The Bushwhacker Museum opened for its first tour on June 1, 1965 in the old Vernon County jail and sheriff’s home on North Main Street. The Vernon County Historical Society purchased the somewhat dilapidated building the previous autumn and transformed it into a county museum. For the next thirty years, local volunteers opened the building to visitors anxious to see the old cell block, described by some as a “dungeon of medieval malevolence”. So despised was the jail that legend had it that prisoners held there would sometimes beg the judge to sentence them to a longer term at the Missouri State Penitentiary, rather than a shorter one in the county jail!
The museum’s name was chosen in remembrance of the pro-Southern guerrilla fighters known as “Bushwhackers” who fought so tenaciously against Federal overreach by authorities prior to and during the Civil War. The Southern sympathies of the citizens of Vernon County were so strong during this period that Nevada City, the county seat, became known as the “Bushwhacker Capital”. Although the museum showcases all Vernon County history, the War Between the States has always stood at the forefront as the most dramatic period of the county’s history.
Major change came in the mid-1990s when the museum shifted from the former jail to the renovated Moss Building at the south end of the same city block. With thousands of square feet of exhibit space, the museum quickly grew from its opening in 1998 to include exhibits on Osage Indians, Camp Clark, railroads, State Mental Hospital #3, county schools, agriculture, and local medicine.
As a comprehensive regional history museum and genealogical research center, the Bushwhacker Museum serves the local community as a gathering place and a prominent attraction for tourists eager to learn more about the history of the Civil War in Missouri.
The Bushwhacker Museum is housed in a renovated 1920’s Ford garage and agency. Comprising some 13,000 sq. ft. of exhibit, storage, and workspace, the Museum features recreated rooms from Dr. J.T. Hornback’s home and offices along with exhibits on the Osage Indians, the Border/Civil War, Vernon County military history, and both permanent and temporary exhibits highlighting the community and region. A popular exhibit of the 2-part museum is the 140-year-old Vernon County Jail. Visitors can experience for themselves the “cell room of medieval malevolence” whose formidable reputation was well known and feared in the area. The attached sheriff’s office and jailer’s residence have been restored to their 1870’s appearance. Is Research, Genealogy, and Archives your thing?
The museum serves as a repository and research center of over 150 years of Vernon County, MO history. The museum fulfills its mission to preserve and educate the public about local history through static and rotating exhibits and a research archives. Extensive archives including information about such topics as the Osage Indians, early exploration and settlement, the Civil War, etc. are accessible to the public by advance appointment.
The museum archives provide genealogists with a wide range of resources including probate records, family photographs, letters, cemetery information, old directories, and more. The historical society also preserves the vintage 1870’s Vernon County jail and sheriff’s home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places for visitors to enjoy.
The museum is open for tours during the months of May thru October, Wednesday-Saturday, from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. or by appointment. A museum store offering books and souvenirs is also available to visitors.
Source/Images: Bushwhacker Museum