Summit County Historical Society hosts free sheep-herding demonstrations this Saturday at ‘Mutton Hill’
— For the first time in a century, the home of Akron’s founding family will see the return of sheep to the Historic Homes of Mutton Hill, a flock that will be in residence during the summer of 2016.
Six to eight Dorset sheep from The Spicy Lamb Farm of Peninsula will be residents at the Perkins Stone Mansion, 550 Copley Road, through August, and will maintain the lawn of the mansion property in an environmentally sustainable way. The flock will also provide a new attraction for visitors and inform the public of the partnership formed by Col. Simon Perkins and abolitionist John Brown, from 1844 – 1854.
The public will have an opportunity to view the sheep and sheep herding demonstrations on Saturday, July 16, as part of the Society’s Annual Free Family Fun Day, from noon to 4 p.m. featuring musical entertainment, crafts and games for children, and free tours of the Perkins Stone Mansion.
Herding demonstrations will be held at 12:30 to 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. Border collies will entertain families and demonstrate how they “work” the flock. The dogs are owned and trained by local resident Edie Steiner, who has competed in stock dog trials for more than 10 years. Three dogs, “Mobido,” “Rudy” and “Lincoln” have received awards for demonstrating handler excellence.
The property is owned and maintained as a historic house museum by the Summit County Historical Society.
“Sheep were a big part of Akron’s history,” says Society chairman Dave Lieberth. “The introduction of a flock of sheep gives us new ways to interpret our history. John Brown was the most consequential man ever to live in Summit County, employed by Perkins to tend the flock of 1,300 Merino sheep that was known as one of the finest flocks in Ohio. Brown lived with his family in the two-room house at Diagonal and Copley roads, and traveled to Europe to promote the wool business.
Through August the grounds of the Perkins Mansion will be open, free to the public Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays while the project continues.
The Society is collaborating with The Spicy Lamb Farm of Peninsula to bring the flock to the mansion grounds. Owner Laura DeYoung Minnig, who is also the Executive Director of Urban Shepherds, says “I’m excited to see sheep brought back into the city, which we hope will promote urban sheep grazing as a cost-saving and environmental alternative to mowing. We are working to make this an initiative that will promote urban farming and increase sheep production, while educating youth and recruiting future shepherds.”
“Mutton Hill” is the name that residents of 19th century Akron gave to this 150-acre farm, known for its 1,300 sheep that were reputed to produce some of the finest wool in the world.
“The Perkins Estate was first a farm,” said Leianne Neff Heppner, President and CEO of the Summit County Historical Society. “We want to interpret that story of the importance of agriculture in Akron and Summit County’s growth and development before it became a manufacturing center.”
Four generations of the Perkins family lived at the Stone Mansion estate. Simon Perkins built a reputation for fine wool, later becoming an Ohio senator who founded Summit County. Perkins’ son George Tod Perkins, who also lived at the mansion, became the second president of BF Goodrich Company.
Sheep production is the nation’s oldest organized industry, with wool being the first international trade commodity. Ohio was a major producer of mutton and wool in the 19th century. Perkins operated a woolen mill in what is now downtown Akron in the 1850’s. All of the soldiers in the Civil War wore wool uniforms.
The Brown House property is an essential link in John Brown’s personal history as an abolitionist and militant guerilla in the fight to end African slavery in America.
For info, visit summithistory.org.