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Dairy farmer found other uses for old horse weight

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 December 2013 at 12:00 am

John Long has witnessed changes on the farm landscape

John Long holds the 18-pound horse weight that has been in his family for generations.

GAINES – For the many years John Long and his father Frank milked cows on Zig Zag Road, they used an old horse weight as a door stop in the milk house.

Frank Long started the farm in 1937 at Zig Zag Road. John Long sold the cows in 1988, when he turned the farm’s focus on crops. He also had a retail straw and hay business.

He kept the old horse weight, which weighs 18 pounds and has a ring. It is a relic from the horse and buggy era. Orleans Hub has posted many articles about the rather incredible collection of hitching posts, mounting blocks and carriage steps that remain on many properties in the area. Albion and Gaines, in particular, have many of these. There are also quite a few in Medina.

Long wanted me to see the horse weight, which his father referred to as a horse block.

John Long treasures the horse weight. He scrubbed it and gave it a new coating of black paint.

Horse weights were movable blocks, made of iron or stone, that were carried in carriages. Not every place had a hitching post to tie up a horse. So people brought along a horse weight to tie up their horse and keep it in place.

I had never seen a horse weight before until Long showed it to me on Thursday. He takes pride in the relic. He has it scrubbed up and painted black. It’s been in his family for many, many years.

Long, 79, remembers when horses were a bigger part of Albion. He can recall hitching posts along Caroline Street and a drinking fountain for horses on the Courthouse Lawn.

I asked County Historian Bill Lattin if he thinks there are many surviving horse weights these days. Lattin has two, including a heavy sandstone weight that he suspects was used to hitch a team of horses. He also has a smaller one, similar to Long’s.

But Lattin hasn’t seen too many of the weights.

Long likes the history of the area. He lives outside the eastern end of the village of Albion. Long and his wife Loretta raised two sons – Jeff and Doug – out in the country.

John Long said almost every farmer in the area used to grow tomatoes to feed the processing plants in Albion.

Many of the roads near him – Kietel, Densmore, Lattin and Sawyer – are named for pioneer settlers. Zig Zag Road used to be call Wickham Road, named for another pioneer. Long doesn’t know why the name was changed.

He’s seen a lot of changes in local agriculture. Long’s farm and almost every other farm oepration in the area grew a lot of tomatoes to feed the processing plants in Albion.

Lipton’s (across from McDonalds) stopped buying local tomatoes in 1961 and then Hunt’s took its last local crop in 1969. Hunt’s had an enormous facility, the former Chase site in Albion plus more space on East Avenue going to Platt Street, where Helena Chemical is currently located.

“In the fall you could smell the ketchup cooking in Albion,” Long said.

Many local farmers grew tomatoes for Lipton’s and Hunt’s. These days you don’t see much acreage for tomatoes.

Instead, Long said it feels like corn is everywhere. He rents out his land and two farmers who use it for corn.

“Corn is king now because of the ethanol,” Long said.

Most of the corn has been harvested next to Long’s former dairy farm on Zig Zag Road. Long sold much of equipment from the barn in an auction in October.