The Aroostook family preserves 5 generations of farming history

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MAPLETON, Maine — Preserving five generations of Aroostook County’s farming heritage would require a museum, so that’s exactly what a local family built.

The Victor A. and Gloria J. Winslow and Family Memorial Museum opened at the Winslow Farm in Mapleton last fall, and the family plans to expand it.

Agricultural roots run deep in the region and multi-generational farms have withstood wars, vagaries of the weather, market instability, disease and insects. Some lose their youth to the lure of big cities, and most lose their historic amenities to museums or abandoned land. A family collection of this size is rare.

“He never asked me to do anything in his whole life. He was just a giver,” Gene Winslow said of his father. “The night he suggested a museum, I took a month off and told him I was going to build this museum for him.”

Gene Winslow holds an ax that belonged to his great-great-grandfather, one of the exhibits at the Victor A. and Gloria J. and Family Memorial Museum. The cutout of Elvis appears there in honor of his mother, Gloria. Credit: Paula Brewer/The Star-Herald

Winslow, one of Victor and Gloria’s eight sons, said the family plans to add several buildings, including a church and a general store, to the complex in time for an open house in October that will give people plenty to see. visitors.

Although the Winslows no longer farm potatoes, they operate a sandstone slate quarry and have a lumber operation run by Gene’s cousin, Jeff. Over the past 150 years, the family has kept a large collection of tractors, tools and household items.

Frances Winslow began farming there in 1857, followed by William, Alvin and Victor. Victor and Gloria’s sons, Todd, Frank, Lynwood, Bert, Alvin, Gene, Noah and James represent the fifth generation.

Although Gene and Victor have toyed with the idea of ​​creating a museum before, they never had time to work out the plan until last year.

The goal was to house valuable items in a neat and well-thought-out space, using as much of the farm’s wood as possible. After gathering all the materials, family, friends and some members of the Amish community built the structure in about 15 days, Gene Winslow said.

He and his father collected tractors over the years, so the museum features several, including some pre-WWII models with iron wheels. One is a 1926 McCormick-Deering, which the farm acquired in 1934.

There is a wide variety of tools from all aspects of farming and logging: one and two person chainsaws, yokes, hammers and wrenches, axes and even blacksmithing equipment. Victor was a member of the last blacksmithing class at the University of Maine; when he left school, they gave him the smithy, Winslow said.

From left to right, the Winslow Family Museum houses a treasure trove of agricultural and household tools. Sixth-generation Winslows Gene “Buddy” (left) and Kenzie pose with a soapbox derby car their grandfather, Victor Winslow, built when he was a young racer. Credit: Paula Brewer/The Star-Herald

The displays also include household items, furniture and even a few Soap Box Derby cars that Victor built and raced as a kid. Adding to the authenticity, there is no electricity in the building, which greatly reduces the risk of fire.

“These things are priceless to our family,” Winslow said. “The reason the people of Aroostook County love our farms is because they are part of us.”

There’s also this funny story about an appearance by Elvis at the museum. Her mother wasn’t sure the museum idea was a good thing to do, Winslow said. So he appealed to his musical side. Knowing that she loved Elvis, he ordered a cardboard cutout, and when opening day came, the likeness of the singer appeared among the axes and tools of the farm, where she remains.

Future plans are to lay out the complex as it did about a century ago — similar to the historic King’s Landing settlement in New Brunswick in the 19th century, Winslow said.

From left to right, a 1926 McCormick-Deering tractor with iron wheels, the same model that once stood on the Winslow farm, is on display in the family museum in Mapleton. The small wheel on the side could be fitted with a belt to power other equipment. A handmade sign carved by family friend Wendell Hudson adorns the Winslow Family Museum, located on their farm in Mapleton. Credit: Paula Brewer/The Star-Herald

Installation is free for everyone, Winslow said. The family plans to welcome visitors to some of the new attractions at an open house in October.

“It means something to me that we have a place to put these things on display and people can come and see them,” Father Victor Winslow said as he surveyed the structure.

Gene Winslow credits his father for inspiring all of this, and both his parents for the upbringing they gave him, and his brothers.

“We grew up having what children need. We are fortunate to live here in Aroostook County,”

he said. “If there was ever a gift to give a young man, it’s to have the best father in the world.”

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