Fifth graders tour Depot Museum

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The second phase of "Tales from the Cemetery" concluded Thursday, April 29, with a tour of the Depot Center and Manila Depot Museum.

A large pot-bellied stove was once used to warm the hands and heat the train depot building.

Eighty-five Manila fifth grade students gathered at the Eena Grieshammer and Roxie Cates Memorial Depot Center to hear Donna Jackson tell the "History of Manila" and to see characterizations of four historical Manila citizens.

Jackson told about the early days of the settlement of Manila and the coming of the railroad. She told about settlers coming to the area to take part in the Swamp Land Grant Act, and the Homestead Act.

"You have to learn about the past to know where you have been and where you are going," Jackson said. "Many pioneers came here to claim 40 acres of land and to make improvements on it. They had five years to do it, and then they became owners. They cleared the timber off the land so they could farm it. The railroad was the livelihood of this area in the early days. The Manila depot was a part of the railroad system."

Eena Grieshammer and Roxie Cates donated money for the Depot Center and Public Library in Manila.

Jackson introduced the four characters who in turn told stories about themselves and the people who lived in and around Manila.

Isaac Daugherty, a steamboat captain and Manila's first mayor, was portrayed by Wendell Poteet. Edward Smith, one of the first white settlers to come to Big Lake, was portrayed by Thomas Jaco. Naomi Girdley Baker, a widow dressed in a long black veil, was played by Iris Poteet. Jacob Minton "Mint" Milligan's widow Rosetta was dressed as a cowgirl and portrayed by Pam Hester.

"Don't wait until it is too late to communicate with your ancestors," Jackson said. "You need to get family information now, while you can get it straight."

Students inspect the antique typewriters at the Manila Depot Museum.

Jackson serves as project director for "Preserve America" distinction and is currently working on a grant to have a large mural painted north of the museum.

"Dan Donovan has already consented to paint the mural for us, as soon as we come up with the financing," Jackson said. "He is such a talented artist, and we are blessed to have him here in Manila. Some of his paintings are on display at the Depot Center now."

Manila Depot Museum Committee members provided refreshments for the students before they toured the museum next door.

Students toured the museum in small groups allowing time for browsing and asking questions. They looked at turn-of-the-century photos, old washing machines, sacks used to pick cotton by hand, antique typewriters and office machines, a large pot-bellied heating stove, and a large collection of Manila High School annuals.

The Manila Depot Museum is open on Saturdays now, and will be open on Wednesdays throughout the summer. Times will be posted on the door. For more information or special openings call 870-561-3501.

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