The quest for a museum

By Jessica Gorman

Efforts to provide Webster Parish with a museum began in 1947 with the incorporation of the North Louisiana Memorial Shrine and Historical Association, previously known as the Early Settlers and Pioneers Club. The first Board of Directors was composed of Mrs. Alma Bright Fuller, President; Mrs. Lucille Martin Perryman, Vice-President; J.K. Gladney, Secretary-Treasurer; Dr. J. L. Longino; E. J. Kleinegger; C.C. Toland; and H.O. West. One goal of this group was to “to construct a building to house historical records of the early life of this area” next to the Fuller-Murrell Cemetery on Gladney Street in Minden. This building was never constructed. 

In 1973, a new historical association was formed. The Dorcheat Historical Association and Museum, Inc. was incorporated in October “for the exclusive purpose of collecting, recording, displaying, and preserving materials relative to the history of this area for scientific, literary and educational purposes.” The first board of directors was composed of Richard D. Carey, Mrs. R.D. Watkins, Miss Mary Stewart, Warren E. Dietrich, Major DePingre, Mrs. Paul M. Campbell, David Specht, Mrs. Claude O. West, Thad Andress, Mrs. Prescott Krouse, Elizabeth D. White, Robert C. White, Dr. Edward D. Brown, J. Davidson Brown, and George McInnis. This group worked for decades to provide Webster Parish with a museum to house the artifacts, documents, photographs, and other items that preserve the history of our parish.

The association obtained the historic Drury Murrell home in 1978. The house had previously served as the Dennis, Green-Kleinegger, and Rose-Neath funeral homes. This building was moved from Murrell Street to the intersection of Fort and Shephard Streets with plans to convert it into a museum. Tragically, before renovations could be completed this building was lost to fire in February of 1986.

For a period of time, beginning in 2000, the association was allowed use of the Crichton Hardware building on Main Street. Then, Schelley Francis was hired in 2007 and given one year to raise awareness and funds for a museum. The next year, the museum opened at 116 Pearl Street. For the past 15 years, the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum has been serving the community as the “building to house historical records of the early life of this area” the North Louisiana Memorial Shrine and Historical Association hoped to build in the 1940s. 

We work to make the history of Webster Parish as accessible as possible. Admission to the museum is free. The museum hosts several speakers throughout the year. These events can also be viewed on our YouTube channel. Our Facebook page is used to share historic photographs and information. There are multiple books available for purchase at the museum and via our website. All of this is made possible by the financial contributions of our generous supporters.  There seems to be a misconception that the museum is funded by some governmental body. This is false.

This museum only exists because members of the local community desired to preserve our history. They were willing to put in the work, to donate money, to research, and to donate items to make the museum a reality. Many of those people are no longer with us. It is now up to the next generation to ensure that their mission continues. In the words of Mr. George Turner, “we are all in this together, preserving, maintaining, and teaching the history of this area.”

(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)