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Meet the woman who has worked quietly behind the scenes
to build Heritage Farm Museum & Village into a highly
acclaimed throwback to America's Appalachain roots and one
of the premier tourism attractions in the state of West Virginia.

By Marla Brannan

 

Behind every good man stands an even better woman,” one version of the old adage has it. And when Henriella Perry is the woman, her husband, well-known Heritage Farm Museum & Village front man Mike Perry, agrees wholeheartedly. The prominent former attorney, banker and interim president of Marshall University says: “Most people associate the farm with me. But they need to know of Henriella’s critical role from the beginning. People will comment that I’m a blessed man, often from the standpoint that she just goes along with me. But that’s not correct. In the final analysis, it was Henriella’s idea to move to the country, which inevitably led to the formation of Heritage Farm.”

It wasn’t a return to her roots that she sought; Henriella Mylar Perry was born and raised in Huntington, by hard working parents, Ralph and Virginia Mylar. They owned and operated a family business, Mylar’s License Service, and from the age of 15 Henriella worked right alongside her mother. She points to this experience as a great tool for her new role of managing Heritage Farm.

“My mother was one of my first inspirations because of how she handled people of all walks of life,” she recalls.

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Mike wasn’t from farm stock either. His parents raised him and his brother within walking distance to school on Huntington’s South Side and the young couple seemed destined to follow a similar path. Mike and Henriella’s love story began in the fifth grade when he came home from school one day and told his mother, “I’m going to marry that girl one day.” But it wasn’t until their senior year when some cupid-playing teachers cast them opposite one another in a love duet at Huntington High’s spring choir concert that the couple began dating. Four years later, when Mike graduated from Marshall, they were married. Henriella followed Mike to Morgantown and three years of law school. Then it was back to Huntington and a role as attorney’s wife and stay-at-home mom to children Michele, Melanie and Audy.

When Mike began working longer hours at a prominent Huntington law firm and golfing during his free time, Henriella suggested that perhaps they could do something together with the children on Saturdays instead of work or golf. Mike says, “perhaps it was how she said it, but we started going antiquing every Saturday with the children.” Their budget was the amount he’d been spending weekly in greens fees playing golf – about $5. The children were told to find an item unknown to them, buy it and then learn what it was and how it was used. Thus began the collection of kitchen devices, meat grinders and small hand tools that now – after 30 years of foraging – is displayed at Heritage Farm Museum & Village.

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The farm, located on Harvey Road in Wayne County, celebrates Appalachian history in brilliant detail covering everything from the history of transportation to the history of the broom. There’s an authentic one-room schoolhouse, a church, several museums chock-full of the Perrys’ collections of covered wagons and automobiles, washing machines and steam tractors, a general store, the offices of doctors and dentists, a blacksmith shop, a grist-mill, a sawmill and a glass blowing furnace – all in working condition.

A tour of the Progress Building celebrates how our ancestors adapted to change and takes the observer through a late 19th and early 20th century kitchen, an exhibit depicting the history of quilting, and a 50s style doo-wop soda fountain.

The Perry’s say the mission of the museum is to educate today’s generation, as well as future generations, about life in Appalachia at the turn of the century.

 

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