Historians of Sterling Township (HOST) are now displaying this vintage spring wagon, purchased 100 years ago by Sterling resident Gabriel Brown. June Phillips, HOST vice-president, is shown with the wagon at the Sterling Museum

By Peter Becker (Wayne Independent)

Sterling Township — One hundred years after Gabriel Brown brought home a spring wagon to transport his family along Sterling Township’s dusty, rough roads, the horse-drawn vehicle of yesteryear was unveiled as a museum centerpiece.

This past Saturday, people were riding the same roads Brown knew, now paved, and arriving in their cars to see the attraction at the Sterling Museum. An open house was held that day.
Nancy McLain, president of the Historians of Sterling Township (HOST) said that the wagon was donated last fall and has been completely refurbished. Sterling Upholstery put in new seats. The plank floor and wooden brakes were replaced. The wagon was sand blasted and repainted. The wheels were in good shape. All that is needed is to replace the surrey, a fabric canopy that went on top, complete with fringes.

Made to be pulled by either one or two horses, McLain pointed out where the family would sit. The back seat could be removed to allow the buck board to be used to carry groceries or other goods. Best adapted for the warmer time of year, a box of hot coals could be brought along to help keep them warm at other times.

The wagon sits proudly on the second floor of the museum, which is the former Odd Fellows Hall. One may wonder how they ever took the wagon up the stair case, let alone through the doors. “We took it apart and brought it up in pieces,” McLain said.

She had approached the grandson of Gabriel Brown, T. Scot Brown, about donating the wagon. Scot was on hand that morning with his family, at the museum. Scot explained that the wagon had sat in his grandfather’s barn for decades, with hay piled on top. After the barn began to collapse, the wagon was rescued, and the barn taken down. It later sat in his garage. After being asked to donate it for public display, he consulted with family members, before he and his wife Carol agreed to let it go.

Scot said that Gabriel’s grandfather had immigrated from Scotland in 1840 and started a farm on the “North South Road’ (Route 196), near the southern end of Sterling Township - which since 1877 has been part of Dreher Township. Diaries kept by Scot’s grandfather indicate Gabriel ordered the wagon after he had graduated from school down in Princeton and was working in Easton. Gabriel kept the old farm for their summer residence. On June 5, 1909 the wagon kit arrived in boxes on a train, where Gabriel picked it up at the Gouldsboro Depot.

Gabriel Brown died in 1958 at the age of 88. His grandson said he remembers him well and heard grandpa’s stories, only as often happens, he now wishes he had asked more questions.
He’s given other artifacts to HOST, as well as to the Greene-Dreher Historical Society which is headquartered in South Sterling. The old farm is still in the family, leased to a hunting club.
“The soil was poor for farming... how they squeaked a living is amazing,” Scot reflected. “They didn’t need any of the modern conveniences.” He said he was glad HOST was displaying the wagon for future generations to see and learn.

Located just east of the four corners in the village of Sterling along Spring Hill Road, visitors may see upstairs a great variety of items, such as farm implements, Sterling High School diplomas, military uniforms, a voting box, pictures, maps and old clocks. The first floor also has displays, and space for their meetings.

In addition to the displays of donated items, HOST compiles information to help people trace their ancestors, and has put together books on Sterling Township history and annual calendars with scenes from their past.

The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment. Admission is free. Membership is available at $15 a year. Meetings, with local history talks, are held on the last Saturday of the month at 7 p.m.; all are welcome. For more information call (570)352-5617 or see on-line, www.historiansofsterlingtownship.org. The museum will be closed July 4th.