History – The Mifflinburg Buggy Museum
It was an ordinary Sunday in
May 1978 – but
something extraordinary happened. A group of Mifflinburg citizens, led
by Dr. Charles McCool Snyder, a retired history professor had been discussing
the need for a museum celebrating the town’s heritage of buggy
making. At an earlier meeting, Norman Heiss and his sons, Owen and Glen
had asked, “Would you like to see a buggy factory?” And
on this Sunday afternoon, the group got its first glimpse of the Heiss
Coach Works. Behind the closed doors of the factory lay forty years
of buggy making history: William’s tools, a hit & miss engine,
horseshoes, tires, wheels, dashboards, upholstered
seats, paints, catalogs for parts and his own account
books. There were finished vehicles in
ruins and vehicles barely begun. There were beehives,
honey can labels, farm tools and more. The reaction
of those who gathered was one of disbelief.
Almost as one the group, realized that the shop
was virtually intact from its original use. It
was as if William Heiss had closed the doors
after a day of work intending to return the next morning.
Upon further examination, the group realized
that two other buildings on the site – the family home and the repository – were
also intact. Over the next few weeks, the Mifflinburg
Buggy Museum Association was organized and chartered
as a not-for-profit museum. The museum has
been recognized as one of only twelve craft/industrial
museums in the United States that preserves and
interprets an original site.
Initially an all volunteer operation – the
museum restored the factory, the house and the
repository, collected buggies, wagons and
sleighs to display, rebuilt the Carriage House,
built the Visitor Center and installed wheelchair
accessible walkways throughout the historic
site. Work and improvements continue for the museum
as it moves towards rebuilding the livery stable.
Volunteers continue to be the backbone of the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum
by guiding tours, staffing the admissions desk, planning events and
programs and offering research assistance to visitors.