GATESVILLE — Preserving Coryell County’s history is a task shared by several organizations made up of volunteers who cherish their heritage.
The Coryell County Historical Commission works to help organizations and individuals obtain official state markers to designate landmarks as historical sites.
Homer Perryman, whose family settled the area in the 1800s, recently stepped down as chairman of the commission after 16 years. He was succeeded by Danny Corbett.
James Powell, a member of the commission since 2005, is the designated “marker chairman” for the organization.
In October, the commission was successful in the placement and dedication of a marker on North Fort Hood to honor the 470 families who were forced to abandon 20 communities to make way for the creation of Camp Hood in 1942.
The commission now meets in the new Main Street Annex, where county officials designated climate-controlled storage space for historic documents and relics.
Since 1986, the commission has campaigned to restore and renovate the 115-year-old Coryell County Courthouse in Gatesville. The old building maintains its ancient grandeur while still serving the needs of the county and the 52nd Judicial District Court.
The commission has given credit for much of the county historical research done in recent years to the late Bobbie F. Thornton, an amateur historian who died in December 2012.
A block east of the courthouse is the Coryell Museum and Historical Center, where relics and photographs of county history are on public display.
The centerpiece of the exhibits is the Mitchell Spur Collection, which includes 6,000 spurs from the 10,000 collected by Lloyd Mitchell over more than 70 years. The Mitchell family donated the collection in 1995, prompting the Texas Legislature to designate Gatesville the Spur Capital of Texas.
Another fascinating piece of county history in the museum is the old log jail built by pioneer John H. Chrisman in 1855. The small, rough-cut building seems crude by modern standards but was a high-tech marvel when it was built to shelter miscreants who previously were chained to a tree on the courthouse lawn.
Those who consider history a family matter may want to check with the Coryell County Genealogical Society. Formed in 1979, the society meets on the second Tuesday of January, March, May, July, September and November at the Gatesville Public Library.
Sherry Lawrence does genealogical research for the organization and is editor of “Coryell Kin,” the society’s quarterly publication.