I have read many good things about the Linn County Historical Museum; so earlier this year when I found myself in Brownsville doing research on their Stand By Me filming locations, I made sure to have time for a visit.
Since 1984, the museum has been located in the old Brownsville train depot (circa 1895) which was moved to this location along with six old Southern Pacific rail cars. The whole museum lies in these seven structures.
The woman who greeted me when I walked in the door gave a quick introduction to the museum, including the covered wagon staged at the entrance. This wagon is one of three covered wagons which have been verified to have crossed to Oregon along the Oregon Trail.
The wagon was used by the William and Martha Ann Drinkard and their four children. Interestingly, the Drinkards left on the Oregon Trail in 1865 after the end of the Civil War. William had been taken prisoner during the war, and Martha Ann was able to get the Union Army to release him on the promise that they would head west and not return to their home in Missouri. Since William was in prison, it was Martha Ann who did all the preparations for the move, including selling the farm and everything they wouldn’t be taking with them. She purchased this wagon, loaded it, and met William in Iowa. And, she was pregnant as she drove the wagon across the county, since William was driving her mother’s wagon.
After my introduction to the museum, and with all my questions answered, I was left to browse at my own pace.
I like a good history museum and this one is very well laid out. To the right of the entrance are the more standard exhibits. I admit, on that day I was in a browsing mood – not a reading mood – so I strolled through these at a slow but steady pace. To the left of the entrance the exhibits were set up as real-life vignettes, depicting both domestic life and commerce in the Linn County area. Since I wasn’t in the mood to read, these are the exhibits which I found most interesting. I could easily visualize what life might have been like in the earlier days around Brownsville and contrast it to my own 21st century existence.
For instance, take the beauty stop depicted in these photos. As a woman I have to wonder what it would have felt like to have my hair rolled up in this contraption. And, as someone from the 21st century I have to wonder how safe it was – can you get electrocuted from something like this? Burned severely?
The goal of the Linn County History Museum is to showcase the life, work, and experiences of those living throughout Linn County. And it did that beautifully. In the end, I can see why it is so well talked about … it is because it is so well done! The exhibits are well curated and maintained, and the staff provided a welcoming introduction and presence.
If you would like to visit yourself, the museum is located at 101 Park Avenue in Brownsville (roughly 50 miles north of Cottage Grove). Visit their website (http://www.linnparks.com/pages/museums/historymuseum.html) for open hours and contact information.