PRAIRIE GROVE -- The excitement of youthful exuberance and the newness of a recently established history museum is flourishing these days along the main street of this Washington County town.
"We opened April 17th," Molly Hutchins, the 19-year-old museum manager, said in a recent interview. "And we have already had people calling about including some of their artifacts or giving the items to us to display in the museum collection."
Hutchins, a library assistant at Prairie Grove Public Library and college student at nearby Ecclesia College in Elm Springs, graduated from her homeschool studies a year ago.
She has been an enthusiastic and faithful worker for the Prairie Grove Historical Society since its inception two years ago. She is also a tireless volunteer for the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History and the Washington County Historical Society.
A two-bedroom, white frame home at 311 E. Buchanan is the home of the new history museum. The house, which once contained a resale shop, sits next door to Harps. The building, owned by the city, was used most recently as a used bookstore for Friends of Prairie Grove Library.
While the home stood vacant for the last year to 18 months, the transition into a new museum, "The Prairie Grove Heritage Museum," was quickly put together. The transformation from a vacant farmhouse now offers a fast-growing collection of photos, old newspapers and other items to view – all items uniquely local to the Prairie Grove area.
"We (the Prairie Grove Historical Society) moved quickly after getting this building for our use," Hutchins said. "We are excited to take in many photos and other display items of history inside the building and hear of each piece's relevance to Prairie Grove and Northwest Arkansas's history."
The group's Prairie Grove Historical Society Facebook page gives a stated purpose for the organization: "to bring together those interested in history, especially the history of the city and community of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, and surrounding areas. The society's major objective shall be to discover and collect any material which may help to establish and illustrate the history of the area and its people...."
Items also have been offered that won't fit, physically, into the building, Hutchins said.
"Maybe, later on, we can see about such display items that we can't get through the front door."
Already, the initial collection of items of photographs, newspapers and framed items such as a paper kite from the "Leaders of Tomorrow" promotion/contest from almost 40 years ago graces the walls of the museum.
Items also include a beautifully printed calendar backing depicting an English garden scene, complete with thatched roof cottage, from an early decade of print advertising, which touts the Prairie Grove Lumber Company, "Reliable quality building materials, Telephone 35..." The calendar back also contains these words: "Greetings and all happiness and good wishes for the New Year." Sadly, the calendar pages are long since gone from the display, Hutchins notes.
There is a display of a local Masonic ceremonial sword and other Masonic memorabilia and some old zippered bank deposit bags from the Merchants & Planters Bank of Prairie Grove and Farmington, a forerunner of one of the major banks in Washington County, until the bank sold in the late 1990s. Also in the bank display case is a canceled business check from Prairie Grove Motor Company, Ford Dealer, dated March 1, 1947, to a customer for $10.26.
The three rooms are being filled with items like one would find on display at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, the regional historical museum in Springdale or the Washington County Historical Society's Headquarters House Museum in Fayetteville. There are more than two dozen framed black and white images from a bevy of decades in and around Prairie Grove – most are identified.
Hutchins also serves as vice president of Prairie Grove Historical Society, a group which began two short years ago with an ambitious goal of helping collect and preserve the items in the Prairie Grove area. Hutchins is quick to point out this is not a duplication of the Prairie Grove Battlefield Museum, found in Hindman Hall, but hopefully a growing collection of items from the city of Prairie Grove and surrounding area.
Items are being collected by the museum, and Hutchins says the best way to make donations is to email the museum describing the items one may wish to donate. The address is [email protected] The Museum does not pay for items, buy items or guarantee any items loaned against theft or loss, Hutchins said.
Other officers of the Prairie Grove Historical Association are president and treasurer, Michael Dillingham; secretary, Kerrie Logsdon; Hutchins and board members Rick Ault, Marsha Phillipak-Chambers, Marvin Rice and Libby Dillingham.
Dues for membership are $25 a year, per calendar year. Other levels of membership are $40 per calendar year per family; $100 per year as a corporate sponsor or an individual lifetime membership for $250.
The Prairie Grove Heritage Museum is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, during the Farmer's Market in downtown Prairie Grove. There is no admission but donations are welcome.
Prairie Grove Heritage Museum, 311 E. Buchanan St., is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, during the Farmer’s Market in downtown Prairie Grove. There is no admission, but donations are welcome.