History Of The Museum
The origins of the Museum trace back to 1891 when the Northwest Texas Baptist Association founded Northwest Baptist College, a four-year institution in Decatur. The first classes were held in the old opera house located on East Main Street, just off the square. Land for the site was purchased through real estate agent C. D. Cates of Decatur. The contract for the administration building was let to S. C. Kilgard of Denison. The first classes were held in the new administration building in September 1893. The institution's first president was Dr. A. J. Emerson, who served for four years until the school went bankrupt in 1896.
The following year, the Baptist Convention bought the property and turned it into Decatur Baptist College, through the support of 20 Wise County men who pledged $1,000 each. The home of the world's oldest junior college, the school was a preparatory school for Baylor University until it moved to Dallas in 1965 and became Dallas Baptist College. The last president of Decatur Baptist College was Dr. Otis Strickland.
After the college moved, a Decatur businessman, Coke L. Gage, bought the property and then donated the building and approximately one acre of land to the Wise County Historical Society, Inc. for a museum. It now houses one of the best family research facilities in the area, an auditorium, and a museum.
Restoration of the museum has been ongoing since 1965. Tom Cone and Ryan Cunnius, both of Decatur, organized an annual country music festival called the Wise Country Fall Out to raise funds. The show features local talent.
Today the museum is alive with the activity of preserving Wise County's past. The museum is the headquarters for the Wise County Historical Commission and the Wise County Historical Society, Inc. Together they educate citizens about the past through presentations and through the museum, which is kept in operation by donations, admissions, sales from the gift shop and various fund-raising events through the year. Members attend conferences and work to keep the archives updated.
A ramp and elevator are available to make the museum accessible to the physically challenged.
Renovation projects include
new restrooms, carpeting, and painting. Landscaping and sidewalks have
also been installed as well as a security system, new wiring, and work
on the rock walls. The windows have been replaced with
new windows that really make a huge improvement to the looks of the
building inside and out. The wall behind the stage on the south has
repaired and painted. It looks so nice and makes the stage look so
different. The heightening of the railing and painting around the
balcony is completed. If we have an overflow in the auditorium or if
people would like to sit on the balcony. Attic Rafters were
repaired where tornado raised the roof and pulled the rafters a loose
from their splicing. We have almost completed having every room
in the building painted including the entrance and stair ways. Elevator
doors redone to meet regulations. New shelving in our Archive Library
and a new microfilm reader with the ability to copy information to the
computer to be placed on disks. New computer system installed. We are
doing changes in our show cases and the display rooms. We will soon
open the third floor, it is open for viewing but still needs a little
more work. In one room there will be an one room school house and an
old fashioned mercantile store. Across the hall will be the Sam
Sampler room. It is a Military room with memorable, artifacts and
uniforms beginning in the Civil War to the present day war in Iraq.
Outside we replaced gutters and down spouts, new hand rails at entrance of building installed, new sidewalk and ramp on each side entrance to the Museum, replaced back door coming into the building.
Sam Woody’s Cabin has been moved and placed on the front lawn of the Museum and can be seen anytime the Museum is open.