Coryell Museum has recently been the recipient of a large collection of dollhouses created by Bertie Johnson. We are deeply appreciative of this gift from Howard Elmer Johnson and their three children: Laurence Franklin, Howard David and Pamela Susan. Bertie and Howard began working on these wonderful miniatures together in 1983.
When Bertie undertook an endevour she gave it 100 percent of her energy. The family says she was a great stay at home mom and turned her energy to other interests after the children were grown. She enjoyed oil painting and loved genealogy, researching the family back to the Mayflower. When she went back to school for her associate degree she put lots of enthusiasm into it and has a BA in Business and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
Bertie Louise Franklin Johnson (1932-2012) was born to Verda and Della Bates Franklin in Gatesville and was the granddaughter of Rev. William Lafayette Franklin and Bertie Calhoon Franklin of Coryell County. Louise’s great grandmother, Sarah Clendenon Bates, was one of the early Coryell doctors. The Bates’ lived on Turnover Creek, eight miles south of Gatesville. The family originally lived on Owl Creek at Ft. Hood, but the family had to move and they now have over 100 acres in their current location. (Pamela—is this correct?)
The first dollhouse Bertie and Howard did was the Christmas of 1967 for Pamela, their daughter. Bertie created much of the furniture, curtains, and other pieces of décor for the little house. It was a basic two story house with four walls, but Pamela played with it often. They have kept this original dollhouse for the grandchildren.
The Johnson family’s donations to Coryell Museum fills a room. There are two large dollhouses, each of them a 3 story house, meticulously furnished with families, pets, clocks, tables, tiny rugs, grand pianos and cast iron cook stoves. There are also two cabinets depicting 20 separate scenes which include a general store, a children’s room with tiny toys, a kitchen with a busy cook and many pots and pans, formally dressed Victorian ladies and gentlemen at a formal tea, and a nannie in the nursery with several children. Included in the Dollhouse Exhibit are also a gas station, an 1850’s covered wagon, and two Farmall tractors.
Bertie was living in Round Rock when she and her husband did the work to build the first dollhouse, The Queen Ann Mansion, which was put together from a kit and this house is displayed at Coryell Museum. Howard did the electricity and some of the assembly of the first doll house. The dollhouse came precut but was unpainted and unassembled. Bertie painted the inside and outside, installed the windows and curtains. She assembled the major pieces of furniture and located them in the correct room. Every room has working lighting and miniature wall plugs on all dollhouses and cabinets.
Bertie can compete with the most talented of dollhouse enthusiasts. She appeared in hobby magazines and her patterns for Civil War dresses appeared in a hobby collector’s magazine along with her picture. She made many of the items for her displays from scratch. The showcases inside the cabinets were depictions of the Civil War era, with Confederate Soldier in uniform and big dresses with bustles. She even included babies, cats with milk bowls, and mice.
There is a beautiful miniature gas station from the 1930’s and 1940’s. This was designed from a painting of an old gas station that she had. She and her mother would stop at this style of gas station as they were coming from Corpus to Gatesville every summer. In the display you will see spare tires, water hose for radiators, air hose for tires, a coke machine and a red pickup truck.
Johnson’s General Store is one of the rooms in the cabinet and has everything from apples to garden hose, and flower sacks. Bertie even made the tiny vegetables such as carrots. One of the tiny pictures on the wall is of one of her daughters, (is it you Pamela??) miniaturized.
Come by Coryell Museum and be as enchanted as we have been by the new Dollhouse Exhibit.