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DAVID AND MELISSA BUTTS MUSEUM Showplace for local history

By John Goodall

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Local residents display family wedding dresses every summer.
FOWLER -- This township of 2,600 keeps all of its memories in one place.
On the edge of the township green, the David and Melissa Butts Museum holds the best of hundreds of attics, basements and barns; a tag sale trawler's dream, from ancient bellows-style sweepers in the basement to a beautiful, battered toy tin car in the doll room upstairs.
If you are lucky enough to stop by on the third Sunday of summer months when the museum is open -- or if someone happens to be there when you knock -- you can see an ornate pedal organ that was hauled to the township cemetery by horse and carriage for services and a marble-topped lamp table that had been lugged to Trumbull County.
"There are all kinds of things people feel they want to put in the museum here," said zoning inspector Nancy Shook, whose office is in the back of the 1852 house.
The township already was more then 50 years old when David Butts built the Tudor-style home from locally fired brick at the corner of the green. In 1920 it was sold, rented, then eventually converted to an antiques shop.
In 2001, the home was purchased by township trustees in a sheriff's auction. They put the offices for zoning inspector and township clerk in a wooden part in the back that had once been the kitchen.
Renovations took two years, and the township historical society has spent the last three years filling it with items donated or loaned by local residents, said Nancy Bell, historical society vice president.
What's inside
The people's pictures -- from Miss Fowler pageants, forgotten sporting events, old parades and recent festivals -- fill the windows of a swinging display.
The furniture looks like it is off a movie set. Nearly every surface is covered with the kind of gadgets you may have seen once in your grandmother's house but didn't understand how to use. Wick trimmers, nutmeg graters, 100-year-old books and an old stone sink sit on display.
The displays change, Bell said. One upstairs bedroom is often used for dolls, she said, and once a year, township quilters are invited to display their projects. Every summer, people show off family wedding dresses in a sitting room display, she said.
The dining room table was bare this week, but it is usually set for the season, usually with china borrowed from a local lady's cupboard, she said. In the basement, you can see the progression of laundry machines from washboard to 1930s Maytag, and clothes irons from fire to electric.
Farming implements line the walls.
"You would have to get an old guy to come and tell you what these are for," said Shook, referring to those implements.
The museum is open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. the third Sunday of the month from June to October and by appointment. Across the way is an old-fashioned general store, where candy is sold from barrels and pickled eggs come in jars, and the 1850 wooden township hall, which is opened for special occasions.