718 Main St.
Gatesville, TX 76528
254-865-5007
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The Coryell Museum and Historical Center was founded in 1980 when the remnants of several local historical associations were combined into one entity. The museum's first home was in an abandoned lumber yard which, with the tireless work of volunteers, was transformed into an attractive collection of local historical artifacts and documents. The museum's primary effort was, and still is, the collection, preservation, and display of items related to the settling and building of Central Texas, from the days of the Republic of Texas to today.

As the museum's collection grew over the years, it became obvious that the old Graham Lumber Yard complex would soon be too small. The museum's
board of directors agreed to develop a plan for a new facility. At the same time, a museum
consulting firm was retained to produce a long-range plan for the organization. A master plan was produced, and several suggested floor plans and exhibit designs were submitted by the consulting
service. During the period of planning and expansion, the Coryell Museum and Historical
Center was chosen by the family of Lloyd and Madge Mitchell as the repository of a
very extensive collection of western memorabilia and sports artifacts that had been
accumulated by Coach Mitchell over a lifetime of trading and collecting. As acquisition
documentation commenced on the collection, it became apparent that the Mitchell Family
had given the museum what is now recognized as the largest collection of spurs in the
United States, perhaps in the world. With strong community support, ambitious publishing
programs and an in-place long range plan, the museum will continue to play an important
role in the preservation and exhibit of Central Texas history and culture.

The need for additional exhibit room with improved security became more urgent as the
size and scope of the Mitchell Collection unfolded. As the museum board of directors
made plans to build a new building, Houston based businessman Wes Gilbreath, who was
born and raised in Coryell County, offered to donate a parcel of commercial property he owned
in the 800 block of Main Street to the museum. The heart of the property is the Old Powell
Hardware Building on the corner of 8th and Main Street. Originally built in 1904, the building
had been renovated by Mr. Gilbreath in the early 1980's and was used for a time as a mini-mall
that housed small business operations on the ground floor, with a restaurant and private club
on the top floor. After a few years the restaurant and businesses closed and Gilbreath turned
his entrepreneurial efforts in other directions. Although the property had fallen into disrepair,
the museum board recognized the possibilities offered by the buildings, and agreed to accept
Mr. Gilbreath's offer. After formally accepting the property, the board members began to seek
financial support from the community. The project was given a tremendous boost with the
agreement by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide members of the local TDCJ
community squads to help with construction and renovation efforts. The many inmates who
have worked on the building project over the years has truly made the current facility possible.

Part of the property given by Gilbreath included the Burt Building which adjoins the museum
facility. In 1999, the Burt Building was chosen as the centerpiece property for Gatesville's
Main Street USA designation. Also, then Texas First Lady Laura Bush, in touring Gatesville,
expressed agreement in the choice of the Burt Building as the primary renovation project.
The museum also extended its property holdings in the early 1980's by accepting the historic
old First Christian Church in the 900 block of East Leon Street from a small group of
former church members. Again using construction labor provided by TDCJ inmates and
local contractors, the building was brought back to life and is now the scene of several
weddings each year. A non-denominational men's Sunday School class also meets
regularly in the church building.

The museum also embarked on an ambitious publishing program by reprinting Mildred
Watkins Mears' book "Coryell County Scrapbook" with added extensive index, Vol. 2 of
"Coryell Families, 1854-1985" and "Down Memory Lane", a compilation of newspaper columns
written by Uncle Bob Saunders between 1946 and 1951 for the Gatesville Messenger. Work
on another family history book is now in progress, making the Coryell Museum and
Historical Center a regional leader in the publication of local history books.

Copyright © 2008 Coryell Museum and Historical Center