EAST PRAIRIE - When the Historical Museum of Mississippi County reopens upon the completion of renovations to its new home, visitors will once again have the opportunity to see many items from bygone eras.
Among items featured in displays at the old museum location and awaiting the new museum in storage are:
* A working old number 2 pitcher hand pump set up with a five gallon tank that recycles the water. "Kids from school loved that because they could pump water," said Jack Emory who has worked with the museum for about a decade along with his wife, Ann.
* Agricultural artifacts such as old barbed wire, farming tools and a "great big bean scale," according to Emory. "Beside that was a display of different tongs - we had ice tongs, hay tongs and log tongs to pull logs out of the woods with mules."
* For those who never got to see the champion Big Oak Tree, namesake of the Big Oak Tree State Park, there is a slab taken from it after it was felled in 1954.
* A mural depicting a cotton picking scene. "The thing must be 12 or 14 feet long and probably three or four feet tall," Emory said. "It was painted for the First Bank of East Prairie and they had it in the bank for years and then they gave it to us."
* "We had a room set up like an old school room," Emory recalled. "Behind that we had school pictures and old copies of the East Prairie Eaglet, the school newspaper, and trophies."
The pictures go back to the early 1900s. "The graduating class of 1915 was four people," he said. A 1916 picture shows the entire East Prairie school system student body.
* Old license plates going back to 1924, scythes, an old Maytag washing machine and clothing from around 1912.
* "We had an old kitchen set up which included everything from churns to a Keen Heater stove," Emory said. "We had an old ironing board set up in there, and there was a lot of crockery. ... There was a lot of antique cooking utensils there."
While items have been contributed by many area residents, much of the credit for the museum goes to Lawanda Douglas, according to Kathie Simpkins, city administrator for East Prairie.
"She's been really instrumental in getting the museum started," she said. "She's like the local historian. She writes a weekly article that's in the East Prairie Eagle. It's called 'Pride in the Prairie.' She talks about a lot of the local history in those articles."
Douglas is also known for her genealogical work. "She has a lot of the books that were printed from the genealogical society," Simpkins said. "She's kind of been our resident expert for history in East Prairie."