The Warther Collection

Ernest "Mooney" Warther, born on October 30th, 1885 would become a legend, a small-town icon, and the World's Master Carver. The Warther Museum and Gardens are built around the original location of Ernest and Frieda's home, his original workshop, and the first museum which opened on May 10th, 1936 in their backyard. The Warther Museum is owned and operated by third and fourth generation family members whose mission is to share, educate, and delight visitors with the works compiled and created by both Ernest and Frieda Warther to invoke passion, determination, and admiration for the beauty of their art.

 


Ernest "Mooney" Warther

Ernest "Mooney" Warther was born on October 30th, 1885 in an old, one room school house in Dover, Ohio. The youngest of five children, Ernest learned at a young age the value of hard work. After his father passed away when Ernest was just three years old, times were tough for the Warther family, with young mother Anna, five children, twenty cents, and a cow. Upon turning five, Ernest began his first job as the local cow herder, taking cows to pasture for a penny a piece and earning him the nickname that would stay for the rest of his life, "Mooney." One fateful day, taking the cows out, Mooney found a rusty pocketknife in the dirt. This old knife would ultimately change the course of Mooney's life forever as the young boy began whittling sticks, fence-posts, and anything else. Because times were tough and money was short, Mooney would only finish the second grade and would eventually lie about his age at 14 to work at the American Sheet and Tin Company which was the local steel mill. Falling in love with the railroad and steam engines as a teenager, Mooney found his focus for carving, which became his hobby. When he was not working at the mill, he was carving. If he was not carving he was with his wife Frieda, his own five children, and the neighborhood clan. Mooney's journey is one that is remarkable, with one man creating sixty-four scaled and working representations of steam history. His carvings were created between 1905 and 1971, between the ages of 20 and 86. Beyond the carvings, Mooney Warther was discovered by the New York Central Railroad, traveled with his carvings, raised a family, opened his own museum, and dedicated his life to the town of Dover, Ohio and educating all people through his works. He was a character, smart as a whip, always with a story to tell, and often told the story while carving a pair of his signature pliers. People from all over the world came to Dover to see the man with the wild hair, the booming voice, and the genius mind who carved so perfectly, you had to see it to believe it.


Frieda Warther and The Button Collection

Frieda Warther, born Frieda Richard, was the oldest girl of thirteen children. Born November 12th, 1890, Frieda spent the first four years of her life in Switzerland before she and her family moved to the United States and found home in the small town of Dover, Ohio. Growing up in a big family, Frieda was one of a few girls who wished to hold on to her Swiss roots. As the oldest girl, she helped her mother immensely at home, learning great patience at a young age, and also earning her the gift of her mother's button box, a European tradition that gave the eldest girl her mother's box full of buttons and sewing tools. Soon after, she began making simple pieces of jewelry and she collected many buttons from other young girls who discarded their own button boxes in the hopes of being more American. Her collection began to grow, and her crafting mind sparked new ideas and designs. Eventually, she would lay these designs out in many patterns, like a quilt, and her collection would grow to over 73,000 buttons mounted, with thousands more she would not be able to mount. Beyond her growing collection, Frieda raised the children, supported her husband in all his endeavors and opportunities, and often traveled to see him while he was on the road. While the children were growing up, her gardens were filled with vegetables, feeding the family all year. After the children began leaving the house, her gardens slowly turned over to beautiful, flowering plants. These beds, Swiss-styled with some of her original plants, remain on site today. Like Mooney, Frieda had a great passion for educating others and helping the community. She opened her home to many in Dover, holding wreath making classes, flower arranging, and jewelry making. She was a 4-H leader and founder of the Dover Garden Club. In her own right, she became a unrequited legend.


The Warther Gardens and Grounds

Upon building their home in 1910, Mooney and Frieda built up the old calico ditch, building a stone wall with the cave into the side of the hill, and creating an oasis in the neighborhood. The grape-arbor was constructed, alongside Mooney's workshop, and as the children grew, they added playground down in the ditch. The 100 year old grape vines still flourish today, nestled in the center of the gardens. The first museum, presently holding the Button Collection, opened May 10th, 1936. Dave Warther, Mooney's youngest son would spend his life dedicated to creating the present museum layout, the 12,000 square foot facility, to showcase his father's works and life. Nestled on the grounds, visitors can stroll through eight acres of park, seeing the Warther family home, gardens, the towering Sycamore trees, and beautiful flowers. Families enjoy picnics on the grounds and especially enjoy playing on the authentic hand-car, steam engine, and 1927 B&O Caboose. Peek inside the telegraph office or enjoy the shade of the gazebo, Mooney and Frieda loved having visitors and would be happy to have you on their grounds today, enjoying the park and their collections. 


The Native American Artifact and Arrowhead Collection

After meeting at their youth group, Mooney asked Frieda on their first date: to go arrowhead hunting together. She said yes. It was in that simple answer that he knew he found the girl for him. This soon began a tradition for the young couple that they would share for many years to come. Every Sunday, they would embark on a walk together, meandering over the hills of the Tuscarawas Valley finding over 5,000 arrowheads and other artifacts. Frieda would eventually mount these in patterns, and the majority of the collection adorns Mooney's workshop today.