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December 1, 2010

‘Mystery item’ discussed at Barry Historical Society meeting

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Written by: Bruce Snook
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A mystery item, circa 1850, displayed at the Gov. John S. Barry Historical Museum in Constantine, was discussed at the Society’s monthly meeting, held Tuesday (November 30th) at the Constantine Township Library.

The Barry Society sponsored a “guess the identity of this object” contest several months ago, offering a prize to raise interest in the museum. No one came forward with positive identification.

Due to the interest of Kathy Brundige, vice president of the St. Joseph Genealogical Society, the TV show ‘History Detectives’ may feature the Barry Society item on a program.  Nearly fifty pictures of the object have been submitted on two separate occasions to the show, which is located in New York.

“I don’t think the ‘History Detectives’ know what it is either,” quipped Barry Society President Bob Ray.  “They said they are going to research it, and if it turns out to be worthwhile, do a show on it.”

“If all else fails, maybe we ought to walk across the street from the museum and ask Bob Hotovy, the local antiques dealer,” Ray joked.
Ray added the St. Joseph County Historical Society in Centreville is interested in the object’s identity.  “Martha Starrman, the president, said if we find out it is let them know, too. They’ve got one just like it over at County Historical. Theirs is all wooden, with no metal pins and knives and they don’t know what it is either.”

Bill McClain, Barry society vice president commented the mystery item might be a heavy duty kitchen grinder, used for grain, possibly corn.  “It has a tapered roller; the spikes get longer inside it.  There is a small adjustable opening on one end between 5/16″ and 3/4″, and also a 3 l/2 inch long slit opening.” McClain said.  “It’s razor sharp. It cuts, not cracks, and it’s bolted down. It’s extremely heavy. I’d say its pre-1850.”

Photographer George Murphy is shown with a flyer he made which includes numerous photos he took of historical objects at the Gov. John S. Barry Society Museum in Constantine.

In other business, a new Barry Society brochure was printed and will be distributed to libraries and schools. Pictures of the museum featured in it were taken by George Murphy, a local photographer and Society member.  He initiated an idea of printing cards to distribute to school children attending the museum for spring tours.

It was noted Diana Lammott, director of the Constantine Downtown Development Authority, has compiled information on the Society and posted it on the River Country Tourism Council (St. Joseph County) website.

Member Don Kufeldt was congratulated for receiving honorary membership to the Board of Directors at the Elkhart Historical Society.

Items of historical interest shown at the meeting included a Knights Templar belt shown by Mike Kemp. An 1868 $100 Constantine school bond, old pictures of Messiah Lutheran Church, the Harvey Hotel and a flyer from the 1930’s of Drake Casket Company were also shown by Bob Ray.

Members will research a fire that reportedly destroyed the west end of the downtown circa 1871, the same year as the great Chicago fire.
Since the Barry home has been winterized, meetings will be held in the library until warmer weather.  Tours, which are from 1 to 3 p.m. the first Sunday of the month, will resume in the spring.

Christmas cookies and coffee were served by Angie Birdsall.

For information on the Barry Society, call (269) 435-7360.

Source:  Story and photo contributed by Angie Birdsall


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