Richfield Historical Society

Richfield, WI


Education Day at Richfield Historical Park

The Richfield Historical Park was a flurry of activity on May 18 and 24 when 172 children from Erin, Friess Lake, Richfield Elementary, Herman/Neosho/Rubicon (HNR), St. Gabriel, St. Peter and Waukesha Christian Academy schools visited the Park. This is the 7th year for the program that shows the current generation of children how families lived many years ago. The property, which is now the Richfield Historical Park, once was the home of the Messer and Mayer families. These families operated the Messer/Mayer Mill.

The children were divided into groups and moved from location to location. Here is a sample of what the day was like:

Visit the Messer/Mayer Mill to learn how the water once flowed along the raceway to power the turbine. Then, go inside to see the huge millstones that turned wheat into flour. Figure out the difference between oats, wheat, and barley.


Walk up the hill to the Mill House.  Knead the bread dough, use a flat iron, what is an icebox, why is the parlor special, what is the summer kitchen (was there a winter kitchen?) Did kids long ago really take a bath in a big metal tub using the same water?


Saunter out to the summer kitchen to find out why it was used; go outside to ring the dinner bell and pump water for the laundry (the Mill House never had running water.) Peek inside the smokehouse where meat was hung to preserve it.


Cross over the Mill raceway using the new footbridge built by a Girl Scout troop to visit the Lillicrapp Welcome Center. This is the first year the Welcome Center had activities on Education Day. The children really enjoyed grinding coffee beans, viewing 'postcards' using a stereoscope and sitting very still as if posing for a picture taken with an old-fashioned camera.


Gather for lunch at the picnic tables and then run off some steam in the field.

On the walk to the Pioneer Homestead along the meandering Coney Creek – visit the two-holer outhouse (why was it so far from the Mill House?), talk about the garden, and give the over 150-year-old white oak tree a hug. Oh, the stories that tree could tell if it could talk.

With the blacksmith shop nearly completed, the children gathered inside to see the blacksmith work his magic. He sure was an important part of pioneer life. This is one of the favorite demos.



In the log barn, learn that potatoes and grain used to be planted by hand. Outside the building, turn the handles for the corn sheller, shredder, and fanning mill. (Did you know the fanning mill separated weed seeds from the oat seed?)


Over to the log cabin to see how families lived in a one-room building with no television, electricity, or running water. Life was sure different a long time ago. Outside the log cabin, wash clothes using a scrub board and turn the wringer handle. Then, on to the dryer –  it’s just a clothes line!



The sugar shack--sample a sweet treat of maple sugar candy. Try your hand at tapping a maple tree. Making the sap into syrup is a lot of work.

Wind up the day with a taste of homemade bread and a big Thank You to all the children who attended, their teachers and chaperones, and the Richfield Historical Society volunteers.

Comments: "What did the kids do for entertainment?“ (Asked by a student -- Lavern Schmitz quickly took the group out of the log barn and had them turn the crank on the corn sheller. That was the entertainment long ago he told her.) "Best field trip we have ever had.” “Better than Old World Wisconsin.” "Such energetic volunteers." "Super Cool!!"

Take a few minutes to read some of the Thank You letters that were written by the children who had so much fun at Education Day at the Richfield Historical Park -- Click Here.


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