I'm excited to introduce you all to our newest employee at the the Newton County Historical Park and Museum in Neosho.
On Monday, Deanna Booyer will begin her first day on the job as what essentially is director of the historical complex that encompasses the 1887 sheriff's home and jail (now the county history museum), the pre-Civil War log cabin, and the one-room schoolhouse that, though changed and renovated, was once the Cedar Creek school from circa 1878 to 1916. The Newton County Historical Park, as it is known, is located at 121 N Washington St., just one block north of the Neosho Square.
Deanna comes highly recommended. In fact, she was actually director once before, in the early 2000s. We have piled quite a few responsibilities on her this time around, including giving talks both on and off site, and organizing events, among other duties. However, we are confident that she will fulfill her commitment to the community in sharing the story of us — that is, of Newton County. In fact, I would take this opportunity to invite our local schools to plan field trips to the historical park. No matter if it is school kids from Neosho, Seneca, Westview, East Newton, Triway, or Diamond, I think they would benefit from learning a little bit about the county they live in. No matter what school district in Newton County, it really isn't too far to travel to the county history museum for a half-day. One Neosho elementary teacher even walks his students to the schoolhouse once a year to have old-fashioned learning for a day. I wish more teachers did that, even if they need to bus the kids in, for geographical reasons. I know class time is of the essence, because of state testing, but if one teacher can do it, then why not others? And, in fact, trips to the museum actually satisfy some curriculum requirements. No, I'm not an educator, but I've looked into it and verified that. I encourage our educators to do the same.
I encourage adults to stop by the museum as well. I'm always amazed at the number of local folks who don't know much about the place they live. We have an interesting story here. To focus on just the museum, it was once the home where the sheriffs lived. It was connected to the main jail, which was a brick building that stood where the parking lot is now. Unfortunately, it was torn down in the 1950s. But from 1887 to 1937 elected sheriffs lived in the house that is now the museum. A total of 13 sheriffs and their families resided there. The women's cell was located upstairs and is now the tool room, though the original iron door is still there. The door where prisoners were brought in upon arrest is still there. The parlor is the next room over and I picture the various sheriff families sitting there doing family activities and hearing all the commotion when prisoners were brought in. Obviously, the prisoners would have sometimes been unruly, especially when under the influence of John Barleycorn, and I think of what the kids may have thought when they heard through the wall the voice of their father, the sheriff, using language he probably didn't use around the family as he dragged the accused in after arrest. It's all part of the story of the museum.
If you have visited the museum before, one thing I would ask for is patience as we try to make room for exhibits. Space is our challenge. My personal vision is to have a separate facility of most of the artifacts and exhibits and to convert the museum into looking what it was when it was the sheriff’s home. But that takes money.
Meanwhile, please stop by the museum and say hi to Deanna. Our new hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays.
Stay tuned for upcoming events. Thanks to everyone who turned out to the Thomas Hart Benton Birthday Bash on Saturday. Benton is one of our hometown boys. We like to celebrate when local kids make it big — even if they are no longer with us.
Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He can be reached at 658-8443.