Imagine living on a farm in rural Virginia in 1850. Visit the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum and see for yourself how our ancestors endured this rugged life. Chippokes, one of the oldest continually farmed plantations in the country, is endowed with thousands of artifacts. Many have been generously donated so that the story of Virginia's agriculture and forestry communities may be told.
The exhibits, on display in a series of farm buildings, represent various stages of farm life. They include building a farm, preparing the soil, planting, cultivating and harvesting. Additional exhibits feature tools used by craftsmen such as the blacksmith, wheelwright, cooper and cobbler. Others feature farm animals, processing, preserving, small tools and house wares. Many tools on display were hand-forged by our ancestors, who struggled to raise crops, gardens and animals by any means.
Many displays show a succession of tools used for the same job. Each was an improvement over its predecessor, saving time and energy for the farmer. Wheat harvesting provides an excellent example of this process. First there was the handheld sickle, reaping hook and scythe, which cut the wheat. Next came the handheld grain cradle, which cut wheat and swept it aside. With Cyrus McCormick came the reaper, which allowed the farmer to ride his horse or mule that pulled the reaper. Later still came the grain binder, which also bundled stalks for easy handling. Discover how each invention affected the farmer and his family.
Chippokes features many rare artifacts. One of the oldest is an oxen-drawn plow called a rooter or bull tongue plow. Another of the more valuable artifacts you'll find at the museum is the pre-Civil War wooden-tooth cultivator. There are about 600 items on display. Nearly all were donated.
There's also an old sawmill nearby. It was restored and permanently installed as part of the museum's displays in 1993. The mill is operated on special occasions, such as the Steam and Gas Engine Show. The museum and the sawmill connect by an 1,800-foot forestry interpretive trail that offers a spectacular view of one of the plantation's ravines. Victor Stewart, the previous owner of Chippokes Plantation, bought the unique, portable sawmill in the 1930s.
In addition to permanent exhibits, special displays and demonstrations occur throughout the year. Call the museum at 757-294-3625 to learn more. The museum offers special events throughout the year, a guided group tour and educational programs correlated to the state’s standards of learning (SOLs). The programs cover livestock, plantation life, crops and soils, trades and crafts, an instructional nature trail and much more. Custom programs are available upon request. For more information, please call 757-294-3625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chippokes Farm & Forestry Museum
868 Plantation Road
Surry, VA 23883
Hours: The Farm and Forestry Museum is open for self-guided tours daily the first Friday in March through the first Monday in December, except for Thanksgiving, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's also available by reservation for groups.
Cost: General museum admission is free. Parking fees for the park still apply. Some special programs and events have fees. Click here for park fees.