Bottom Land Historical Society opens museum at Parker Pioneer Homestead

Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Gary Fletcher, curator, talks to guests at the museum grand opening.

Gary Fletcher of Caraway, longtime collector, is excited about the opening of the new Bottomland Farm Life Center Museum located at Parker Pioneer Homestead in Harrisburg.

Fletcher has partnered with Phil and Teresa Parker, owners of Parker Pioneer Homestead, forming the Bottom Land Historical Society, a non-profit organization. The group has opened a new exhibit/museum in one of the old buildings on the homestead.

A ribbon cutting and grand opening of the Farm Life Center was held Sunday afternoon, Aug. 31. "So God Made a Farmer" by Paul Harvey, 1978, was played followed by a ribbon cutting. The ribbon was cut with an old-fashioned cutting tool. Joining Mr. and Mrs. Parker and Fletcher cutting the ribbon was member Vickie Winningham.

The ribbon was cut at the new Bottom Land Farm Life Center at Parker Pioneer Homestead on Aug. 31. Pictured from left are Teresa and Phil Parker, Gary Fletcher, and Vickie Winningham.

Parker Pioneer Homestead was opened in 1984 recreating a way of life that is all but forgotten when farming was done with horse and mules.

Fletcher, organizer of Bottom Land Tractor Club, has long been a collector of antique tools, vehicles, toy farm equipment and anything to tell the history of rural life.

Work on the museum, adding new flooring, air conditioning and lighting, started in January and it will make an addition to the living history already in place at the homestead where cane is grown turned into sorghum, log cabins are as they were during the early years when the land was being settled, barns filled with hand tools, and much more are exhibited during the touring season.

The Homestead is open to the public on the second and third weekends in October. It is also open six weekdays for area school students to tour and have the opportunity to experience living history.

On display at the new museum is a 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee tractor provided by Mrs. Winningham and family from the Shorty Heeb Estate, along with other items. Above the tractor, there is a plaque telling of the Ford tractor and how Shorty would hook up a trailer and go duck hunting on the farm in the days before ATVs.

Following the ribbon cutting, guests enjoyed a glance back into history as they went through the doors and around the property at the new Bottomland Farm Center.

Fletcher will serve as curator for the new museum and be on hand for tours to demonstrate and talk about the various items on display. He has 10 tractors, 1949 Studebaker truck; 200 horsepower Allis Chalmers engine from the 1940s used in sawmill. This type of engine was used for big jobs including building roads. There is a large display of miniature toy John Deere tractors that belonged to the late Bill Foster of Caraway.

Fletcher also planted brown and green cotton outside of the museum and hopes it will be open for the touring season.

Other exhibits on the Homestead include cabins, general store, blacksmith shop, sorghum mill, smokehouse, print shop and much more.

"Anyone who has not visited the Parker Pioneer Homestead is missing an opportunity to see how life was and how early settlers survived," Fletcher said. "The returning visitors will get to see new additions to the property."

For more information about Parker Homestead, log on to the webpage www.parkerhomestead.com.

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