Born in Sampson County, Micajah Autry left North Carolina in 1835 to seek his fortune out west. He eventually made his way to Texas, and died fighting at the Alamo. In 1945, while serving in the U.S. Navy, Lt. Rufus G. Herring of Roseboro received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at the battle of Iwo Jima. Sampson county native Lt. Col. Doris Melvin became an Army nurse in the 1950s, during a time when few such opportunities were available for African-American women. This is just a small snapshot of the military history that is being preserved at the Sampson County History Museum!
The Military History Collection is an amazing array of artifacts, many of which have been donated directly by the people of Sampson County. Civil War battle flags, colonial cannon balls, 19th century swords and rifles, field gear from WWI and WWII, and uniforms from Vietnam are just a few of the items found in this collection. These commemorate not only the county’s role in the United States Armed Forces, but military history in general. The Sampson County History Museum is proud to be the caretaker of these important – and in some cases – one-of-a kind artifacts.
For many years, this collection was housed in a small metal building, once open to the public as part of the museum tour. However, as this building began to age, it began to suffer from a leaking roof, which would have endangered these important artifacts. It was decided that the military collection would be put into storage while plans were developed for a new structure. In 2016 a temporary military exhibit was installed in the main museum building, highlighting some of these artifacts, but much more still remains in storage.
Fast forward to 2017, and a fundraising campaign is now underway to make the new military building a reality. This structure will not only be a museum for preserving the past, but it will serve as a tribute to Sampson County’s veterans! Working in partnership with the Sampson County Veterans Office, and local chapters of the VFW and American Legion, a proposed design is now in place, which closely mirrors the museum’s Law Enforcement Building. This will be a state-of-the-art, modern facility, with climate controlled exhibit galleries, interactive exhibits, and storage space for the preservation of artifacts.
Although this project to preserve the past and honor our veterans is a noble cause, this type of facility comes with a high price tag. The projected cost for this new addition to the museum will be at least $200,000, and as part of the fundraising efforts, the museum is seeking support from the people and businesses of Sampson County…and beyond. Several different levels of giving have been established, ranging from $100 to $25,000, but any amount is appreciated. For more information on how you can become a partner in this effort, feel free to contact the museum at (910) 590-0007.
If you would like to learn more about the military history of Sampson County – or history in general — please come visit us at the museum for a guided tour. We will be glad to show you around and share with you the key to Sampson County’s past! You can also visit our website at www.sampsonhmc.com and follow us on Facebook, for the latest happenings here at the museum. We are open Wednesday through Saturday, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm at 313 Lisbon St., in downtown Clinton.
Chris Woodson is director of the Sampson County History Museum.