Pioneer Museum has Undergone Roller Coaster Ride Of Changes Since its Inception
Once again history is being made at the Pioneer Museum in Castle Dale. The history of this museum has had roller coaster highs and lows ever since its inception in 1968. Right now the museum is closed for repair. The breaking of ceiling water pipes has caused extensive damage to the Farm Room and also to the Castle Dale City office directly below and some damage to the swimming pool area as well.
Emery County Museum Director, Dixon Peacock, is not only concerned about getting the damage repaired, the heat back on, and reopening the museum in a timely manner, but is concerned about the cost of the repairs and the future funding to help keep this facility maintained and open.
"The board is looking into reinstating a membership program to be able to have funds that can be counted on every year," said Peacock. "Emery County helps with the insurance and other major refurbishings. We have been able to get some grants now and then, some through the county, mostly through the city."
The building is owned by Castle Dale City and is on the National Historic Registry. Right now there also needs to be some extensive window replacement and repair. The board is looking in many directions to get help for these costs.
Peacock has been on the board from the beginning. The Pioneer Museum originated with the discovery of mummified bodies of an Indian woman and child of the early Fremont culture. Don Burge from the College of Eastern Utah was brought to the site and these mummies were excavated. There were also four men in Emery County who had individual collections of artifacts who desired to have a safe and nice place to display their collections. Peacock approached County Commissioner, Gardell Snow, asking for financial help to start a museum.
Peacock and LeRoy Maxfield approached the County Junior Chamber of Commerce (J.C.s) to see if they would help. Gary Petty of Emery, and Boyd Snow (formerly of Huntington) and members helped tremendously, working long hours to prepare the procured building and Jim Jewkes, Pete Jones, Sharpe Snow, LaVon Day, Danny Cox, Kelly Kofford, Kimball Larsen, as well as Peacock and Maxfield did fundraising house-to-house asking for only $1.00 per family and selling scrap metal including the old radiators no longer used. Clyde Funk of Ferron stripped and redid all the walls. Murals were later painted by Donald and Elizabeth Pyper of Orangeville who used egg yolks for their media paint base from eggs donated by Ann Wissler. The J.C.s worked on the grounds, planted lawn, and later put in a sprinkling system and were successful in a drive asking the businesses to donate asphalt for the front street. The next major project was repair of the roof. All the wives of the J.C. members also played a major role, supporting and working along with their husbands.
After the foyer was finished, work began on the show cases that are still in use today. Parker Childs of Castle Dale, designed and made these cases at his home. The Green Thumb Project workers assembled and set them up. Special ordered quarter inch glass was obtained and transported from Salt Lake City.
On Dec. 4, 1969, a motion to grant a 90 year lease to the J.C.s for the second floor for the museum was made by Councilmember, John Jorgensen, and seconded by Councilmember, Clyde Thompson, afterwhich a museum board was formed: Dixon Peacock was Chairman of the Board, members were Boyd Snow, Mrs. Dora Otterstrom, W. H. Maxfield, Owen McClenahan, Carlyle Jones, and Ira Hatch.
Later, Ann Wissler who had 20 years experience at a museum in San Bernadino, Calif., became a board member. Mrs. Wissler spent hundreds of volunteer hours at the museum, keeping it open regular hours, and even on Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate travelers passing through. She cleaned, arranged, greeted people, and gave tours. She loved her work, and gave 17 years of service retiring in 1986. Her husband, Ira (Ike) Wissler, also spend countless hours volunteering to restore tables, chairs, and other antique furniture given or loaned for display. Many articles were in such bad condition that new parts had to be made. Some 25 or more of these articles are still on display.
On Nov. 6, 1986, when Mrs. Wissler retired, two new board members were installed, Jon Judd and Brenda Tucker.
Owen McClenahan, deceased, is recognized for the his dedicated volunteer service of 18 years. He assisted people at the museum, and helped with all phases of the Green Thumb construction. It was a two-year effort on McClenahan's part to qualify the museum for tax exempt status. His wife, Jane, was such a support and help to the board by doing all the typing and correspondence. Every board meeting was held at the McClenahan home in Castle Dale, with Mrs. McClenahan preparing and serving lovely homemade treats. Owen retired on June 3, 1989.
After the wall displays were completed, lighting was donated by the then American Coal Company, Shirl McArthur, founder and president.
In about 1969, the museum board was able to obtain a dinosaur to be placed in the foyer from the University of Utah. Green Thumb workers constructed the platform and the dinosaur was delivered and set up through the efforts of Glen Ungerman in February of 1970.
The board set a projection date of opening the museum for May 1, 1970. The walls, ceiling, and wiring had to be finished in the Pioneer Room before the opening. An all-out drive for funds was also being conducted. The board wanted new drapes and carpeting to make the museum presentable to the public. They offered a life-time membership for $100. Seventy one memberships were obtained and others were awarded to individuals for their labor, work, or contributions of materials to the museum. The Pioneer Room was the only complete room at the opening. A required fire escape exit was also completed at that time.
The Farm Room was second. Work was slow because funding was slow. Board members came and went in the feeling of futility of keeping the museum alive.
Gene and Virginia Talbot of Ferron came to the museum in 1986. They were very knowledgable in mineralogy and dinosaur bones and helped with countless projects. A hand cart, an oxen yoke, and interesting antique tools were acquired. Later, old mining equipment and safety lamps were displayed in a simulated mine portal, most of which was donated by Earl and Hilma Robertson of Orangeville who owned a mine on Trail Mountain. A restroom was built in one corner of that room, nearly depleting the balance of funds.
Green Thumb workers did all the volunteer work, but materials had to be available for them to work with. Many times, because of the lack of funds, there were no materials to keep the men busy.
With the hiring of women on the Green Thumb project, the museum was able to be open on a regular basis, as long as funds permitted.
The Daughter of the Utah Pioneers headed up by board member, Dora Otterstrom, and with the help of Ann Wissler and many volunteers made many quilts and bonnets for sale. Funds of various amounts were received from the county each year. Goals were set and completed until all rooms were furnished.
There is an old Co-op Store upstairs from the foyer, displaying dry goods, eggs, clothing, dishes, and items no longer in use in homes today. Many of the show cases in this room were actually from the old Castle Dale Co-op Store.
There is a class room filled with old desks, a real slate black board, and items and books used by students of the past. Funding for this room was from the county in the form of vouchers paid after the fact, and from the Chamber of Commerce when Gerald Stanton was president in 1984.
The last room to be worked on was the Red Room. The ceiling was falling in and had to be completely redone. Ceiling, walls, new wiring, lighting, and new carpets and draperies were purchased. It took over two years to complete this room.
Meetings of the board were held only when needed for a while and the board was re-organized on June 3, 1989. In recent years, the museum has been operated by the Emery County Historical Society, but is still managed by an active museum board.
Presently serving on the museum board are Dixon Peacock, Director; Jan Petersen, Executive Director; Dawnette Tuttle, Financial Secretary; Randy Jensen, Grant Writing and Funding; Gene Talbot, Dixie Swasey, Mark H. Williams, Pete Jones, Technical Support, who's wife, Kathryn, gives support at every event, and Clifford Oviatt who is the Display Coordinator. This board is also responsible for the Museum of the San Rafael, where all of the natural history items and artifacts of the original Pioneer Museum are now housed.
Displays at the Pioneer Museum are rotated periodically to utilize some stored items. At one time the museum had been given or loaned seven antique washing machines, nine sewing machines, and so many mining tools and farm implements that there was not even storage room for them all. Many who loaned items are now deceased and so beneficiaries have been contacted and some have come to reclaim family items that were loaned. The Farm Room has been redone for more and better displaying and the storage room has been fitted with more adequate shelving.
As many as eleven schools send classes from pre-school to junior high students every year for tours. The junior high students are given a paper asking questions and are later tested on their observation of the tour. Usually tours are conducted by Bert Oman or another member of the board. Oman gives a detailed lecture and demonstrates many of the items displayed.
On the platform, where the dinosaur stood before moving across the street to the natural history museum, different items are spotlighted about every month, such as spinning wheels, dresses, old and rare books, each set up with other items of similar interest. There is always something new of interest to see of the old and the past with each visit to the Pioneer Museum.
Your contributions can be earmarked for repair, or restoration and preservation, or to help with a special display or exhibit. To volunteer your time or talents, or items to the Pioneer Museum, call 435-381-5154, or contact Dixon Peacock at 748-2672. Send donations to P. O. Box 1088, Castle Dale, Utah, 84513. (Dates and recognitions taken with permission from an unpublished history of the Pioneer Museum (1969-1989)compiled and written by Dixon Peacock)