Denton County historians are calling on the community to help rebuild past collections and prepare for a 2014 exhibit.
The new exhibit will include topics such as how Denton County was created, the origin of the historic Courthouse on the Square, what life was like during the county’s first 15 years, and the county before and during the Civil War.
Peggy Riddle, director of the Office of History and Culture, wants to use the exhibit work as a way to replace collections lost during a museum controversy that landed Denton County items in Collin County.
“We’re hoping this will be a way for people to bring forth items important to early founding families,” Riddle said. “Early Denton County history they can loan us for a short period of time — or if they want to donate — we always can take artifacts or documents that relate to the history.”
Years ago, internal fighting amongst historical officials led to a split in the county organization and the formation of Denton County Historical Museum Inc. A lawsuit divided items between the county and the private museum, which operated for a time but had to close. The private museum’s items were absorbed by the North Texas History Center in McKinney. Denton County officials have tried unsuccessfully to get those items back ever since.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Andy Eads said the Denton County Museums Committee will divide up a list of all the cities and former communities in the county, identify founding families and locate their descendents to ask for family photographs, historical artifacts and oral histories.
The end game of the exhibit, which will involve all floors of the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum, is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-April.
“You do not have to be from a founding family to participate in this,” Eads said. “Officials were just starting with founding families and working up.
“We realize no one is getting any younger, and we want to especially ID pictures in families while members can still identify them,” Eads said. “When it comes to paperwork and photographs, the courthouse staff will be happy to copy those and return the originals to family members.
When it comes to family furniture and other historical artifacts, Eads said, officials at least want the history documented even if it is not donated. That way, if it ends up in county hands years later, the artifact history would already be on record.
“There were lots of communities that came and went over time — the Alton community, the Donald community. … We want to capture all those histories and put them in our courthouse records.”
Riddle said she is working on a research project about early German settlers in the county and hopes family members with records will let the county borrow or have them. Riddle said she is also looking at items related to events as late as the current Interstate 35E expansion.
“That’s history,” she said. “Some of our elected officials, local congressman and representatives — their papers will be important to historians in the future.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.