The Salmon Brook Historical Society Museums:
Benjamin C. Wilder Farmstead And Aroostook Agricultural Museum
In 1980 several interested citizens of Washburn, Wade and Perham under the leadership of Ray Carter began meeting with the intent of organizing a historical society. The stated objective of the new group was “to preserve and collect such materials and information that illustrated the history of the area.” Soon after organization it became evident that a building was necessary to store and display these historical materials.
The old Ben Wilder home became available and after a spirited and successful fund drive, the property was purchased in the winter of 1985. Intensive restorative work by volunteers made it possible to open the 1852 house to the public at the time of Washburn August Festival of 1985. Work continued each year, renovating rooms of the house and adding furnishings of the mid to late 1800s period. On June 12, 1987, the Benjamin C. Wilder house was entered upon the National Register of Historical Places in the State of Maine by the Maine Historical Preservation Commission and by the Department of the Interior of Washington D.C. A Veterans’ room and a photo room occupy the shed attached to the Wilder Homestead. Visitors find our collection of different butter churns, cream separators, washing machines and treadle sewing machines intriguing. Our collection often stirs up childhood memories of grandparents and great-grandparents and the stories they shared.
Since the barn attached to the house had burned in 1938 and was replaced with a two-car garage, the Society soon found itself faced with the problem of storing and displaying farm machinery and equipment. A piece of land at the rear of the house was acquired and early in the spring of 1989 a fund drive was started. So successful was the drive that a builder began construction of the new barn that same year. An extensive collection of old machinery and equipment has been received by the Society and is on display in the barn. There are two especially interesting exhibits; one designated as “Don & Barb’s Country Corner” which is a display of old and rare pottery, iron, copper and brass culinary items and many other fine pieces and a collection called “The Fox’s Den” displaying a fine old Craftsman’s Chest, numerous types of wooden planes and many rare farm tools.
In 2008 an addition was added to the back of the barn to house the donated Robert Solman collection of beautiful refurbished carriages and sleighs. Two more horse-drawn carriages were recently added to the collection by the family of Merle Nickerson.
Salmon Brook Historical Society is currently offering the following events to raise funds to support the operation of the two Museums: a barn/yard sale in July, a Quilt Show & Tea on the first Sunday in August in the Aroostook Agricultural Museum and a Harvest Bean Supper in the middle of September in concert with the local Rotary Club with all funds going to SBHS. The museums annually host classrooms from area schools allowing students to learn about and interact with many items related to local history they might never otherwise see.
Located in the center of Washburn next to Story Park at 1267 Main Street, the two Museums are easily accessible to townspeople and guests. The buildings are open to the public every Sunday of the summer season from 1:00-4:00 pm and from 8:00-11:00 am on Wednesday morning while SBHS volunteers are working on site. Tours may also be arranged by calling Wanita Hallowell at 207-540-1154 or Rita Kingsbury at 207-429-9359. There is no admission charge but donations are gratefully accepted to help with maintenance and other expenses of operating the Museums. SBHS membership is open to all. Annual dues are $5.