Stepping onto the Sampson County History Museum’s expanse at the rear of the main Lisbon Street building, visitors for years have been immediately drawn to the old Wooten’s Store and two beautifully restored early 1900s gas pumps that guard the entrance. Thievery has cut that number of pumps in half, and museum officials are urging the public’s help to find it.
Now about three weeks removed from the theft, museum officials are imploring anyone with information to come forward with it. At some point between Saturday, June 30, and Wednesday, July 4, one of the antique Gulf gas pumps — the smaller of two — was stolen from the museum grounds. An alert was posted to the Sampson County History Museum’s Facebook page on July 6, but no tips have turned up anything.
“It was a collector’s item and it was rare,” said museum stalwart and local historian David King, who co-founded the museum in 1997 with Fes Turlington. “Someone had gone to the museum, seen it and then came back and lifted it.”
There was no known damage inflicted and no other item reported stolen.
“They knew exactly what they wanted,” King said simply.
King himself worked on the pump and restored it when it was gifted to the museum. Even as an avid collector of artifacts, he attested that this particular pump was “quite impressive.” While King estimated its worth at between $6,000 and $7,000, as with many historical items, no price tag can be assigned for what cannot be replaced.
In the two decades since it began, the museum has grown significantly from the five rooms of the 1903 two-story white house on Lisbon Street to a village of a dozen separate museum buildings in the backyard,a 2-acre lot spread over the entire corner of Lisbon, Powell and Graham streets.
Therein, people will find thousands of permanent antiques and artifacts that showcase the history and heritage of Sampson and the surrounding area. Among those various artifacts are the two Gulf pumps, which took their prominent place around the same time the Wooten’s Store was preserved from the Timothy community in northern Sampson many years ago.
The country store is equipped with a coal stove, drink boxes and an assortment of bottles made in Clinton. And pulling the whole classic look together was the authentically refurbished gas pumps. And now two pumps are one.
King said he was disturbed at the utter disregard for the community’s history — to be appreciated by everyone.
“Of course, people will steal anything, but to go to a museum and steal something when it belongs to all of us … ,” King said, “sometimes it feels like people don’t have a conscience anymore.”
Those who have any information regarding the gas pump are encouraged to contact the Sampson County History Museum at 910-590-0007 or the Clinton Police Department at 910-592-3105.
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.