By Bob Allen
11:19 PM EDT, May 5, 2012
The Taneytown History Museum is featuring two small, but vivid, exhibits that focus on very different aspects of north Carroll County history: Its brush with the Civil War, and its 200-year heritage of dairy farming.
The exhibit "Got Milk: A Brief History of Carroll County Dairy Farming, 1800-1930" takes up only one room in the museum on East Baltimore Street, yet offers a glimpse into dairy farming's economic and cultural importance in Carroll during earlier times.
The displays are comprised of an eclectic assortment of photographs, paintings and articles describing several diary industry tools that were invented in Carroll County and marketed nationally.
One of these is the Mehring Milker, a hand-pump suction milker patented in 1892 by Carroll County resident William Mehring.
Mehring's device could milk two cows at once; the local inventor later perfected a foot-pedal-operated version that was used by dairy farmer's throughout the United States.
There's also information about Carroll County resident Roger Roop, who patented his own "miracle milker" in 1955.
"Got Milk" describes how, as Carroll County grew during the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, dairy production grew with it. According to a 1810 census dairy production in Carroll County contributed about $50,078 per year to the local economy during that era.
Back then, in the days before refrigeration and rapid transportation, butter was the only retail dairy product being produced locally.
Cream of the crop
According to the 1850 census, some 6,483 milk cows resided in the county, happily (one assumes) producing more than 444,000 pounds of butter a year. By 1890, that population doubled to 13,241 cows producing 1.2 million pounds of butter.
By 1910, according to exhibit, Koontz Dairy had plants in Westminster and Frizzelburg, and the exhibit also includes a first-hand description of operations at a creamery that, long ago, was on East Baltimore Street in Taneytown.
Nancy Eyler, one of the museum's long-time volunteer coordinators, says "Got Milk" came about because of Carroll Countian Lyndi McNulty, author of the book, "Farming in Carroll County."
"When she published her book she offered the royalties for the first couple of years to the Carroll County Farm Museum," Eyler said. "And she offered the royalties for the next couple of years to us — if we would do a farm exhibit of some kind.
"Everything in the exhibit and in the rest of our museum is on loan from community people who lent their things to us for a while," said Eyler, who lives in Keymar and contributed one of the antique milkers from her own family's collection of heirloom farm implements.
On display are antique signs, old newspaper ads and antique apparatus, such as a wooden hand milker, a hand-operated cream separating machine and a centrifuge butter-making machine.
There are also old milk cans and antique bottles of various sizes, shapes and colors. There's even an old World's Fair souvenir book containing "108 Fair Recipes from Borden's."
In the path of Gettysburg
The Taneytown History Museum is also fielding another new exhibit called "On the Way to Gettysburg."
No battles or skirmishes occurred in Taneytown and the streets never ran red with blood — just as they never ran white with unpasteurized milk.
Yet as Eyler explained, more than 40,000 Union troops passed through the town in 1863 during the days leading up to the July 1-3 Battle of Gettysburg.
"Union Gen. George Meade had his headquarters in Taneytown for about a day and a half," Eyler said. "And Generals Winfield Scott Hancock and Dan Sickles both came through with their troops.
"We are just trying to depict some of the things that these soldiers would have seen and done as they passed through here," she said.
"We are also displaying some really fascinating artifacts that people have found around the campsites as well as some Civil War medical tools.
"We really have a lot of information about what Taneytown was like at the time," she said.
The Taneytown History Museum, at 24 East Baltimore St., will have its "Got Milk" and "On the Way to Gettysburg" exhibits on display until Dec. 15. Museum hours are Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m. and Fridays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun