Herbert S. Ford Museum

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The Herbert S. Ford Memorial Museum is a local history museum located in the former Claiborne Hotel at 519 South Main Street in Homer in Claiborne Parish in north Louisiana. The Homer Chamber of Commerce is headquartered within the two-story museum, which is situated across the town square from the historic Claiborne Parish Courthouse.

The museum began at the residence of Herbert Ford (1889-1960), a Homer businessman who had been a United States Army captain of infantry in World War I. Ford and his wife, the former Ruth Meadows (1895-1996), lost a son at sea during World War II.[1]


Cotton and oil exhibits

The museum claims the oldest compressed bale of cotton still in existence in the United States. This cotton display is believed to have been baled about 1930.Cotton exhibit, Ford Museum Adjacent to the cotton exhibit is a highlight of the museum, the "Black Gold", a replica of an oilfield roughneck—a general laborer worker who loading and unloads cargo from crane baskets and keeps the drilling equipment clean—employed in the early 1930s by the Sinclair Oil and Gas Company. The exhibit has a recording which explains how a farm family, growing mostly cotton and corn faced great economic travail in Mississippi but relocated to Claiborne Parish to take advantage of the oil and natural gas boom. "Oil changed our lives forever. We owe a lot to the men, mud, and mules that made it happen," concludes the recorded message. In 1921, oil was discovered in Homer; in 1921, another strike followed in Haynesville in northern Claiborne Parish. The boom continued through the 1930s and brought many customers to the then booming Hotel Claiborne, which had been established in 1890 and declared a state historic site in 1984.[2]


Military exhibits

There is a small exhibit downstairs on the American Civil War with three Confederate flags on the wall. Particularly moving is a letter from the otherwise unidentified "H. McFarland" to a widow whose husband was killed in the fighting in the Battle of Atlanta in Georgia on July 30, 1864. Here is an excerpt: He was shot through the neck cutting the large vein from which he died in a very few moments. ... A Christian heart like yours will turn to the words of the blessed Savior. ... Your husband died a true patriot and a good soldier. And angels have caught up his spirit and carried it to a land of rest where there is no war or troubles to molest."H. McFarland" to a "Mrs. Harris," Civil War exhibit, Ford Museum

A section upstairs honors military veterans of the 20th century, with two individuals singled out for attention: (1) Larry G. Sale (1894-1977), the Claiborne Parish sheriff from 1936 to 1944 was Louisiana's most decorated soldier of World War I. (2) David Wade (1911-1990), a native of the Holly Springs community between Homer and Minden, a lieutenant general in three wars, and the winner of more than a dozen medals,. He became the state corrections officer during the 1960s and the namesake of the Wade Correctional Institute, a state prison between Homer and Haynesville.[3]


General exhibits

The Ford Museum houses exhibits common to most other local history museums, but some of the memorabilia is unique to this particular facility. There is an early ballot box with attached explanation that voters until the 1890s stated their political choices orally at the polling place and without the confidentiality of the now required secret ballots. There is a framed copy of the 1935 centennial edition of the Shreveport Journal newspaper. Thought that defunct publication did not exist as early as 1835, the copy on display, created for 1935, is written with reference to U.S. President Andrew Jackson a century earlier.[4]

Among the larger items on display is a pirogue or dugout canoe made of cypress logs used by Indians and white pioneers alike prior to the Civil War. There are replicas of a water wheel, irons and ironing boards, a railroad station, a bank, a judge's office, a doctor's office, the canning of foods, a general store with a collection of glass milk bottles, a gun rack, a carriage, a chapel, and several mounted animals from Africa, including a cape buffalo, kudu, and eland. Another exhibit is a room for guesta at the Claiborne Hotel as it would have appeared at the turn of the 20th century. A log cabin from the George Green homestead east of Haynesville is on display with a combination bedroom and dining table setting. Several 1930s-style radios are on exhibit, including a large Philco cabinet model 37-630, the kind that some may have used to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats.[5]

In the school exhibit is a model classroom and information on Forney C. Haley (1905-1982), the Claiborne Parish school superintendent from 1945 to 1969 and a president of the Louisiana Superintendents Association. Haley began his educational career in 1931 in Junction City on the Arkansas border. The museum contains a poster on the African American Reverend Roy Mayfield, who launched the former Homer Normal Institute in 1900. The St. John School was later the first four-year high school for black pupils in Claiborne Parish.[6]

Almost hidden way is a poster on the frontier peace officer Pat Garrett, who though born in Alabama was reared on a plantation near Haynesville before he left for Lincoln and Doña Ana counties in New Mexico. Known to history for having shot to death the bandit Billy the Kid, twenty-seven years later, he himself fell to an assassin's bullet in 1908 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.[7]

There is a small exhibit on the clothing designer Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004), a Haynesville native who in 1963 became the first American designer to launch his own company. Beene designed the dress that Lynda Bird Johnson wore when in 1967 she wed future U.S. Senator Charles S. Robb of Virginia.[8]


Old-time virtues

The museum stresses old-time virtues. A placard proclaims that "Self-Reliance was the key to survive in frontier times. Many early farmers became respectful blacksmiths and soon built out-of-door forges with removable bellows and worked outside whenever the weather permitted." A placard at the sewing and quilting exhibit declares that a "Pioneer woman's experience found expression in the folk art of their quilts. Many legacy quilts, passed from mother to child, were records of her life and artistry. The blocks [on the quilts] told of fire and storms, of first loves and weddings, of childbirth and lost homes."[9]

Admission to the Ford Museum is $3 for adults, $1 for children, and $5 maximum for a family. Hours are 9:30 to 12 and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and by appointment.


References

  1. Grave markers, Arlington Cemetery, Homer, Louisiana
  2. "Black Gold" exhibit, Herbert S. Ford Memorial Museum
  3. Veterans exhibit, Ford Museum
  4. Ford Museum exhibits
  5. Ford Museum exhibits
  6. Education exhibits, Ford Museum
  7. Bill Kelly, "Pat Garrett: The West's Unluckiest Lawman". desertusa.com. Retrieved on June 8, 2012.
  8. Geoffrey Beene exhibit, Ford Museum
  9. Sewing and quilting exhibit, Ford Museum