Touring Texoma: Wilbarger County Historical Museum

If you missed last week's Touring Texoma report from the Museum of North Texas History, here's another great reason for history buffs to get excited.

In Vernon, The old Wilbarger County Jail is being converted into a museum.

When Preston Cary was just a kid in the Vernon area, he started collecting things he'd find with historic value, and he never stopped.

Preston: "County line, between Wichita County and Wilbarger County, is where I found all of this stuff.  Look how big those shells are.  But, all of this stuff is off a Buffalo Soldier camp on Beaver Creek."

Preston: "This is a filing cabinet.  They could set it down on the desk and file through it.  See, it sat flat.  And, it had all the records from the courthouse, out of this courthouse."

Preston: "He was known as Harvey Dean The Hot Tamale King.  He said, we have that cart, and I said where?  He said Arizona.  I said, oh my gosh.  He said, we're going to bring it to you, and he did."

Preston says there's going to be a special place in the Wilbarger County Historical Museum for this.

The reason being, he was as big a piece of history there ever was out of Vernon, Texas.

Preston: "This jail was built in 1912. It is now going to be the Wilbarger County Historical Museum."

Rusty Haynes/Wilbarger Co. Historical Commission:   "Preston has been collecting this stuff all his life, and he's got enough to fill this building twice."

Rusty Haynes says filling it up is exactly what they're going to do once the whole facility is power washed, repainted, and repaired, he says while of course maintaining the integrity of the building.

Rusty:  "I think this is one of the neatest buildings in Vernon for sure and one of the neatest buildings I've seen anywhere."

Preston: "I really will tell you I think people will be trafficking through this museum daily, and I mean daily."

Preston says because there's no way they'll be able to see all the collections in one trip.

Preston: "Anything that relates to music, the soda shops, we have the booths out of a dining and dancing place.  We have a table that goes with it, the jukebox piece that goes at the end of the table, anything you can think of that's in the hang out Rock n Roll days, we've got it in here."

Preston: "We've got the coin changers from 1890's.  Just got a world of stuff from 1890.  So, this is going to be a great little bank.  Come on here and get a loan, or give us one."

Preston: "We're turning this into all of the grocery stores that were in town.  The canned goods are all old labels. No zip codes. No bar codes.  This will have all the canned goods, all the canning jars.  Anything you see walking into a grocery store. The old meat counting scales will be in here, and the same thing with the old cash register."

Preston: "All the signs in here, the different food stores that were in Vernon.  Joe's Food goes down through that one, and then a sign here from 1910, Wilson Grocery.  So, there will be a lot of grocery advertising in here."

Rusty: "This was the kitchen for the jail.  They prepared meals here both for the staff, the jail staff, and the prisoners.  Once the meals were prepared, they were placed on a dumb waiter over here and sent up to the prisoners."

Preston says a couple of years ago, he was giving about 6- local boys a tour through this jail, and one of them asked, you mean the inmates had to use the restroom right next to each other?  No privacy?  He said, you bet they did.  This is jail and you don't want any part of it."

Preston: "I want them to realize, if they get into trouble, this is what they end up in, a place like this.  Far away from home, and they're not getting out until these people are ready to let them out."

Rusty: "So, the first thing visitors will see is the jail itself, and then all the artifacts from the history of Vernon and Wilbarger County, dating back to the 1800's."

Preston: "It excites me a lot.  I think all of these little towns need to preserve their history, and maybe the younger generation could figure out where they're going if they could find out where they came from."

They will discover much behind these walls.
The Wilbarger County Historical Museum is a definite work in progress, but one these two gentlemen and city leaders who came through with 50- thousand Hotel Motel Tax dollars for paint and other supplies believe is well worth the investment.

Heating and cooling units are already installed, but much work still needs to be done.
If you think you could help with donated help, or with monetary donations, here are numbers you can call for information, 940-886-7993 or 940-553-1348.
The museum is expected to open maybe around the first of August.

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