WELLSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — Ramsay Barrett has deep roots in Wellsville.
“My ancestors go back to Abram Wells. He purchased this land that became Wellsville in 1813,” Barrett said.
Wellsville became Wellsville a little later, thanks to William Wells.
“Wellsville as a village got its start in approximately 1840-1843 when my great-great-grandfather started a whip manufacturing, which was a starter engine for horses in the old days. And the original factory was exactly where we’re standing,” Barrett said.
The buggy whip factory went the way of most buggy whip factories after the horseless carriage shoved horses off the roads. In 1928 a new building replaced it-the Wellsville National Bank. Then, in time, the bank faded away.
In 1992, it became the property of Wellsville Borough. Borough offices are to the rear of the building; the Wellsville Museum is in what was the bank lobby. It’s been here about thirty years.
“Our permanent exhibit tells the story of the founding of Wellsville,” Barrett said. “And the various industries that sprung from the original founding, and the community, the various civic groups, the baseball teams, the bands, things of that nature.”
Exhibits hang on every wall of the old bank–including into the old bank vault. There are pictures of old houses.
“Most of them are still standing,” Barrett said.
Hanging on another wall, three…things. They’re obviously meant to be worn by horses, but why?
“What you are looking at is a fly net,” Barrett explained. “Before automobiles, of course, everyone got around with a horse and buggy. And during the summer the flies could become intolerable. And as the horse jogged along, that fly net would rattle back and forth, and just keep moving, and dissuade any of the bugs from landing on and biting the horse.”
A couple of business signs show how the leather industry in Wellsville tried to stitch things back together when buggy whips went the way of, well, buggy whips.
“When the buggy whip factory started to decline,” Barrett said, “a number of leather-related industries took its place. And one of them was the New Oxford Baby Shoe Company. Brougher Net Company started making all sorts of dog supplies.”
In addition to the permanent displays, the museum also tries to do a new, temporary exhibit every year. Right now, they’re displaying the taxidermy collection of the late Glenn Reed.
“Glenn worked for the Game Commission for 28 years, he won awards for conservation,” Barrett said. “And he obviously had a passion for preserving and showing our beautiful natural heritage, in these fabulous mounts.”
One of these mounts, of a doe and fawn, can really tug at the heartstrings when you learn the backstory. Barrett read from the sign in front of it.
“The mother of this fawn was struck by an automobile. And a very alert game warden who was called to the scene noticed that there was movement, and opened her up, and discovered twins. One was alive and one had died, and this is the one that died. Glenn was there because it was near the game lands, and he arranged with the game warden to preserve this unique creature.”
“I think really these animals were collected with the idea of helping people understand the natural world around them,” Barrett said. “Many people don’t see a deer except maybe fleeting across the road. But this gives you the chance to see the full body mounts of deer in a pose, and turkeys walking, perching, flying, and it lets you get close to the actual animals. And outside of a zoo, you can’t really do that.”
The exhibit also includes a display about Pennsylvania’s endangered species. It’s another way of paying tribute to Glenn Reed’s work.
“He wanted to conserve the animals of Pennsylvania,” Barrett said. “So we thought it would be appropriate to show a number of endangered species that are indigenous to Pennsylvania.”
The Museum is holding an open house on May 8 and 9. It will be open on a regular basis on the second Sunday of every month, and by appointment.