Kelso House Museum Exhibit marks Brimfield bicentennial

Kelso House Museum Exhibit marks Brimfield bicentennial

As published in the Record-Courier, on May 6, 2016

Photo Courtesy of the Kelso House Museum Collection.

By Kelly Maile

On Thursday, the Brimfield Historical Society & Kelso House Museum hosted the opening of its newest exhibit, “Brimfield Township Celebrates 200 Years: Changes take place, but our traditions remain,” to celebrate Brimfield’s bicentennial.

Michelle Walker, who will graduate with a master’s degree in library science and museum study from Kent State University in May, and Lukas Darling, a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy, worked since January to get it done in time.

In a walk-through, visitors will learn about the development of township services, from 1816 through today. The exhibit takes visitors on a journey through displays of historical photographs, memorabilia, artifacts and written narratives.

“We start with history of Brimfield,” Walker said. “We talk about the town hall that’s no longer here. We move into the story of Brimfield police and fire and road crews. All things that are services in the community. It harkens back to how they would set up constables instead of police officers. How they started the fire department very early on because they felt there was a need. How the fire chief went around with a little book. He mapped out everyone’s house and how far it was from a water source. He accepted payment in chickens and cans of fruit.”

Variations of police badges and certificates, a fireman’s jacket and helmet and an Indian fire pump, and a black and white photograph of farmers smoothing dirt roads with horses at the turn of the 20th century give a sense of long-established traditions rooted in rural townships.

Today, these traditions are carried on by Brimfield’s current police and fire chiefs, road crews and township trustees.

The exhibit features a family tree of the Thorndike and Wyles family, Brimfield’s first settlers, and one of the first maps of Brimfield that shows it was once called Wyles Town.

“We’ve had plenty of names,” Walker said. “Swamp Town. Bear Town. This map shows that it was called Wyles Town. John Wyles was one of our first founders. Later, they named it Brimfield after Wyles’ birthplace in Brimfield, Mass.”

There’s also a display on Brimfield’s cemeteries, including a document signed by founders to pay for the first public burial ground in Brimfield and the original cemetery gate from the Thorndike Family Cemetery off Tallmadge Road.

“Brimfield actually has three cemeteries,” Walker said. “The first was the Thorndike cemetery. The land is still deeded in his name to his estate.”

Curator Judi Allen, who has worked at Brimfield Historical Society for 11 years, is an active collector. Records, newspaper clippings and artifacts that have been donated over the years help piece together and archive Brimfield’s community history, she said.

“It’s storytelling,” Allen said. “You have to figure out what the story is you want to tell and then you have to find the information, the pictures and display pieces to tell that story. Sometimes a picture or a certificate explains that better than words. That’s where museums come in. They help make that connection between how people did things and how they do them.”

The bicentennial exhibit is one of the main events planned to commemorate Brimfield’s bicentennial. Other events include a Brimfield Bicentennial birthday party and Ohio Chautauqua week in June.