How the Bernard Historical Museum Began
by Prosper G. Bernard, M.D. (Excerpted from "Years Gone By")
Collecting interesting objects had been a hobby of mine for many years.
Recently I had turned to historical objects relating to southwest Barry
County, and when my treasures began to overflow their allotted space in
my home, I began to stack them with a future museum in mind.
I had given much thought to the idea of a museum which would preserve
and display something of the pioneer years of this area, but it was not
until 1958 or 1959 that I began to concentrate on the project. With my
retirement my hospital-and-office building became idle, and this seemed
the logical location for the collection.
I found many persons, clubs, and organizations interested, but none able
to take on the job. In 1961-62 a few persons and myself met occasionally
to formulate plans and begin the necessary paper work. I talked to
officials of museums and historical societies to learn all I could about
the job we had undertaken. The Michigan Historical Commission and the
Historical Society of Michigan were most helpful with advice and
suggestions of books to read.
Early in 1962 we had our papers in order and submitted them to the
Michigan Historical Commission and the Historical Society for approval.
We must have done our work well, for we were given immediate approval. We
were incorporated as a non-profit organization in June, 1962, thus
becoming a fully approved historical society and museum.
It took time and much hard work to restore the hospital building. We had
to remove the old furnishings and stored items, thoroughly clean the
building, then rewire and paint it. We put on a new roof, drilled a well,
installed a septic tank and a new heating system, and built display cases
and cabinets. All of this work was done by volunteers who generously gave
of their time and skills. Most materials were donated; the rest, and the
larger pieces of equipment, were sold to us at wholesale price.
Meanwhile, gifts of historical items required us to set up a registrations
system and to arrange the rooms and display cases. We used all but three
of the rooms to portray domestic scenes from the lives of our pioneer
families: a parlor, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, sewing room, and a
carpenter shop. One room was reserved for war veterans' gear, and the
remaining three displayed miscellaneous objects and smaller collections.
The museum was opened to the public in May, 1963.
The North Pine School, affectionately known as "the Brown
School", and still in good condition though built in 1873, was donated
to the society by the Lloyd Lindsey family. In the summer of 1963 it was
moved to its new location next to the museum, and cleaned and restored.
An old Round Oak stove was supplied by former pupil Herbert Morehouse,
the shelves were filled with books, and desks were installed. Resplendent
in a new coat of white paint, it stands in all its glory, bell-tower,
bell, and all.
During the winter of 1965-66 two additions were built and appropriately
furnished: an old-fashioned general store with a post office, and a
blacksmith shop with authentic tools collected from this area. The bricks
in the forge came from the blacksmith shop on Wes Waters' place, and they
were made in early Cloverdale's brickyard. A shed was filled with old
plows, cultivators, wagons, scrapers, and other donated implements.
About this time we initiated a program to locate and mark such historical
sites as Slater's Mission; the log cabin of Amasa Parker, our first white
settler; the grave of Chief Noonday; and the Indian burial area and
campground. Our latest project has been a written and pictorial history
of southwest Barry County. It appears herewith as Years Gone By. We hope
it will recall our debt to those sturdy men and women who laid the
cultural foundations of Orangeville, Hope, Prairieville, and Barry Townships.