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H.S. Ford Memorial Museum
History of Claiborne Parish
BY Susan T. Herring Editor, The Guardian-Journal

In 1918, Herbert S. Ford's sons brought home two German helmets from the city dump. This became the catalyst that prompted Ford to begin a collection of historical artifacts which are now housed in the Herbert S. Ford Museum.

Ford's enthusiastic and persistent quest for acquiring items of historical interest became the foundation for "his" museum, which was once located in an old Louisiana and Northwest Railroad coach just west of his home on North Main. This coach was donated to Haynesville several years ago and moved to the fairgrounds to be restored.

After Ford's death in 1960, his family donated the museum to the Town of Homer and moved the artifacts to the Claiborne Creamery building. Items were placed in storage from 1976 to 1982 when the creamery was demolished to make way for the building of the Claiborne Parish Sheriff's Department. The Town agreed to donate the property to the Police Jury in exchange for a building to house the museum, not to exceed $17,000 in value.

In June 1982, the museum reopened in its present location after owner Dorace Maritzky Fichtenbaum of Dallas, Texas donated the building to the Town of Homer specifically for use of the museum.

In 1848, lots around the Town square were sold off at auction and continued to change hands until a fire in 1889 believed to have started in the Whitter saloon destroyed most of the south side of the square. This made way for the "A.K. Clingman brick block", a two-story brick building with an iron front and the birth of Hotel Claiborne.

The Hotel Claiborne was built in 1890. According to a story written by Mary Frances Robinson, in the beginning there were no individual baths, only bowls and pitchers and "slop jars" in each room and heat was provided by fireplaces in the four corner rooms. Before this, glass transoms mounted over the doors provided ventilation. In the diningroom, a woman operated a large fan made from four wooden ribs covered with peacock feathers and suspended from the ceiling. The fan kept insects from interfering with customers while eating their meals.

Sometime around 1911 the hotel was sold to Mrs. Mathilda Miller. About the same time electric lights and fans and hot and cold baths were added. In 1917, Miller leased the building to George W. Newman, who then sold it to Max Maritzky on Nov. 20, 1919 for $23,000.

The Guardian-Journal reported in Jan. 29, 1919, the town was crowded with business men and speculators... the hotel and offices were jammed to overflowing with strangers... indicating the burst of activity brought on by the oil boom. Years later, the building housed two department stores, Maritzky's and West Brothers.

The museum today includes a chronological timeline from the arrival of the original settlers with an Indian period and a Pioneer period. An actual log cabin that was acquired in the late summer of 1982 from the George Green Estate was disassembled at its present location and reassembled inside the museum.

A photo display depicting the changes in the appearance of the ante-bellum courthouse since it accepted by the Police Jury as being complete in July, 1861. Over the years, the building has been stuccoed and painted. One picture shows the building stuccoed and scored, however, in 1963, the stucco was removed and the bricks were painted white.

Other memorabilia included came from the turn of the century, World War I, the oil boom, as well as an organ from Arizona Methodist Church and various musical instruments.

Some of the items collected included an 1812 walking stick with a whiskey bottle in the handle that belonged to one of Claiborne's early pioneers, John Murrell. Other collectibles were confederate bills issued by the Claiborne Parish Police Jury during the Civil War and signed by jury president W. B. Gill and secretary B. D. Harrison.

Among the items were a stake driven by a US engineer when the parish was first surveyed in 1830, a wall clock from 1860, two of the original bookcases from the parish courthouse, an 1829 Springfield rifle, and several Confederate rifles.

However Ford's favorite collectible were his bells, ranging from plantation dinner bells to a steamboat bell. The bells included the Homer Female College bell, a bell from the first locomotive of 1889, and the old Claiborne Hotel bell of 1890.

Other items include complete furnishings of a doctor's office, a dentist's office and pharmacy from the turn of the century. Church pews and pulpit were acquired in the 1980's from the Shiloh Baptist Church in the Antioch Community.

In the barnyard is a Roman crane made by Ben Langheld of the Bethlehem Community. It is a huge wheel-like device that was used by Langheld to lift the wagonbed up and empty the contents into resource for the humanities. The overall goal is to become a center for study of the life, culture, and society of Claiborne Parish in particular and northwest Louisiana in general."

In 1986, the "Maritzky Building" was named to the National Register of Historic Places and will celebrate its 110th birthday in April of year 2000.

Courtesy of The Gaurdian-Journal


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H.S. Ford Memorial Museum

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