2021: History Boy Summer (Part 25) Bushwhacker Museum

I actually came across this museum in a rather random way – I was looking for a book on the Battle of Island Mound, and found a copy of one on the website for this museum by pure chance. I rarely go to the southern part of the state, so I was unaware of there being a museum in Nevada, MO at all, much less one purportedly full of Bushwhacker and Border Ruffian artifacts. The museum itself is housed in the basement of the Vernon County Library, and is open Thursday-Saturday each week. I had to get up very early to make it there in time to see it open, but the trip was well worth it.

Bushwhacker Museum; Nevada Missouri

If you plan to go, the site has two different museums for 6 dollars a person. If you combine this with a drive over to Fort Scott, Kansas, its a great way to spend a weekend!

Background:

According to their website:

“The Bushwhacker Museum . . .
is designed to appeal to all ages, with an informal atmosphere and many interactive exhibits. Children seem to be especially fascinated by the Native American exhibits, and enjoy playing “school” in the old child-sized classroom.

With over 10,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Bushwhacker also caters to a wide range of interests. Exhibits include everything from prehistoric tools and fossils to antique medical instruments and women’s wedding finery. You will find Civil War artifacts, antique carriages, old handmade quilts, children’s toys, antique sidesaddles, early fire department memorabilia and so much more … Come take a stroll with us through Vernon County’s past!

The Bushwhacker Jail . . .
is a rare example of prison facilities in the late nineteenth century. It is the oldest structure in Nevada, and one of the few buildings spared when Federal Militia burned Nevada to the ground in 1863. You can tour the beautifully restored jailer’s family quarters, step inside a grim, dark jail cell, or marvel at the graffiti in the old drunk tank. This is an unusual adventure for the entire family.

And a note about Bushwhackers:

“Bushwhacking was a form of guerrilla warfare common during the American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, American Civil War and other conflicts in which there were large areas of contested land and few governmental resources to control these tracts. This was particularly prevalent in rural areas during the Civil War where there were sharp divisions between those favoring the Union and Confederacy in the conflict. The perpetrators of the attacks were called bushwhackers. The term “bushwhacking” is still in use today to describe ambushes done with the aim of attrition.

Bushwhackers were generally part of the irregular military forces on both sides. While bushwhackers conducted well-organized raids against the military, the most dire of the attacks involved ambushes of individuals and house raids in rural areas. In the countryside, the actions were particularly inflammatory since they frequently amounted to fighting between neighbors, often to settle personal accounts. Since the attackers were non-uniformed, the government response was complicated by trying to decide whether they were legitimate military attacks or criminal, terrorist actions.”

Reading:

Something I picked up in the giftshop itself was a copy of Bushwhackers of the Border by Patrick Brophy. Brophy appears to be a prominent member of the Vernon County Historical Society (or at least in the 80’s), and I saw a number of books by him on the shelves there. As of this writing, I have yet to read all of this book, but it’s a quick read and goes over the history of the many skirmishes between Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers in the lead up and during The American Civil War. Stay tuned for my review.

The Trip:

I am going to be lazy and cut-and-paste what I posted for the Bushwhacker Jail leg of this trip here, it’s basically the same info, and there is literally no reason to type a different stuff. I guess I should have tied them together, but it’s too late now!

“Despite being over an hour and a half trip by car from my house, my drive to Nevada, MO was relatively easy. I planned out a day involving the trip to the two Vernon County museums, and a short drive over into Kansas to Fort Scott Historic Site. Since Nevada is basically directly across from Fort Scott on the border it made for a fun three hour or so adventure to visit all three places. Upon arrival at the Vernon County Library, one goes down a series of stairways into the basement to find the museum itself. Both the museum and the jail run off of the same admission system, so if you pay for one you get to do both. For both me and my son, admission totaled the whopping amount of $6.

We got there just in time for a guided tour of the jail, came back, perused the museum, bought some stuff at the gift shop and were on our way. Due to my work schedule, I am unable to attend things like this during the week usually, so if you are like me and plan on going on a Saturday, be prepared for it to close early. The self-guided tour of the museum is about an hour, whereas the tour of the jail is about 30 minutes. This is of course determined by how long you want to stay at the museum, and your reading speed.”

Conclusion:

Also from my previous review:

All-in-all this was a very fun trip, and one of the better county museums I have seen during this summer. Generally, a lot of them end up being insanely cluttered with artifacts from hundreds of years of time crammed into a building way too small for the amount of stuff, while interesting – it’s almost always too much. I’m sure that the old version of this museum was probably like that, considering everything was housed in the jail for a time, but at least the people of Vernon County had the sense to expand.”

I didn’t mention it on the other review, but the main museum is probably the better portion of the two museums, it has some weird stuff like historic barbed wire that was produced in the area and other overly-specific local things that most would ignore, but for the most part it has good artifacts and exhibits to see. I would have preferred it was entirely a “Bushwhacker Museum” as the name would suggest, but I suppose branding in this way gets more people in the door. I guess just being “The Vernon County Museum” sounds less prestigious. That said, there is plenty to see related to the topic at hand, and the gift shop is easily the best one I’ve seen on this entire series aside for maybe the National Frontier Trails Museum, which was visited later.

This article is part of my summer series History Boy Summer, which you can keep up with by following this LINK.

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