Although many area residents don’t pay a great deal attention to it, the fact is Texas County is abounding with history.

Since its founding as Ashley County in 1843, the place has certainly seen its share of noteworthy occasions, occurrences and moments, and has had many an extraordinary man and woman set foot within its 1,179 square mile boundaries. While factors like fire, theft, oversight and the simple passing of time have left the present without tangible documentation of much of that past, a significant amount is thankfully preserved within the walls of a structure on Grand Avenue in Houston: The Texas County Memorial Building.

For some reason, I hadn’t been inside the building until last week. I have no viable excuse for that, but in my defense, I believe that puts me in a sizable group of local residents – which is a rather strange reality that has no rational explanation or justification I can think of.

Doug Davison

DOUG DAVISON

But thanks to some of the folks who volunteer their time to ensure the existence of the Memorial Building’s contents, I was fortunate enough to take my own self-guided tour of its various rooms. And I was left with a very positive impression.

The building is shared by two separate nonprofit entities: The Texas County Historical and Military Museum and the Texas County Genealogical and Historical Society. Both are dedicated to promoting and preserving local history; the former maintains numerous displays of military and general historical nature, while the latter operates a library featuring a vast collection of historical documents and paperwork.

It would be amazing enough just to see all this stuff under one roof. But it’s in Houston – and viewing it is free.

Sure, the Memorial Building is only open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays from March through October, so it’s by no means convenient for everyone to get there. But I’m here to tell you, it’s worth making the time available.

The museum is chock-full of interesting items, including (but not limited to) clothing, photos, old newspapers, artwork and a host of objects with a connection to military or general Texas County history. It’s all neatly arranged and displayed on walls, in glass cases and by other means in a way that’s highly pleasing to the eye and brain.

Basically, it’s a very real museum housing very real glimpses of local history.

The Genealogical and Historical library isn’t as grand a visionary spectacle, but it’s incredible that so much information spanning such a long period of time has been compiled and organized on shelves in Houston. It’s actually possible to find printed records of marriages, births and deaths dating back a century, and there are literally thousands of other historical documents of almost every imaginable type.

It’s difficult to appreciate the amount of focus and effort that went into putting it all together, but suffice it to say it was a massive undertaking that required lots of people and lots of hours.

And again, all this is in a building in downtown Houston. Remarkable.

I’m glad I’m now fully aware of the scale of what’s in the Memorial Building, and I like knowing it’s all there. To me it represents yet another piece in the complex, unique and fascinating puzzle that is the former Ashley County, Mo.

As is seemingly the case with all volunteer organizations these days, the two Memorial Building groups are in need of willing and able bodies to help further their similar but separate causes.

To get involved with the Historical and Military Museum, call Norma Bridges at 417-967-2629. To help with the Genealogical and Historical library, call Shirley Wenger at 417-967-2946.

The Texas County Memorial Building is a great place, and I hope it has a great future. It certainly has a great past.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

 

 

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