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NOTE: The Middleborough Historical Museum will not be opening for this season as planned, relative to the current COVID 19 concerns.
In Mill House One, on permanent exhibit at the museum is the Tom and Lavinia Thumb exhibit, one of the country’s largest collection of memorabilia from this famous couple who were world famous superstars of the entertainment industry. General Tom Thumb’s marriage to Middleborough native Lavinia Warren was front page news across the country in February 1863, and for years the couple toured the world with P. T. Barnum, then returned to their home here in Middleborough. On display are costumes, furniture, photographs and correspondence from their many years in the area. Also found here are exhibits on two other famed Middleboro residents, Judge Peter Oliver, judge at the Boston Massacre trial and his colonial mills along with paintings by prominent early 19th century artist, Cephas Thompson.
Available in the museum’s gift shop are historical maps, a variety of books on Tom and Lavinia Thumb and local history, as well as children’s items. Mill House Two has a reproduction of the Peirce General store, which operated in Middleborough for the greater part of the 19th century.
The Deborah Sampson War Room, named for another Middleborough resident who fought as a man in the Revolutionary War and became the official Massachusetts State Heroine, honors all who have served our country. Other exhibits include a 19th century kitchen and child’s bedroom, a room displaying antique toys, a media room and a library for local history and genealogy research. An operating 1934 Maxim fire pumper, manufactured by the Maxim Motor Company of Middleborough, as well as other unique fire apparatus including an 1854 man-powered (later house-powered) hand tub and accompanying hose reel, and an elaborate fire alarm repeater highlight the display in the West Side Whistle House. This building, erected in the 1800’s to house a fire alarm system that signaled the approximate location of a fire, was built on the west side of town because call fire fighters could not hear the main alarm.
Judge Wilkes Wood’s compact two-room law office, built in 1796, includes a simple reception area up front where the lawyer would meet clients, and, since 1967, the Lawrence B. Romaine Memorial Library, Mr. Romaine’s personal library and collection of miniature items. A photo time-line of Middleborough, US and world history from 1600 to the present is also on presented here.
In the blacksmith shop, a replica of ones which had existed in Middleborough in the 18th and 19th centuries, visitors can view a permanent forge with hanging bellows, as well as a portable forge. Farming tools including a corn shucker, a winnowing machine and cranberry separator. Ice harvesting tools and photos from Pratt Farm, along with an ice chest with drip pan, and a scale model of an ice house are also on display.
The cranberry growing industry and charcoaling are also highlighted. The Carriage House houses a collection of antique vehicles, including Rockaway carriages and a one horse sleigh, along with many signs from Middleborough businesses as well as yearly changing exhibits and programs.
The Sproat Tavern Outhouse, recently restored, is oldest and most historic of all the museum buildings. It was built in 1700 and remained at its location next to the Green Cemetery until 1965. Unlike most outhouses of its time, this “necessary” is a five seater — three across the back and two behind the door for children.