the Dairy Building at the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage. He played an important part in rescuing the Dutch Clock which has pride of place.
Pat Koch and her daughter, Linda Myrie, painted the impressive picture of horses plowing that hangs in the Tillage Building. They painted it for the International Plowing Match in 1986. There are two posters hanging on either side of the building, one is for the 1961 International Plowing Match in Belleville and the other for the 1985 International Plowing Match in Stirling. Two things came out to the International Plowing Match in Stirling: the Hastings Farm Show and Plowing Match and the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage. The first Hastings County Farm Show was held in 1989 in Sidney Township. It was at the Cooney Farm in Glen Ross, on the right side of the road going south from Sagers Corners. Harry Danford was Warden of Hastings County that year. During the 1990s Harry Danford was MPP for Hastings-Peterborough.
The original board of the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage included William (Bill) Sutherland, John Ray, Roger Barrett, James Thompson and George Sutherland. Roger Barrett, William Sutherland, John Ray and James Thompson were the guarantors of a loan from the Bank of Montreal signed on 31 March, 1999. They did not need to use the money as the finance committee raised enough from the community.
The first idea was to have the museum on Thompson’s Farm by the Stirling Railway Station. Raymond Cooney worked on cleaning up the site. This was turned down by the municipality although Joe Thompson was going to make the land available. The next plan was to have it at the Vanderwater Farm, owned by Basil Kuglin, on Highway # 14 near the turn off to Wallbridge Loyalist Road. Access off Highway #14 was problematic, therefore, this plan folded. The next move was to get an agreement with the Stirling Agricultural Society.
Harry Danford donated money to the museum, but it wasn’t until 1999 that he became directly involved as he was working as MPP for Hastings Peterborough in Toronto before that.
The Tillage Building was funded by the Hastings County Plowmen’s Association. The association also donated $37,000 for the audio wand project. John Sager had visited a museum in England and had seen audio wands. The Trillium Foundation, Hydro One and Trenval also donated money.
The Tillage Building has displays of different equipment used for tillage. There is a soil display with three unique soil profiles. Ken Thompson helped with collecting the soils. They spent the whole day digging samples and got the three good profiles. Jack Ketcheson, who is a retired soil science professor and farmer in Sidney ward, advised them on the soil display. Soil testing was developed in the 1940s. The three soil profiles include two from Sidney Ward, in the City of Quinte West, and one from Tweed.
The rock display shows the rare brown Armourstone quarried from near Madoc (It is a form of dolomite or chocolate marble quarried by the Eldorado Chocolate Limestone Quarry by Upper Canada Stone Company). The limestone in the display is from Malone, north of Deloro. It was used as cut stone for the foundation of barns in the area.
Harry Danford grew up on a dairy farm near Spring Brook. Originally, they had 20 cows which multiplied to be 40. Nowadays, a small dairy farm has 50 - 60 cows. To get bigger, one has to go to a different level of investing in new buildings and equipment.
Harry was a director of the Harold Cheese Factory. The other directors were Al Akins, Gordon Bailey, George Runnels, Elvin Runnels, Morton Reid and Lorne MacInroy. Some of the cheese was contracted to certain distributors, and some went to the Cheese Board. They also made some cheese in small rounds called Stilton for Black Diamond. Once the factory closed, Maple Dale Cheese ran a retail shop at Harold. The factory burned down. The Harold Cheese Company record books are in the Stirling-Rawdon Township safe.
After visiting museums in Western Canada, we came up with the idea of creating Heritage Village. Harry Danford set up the Hastings County display in Heritage Village. The county helped fund the building. Originally Hastings County had 24 townships and the reeves and deputy reeves attended the meetings in Belleville. The meetings were two days long with as many as forty representatives present. Every municipality was represented. The county supplied planning, social services, ran Hastings Manor and the road systems in the southern portion of the county. The northern townships could get help for certain roads projects from the province.
Interview, June 17, 2012.
Ron Reid, past president of the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage, talks about the origins of Farmtown Park. He was on the fundraising committee that raised all the money to build the museum.
Background music is by Theo Akl.