The origins of the Wise County Heritage Museum trace back to a meeting in1891 of the Northwest Texas Baptist Association that founded the Northwest Texas Baptist College, a four-year institution in Decatur. The first classes (1892 – 93 sessions) were held in the Cates Opera House located on East Main Street- just east of the town square. Land for this site was purchased through real estate agent C. D. Cates of Decatur. Twenty local Wise County men pledged $1,000 each (plus other smaller pledges and donations from other individuals) to guarantee the debts of the new school. The building was constructed of limestone quarried from the local area. The architect was W. A. Cann Architectural Co. of Wichita Falls, Texas and design was Victorian. An original construction contract was awarded in February 1892, to S. C. Kilgore of Denison in the amount of $20,855 with construction to be completed by September. Construction began, but a later contract was awarded to Ferrier Bros. and Wirz of Seymour in May of 1892 in the amount of $24,575 to be completed “at once”. The new building was opened for the fall semester of 1893 with 149 students. The institution’s first president was Dr. A. J. Emerson who served for four years until the school went bankrupt in 1896 and the creditors looked to the guarantors for payment of the outstanding debts..
The following year, the Texas Baptist Convention bought the property and formed Decatur Baptist College-the first planned junior college in the world. DBC was a preparatory school for Baylor University in Waco and taught many young people in preparing for church service along with other areas of study.. Dr. J.L. Ward served as President of DBC for 2 separate terms totaling 44 years. The last president of Decatur Baptist College was Dr. Otis Strickland. After over 67 years in Decatur, the school was moved to Dallas in 1965 where it bacame Dallas Baptist College. It has now grown into Dallas Baptist University.
Restoration of the building has been ongoing since 1967. There have been many fund raising activities through the years, such as the annual Wise County Fall Out talent show, our monthly Gospel Opry program, and an annual Ron Hammer Gospel Concert. These activities along with the generous support of many former DBC/DBU students and faculty members and many other folks with ties to Wise County have helped us get to where we are today.