The McClain County Museum officially came into existence with the July 1973 lease between the McClain County Historical Society and Museum (formerly called the Chickasaw Historical Society), the City of Purcell and the Oklahoma Historical Society, whereby the city agreed to supply the present building, utilities and maintenance; the state, by legislative line item appropriation, to supply a curator's salary and major expenses; and the county society to supply the collection and volunteer services.
Events leading to the establishment included the bequest of the Old Federal Courthouse Building (Block 113, Lots 9 and 10) on the northeast corner of Main and Canadian from Bessie M. Resler and husband to the Oklahoma Historical Society, via the Oklahoma Industrial Development and Park Department, in 1970. Since extensive and expensive repairs ere needed before it could be used as a museum, the property was officially deeded to the City of Purcell for $1.00 and the use and maintenance of the present building (at 203 Washington).
To Mrs. Marjorie Heese, the first curator, goes much of the credit for beginning the collection. She and her volunteers begged, borrowed and persuaded county residents to give or loan artifacts and photographs to the Museum. With OHS funds and local labor, gradually the present museum was set up and arranged into 9 individual mini-museums; each related to a different subject (i.e. parlor; bedroom, country store, school room, cattle and railroad industry, etc.)
In February of 1980, Mrs. Hesse died. The loyal volunteers were aided by several short term OHS curators until 1981 when it was decided that a complete inventory was needed. Mrs. Kay Zahrai came to the Museum, and in a two year period, identified and individually tagged every item in the Museum from the smallest buttonhook to the largest bed, also including their donor. The Museum was closed to the public during this interim period.
In 1982 when her family moved to Purcell, Mrs. Joyce Rex transferred her volunteer services from the Oklahoma Historical Society Library to the McClain County Museum to aid the curatorial assistant, who is addition to identifying and inventorying the contents, was attempting to keep up the correspondance and research files. During this time period, the McClain County Historical and Genealogical Society was reorganied Marcy 1983 by former and new members interested in the history of the county and members. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Breeden, Rev. Bob Tupper, Joyce Rex, Dolores Sutton, Wes Cavnar, Allen Matthews, Vera Smith, John Nelson and Madeline Ballard were among early members.
When the state legislature unexpectedly dropped the Museum funding from its budget and reassigned the OHS employee effective July 1, 1983, plans had to be completely reorganized. Determined not to give p the Museum, a mammoth volunteer project began, which included raising operating funds and re-labeling everything in the Museum for volunteer docents. The 1000 plus photographs in the picture collection were also indexed. The City of Purcell continued their contribution of the building, utilities and maintenance. Purcell, Blanchard and Newcastle banks and other interested persons contributed financially and with service. A federally funded Green Thumb Senior clerical worker was obtained and her 20 hour weekly labor provided the backbone of the Museum volunteer force.
The Museum reopened in March 1984 and in the first six months saw over 250 visitors. Publications of the Society included the 8 page quarterly newsletter, the collection and publication of the county cemeteries which provided the basis for the treasury and the seed money for the 3 volumes of county history, McClain Co. Ok History and Heritage, in 1986, publication of the county marriages, newspaper obituary records and 3 volumes of 1890 Chickasaw Nation Indian Nation Census. The Society also aided in the microfilming of records at the county court house and participated in purchasing a microfilm printer for the library.
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