The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum permanent collection includes a mixture of antique and contemporary artifacts from Oktibbeha County. Some artifacts in the permanent collection are stored in the museum’s office.
During the Civil War, a few Confederate troops briefly stayed at the Montgomery home, The Cedars. The daughter and her friends entertained the young soldiers by singing and playing piano. Before moving to Columbus, the soldiers performed a song they had written for the young ladies called “Starkville Girls.” The girls then wrote a song for the young men.
Bobby Horton, an Alabama musician who’s an authority on Civil War music, visited the museum on June 18, 2012, between MSU performances. He played the 1840 square piano that the Montgomery family donated to the museum. Copies of the two songs and a recording of Horton singing “Starkville Girls” are at the museum’s piano exhibit. A folder recounting the story in more detail is also on the piano.
The Museum’s Treasures include:
- Native American and early county history
- 1980 Miss America Cheryl Prewitt pageant items
- 2002 Miss USA Shauntay Hinton items
- Sports: Cool Papa Bell, T-ball, Travis Outlaw, Bailey Howell, Elon Walker, Willie Daniel
- Civil War artifacts
- Military memorabilia
- Local aviation history
- Evans Shine Parlor and Jones Shoe Shop mementos
- Needmore Community mementos
- Yesteryear Main Street photos
- Retro doctor’s office
- Coca Cola’s local history
- Interactive Children’s Corner
- Early home life
- Agriculture: dairy farms and forestry
- Vintage clothing
- Church and school keepsakes
- Industries’ evolution
- Miniature railroad layout
An exhibit of Rookwood Pottery, which is a highly collectible line, was set up in fall 2014 at the museum. Herschede Hall Clock Company – a part of Arnold Industries – bought Rookwood Pottery and relocated it in 1960 to Starkville from Cincinnati, Ohio. Located in the rear of the Herschede Hall Clock Company’s building, on Hwy. 12, Rookwood Pottery closed its doors in 1967. Bill Glass joined Rookwood Pottery in 1959 and moved to Starkville when the company moved. In Starkville, he managed the production of the existing line of ceramic products and designed 75 new shapes for the Rookwood and Herschede lines. He was the last Rookwood potter. Bill and his wife, Rose Mary (a poet), established the Gift Gallery when Rookwood suspended operations. Bill also taught art at MSU and at MSCW (now MUW), in Columbus. Residents now of Las Vegas, Nevada, Bill and Rose Mary Glass donated three of his reproduction sculptures to the Heritage Museum. The museum’s copy of Enigma is in honor of John Robert Arnold and his daughter, a teacher at St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. Gethsemane and Pisces copies are in memory of the Walter Herschede family and companies.
When the Jones Shoe Shop, located on Lafayette Street, closed in April 2014 after 74 years, its owner, Wesley Jones, donated to the museum the shoe sign that hung outdoors; a mechanical, wooden cobbler figure working at his bench; a patching (sewing) machine; a clock that was in the shop; and some photos. An open house on October 18, 2014, celebrated the opening of the exhibit, with Wesley and his wife in attendance. The Jones Shoe Shop memorabilia and the Evans Shine Parlor memorabilia now share an exhibit space. It is fitting, because the two shops’ original owners, George Evans and Ernest Jones, worked cooperatively by sharing work between them.
A major sports display is now on permanent exhibit at the museum. On October 20, 2013, an open house was held at the museum to honor the three men featured in the exhibit. To see the open house photos, use this link. It features “lockers” for three former professional athletes who are in the National Hall of Fame for their sports and who have claimed Oktibbeha County as home. It is remarkable for a city the size of Starkville to have such standouts in three different sports: Cool Papa Bell, Negro Baseball League; Bailey Howell, National Basketball Association (and MSU); and Jerry Rice, National Football League. A combination of talent and persistence resulted in the exhibit: Suzanne Powney, an MSU graphic design faculty member, originated the “lockers” concept, and Glen James, former Starkville resident and FOM board member, constructed the lockers. Bill Poe, museum trustee, gathered artifacts for the Cool Papa Bell locker; Bailey Howell donated some items for his locker; and Jerry Drott, museum trustee, obtained items for the Jerry Rice locker. Jerry Drott painted the lockers and became the project leader, arranging and enhancing each locker. The Greater Starkville Development Partnership (GSDP) provided a grant that funded the sports exhibit.
In 2013, a sports exhibit opened that features local sports figures Elon Walker, Willie Daniel, and others. Walker, a former resident of the Needmore Community, was a pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox (Negro Baseball Minor League) and was a teammate of country singer Charley Pride. Daniel played in the NFL for the Pittsburg Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams.