Learn about local history at the Heritage House Museum in Mount Ida
The Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County in Mount Ida is a stop well worth an excursion if you are into local history.
Outdoor exhibits there you can see include an 1895 farm wagon and log house from the 1800s as well as an Eleanor Outhouse, a style of outhouse promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt during the 1930s during her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration as part of the Works Progress Administration, WPA, and Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC.
Inside is a treasure of information about Montgomery County with exhibits spotlighting various parts of the history of the area including quartz crystal mining, a detailed look into the area’s timber and forestry history, fishing Lake Ouachita, the geological formation of the Ouachita Mountains, interesting people from the area like George Washington Brumley, a famous fiddle maker, along with his daughter Violet Brumley Hensley.
Richard Whittington is the person who first started the museum in the late 1990s. He owned Whittington’s Pharmacy in town and had a passion for history. His family had ties to the founders of the area, including Granville Whittington, who came to Arkansas from Boston in the early 1830s and is the person who even named Mount Ida, which comes from a mountain of the same name in Boston.
One of the most intriguing exhibits at the museum tells of the quartz crystal mining history of the area. Here you can learn about William “Bill” Fisher and his ties to Fischer Mountain. Fischer’s family initially came to the area for silver mining, which was mined in Garland and Montgomery Counties at the time. The family was active in the mining community in Silver City, aka Silver, Montgomery County. At one point this town was bigger than Mount Ida and Highway 270 was then known as the Silver Road. Once the silver mining industry went into decline in the area, Silver City went with it and the land went back to the federal government. Bill Fisher homesteaded the land and was a pioneer in digging for crystals in the area. So much so that in the 1950s the U.S. The Forest Service renamed Crystal Mountain, where he had a crystal mine, to Fisher Mountain.
A mural in the museum outlines some interesting information in visual form that ties to this history and gives it context. For instance the mural depicts that in1836 Arkansas became a state, in 1842 Montgomery County was formed, in 1880 the first mining claims were filed, in 1886 the Mount Ida mining district was established and in 1904 the first quartz claim was filed.
Another interesting piece of history to learn is about the Arkansas National Forest, the first U.S. national forest created in the south by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, was created. This included most of the public land remaining in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas after homesteads and other public use had taken the more productive land. In the mid 1920s this forest was renamed the Ouachita National Forest. The word Ouachita comes from two Choctaw words: 'ouac', a buffalo, and 'chito', large.
Other interesting tidbits include that the 785 acre Seed Orchard in Montgomery County is the largest shortleaf pine seed orchard in the nation, providing three national forests with shortleaf pine seedlings. The Arkansas State Quarter was also designed by Dortha Scott of Mount Ida.
Each year the museum is also the scene of the Sorghum Festival, held each year in October on the second Saturday of that month. Here you can get a glimpse of what goes into producing sorghum.
On the lookout for more interesting local history? If so, the Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County can be found at 819 Luzerne Street off of Highway 27 South.