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A look at the antique farm displays at the county fair

COLDWATER, MI -- Many county fairs offer the opportunity to exhibit antiques in their open class competition. These items of yore reflect another world from a different time. Family heirlooms dating from fifty years and older are on display for the public to observe, appreciate and learn from.

At the Branch County 4-H Fair in Coldwater, MI, one building has been set aside for the express purpose of showing off antiques that have local connections to former businesses, long-time residents, and events of county-wide interest.

The Honeywell family had roots in the county and Bronson area as well as an offspring with an insatiable interest and knowledge of the history within the region. Mabel Honeywell was born in 1917 in Gilead township and stayed there her entire life. During that time, she served as a regular correspondent for the county newspaper, reporting on the happenings in Bronson. Honeywell was also very instrumental in acquiring and organizing information about the history of Branch County which was published in a book.

At some point, Honeywell realized the need to share the necessities of years past to a contemporary society as a tool for education. She donated the funds for a building along with several of her family’s heirlooms and tools. Honeywell Hall was born and continues to be filled with agricultural equipment, daily needs from the 1800s, and reminders of the “good old days.”

All the donations are labeled with a card that identifies what the item is, was used for, pertinent information about it, and who shared the item with the public. The donations are provided by people from all over the county and those who donate are given a couple of options on the items.

One choice is to do a temporary donation where the object is on loan to the group but still owned by the family. The outright giving of the unit is always available with the piece on permanent display in Honeywell Hall. Many times the first choice results in the second, providing a well-rounded exhibit for the public to see and note the family names connected with the items.

Honeywell donated some very interesting pieces herself including a wooden pump that worked with an “endless” chain, cream separator and butterfat tester, wood/coal cook stove, and a Superior washer. The entire building is divided into departments featuring different areas of the home and farm. The center aisle is dedicated to large pieces of equipment including a hand-cranked grain cleaner from neighboring city Sturgis, MI.

Though large items fill the majority of the building, there are several small items that were appreciated around the homestead. These little pieces of history are displayed on old barn doors that are hung on the walls. The doors did come from barns in the area and create an unusual backdrop for the antiques. Another very interesting board shows strings of barbed wire in various forms.

Honeywell Hall is opened during special occasions and the Branch County 4-H Fair, which occurs the first full week of August.