Around 1978, Museum founder John Rice Irwin purchased this pie safe from Ethel Freytag. Ethel was a historian and retired school teacher who lived on a farm a couple miles southwest of Wartburg, Tennessee. Upon purchasing the piece, John Rice asked Ethel about its history. In reply, Ethel told John Rice the following story.
“That old pie safe belonged to my great uncle, William Sterling Neil, who operated the old Hotel Cumberland on the main street in Wartburg. He ran it in the late 1800s—on into this century.
He was my mother’s uncle, and my mother, Maude Neil Freytag, came to live there at the hotel when she was a girl. When court was in session, a lot of people stayed there, and of course, they took their meals at the dining room at the hotel. My uncle would buy butter from the local farms and keep it in this old pie safe.
Well, Morgan County didn’t have any fence laws back then, and cattle and pigs could, and did, legally run wild. There was a big old sow hog that ran loose there in Wartburg—just eating scraps and garbage as she pleased. That old sow also smelled our fresh butter, and would often try and steal it from the pie safe. Eventually, she learned how to open the front door with her nose; she would run in and root open the safe door and grab her a pound of butter. My uncle and my mother would hear her and would run down the hall with a broom after that old sow, who would run through the hotel with the butter in her mouth.
Well, they added an extra latch to the pie safe door, and later on another one, but they still couldn’t keep the pig out. Lord, I’ve heard my mother say many a time that she’d run through the hotel chasing after that old sow. It sounds funny now, but mother sure didn’t think it was funny.”
The pie safe is on display in the second floor of our Hall of Fame building.