140 Years And Counting – Rogers Historical Museum helps city celebrate

BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

Looking down a photo-filled wall in the Rogers Historical Museum’s Key Wing, Director Serena Barnett has a unique perspective on the past 140 years of the city she calls home. She can see the image of the first train that pulled into Rogers on May 10, 1881 — hence last week’s 140th birthday celebration — and she can see the winner of the photo contest created to bring the past into the present.

Along the way, Barnett — who curated the exhibit titled “Rogers Through the Eye of the Lens: 140 Years of History in Photographs” — has grown attached to some personal favorites:

A large work bench from the vinegar plant in Rogers, the tools used for repairing barrels and the collection of vinegar bottles are great examples of the many different jobs required to turn apples into vinegar, says Monte Harris, curator of the “Rogers Founding Families” exhibit. “There are probably few people who know exactly how those particular tools were used.” (Courtesy Photos/RHM)

• A World War I troop train leaving the Rogers Frisco Station in 1917. “These men were some of the over 500 soldiers sent overseas from Rogers and throughout Benton County,” she explains. “This photo pulls at my heartstrings as sadly, for many of these men, this image portrays the last time that they were to see home.”

• A photo showing a crowd standing outside the museum during the Fourth of July Bicentennial parade in 1976.

“The Rogers Historical Museum was established in 1975 as the city of Rogers’ U.S. Bicentennial heritage project to help preserve our local history,” Barnett explains. “RHM opened on Oct. 25, 1975, at its first location inside the old bank building on First Street. Over the past 46 years, RHM has worked hard to achieve its goal of preserving the history of Rogers and the surrounding area. As the current director, I’m proud to report that today the museum has grown to include over 60,000 collections objects and has recently expanded its facilities to accommodate future growth with addition of the newly renovated Newt Hailey Ford Dealership and Eversole Collections buildings. RHM is also currently the only American Alliance of Museums accredited museum in Northwest Arkansas.”

• And an image of the Rogers Frisco Centennial Caboose built in 1946.

“It was donated to the city of Rogers by the Burlington Northern Railroad — who merged with the Frisco in 1980 — for the Rogers Centennial in 1981,” Barnett says. “So many people that have grown up here, myself included, have fond memories of seeing this caboose each time they visited downtown. Over the past 40 years, it has become an iconic part of Downtown Rogers. Today it can be found at First and Cherry streets where the old brick Frisco depot once stood, a fitting tribute to Rogers’ railroad past.”

A World War I troop train leaves the Rogers Frisco Station in 1917 in the new “Rogers Through the Eye of the Lens: 140 Years of History in Photographs” exhibit. “These men were some of the over 500 soldiers sent overseas from Rogers and throughout Benton County,” says RHM Director and exhibit curator Serena Barnett. “This photo pulls at my heartstrings as sadly, for many of these men, this image portrays the last time that they were to see home.” (Courtesy Photo/RHM)

It was the railroad that brought a community to what became Rogers and gave that community its name, explains Monte Harris, the museum’s adult programs educator, who curated the other birthday exhibit, “Rogers Founding Families,” on show through Nov. 6 in the Trammel Gallery at the Hailey Building. The town was named to honor C.W. Rogers, manager of the Frisco Railroad, but Harris is quick to point out there were founding families before there was a town.

“For example, between 1834 and 1842, Dennis Callahan was farming in the valley that today is under the waters of Lake Atalanta,” she enumerates. “In 1836, John B. Dickson was appointed postmaster for the first post office in Benton County, believed to be at Osage Springs, which still flows in the area today known as Pinnacle Promenade.

“In the 1850s, Marshal and Rebecca ‘Becka’ Douglas settled on modern-day Persimmon Street,” Harris continues. “Marshal was one of the first state legislators to represent Benton County. When Marshal died in 1873, his property was sold to the Horsely family who, along with his neighbors, including Benjamin Franklin Sikes, raised $600 needed to purchase the railroad right-of-way and begin the construction of the railroad in Rogers.”

A large work bench from the vinegar plant in Rogers, the tools used for repairing barrels and the collection of vinegar bottles are great examples of the many different jobs required to turn apples into vinegar, says Monte Harris, curator of the “Rogers Founding Families” exhibit. “There are probably few people who know exactly how those particular tools were used.” (Courtesy Photos/RHM)

With the railroad came growth “as the bricklayers and stone masons, such as J. B. Myler and the Matthew Brothers built one building after another,” Harris says. “The Oakley family planted some of the first orchards and later joined many other retailers like J.W. Bryant, the Wing Brothers, W.R. Cady, Charles Juhre, W.R. Felker, L.E. Karnes, the Stroud family and Oscar L. Gregory. The Applegate family opened a drug store, and A.D. Callison operated the funeral home business. Erwin Funk editorialized the town’s progress in the newspaper as modern miracles such as electricity, indoor bathrooms and telephones became everyday conveniences.”

Of course choosing who to include in the exhibit was difficult, Harris says, but “working chronologically with historical research helped create a storyline featuring real characters.” The biggest problem, she says, was “how few women were acknowledged for their contributions in the old versions of history.”

It seems only appropriate then that the photograph selected to depict 2021 in the permanent “Rogers Through the Eye of the Lens” exhibit was taken by a woman, Gabrielle Campbell.

”It features Campbell standing alone inside the Rogers Towne Cinema lobby and social distancing stickers on the floor, a tell-tale sign of what the current ‘normal’ looks like in our pandemic-related world today,” says Barnett. “The photo was submitted with the following caption: ‘Movie Theaters in 2021: The new reality of going to the movie theaters. While movies were limited in showing, theaters rented out their big screens for video game nights. This was the lobby of the Rogers Towne Cinema right before we went inside.’”

Cover Photo As part of the Rogers Historical Museum’s “Rogers Founding Families” exhibit — marking the community’s 140th birthday — Dr. William J. Curry’s medical bag can be viewed. Also on exhibit are some of his special medical implements and pain killing prescriptions that he used in emergency situations trying to save lives of train accident victims or delivering babies during house calls. The exhibit continues through Nov. 6 at the museum’s Hailey Building. (Courtesy Photo/RHM)

“Today, cell phones make it possible for everyone to always have a camera at their fingertips,” Barnett muses. “This has made taking photos easier than ever before. Need proof? Just look at how many photos you have currently in your camera roll. In fact, there have been more photos taken in the past few years than in the entire history of photography.”

But she has 140 years all wrapped up.


FAQ – ‘Rogers Founding Families’

WHEN — 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, through Nov. 6

WHERE — Rogers Historical Museum’s Hailey Building, 313 S. Second St. in Rogers

‘Rogers Through the Eye of the Lens’

WHEN — Part of the museum’s permanent collection

WHERE — Museum’s Key Wing in the Kathleen Dickerson Classroom

COST — Free

INFO — 621-1154 or rogershistoricalmuseum.org


The entrance to the “Rogers Founding Families” exhibit in the Hailey Building quotes H.M. Butler, editor of the Rogers Democrat in 1896. (Courtesy Photo/RHM)

FYIFounders Day

The Rogers Historical Museum will help the city celebrate Founders Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 5. Events in and around the museum will include a quilt show sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Modern Quilt Guild; a special Hawkins House guided tour, “Quilts in Victorian Homes”; farm animals; and historic craftsmen giving demonstrations on weaving, smocking and woodcarving.

Families will also have the opportunity to create their own family time capsule to take home and preserve today’s memories for the future. Food trucks will be offering a variety of lunch options for purchase.

Other events downtown include train rides sponsored by the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, a photo scavenger hunt and sidewalk sales. Go Downtown Rogers merchants will also be providing free horse-drawn wagon rides around downtown. The Rogers 140th Anniversary Time Capsule Ceremony will be at the Butterfield Stage at 2 p.m., and the Butterfield Stage 2021 Concert Series will kick off at 5 p.m. with performances by bands Honeyjack and Jukeboxx.

INFO — 621-1154

Among the newer photos marking significant events on a timeline of the city of Rogers is this one of the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, which opened in Rogers in 2014. (Courtesy Photo/RHM)
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