Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Take a Trip to the Dorcheat Historical Museum and the Minden Cemetery

After driving by The Dorcheat Historical Museum for several years and often commenting that we should go visit, Steve and I finally went inside today to check it out; we were actually in Minden anyway to get the Jeep serviced, and it was a spur of the moment decision, but one well worth the time.

The museum has been open since 2008 and is located on Pearl Street in historic downtown Minden, Louisiana.  The main purpose of the museum is to preserve Webster Parish history and to educate future generations about the past.  The museum does an excellent job on both accounts; what struck me as we walked through the various displays was how unique the displays are and the obvious great effort that has been made to collect and preserve historic items from Webster Parish.  These people have done a lot of work!

We were greeted by Museum Director Schelley Brown Francis as soon as we entered; she offered us a tour which "lasts about thirty minutes," she said, but we decided to just poke around for ourselves this trip; if we'd had more time I would have done the tour and I certainly will next time.

Many of the displays have lovely 5 x 7 cards for you to pick up and keep as you go through; the cards have images on one side and text on the other related to the particular display.  Our first stop was about cotton production and plantation life.

There is a video that loops continuously that talks about the plantation system in the south and the various crops that might be raised (cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, etc.);   There's a huge bale of cotton there where you can feel how tightly packed it is, and cotton seed to inspect.

Here is a cool sign from the Webb Cotton press:

Dorcheat Bayou cuts right through Webster Parish: it starts in Arkansas and empties into Lake Bisteneau; in the early 19th century Dorcheat Bayou was navigable for three to six months per year.  This part of Minden's history is represented by the huge wheel just inside the door:

There was a display about Germantown, a Utopian society established in 1835 just northeast of Minden.  In this display you walk through a typical one room home complete with double bed, a hearth with iron pots nearby, and a baby cradle, among other things.

Minden's educational history is displayed with old yearbooks, band pictures and uniforms, letterman jackets and instruments:

There's a research room filled with historical journals, yearbooks, collections of local fiction, and other documents:

There's a display of the various religious groups in the area; artifacts from various churches are on display:

The museum also has a large meeting room where various speakers give lectures on occasion; you can keep up with those events via the museum's Facebook page.  This room also holds a display of artifacts representing Minden's journey through various wars.  There's an old radio by the WWII display that plays Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor address; the display has a young man (a mannequin dressed in period clothes) sitting in a chair by the radio listening intently.

There's much more that I just didn't photograph such as the old drive-in movie speaker in the entertainment display, or the ammunition plant display, among others.

Before we left we stopped in the gift shop and I bought a copy of Dr. Donnis Taylor's 2011 lecture at the museum on Ada Jack Carver Snell, a Natchitoches born writer prolific in the 1920s and 30s who married and moved to Minden with her new husband who had business there.  Ada wrote beautiful short stories (and a play) reflective of southern life with language that just drips Spanish moss and moonlight.

Of course I had to drive by and look at where Ada lived when she was in Minden; it's an adorable house with a lovely garden in the back in Minden's now Historic Residential District.   I'd like to see what it looked like when she actually lived there.

She quit writing and became a recluse after her husband died in 1959; she lived until 1972 and is buried in the Minden cemetery, next to her husband and her infant son.

The Minden cemetery is also fascinating and I learned something today that I didn't know; again, something we picked up in the museum.

In the old section of the Minden cemetery there are 20-30 Confederate soldiers buried; it's known as the Civil War Trench.  According to the display card I picked up at the museum:
Estimates are 20-30 bodies lie buried along the concrete line...Though names may be lost, their lives are remembered for their bravery & valor in April of 1864.  They likely were from Walker Texas Division & General Polinac's Division of Louisiana.  During bloody battles of Mansfield & Pleasant Hill they were wounded & brought to Minden to be treated.  These divisions had been in Minden a few months earlier, wintering in 1864.
You can read more here.

The "Trench" is in the back corner of the cemetery:

Only one name is known.

All the others are unknown:

The large monument was placed in 1936 by the Daughter's of the Confederacy...

...and the markers were placed by T.M. Scott Camp of Minden's Son's of Confederate Veterans in 2008.

You can go here to read more about T.M. Scott Camp of Minden - it's a cool site but I'll warn you, it plays music when you go there and I hate those autoplay things.  The content is interesting, though.

You can read more about the historic Minden cemetery here and here.

At any rate, it was an interesting afternoon and I learned some things.  I'd like to go back and take the museum tour and go walk though the cemetery among the unusual grave stones and iron fences.  Maybe in the fall...when it's not a hundred degrees with off-the-chart-humidity.

Admission to the Dorcheat Historical Museum is free and they are open Tuesday - Friday from 10 a.m. - 4 pm (closed for lunch).

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

1 comment:

Schelley Brown Francis said...

Thank you so much for coming to the museum! Look forward to your return and letting me give you the GRAND TOUR! Glad you found the Home and the Cemetery....Schelley Francis