For sixty-five years residents have worked together to build and maintain the written and physical history of Coryell County. The first person on record was Miss Jessie Faunt Le Roy in 1939. She promoted the idea of preserving the old log jail, and further wanted to make a museum of it. She donated the first dollar toward accomplishing this goal. How many of us remember when the old jail sat in Raby Park and you could peep in thru the door to look at the spiders and cobwebs. Wouldn’t Miss Faunt Le Roy be surprised today to see the log jail inside our huge museum!
The Coryell County Museum Foundation, Inc. received their charter on July 24, 1970 and became a legal entity. Dawson Cooper made a report to the officers and directors as to the financial situation. Two savings accounts totaled $2,290, and the checking account balance was $3.78. As there was no building, he urged that a building committee be formed.
Several years later Bill Herridge remembers talking to Mrs. Graham about the lumber yard building, and if it could be donated to be used as a museum. Soon the Graham Lumber Yard began its conversion into the Coryell Museum and Historical Center. The Gatesville Library is on that site today.
Billy Byrom remembers driving by the museum and noticing the grass needed mowing. He talked to Helen Swift and she told him to go right ahead, so he and his sons volunteered to be the yard men.
It wasn’t long until Helen asked him to be on the board of directors, and as it turned out Helen made a sound judgment. Since then Billy has been everything from the secretary, the light bulb changer, the treasurer, and many times in charge of setting up exhibits. He remembers being on ladders for hours and hanging beautiful quilts. For the last 7-8 years he has been Coryell Museum President, quite a step up from yard man, by any ones standards.
When the first Coryell Museum opened the displays covered approximately 4,000 square feet, divided between two areas. Mrs. Evelyn Bohne, one of the first volunteers, remembers there was no heat in the building and how cold it was to try to work when the museum was just getting started.
Come down and see us today at the museum and Mrs. Bohne can tell you…..we have excellent heating and air conditioning
By Jann Dworsky and Property of The Gatesville Messenger