Don Murray Museum collection goes to auction


Submitted article

The Neepawa Banner

In a two day auction to be held July 4 and 5, Don Murray will disburse his extensive collection of antiques collectibles and artifacts from his private on-site museum.

Local area resident Don Murray was born in 1929, the eldest son to Kitty (nee Ashby) and Fred Murray. Don and Mac (deceased) farmed the Murray century farm south-west of Neepawa in the Gordon area. When asked how he began collecting, Don promptly replied “My Mom. She liked to collect artifacts and she passed it on to me. I passed artifact collecting onto my son, Ken”. Three generations of collecting evolved into an impressive on-site rural museum. Don’s favorite collection is the Indian stone artifacts. “Most of the stone artifacts were found between Hallboro and Souris,” Don notes. His most prized items will remain in his personal collection.

Don’s collecting forays took him into the Glenboro area where the majority of the clear and colored glass bottles and insulators were foraged and brought home. Canning, food, pop, beer, cosmetic, nursery rhyme and pharmaceutical jars and bottles include names of early Canadian, Manitoba and local companies. “I washed more bottles than any woman,” Don says wryly.

The glass bottle and insulator collections were displayed on the back wall of the old Gordon church which was relocated from its original location two miles west of the Murray residence. “The hymn board displays the last hymns sung in the Gordon church before it closed,” Don explains. “The pulpit is from the Franklin church and the communion set is from the Cordova area”. The remaining displays in the church featured pioneer farm and household appliances, equipment, utensils and tools. Some of the church displays included neatly typed notes identifying the item, where they came from and their history and use. The books in Don’s collection are a reflection of pioneer days. Early equipment operating manuals, garden and seed propagation, recipe and how-to books for the home maker, John Deere price list books, school house readers, history, math, geometry and spelling books and bibles. Vintage pictures adorned the walls. Don notes that some of the pictures from the 1800s will be donated to the Beautiful Plains Museum in Neepawa.

North of the main house, a wooden shed served as a replica general store. An array of coffee, tea, biscuit, spice, candy, honey and syrup tins line the shelves behind an old cash register and balance scale. Spice, condiment and baking tins and soap boxes line the south wall, a variety of wooden crates tucked below. On the north side, an ice box and advertising displays for vintage personal care and medicinal products, pest control, advertising displays and washboards. Graniteware and metal kettles and bowls and wash tubs hang from the ceiling.

A few more steps north, metal tractor seats and vintage farm implements march along the outside of a metal quanset building. A 1926 Model T Ford is front and centre inside the building, surrounded by walls filled with early forging and hand tools. Horse harness and an Oxen Yoke hang from the ceiling. Vintage seed sorters, seeders, sieves and stationary engines are lined up along the interior perimeter of the building, oil cans and tins including the collectible Buffalo oil tins are on the shelves.

The main house, living quarters for Don and his family, while modern in function is an extension of the museum full of vintage appeal. Antique gas oil lamps, collectible glass and china, an extensive collection of Manitoba history books and prized artifacts and memorabilia are the decor. “My Mom liked to read those local history books,” Don said, “in her later years, she would sit and read them at night. Are people interested in local history anymore?” he asks.

A vintage kitchen display building is next. Primitive ware, wooden table and chairs, a wood cook stove, hand crank gramophone, silverware, china, wooden bowls and the implements, grinders, utensils, sieves, kettles, cookware, recipe books and vintage appliances were the tools for a modern pioneer woman. “If a modern woman is complaining about her kitchen, she should work in this one for a month,” Don states. Indeed, the kitchen is a testament to the pioneer woman’s hard work.

Don nods affirmatively that the “Homesteader Pea” is part of his family legacy. “My Mom’s father, Alec Ashby used to have a market garden in Neepawa, down by the CP Rail area” Don explained. “He ordered his seed from England. One year, he noticed an odd looking seed in the lot and put it aside, planting it separately from the rest of the seeds. Eventually he grew it out, propagating the new species of pea which he named the Neepawa Pea. When he sold the patent right and seed to Steele Briggs, they renamed it the Homesteader pea”.

In the past, school groups from Polonia and Mountain Road and visitors - their names recorded in the guest books - have enjoyed taking a walk through time at the Murray Farm Museum. Don, his son, Ken and four grandsons who have contributed to the collecting, maintenance and upkeep of the rural museum are now assisting in the museum dispersal.

Beyond the yard site, modern farm equipment moves in the field beyond. The sturdy vintage plough stands guard in retirement silently telling a silent story of earlier times.