The Franklin County Historical Society celebrated a successful year in 2016, with several new exhibits, a history fair, growing membership and the acquisition of a spring-board surrey that originated from a local company.

The history fair, held in October at the County Seat Senior Center, drew large crowds, said Jane VanLeer, secretary/treasurer.

There were many vendors from Franklin and surrounding counties with artifacts such as tools, an old fire truck, a blacksmith demonstration and more.

“We had a lot of people come in and check out the different booths,” she said. “It’s very informative.”

The history fair also provided an opportunity to display the surrey, a four-wheel carriage, which the society added to its collection early in 2016.

The surrey originated in Union and was sold by the Szymanski & Max Company. The business began in 1853 by Anton Szymanski, an immigrant from Poland, as the Szymanski Blacksmith Shop.

The museum also was gifted a book with a historical view of a Civil War prisoner of war. The story was about Mary Barnes, the wife of George Barnes, complete with a copy of the pardon signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

George was born in Franklin County. He had a wife and four children. He was captured in Arkansas.

“It’s a neat book (about) someone who was from this area,” said Carole Howell, public relations chairperson.

The book, called “Mary’s Story” was written by a descendent of the couple, Libby Bailey.

Accepts Donations

The society always accepts photographs and artifacts related to the Civilian Conservation Corp., work progress administration projects, and black history.

“We are always interested in pictures, items, stories,” VanLeer said, adding that group members have been working on interviews with older citizens of Franklin County to gather historical information.

Howell said the project began three months ago through the state.

“You can get so much information,” VanLeer said, adding that older citizens provide a wealth of knowledge about the county.

Looking Ahead

In 2017, the group hopes to increase membership, as well as work on displays and continue to grow the history fair.

The group also will continue to look at the possibilities for expansion at an additional location.

VanLeer said the group is always accepting new members either as individuals, families or businesses. Membership currently is 131.

The society is closed for the winter for maintenance and work on displays, but will reopen in the spring.

This spring, the museum will be open the second Sunday and the fourth Wednesday, from 1 to 4 p.m., or by appointment. To make an appointment, people may call 636-288-3653, or 636-744-6986.

Regular meetings are held the second Sunday of the month, at 2 p.m., at the museum, located at 15 N. Oak St. The next meeting will be held Feb. 12.