Celebration at the Farm
August 14-15, 2010
In a year with wide ranging weather extremes, August was no different in Missouri. When the torrential rains finally stopped in mid July, the temperatures soared to over a hundred degrees and stayed there for weeks and weeks on end. This didn't deter the staff and volunteers at Poplar Heights Farm as they prepared to celebrate the culmination of a 100 year old family dream.
On August 14 at 9:00 am the doors officially opened on the Grand Opening Celebration. Temperatures that day would also reach over 100 degrees but the next day brought a break with temperatures dropping into the low 90's. Still, nearly 4,000 visitors came, toured, visited, ate, played games, took wagon rides and inspected the 640 acre Living History Farm, restored to its 1880's roots.
At 10:00 am the official "Ribbon Cutting" Ceremony started with an invocation by Judge Debra Hopkins. JSJ Executive Director Brian Phillips served as master of ceremony. JSJ Board Chair Debbie Casolari welcomed visitors. Volunteer Melissa Phillips read the proclamation by the Bates County Commissioners. Senator David Pearce offered the proclamation from the Missouri Senate, accompanied by Representatives Barney Fisher and Scott Largent. A gold ribbon, stretched across the long cedar tree colonade approach to the Main House was cut by Seelinger and Johannes descendant and JSJ Board Vice-President Helen Kling and Anthony Walker descendant Eileen Piasecki. Debbie Casolari closed the ceremony by leading the crowd in a verse of America the Beautiful, a favorite song of Agnes Johannes Seelinger.
All of the buildings on the Farm have been fully restored and were open for tours. The Main House was built about 1870 by John Walker, a federal prosecutor for President Grover Cleveland The Victorian home showcased Seelinger family heirlooms and period furnishings. The newly completed bricked patio and walkways took guests to the restored Summer Kitchen and Root Cellar. Porches and patio areas were decorated with heirloom flowers in old wash tubs, crocks, coal shuttles and other period containers. A cast iron patio set belonging to Daisy Seelinger Bartlett graced the east patio.
The 1870's threshing barn, freshly painted, featured the Bates County Fine Arts League Art Show. The newly constructed corral housed South African Boer Goats, visiting for the weekend from the Spurgeon Farm who raise and sell these friendly meat goats. North Country Cheviot sheep also came to visit. Sheep herding demonstrations showed off the dogs prowess and later the sheep were sheared with an 1890 hand crank shearing machine.
The Seelinger Broom Shop made its debut in the 1895 Broom Corn Barn. Antique broom making equipment has been set up in the west section of the barn. The final restoration of this barn was completed just weeks before the opening with the addition of rough sawn native oak lumber siding and doors on the old corn bin rooms. This barn had also been freshly painted. The adjacent pole barns had new sliding doors and 536 square bales of freshly cut hay stored away for winter feed for the Percheron horses.
The major restoration project of the year was the conversion of the 1949 Artist's Cottage into a Learning Center. The living and dining rooms are now Maude's Mercantile- The Quality Store featuring jams, jellies and vegetables canned for the farm on wood fired stoves at Blackberry Hills in southwest Bates County; handmade toys, straw hats, garden accessories and other country themed items. A big seller was the newly designed Poplar Heights T-Shirts with the new logo. The old garage is now the School Room. An exhibit of the Farm's latest project - One Room Schools of Bates County shared space with displays from the Papinville Historical Society and the Bates County Museum. A spacious new bathroom meeting ADA guidelines adjoins the School Room. The old bedroom is well on its way to becoming part of the planned catering kitchen. A "pass-through" into the kitchen has been finished and the three bay sink is in place. As funds permit this area will be finished so the Farm can offer meals for meetings, reunions, weddings and other events. For this weekend event, it served as a staging area for the Farm's offering of assorted fruit pies, pecan pies, pumpkin cream cheese cakes, watermelon and drinks.
Despite extreme weather conditions, the gardens offered a variety of tomatoes to taste, the broom corn was about to tassel and the tobacco was strong. Antique farm machinery belonging to JSJ Executive Director Brian Phillips was on show. Kenneth Hill brought his antique and beautifully restored John Deere tractors. Horse-drawn wagon and tractor pulled wagon rides brought visitors from the parking areas, past the Main House and gardens to a stop under the large Sycamore tree by the Threshing Barn. The ponds, full to brimming with heavy spring and early summer rains were a draw for rock skipping and chasing frogs or being chased by snakes.
Throughout the grounds, members of the Osage Spinners & Weavers guild, the Missouri Basketweavers Guild and independent heritage craftsmen demonstrated old time skills in the making of necessities - Spinning, weaving, bobbin lace, blacksmithing, wood carving, broom making, quilting, crocheting, tatting, candle making, felting, dyeing, treadle sewing and tanning hides. Old style steam gas engines powered recirculating water pumps. Musicians entertained at several locations on hammer dulcimers, violins, banjo, guitar and string bass. A chuckwagon set up camp and cooked trail stew and biscuits. Dutch oven cooking and home made ice cream were also featured. The Appleton City Historical Society set up and hosted an exhibit on early food preparation and canning in the kitchen of the Main house. Home made root beer and root beer floats sold out. The Bates County Elks served smoked brisket, brats and hot dogs along with their signature tator spins with cheese topping available.
A special children's section featured a corn shuck house, Nadine, the wooden cow, available for milking, a gathering of painted chickens and a pig, hay jump, an antique corn sheller, stick horses to ride and a rope toss. An antique see-saw, fully restored, never seemed to stop moving and held up to 8 riders at a time. Young and old alike could have their picture taken in the cut-out farm couple with the Threshing Barn in the background.
Along with the Grand Opening Celebration, descendants of Adam Seelinger, John George Johannes, Anthony Walker and Edmund Bartlett arrived on Friday for a weekend family reunion. After early tours, the group gathered for dinner prepared by the Elks. Special displays of family papers, a reunion cookbook and extensive family history books on each family branch, researched and prepared by Melissa Phillips joined photographs and family tree drawings brought by guests. On Saturday night the group again assembled for a fried chicken dinner, catered by Southside Cafe in Butler where John Seelinger would wait for presidential election returns and the family would dine after Saturday shopping trips into town.