The Woodson County Historical Museum recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its grand opening (1969), a labor of love that had its roots in the establishment of the Woodson County Historical Society in 1965. The building itself is made of native sandstone and is one of the oldest standing structures in Yates Center. Following ceremonial custom, the Freemasons of Gilead Lodge #144 who rededicated the building found it to be “level,” “square,” and “plumb,” ancient images linked to virtue, time, and integrity/justice.
The museum building was originally the first church built in Yates Center, contracted by the First Christian Church, and was completed in the spring of 1878. Green and red stained-glass windows are still visible on the side of the structure facing US-54. When the First Christian Church moved to another location, the First Christian Science denomination made the museum building its home in 1905. In the intervening years between serving as a church and museum, the structure was transformed into a chicken hatchery lined with bright, warm incubators and peeping, hungry chicks, and today you can view items from the hatchery itself in the museum’s “farm room,” along with many other fascinating implements.
In April 1982, Lester Harding, Kenneth Stockebrand, and Charles Lewis went to the museum to investigate some water damage on various carpets, but what they found that morning was an unexpected shock. The museum had been burglarized and vandalized, with display cases moved, smashed, and tipped over; glass shards littered the floor. The museum’s gun collection had been stolen, as well as many of the physician and dentist tools. The incursion was serious enough to warrant an investigation by the KBI in Fort Scott, and all told, the damages totaled around $5560.
Any hope of recovering the lost items seemed forlorn, when something peculiar happened. The Sheriff’s Office in Butler County notified local authorities that they had apprehended the thieves when they tried to sell the museum’s gun collection to an antique dealer in El Dorado! Hence, thanks to some less-than-well-thought-out criminal activity, the Historical Society was able to recover at least some of its irreplaceable items that otherwise would have been lost forever.
In 1996, the New York Valley Church and one-room schoolhouse (District #39) were both moved onto the museum site and connected to the original building. In the church itself, you can view some pretty interesting photos of the building being transplanted from the county-side, along with many furnishings from the original two buildings. The museum is likewise home to the Daniel family log cabin, which was transplanted from along Big Sandy Creek. Though the museum is now closed for the season, tours of both it and old sandstone jail just east of the YC-courthouse are still available by contacting 620-625-6001.