During a visit to the Sampson County History Museum, Fisher King enjoyed looking at a bright red 1941 fire truck up close.
“It was awesome,” the 6-year-old boy said with excitement about the historic vehicle used to put out fires in Roseboro.
Fisher and his mother Della King were some of the visitors who attended the museum’s 20th Anniversary Saturday. During the event, hundreds of guests enjoyed open tours of the facility created in 1997 by the late Henry “Fes” Lee Turlington and David King.
“It seems like it’s only been just a few months,” King said. “Twenty years has gone by so fast and this museum has grown so rapidly.”
After receiving a $50,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, a foundation was formed inside a 1903 two-story house on Lisbon Street in downtown Clinton. Now, thousands of artifacts are housed at the museum and other buildings behind it. Some of them are the Grange Agriculture Museum, The Holmes House, a Law Enforcement Museum and the Sports Hall of Fame.
“All of our buildings here have not cost the city or the county anything,” King said about receiving donations to increase the size of the museum.
The help has gone a long way when it comes to remembering the past.
“We need to preserve all of our history,” King said. “History is just floating away.”
As an example, he mentioned the Waccamaw Coast Line railroad car, recently sold to the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah, Ga.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t preserve or didn’t have the funding to have it right here in Clinton,” King said while speaking about the history. “I don’t think people in the county realize that we lost one of our treasures when that train car left.”
But King stressed that officials are not going to let anything else slip away, with the support of residents.
“Some of these artifacts could have been sold on eBay different places like that,” King said. “Thank goodness people sold them to the museum.”
For the future, the museum would like to build a military museum, if they receive enough money to do so.
“We got so many veterans here in this county and we need a place to preserve their artifacts,” King said.
Inside the main museum, Kathy Colwell, a retired nurse and current teacher gazed at pictures with her husband Jeff Gier. She remembered working with some of the medical professionals on the walls.
“Some of it makes you feel somewhat old,” Colwell said with a chuckle.
She was impressed with the work and improvements of the museum.
“If you don’t know where you been, you don’t know where you’re going,” Colwell said.
Originally from Tennessee, Gier said he’s able to learn a lot about Sampson County and its heritage.
“When you travel around the country you find out that people have a lot more in common than you realize,” Gier said.
Museum Director Chris Woodson was pleased with the turnout throughout the day. He hopes people were exposed to the county’s history, if they haven’t visited before. Kay Raynor, president of the museum’s board, is happy about having two decades of success.
“I’m just excited that we’ve been able to keep the door open for 20 years,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
Chrissy Carr, administrative assistant for the museum, said the location is a hidden gem for the community.
“I don’t think people realize what’s lies just behind that one house,” she said.
Along with history, some of the other attractions included pony rides,courtesy of farmer Phil Hudson; Hubb’s Corn Maze kiddie train; antique cars from the Ol’ Lightning Rods; music from the Viewmasters gospel quartet; bluegrass songs from members of the Carolina Tradition Bluegrass Band.
The event also featured a photography contest, “Roots of Sampson County,” an exhibit with black and white photographs representing the heritage of Sampson County. It was organized by Vickie Crane, museum board member. Teresa Young won the People’s Choice award for her photography piece titled “Billy Goats Barn.” Kimberly Cannady’s picture “Fire truck in retirement” was selected as Best in Exhibit.
“I was very happy with the photos that were submitted,” she said. “Everyone seems to enjoy looking at them and voting for their favorite when they came in.”
Like other volunteers and supporters, she believes it’s important to remember the heritage of Sampson County. Crane believes the photography exhibit contest was a good way to do that. It will be available through the month of August.
“It’s fun to share through photography,” Crane said.
Bill Kopp, a local native and retired NASA engineer who worked with the Project Mercury and Project Gemini space programs, spoke about his work with visitors. The projects were the beginning human space lift programs of the the United States. In the near future, he plans to make contributions to the museum through artifacts.
For Volunteer Don Meece, father of Carr, walking thought the museum for the first time, he reminisced.
“I was really impressed with the stuff they had,” he said. “All you see is the building out front, but when you take a tour and go through all of the buildings, it brings back memories for me.”