A precious record is kept in Howard. It is a record of how lives were lived, how learning took place, how wars were won, of the clothes that were worn, and how health was maintained. It is a record of the grand and celebratory and of the everyday and ordinary. It covers over 135 years of Elk County history, from the 1860s to the present day. To take in this record, you needn’t read, only observe because it’s all on display at the Benson Historical Museum.
The Benson Museum was born from the Elk County Historical Society in 1979 and was later incorporated through a generous gift from the late Miss. Edith Benson of Howard.
The Benson Museum is presently housed in six buildings in two locations in Howard. At the Benson Historical Museum Complex, visitors can see an historical representation of a 1900’s housekeeper’s home in the Mittie Davis house. Visitors will also find an old time filling station that was operational for many years. The third building in the complex is a one-room schoolhouse that was moved in from the country. Inside it museum goers can see the way school was conducted 70 to 80 years ago, including books, maps, actual photos, desks and clothing. The Complex is also home to the Gragg Memorial building, a gift of Howard citizen Margaret E. Gragg, which houses a remarkable collection of agricultural implements and tools. In it visitors will find a steam tractor, threshing machine, saddles, a 1920’s fire truck, a replica farm kitchen, and many, many other items.
The Museum’s other two buildings contain an astounding collection of items that represent the everyday lives of former Elk County residents. Visitors can see everything from a mid-1900s doctor’s office and a mortician’s trade tools to replica living rooms and bedrooms and various clothing items. There is a delightful collection of women’s clothing that spans nearly 110 years. It includes hats, gloves and footwear. Visitors will also find a grouping of military uniforms worn by residents in the defense of our country through three wars.
One of the most remarkable things about the Benson Museum, other than the enormity of the collection, is that community members have donated a majority of the items. The names on the cards next to the WW II uniform or the threshing machine or the dentist’s chair are the same as those than can be seen in the past school annuals and newspapers on display. Those names can even be seen in present day papers, annuals, and local businesses because many of the descendents of the people who used those items have remained in the area.
The museum also maintains a written history of the area residents and their lives and experiences. These records can be made available to visitors at the museum upon request.
A remarkable record is kept of our community’s history, and it is available to you—up close and personal—at the Benson Historical Museum.
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