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History of the MCHS

Although many people were interested in Maury County's history from its earliest days, most of them were more occupied with making history than preserving it, which might account for why our history is so rich and colorful. 

Not until 1905...

... was the first organization formed whose purpose was to preserve historic sites, conserve valued source materials, publish historic works, and stimulate research related to Maury County. On September 28th of that year a group of citizens obtained a charter, thus establishing the Maury County Historical Society. It is interesting to note that all of the original charter members were of the male sex, their names being:  P.C. Chandler, E.E. Erwin, H. P. Figuers, William S. Fleming, John W. Frierson, Joseph H. Fussell, E. H. Hatcher, George Taylor Hughes, Otey J. Porter, William A. Provine, Frank Harrison Smith, Richard D. Smith, William D. Smith, S. Q. Weatherly, James H.Wilkes, W. C. Whitthorne, William J. Whitthorne and John T. Williamson.  Judge W. S. Fleming II was chosen to be the first president.

SEPTEMBER 28, 1905

CHARTER MEMBERS

OF THE

MAURY COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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It is unfortunate...

It is unfortunate that minutes of their meetings were not preserved, but from time-to-time articles appeared in local newspapers that told of interesting programs and projects. In one of its first meetings, held on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 1905, the Society heard a paper prepared by "the late Senator W. C. Whitthorne" on "When and How the State of Tennessee Became a Member of the Confederacy."  It was stated that no one was in a better position to relate this case since Senator Whitthorne had been the Speaker of the Tennessee House and Adjutant-General at the time, and "had the esteem and confidence of the leaders of both great political parties."

Steps were taken by the Society to preserve artifacts that could be used to form a museum. Donations of many items were listed, including a Confederate bullet from the battlefield of Gettysburg...

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Thoughts of a County Museum

Steps were taken by the Society to preserve artifacts that could be used to form a museum. Donations of many items were listed: "From Mr. John A. Edwards: an illustrated historical chart of the Great West, published 1847, containing valuable statistical and historical information; from George T. Nevills: a Confederate bullet from the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the high water mark of the Confederacy, in which is mounted microscopic views of Gen. Meade's headquarters and the scene of Pickett's immortal charge; from Mrs. Martha Connor, of Hampshire, (a granddaughter of Maj. Gen. Richard Winn, of revolutionary fame) a handsome volume of Goodspeed's History of Tennessee, comprising the histories of Maury County and other counties; from Flem Thomas: the original order book of his grandfather, Colonel Jonas E. Thomas of Maury County, commanding the regiment of Tennessee Cavalry in the Mexican War; from Rev. W. A. Provine, Phelan's History of Tennessee, from the library of the late N. B. Cheairs."     

The following new members were listed at that meeting: John Brown, A. J. Nichols, Will P. Boyd, Lynch Perry, Dr. E. A. Timmons, John Trotwood Moore, Raymond Adkisson, John W. Fry, Horace Rainey, Hon. Lem. P. Padgett, Albert S. Hames, Prof. A. J. Hibbett, J. Shelby Coffey, Wm. B. Greenlaw, F. Cooper Frierson, A. N. Akin, Dr. H. P. Robbins, Atwell Thompson and H. Allison Webster. Still no ladies!!

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Merriweather Lewis

Another item of interest was the report of a committee named "to take steps to prevent the removal of the remains of Governor Merriweather Lewis to Oregon."

 

The committee reported that "resolutions protesting against such removal had been secured from the County courts, and a letter was read from Governor John I. Cox saying he would not permit the remains to be removed." (The above quotes are from THE DAILY HERALD, Wednesday, November 15, 1905 but might have been taken from a current news article since the attempts continued.)

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Create a

County Museum

The collection of items for a museum was to be one of the objectives of the Society, especially of Prof. Frank H. Smith. Later, he published the list of items in the collection and it took two or three long articles in the newspaper to mention them all. There were dozens of coins of various nations and denominations, relics of most of the wars in which former citizens of Maury County had fought, books and newspapers that contained much historic material, personal articles related to former citizens, letters, items of clothing, household items, etc.

     Unfortunately, no record has been found relating to what happened to this material.  With the death of Mr. Smith in 1915, and the demise of the original Historical Society, was this very valuable material given to the State Museum, to the State Archives, or some other agency, or did it simply disappear?  Anybody have an answer?  What a treasure trove of irreplaceable Maury County history was lost!!    

     The Society remained active until about 1915, when, during World War I it was dissolved. No further organized activities seem to have been carried out in its name for half a century.

In 1964, a committee was formed to promote the reactivation of the Maury County Historical Society.

 A committee composed of Virginia Alexander, Alice Algood, Dr. C. Y. Clarke, Jill K. Garrett, Franklin Fulton, Marise Lightfoot, Evelyn Shackleford and Judge W. B. Turner was appointed to prepare for reorganization. When the list of "Charter Members" was closed a few months later, sixty-six persons were enrolled as members. Marise P. Lightfoot was elected President and Jill K. Garrett was chosen to be Editor of the new quarterly, HISTORIC MAURY. Through the past 45 years Maury County Historic Society has met regularly and has carried out a variety of projects within the scope of its chartered attributes.

In 1971, the Society received a donation of historic Vine Hill estate from Mrs. Charles Deere Wiman. It was Mrs. Wiman's ancestral home located between Cross Bridges and Williamsport. She had restored the home, furnished it with antiques from all over the world and had lived in the home for some years when she decided to give the home, its furnishings and surrounding acreage to the Maury County Historical Society.

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This large and imposing structure is one of Maury County’s famous antebellum homes and was often opened for tours at special times during the year. In 1992 it became increasingly difficult for the Society to care for the place and the decision was made to sell the property, invest the funds and use the income from the principle to carry out projects within the Society's sphere of interest.  Although the Society lost a permanent “home of its own,” it gained the means by which it could assist many worthwhile projects.

MCHS Boardroom

The Maury County Historical Society now has space on the third floor of the Memorial Building on West Seventh Street in Columbia, which provides a place to hold small meetings, store materials and publications, and have a place the Society can call "home."