Museum is a new home for old history

Published 11:27 am Thursday, July 30, 2015

The papers, artifacts and other items documenting the history of Cumberland County’s people, places and events now have a home.

Within the small brick building, known as the Old Clerk’s Office, nestled among the other historic structures in the village along U.S. Route 60, are stacks of aged letters, correspondence, high school yearbooks, an envelope postmarked 1933, Martin and Dabney Ford Dealership papers, old building permits, school desegregation letters and much, much more. Plaques commemorating judges, clerks and other government officials hang on the walls below the high ceiling.

More than 260 years of history, dating back to the founding of Cumberland, exists in the planned museum, which organizers have slated to open to the public in October.

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“First, we want to preserve the history,” said Elizabeth Jamerson, who serves on the boards of the museum and historical society. “If you do not have a place to collect and guard your historical artifacts, then they slip away.” The second goal of the museum is to share the collected history with the community, she said.

The museum board received word within the last year that they could use the old clerk’s office,, which allowed for the organizers’ dream of the museum to come true.

“It wasn’t anything except we had all our stuff together in one place,” said organizer Barbara Gamage of the earlier location — in the back of Ashby Antiques on Route 60. “We didn’t actually have anything set up.”

Soon after its establishment in 1983, the Cumberland Historical Society had a dream for a museum, which would house the documents, clothing, relics and other artifacts of historical significance to Cumberland. “In 2001, the county applied for a grant that would turn the former jail, which sits adjacent to the courthouse, into that museum. Since that step, dedicated citizens have been working toward accumulating items and securing financial support to turn dream into reality,” she said.

According to Gamage, the lack of matching funds from a federal grant hindered work on the old jail. The board and the historical society met to try to come up with other plans for a museum.

The museum board and historical society are very grateful for the new location, said Jamerson. “This is a very nice location for people to drive by and see us. And it is a historical building,” she said adding that the museum was right beside the courthouse and existing clerk’s office.

Volunteers are in the process of constructing exhibits and filling showcases, scanning all of the documents that have been donated and collected and indexing and filing them into a searchable database.

According to the organizers, the oldest documentation dates back to 1749 when the county was founded. The museum has copies of court orders from the time period.

According to Betty Sears, the secretary/treasurer of the historical society, the museum is willing to accept more documents and artifacts based on a certain criteria, and is willing to accept items on loan.

“We are also hoping that when the museum opens that people will be a little more likely to donate things to us,” Jamerson said.

Residents and visitors who have sought historical information have been assisted by museum volunteers. They have given them access to the bulletins and family histories on Saturdays and Sundays, said Gamage. “Members have been working on sorting out documents that pertained to the historic old Muddy Creek Mill, the grocery store/post office and the funeral home that was owned by the Blantons of Tamworth.”

Funding for the museum has come from donations, the Friends of the Museum group and the Historical Society.

For more information on the new museum, call (804) 492-3348, (804) 492-4803 or email