The Museum for East Texas Culture resides in the old
Palestine High School building on Micheaux Street in Reagan
Park. It was designed and built in 1915-1916. The building
was used as a High School, then a Junior High, and finally an
Elementary School. It was last used as a school in May
1976. By 1981, the City of Palestine had scheduled the
building for demolition.
Since a great many people in Palestine were reluctant
to see the old building go, the city agreed to give the group
fifteen years to prove themselves and the Museum officially opened on March 19, 1982, for the first weekend of
During the following years, work has progressed
steadily with most all work being done by local volunteers.
Numerous temporary exhibits have been displayed as well
as permanent exhibits set up as the Museum has grown.
The Museum for East Texas Culture has come a long
way since its beginning in 1982, and is already taking its
place as one of the most informative and interesting small
museums in the State.
THE RAILROAD ROOM
The International Railroad came to Palestine in 1872.
Then came the Houston and Great Northern. The two
roads merges in 1873 and became the International and Great
Northern Railroad. In 1874-1875, the general offices, shops.
and yards of the I. & G.N. were moved to Palestine. In later
years the I. & G.N. merged with the Missouri-Pacific Railroad. The Missouri Pacific Railroad merged then with the
Union Pacific Railroad which now has limited freight facilities and car shops in Palestine.
Recordings in this room are sound effects of an old
Steam Engine and Mr. Horace Shelton, who, with his twin
brother, Morns Shelton. played in the Railroad Band. Horace
Shelton's trumpet is on display in the railroad room.
Along with many other railroad artifacts, such as lanterns, oil cans, rail sections, tools and photographs, are the
counter, desk and telegraph key from the now demolished
Palestine Railroad Depot.
THE FIRE DEPARTMENT ROOM
This room has been developed by members of the Palestine Fire Department. it shows the history of local fire
fighters. The fire hydrant on display was patented in the
1800's and was used in Palestine at the intersection of Spencer and Lacy Streets from 1900-1992. The glass fire grenades (an early form of fire extinguisher) are always of
interest to Museum visitors.
The latest acquisition to this room is the quarter-inch
scale diorama of the first volunteer fire department in Palestine. This model of the "Hope, Hook, and Ladder
Company" was built and donated to the Museum by Robert
Stuard, a former Anderson County resident.
THE REAGAN CAMPBELL ROOM
John H. Reagan was originally from Tennessee, but
came to Palestine as a young man. He was a local lawyer
and judge. He served in the United States Congress and
Senate. While in Congress, he introduced the Bill establishing the Interstate Commerce Commission. He was the
chairman of the first Texas Railroad Commission. Perhaps, he is
most famous for having served as Postmaster General for
the Confederacy under President Jefferson Davis. In this
capacity, he operated the only profitable post office the
United States has ever known. Near the end of the Civil
War, when many others were abandoning the cause, John H.
Reagan also served as Secretary of the Treasury. He was
captured along with Jefferson Davis. Later when he was
pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, he returned to
Palestine. Mr. Reagan died in 1905, and is buried in Palestine's
East Hill Cemetery. A statue of him by Pompeo Coppini
stands in Reagan Park in Palestine.
The dining table in this room was built for the Reagans
in 1891 by convicts at the Rusk State Penitentiary, and is
inlaid with 996.000 pieces of wood. The child's rocking
chair was built for a Reagan grandchild by one of the family's
This room also contains memorabilia from Governor
Thomas Campbell. who was the second native born Texan
to be governor. He was influenced to enter politics by his
friend, Governor Hogg (the first native Texan to be governor). Both men were born across the Neches River from
Palestine in Cherokee County. Mr. Campbell was a lawyer,
and at one time, the general manager of the I. & G.N. Railroad. He was a two term governor from 1907-1911.
This exhibit is being completely redone and will be
combined with the Architecture Exhibit in a newly remodeled room on the third floor of the building.
THE EDUCATION ROOM
This room is a replica of a class room as it might have
been when school was is session in this building. It contains
school history in the form of desks, chairs, lamps and books.
There is also a collection of trophies and diplomas from the
schools of this area. Museum visitors find the collection of
Palestine High school yearbooks, the "Arc Light," dating
from 1912 to the present) to be one of our most interesting
exhibits. This is especially true of those who either went to
school here themselves, or had relatives who attended here.
A lot of old memories are stirred in this room.
BLACK HISTORY EXHIBIT
Our new Black History Exhibit should be completed
by the end of July and will be a great addition to the museum. It contains a tremendous amount of information so
plan to spend some time here. This exhibit has been made
possible through the efforts of a committee from the African American community of Palestine led by Mrs. June
McCoy. An unbelievable number of hours has been put
into this effort. We are very grateful to this group for all of
their efforts and know you will be very pleased with the
work they have done.
On display in the Museum Auditorium is a turn of the
century bank teller's cage. The beautiful auditorium is available to the public for various functions such as weddings,
seminars, dances, corporate dinners, and family reunions.
There is room to seat approximately 250 people via movable seating. Tables can be set up to feed the same number
at dinners or reunions. A small kitchen is available on the
first floor for use in conjunction with such events. Throughout the year the Museum has various concerts and functions in the auditorium. The ornate stage is designed to
provide wonderful acoustics.
The gymnasium is unique in that it had no bleachers or
seats for spectators. High-upon either side of the gym
above the locker rooms is a spectator gallery. Sports fans
would rather stand up here to view the games going on
below in the gym.
The main attraction in the gym is the Ingram Hudson
Log Cabin. This cabin was built in 1857 by the Ingram
Hudson family at what used to by called Ioni, a settlement
named after the Ioni Indians, who had villages in the vicinity
of Ioni Creek. This area is near what is now Denson Springs.
The cabin was donated to the museum by the great-grand-daughter of Ingrain Hudson, Mrs. Lorena Wright
Shoultz. Mrs. Shoultz was a resident of Grapeland until her
death. When finished, the cabin will certainly be one of the
main attractions of the Museum
MEDICAL AND PHARMACY EXHIBITS
The medical/pharmacy room contains a collection of
exhibits from the medical field. There are doctor's examining tables and dentist's chairs, a wooden wheel chair and an
antique hospital bed. All along the North wall is a display
case on loan from Presley Crook Pharmacy, one of the early
pharmacies in Palestine. It is filled with many of the medicines of days gone by as well as early cameras, films and
drugstore items. A white wrought-iron table with a glass
top from the Bratton Drug Store soda fountain is also on
display. The East side of the room displays the interior of
Crawford's Barber Shop. Mr. Crawford barbered in Palestine for many years. One can see the barber chairs complete
with booster seats as well as the lighted barber pole and
shoe shine stand.
The adjacent room contains a reconstruction of the
medical office of Dr. R.H. Bell who practiced medicine in
Palestine for many years. It features many early medical
fixtures. The highlight of this exhibit is the very early X-
Ray machine. This exhibit was made possible by gifts from
the family of Dr. Bell.
The Archives rooms house the many files of documents, photographs, hooks and artifacts not on display
elsewhere in the Museum. This part of our facility is not
normally open to the public for security reasons. It is
available by appointment to person wishing to do research.
Our archives crew (all volunteers, by the way) have spent
countless hours arranging and cataloging these priceless items
so that this wealth of information is readily available to the
There are numerous items on display in the hallways
of the Museum. These include such things as a grist mill,
incubator, corn shellers, and other early work savers. There
is also an early Linotype machine and printing press. The
main floor hallway has a number of cases making up what is
designated as the "Legends and Legacies" exhibit. This exhibit was designed to tell the early history of Anderson
County and Palestine. The exhibit opened in March of
1996 in celebration of the sesquicentennial of Anderson
County. Each case addresses a different facet of the county's
early history. Subjects of the exhibit include education,
entertainment, military, medicine, business and industry.
ANNIE B. ROGERS ART EXHIBIT
The Annie B. Rogers Art Exhibit consist of paintings
by Ms. Rogers, a local artist and teacher who is now deceased. The paintings were donated to the Museum by her
family. Most striking are the life-size self-portrait and the
large portraits of her father and mother, who were early
Anderson County pioneers. There are other portraits, as
well as still lifes and religious paintings.
BUSINESS MACHINES EXHIBIT
This exhibit on the third floor contains the Museum's
collection of typewriters, adding machines, computers, and
other business related machines. These will bring back memories, both good and bad, to many as they trace the advances
in business technology.
Our photography exhibit is sponsored in part by the
Palestine Herald Press. The exhibit features photographs of
people and events in and around Palestine. These photos
were made by former Palestine photojournalist Joel
Andrews. Also featured in this exhibit is an extensive antique camera display. The majority of these cameras were
donated to the Museum in 1997 by Mr. Lamar Roberson, a
local photographer for many years.
Under construction now is a complete "Old Time"
working print shop. It will be located on the lower floor and
will feature various machines donated by local and other
Like all small museums, OUR MUSEUM NEEDS YOUR
SUPPORT. You can become a Museum member for as little
as $25.00 per year for the entire family. The Museum is a
501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization so your membership may
even be tax deductible. Call 903-723-1914 today and see
how to join.