Whenever I visit a town, I always try to make a stop through the local museum. It’s amazing the amount of history one comes across and I always come away with a better understanding of the area I am visiting. In Mount Ida, the Heritage House Museum showcases the history of Montgomery County from 1800 to 1975.
Exhibits highlight areas of importance to the area including geology ( quartz crystals), Lake Ouachita, and the timber industry.
Inside the museum, folks can get a peek at the staples of home life during this era such as the tradition of the porch as a gathering place. A replica porch in the museum includes a typical scene one would see during that time. You also learn about the differences between a front porch ( a place to greet people on the way to the fields, a place for news to be exchanged, the family dog to take a nap, etc), the back porch ( often held a cast iron stove for canning and cleaning appliances like washtubs, etc) and a wrap around porch that had a door from each room opening onto the “sleeping porch.”
Another neat feature is the replica general store you can wander through.
One of my favorite exhibits featured a fiddle belonging to George Washington Brumley. You can read more about this fiddle here.
Outside is an authentic 1880s log house that was moved from Alamo, Arkansas to the museum property and refurbished. The owner notched logs left behind by a logging company for the walls. The clothes hanging on the clothesline near the house added a nice detail to the atmosphere of the grounds.
Also outside is an exhibit barn, a 1940s Eleanor style outhouse that was moved from Pine Ridge ( yes, there is a stuffed dummy in there that scared me when I peeked inside!) and a sorghum cooking stand and mill that was constructed on site. Cane was grown, along with other crops, so a family could have sorghum molasses throughout the year. The stalks were hauled by wagon to the mill. Powered by a horse or mule, the mill pressed the juice from the cane. Then the juice was cooked in a copper pan until it reached the right consistency for molasses.
The museum also hosts two annual festivals: Heritage Day in the spring with demonstrations and activities and Sorghum Squeezin’ Day in the fall—with sorghum being made on site, complete with a mule-powered mill.
When I visited, the museum was in the midst of working on another permanent exhibit that will highlight the county’s history with logging, sawmills and forestry.
The museum’s displays change often, so be sure to visit often whenever you are in the neighborhood. The Heritage House Museum is located at 819 Luzerne Street and their phone number is 870-867-4422. The museum is open Monday, Tues., Wed. and Friday from 9-4 and Saturday and Sunday from 1-4. Emilie Kinney is the director.
Here are some more interesting tidbits of the region care of the Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County:
-In 1842, six years after Arkansas was declared a state, Montgomery County was formed and named in honor of Gen. Richard Montgomery a legendary officer during the Revolutionary War.
-Currently, about 63 percent of the land in the county is part of the Ouachita National Forest.
- In 1931, Mount Ida elected an all-women city council. After serving two terms, the women had negotiated an contracted with AP&L to have electricity brought into town, they raised money to have a rock fence constructed around the town square, and the city was out of debt.
- In 1903, John Shaw of Little Fir bought a buggy-type care. That horseless carriage was the first automobile in the Mount Ida area. Alf Smith was the first to own a Model T. Ford in the area. And in a story some might be able to relate to: In 1923 Roy Flatte in 1923 was challenged to make it up Norman hill in his Model T. After successfully doing so, he promptly got a ticket from the town marshal, one of the many onlookers.
-Families in rural Montgomery County couldn’t get to town regularly for provisions, so rolling stores would go to them.
-Montgomery County is home to the Caddo River and the Ouachita River, with its South Fork and North Fork. Lake Ouachita was created by damming the Ouachita River.
-Old Dallas Road- This old roadway stretches from Hot Springs westward into Dallas, a small community southeast of Mena. It was probably originally and old trail traveled by Indians from the mountains to the hot water springs for their healing qualities and to gather novaculite along the way for arrowheads. This is thought to be the route taken by Hernando de Soto in 1541 from Hot Springs to Caddo Gap.
- Montgomery County is noted for quartz crystal viens that produce crystals. When Hernando de Soto traveled the region in the 1500s he found members of local Native American tribes trading crystals to other tribes. They also chipped arrowheads, spear tips and jewelry from the hard quartz.