Home of the Buddha of the Midwest

The home of the Buddha of the Midwest intrigued me. With the museum’s limited hours, I was previously forced to admire the Buddha from outside the grounds proper.

Despite its limited hours, the Wayne County Historical Museum ended up being well worth finding a time to visit it. Like most county museums, the Wayne County Historical Museum contains an eclectic group of exhibits. Unlike most county museums, the exhibits are quite extensive.

The museum was the brainchild of Julia Meeks Gaar in the early 1900s. The museum occupies what was originally the site of a former Friends’ Meeting Hall. Gaar, an avid world traveler and collector of artifacts (including a mummy), deposited in the museum what she accumulated in her travels.

But the museum is not just a place for Gaar’s things. It houses lots of objects that are indigenous to Wayne County such as lawnmowers, surveying equipment, a Conestoga wagon and accoutrements, Wooten desks, house furnishings, and antique cars.

I love poking around and learning random facts, the sort of things that coalesce with other tidbits I have picked up going through life. I learned about the formation and names of the horses used for Conestoga wagons and how one of the horses is actually ridden (the left rear horse). Conestoga wagons were driven so that the riders on the left rear horses passed each other, which is why the steering wheel in our cars is on the left and we drive on the right side of the road.

I learned that a township is actually an exact measurement used by surveyors (six square miles, subdivided into 36 sections of 1 square mile each with each square mile equal to 640 acres).

I learned that Richmond was the capital of lawn mowers manufactured in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s—those push mower, non-electric varieties—and that Richmond had something insane like 47 millionaires during the 1800s.

I saw a square grand piano that Hoagy Carmichael played—and learned of a type of piano called a square grand.

I was introduced to the Wooten desk, which was manufactured in Richmond, and I got a kick out of the mail slot in the front of desk (as if the entire desk was a mailbox).

I visited their impressive collection of antique cars manufactured in and around Richmond, which, on the whole, were in excellent shape.

The existence of a “mother-in-law” seat in several of them tickled me. The wooden camper-like structure built on a Model T chassis that functioned as a school bus was beautifully crafted. I was in awe of a replica Model T race car built by school kids in 2007 and 2008. And I wondered about the sanity of the people who placed an engine on top of what looked like a Radio Flyer.

1939 Crosley
1912 Baker Electric
1921 Detroit Electric (1910 Brush
1907 Richmond Merry Widow Model J-1 Runabout
1909 Richmond Touring
1915 Westcott U-50
1914 Model T Touring
1920 Pilot 45
1918 Davis Touring Car
1921 Model T
replica Model T Racecar, built 2007 and 2008 by school children
1925 Davis Brougham
1908 Westcott
1920 Briggs and Stratton Flyer
1926 Model T TT Ford Fire Engine
1926 Dodge

After the cars, I wandered through the blacksmith’s shop, the livery, and the log cabin, which had been converted into a school in eons past.

I ended my visit to the museum by greeting the Buddha up close and personal. His provenance and the reason for his presence on the grounds of the museum remain a mystery.


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