BUCKHANNON – History buffs hungry to look back in time have two more September Sundays to scope out the Upshur County Historical Society’s summer exhibit on food and its production and consumption in Upshur County.
The Upshur County Historical Society’s annual exhibit – “‘We grew most everything we ate’: Food, Foodways and Farming in Upshur County” – got a late start this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not opening until Aug. 2. But historical society director Noel Tenney says it will be back next year, too.
On display from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20 and Sunday, Sept. 27 at the Historical Society’s History Center Museum, located at 81 W. Main St., the exhibit will reopen June 6, 2021 and run through Sept. 26, 2021.
“What we looked at was just about everything regarding agriculture and food that we could possibly pull together,” Tenney explained during a recent tour of the exhibit. “We have lots of photographs, so for example, one panel is about teaching the youth about food, the food economy, vocational agriculture and home economics from the school system. We have the 4-H system, which is a part of the county Extension Service.”
Featuring more than 400 photographs mostly spanning the first several decades of the 20th century, Tenney said the Historical Society uses photos and small vignettes of text to tell stories that encapsulate what life was like.
“We have lots of photographs this year because we have lots of farming photographs, and some of them are wonderful,” he said. “We try to tell individual stories about different kinds food, food-related industries, and farming and agricultural-related activities and products.”
Saunter through the exhibit and you’ll find historical information about and images of haymaking; orchards and landscapes; grist mills; dairies and creameries (Tenney says there was a Dairy on “almost every corner,” including one on Boggess Street); maple-syrup and molasses-making; apple cider and apple-butter-making; seed saving; and foods for socializing.
The display also features rationing and victory gardens of World War II, community cookbooks, farmers’ almanacs from 1837-1880 and food-related industries like the country store.
“The country store was a community store, and it often included the post office,” Tenney explained. “It was often the centering point of the community. People gathered there. They usually had a pot-bellied stove.”
Images of country stores in Tallmansville, Kanawha Head, Hemlock and more are featured in one display.
“They were usually a part of the containment of a community,” Tenney said. “Communities were much more contained 75 years ago; that means people lived there, worked there, did not get in a car to drive to Buckhannon every day to work, and schools were there, the post office was there, and stuff came in from the outside.”
Around 1905, there were nearly as many post offices in Upshur County as there were schools – over 100, and the post offices mostly had their homes in the country store.
“People regularly awaited their seed catalogs in the spring or their order from Sears Roebuck or whatever it was and we have a lot of information in this exhibit about people ordering things, trees and baby chickens,” Tenney said.
The rest is, indeed, history, so head to the History Center Museum this weekend or next – or pop in during Summer 2021.
Masks are required, and you can find the Upshur County Historical Society online at upshurcountyhistoricalsociety.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone interested in delving further into Upshur County’s history may check out the Historical Society’s document repository from 6 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday evening.