South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society & the Newton House Museum
The South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society (formerly known as the South Arkansas Historical Foundation) is a 501-c-3 not-for-profit located in El Dorado, Arkansas. The Historical Preservation Society's principal property is the beautiful Newton House Museum. Located on Jackson Street, this historic Greek Revival home has authentic décor that reflects its antebellum construction (circa 1849). As the only antebellum home open to the public in El Dorado, it offers a glimpse into the rich history of southern Arkansas. This museum is a great family attraction and one of the special places to visit while in El Dorado.
The Historical Preservation Society also hosts the annual Mayhaw Festival, history forums, free educational programs (September through May), and a Speakers Series co-sponsored by South Arkansas Community College. Membership is available through the Preservation Society support organization.
McCaskill Family Donates Artifacts
When Sam and Helen McCaskill built their home in 1968, “there was not much money left over for artwork and decorations to put on the walls”, Helen McCaskill recalled at a recent reception in their honor at the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society. So, Helen began looking at what they had available to them which was almost 200 years of McCaskill family history and artifacts. This family has been a part of South Arkansas longer than Arkansas has been a state and their house, according to long time family friend and Interior Designer Melinda Cameron-Godsey, “was a museum that they happen to live in”. Each room was decorated with family items dating back as far as the early 1830’s. Helen said, “Moms washboard hung above our modern washing machine, old bottles adorned the shelves of the kitchen, postcards and greeting cards from the early 1900’s were framed and hung on the walls and, of course, there is the dress”.
Sam McCaskills mother Lona was given the dress, which was made by her great, great aunt 70 years prior when she was five and at the age of 85 gave the dress to Sam & Helen along with this letter in 1982. The dress was wrapped up in tissue paper and might have been “thrown out with the trash had I not rescued it along with other artifacts that the family was in the process of disposing as they were cleaning out Moms house”, Helen said.
The McCaskill Family donated many items to the Historical Society including; 1830’s dress, 19th Century HOPF Violin, mandolin (unknown age), a double frame featuring both of Sam’s Great Grandfathers, one in a Confederate uniform and the other in a Union uniform, early 1900’s greeting and post cards, 1920’s washboard, early medicine bottles, 1910’s Gramophone, 1929 & 1930 El Dorado Phone Books, 1933 & 1934 Almanacs, 1956 8mm movie projector, 2 Brownie Box Cameras circa 1916, several Kodak and Polaroid Instant cameras dating from 1961 – 1979 and a November 2, 1929 EL Dorado Daily News featuring the new Union County Courthouse on the front page.
“These artifacts are a wonderful addition to the archives of the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society and we will be able to utilize these objects to illustrate the story of this pioneering South Arkansas family. Just one of the many stories that will be preserved for generations of South Arkansans to come”, says Jack Wilson, Business Manager for the Historical Society. “Families like the McCaskills, and the many other pioneering families that were here when Arkansas was first being mapped out and those that came later in history, are the families and individuals that have instilled the work ethic, the strong sense of family, and the incredible generosity for others that make South Arkansas so special”.
Now in its final planning stages, the South Arkansas Culture & History Museum will create a visual capture of the South Arkansas peoples’ culture and history and will provide access to it in a safe interactive manner for the education and amusement of its visitors. New technologies will be utilized throughout the museum bringing exhibits to life through interactive video displays, self guided audio tours and smart phone apps all geared toward providing a more in-depth experience for the museum visitor. Educational programming for all ages is being developed and will play a very large role in the new museum and its mission and all of the Historical Society archives will be made available to anyone for research purposes.
To find out more about the South Arkansas History & Culture Museum or the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society call 870-862-9890 or visit www.soarkhistory.com.