GATESVILLE — To understand where Coryell County is going — culturally, politically, economically, socially — we might want to take a look back to where the county has been.
Whether you are a Coryell newcomer, old-timer, youngster, geezer or somewhere in between, a good place to get the look and feel of the area’s history is the Coryell Museum and Historical Center in Gatesville.
As local area museums go, ours is a good one. If you haven’t been there in a while — or ever — it is well worth the drive up Farm-to-Market 116 to visit the past. Probably the best-known exhibit in the museum is the Lloyd and Madge Mitchell Collection consisting of about 6,000 spurs, just a portion of the trove Lloyd Mitchell amassed over 77 years.
As impressive as the spur collection is, the museum offers a lot more to attract the wandering history buff.
One of my favorite exhibits is the old log jail built in 1854 by Fort Gates pioneer John Chrisman. The hand-hewn structure may look crude and tiny now, but it was a technological marvel when it became the first county lockup. Before the jail was built, bad guys awaiting trial were chained to a tree on the courthouse lawn.
Medical Plastics Laboratory, a homegrown enterprise by local doctors to create artificial skeletons for the medical profession, is featured in a display including some of the first skulls created. In 2000, Medical Plastics Laboratory merged with Norway-based Laerdal Medical Corporation, which is planning to expand its Gatesville plant this year.
Camp Hood, now Fort Hood, is a big part of the county’s history, and the museum displays that military heritage with an assortment of uniforms, tactical gear, posters, maps, mementos and photos remembering those who answered the nation’s call.
There is a display telling about the men and boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps who lent their muscle and sweat to build parks and public buildings in the county including Mother Neff State Park.
Examples of technology that made homes and businesses thrive — a dentist chair, an icebox, a printing press, a telephone switchboard, a combine, a stove, a windmill, a classroom desk with ink well — are all part of the museum collection.
Want to celebrate? A party room with dance floor and bar on the second floor is available for rent.
Books, T-shirts, spurs, hats, mugs, postcards and dominoes are among the items available in the gift shop.
Volunteers staff the museum, which relies on tax-deductible contributions to stay open.
The Coryell Museum and Historical Center at the corner of Main and Eighth streets in Gatesville is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children and seniors, children under 6 get in free.
Call the museum at 254-865-5007 or go to www.coryellmuseum.org.