Bold and impressive, Burnet County museums open again!
Two historical museums in Burnet County recently reopened after a year of closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fort Croghan in Burnet and The Falls on the Colorado Museum in Marble Falls, both housed in historic locations and buildings, reopened in March in time for vacation season. Both are free to the public, though donations are always appreciated.
Exploring either takes visitors back in time when Native Americans roamed the countryside, pioneers began settling the area, and industrialization brought urban comforts to a largely rural population.
Fort Croghan Grounds and Museum brings the mid-1800s to life with both its indoor and outdoor displays. Inside the museum, you’ll find cannonballs and munitions from the Civil War, a beautiful 19th century piano that was carted all the way from the East Coast and a spinning wheel that settlers running from Santa Ana’s army in the 1836 Runaway Scrape managed to keep after leaving almost everything else behind. Every item has a story, and if you want to find out more, knowledgable docents can fill you in.
Outdoors, under the shade of huge oak trees, experience a complete pioneer community, including a school hall, blacksmith shop, corn crib, powder house, and lookout that were part of the original Fort Croghan.
Peek into the cabins to see handmade beds, benches, and wardrobes made of hand-hewn oak logs. Some of the buildings on site were moved to the museum from other nearby locations. The Kincheloe Cabin, built around 1866 near Bertram, was home to a family of 11 children, all living in less than 400 square feet. The Vandeveer Cabin was moved from Hamilton Creek; the Altman Cabin from near Lake Buchanan.
You’ll also find a reproduction of a Native American tipi on the grounds resembling those used by Lipan Apaches, a nomadic tribe that followed herds of buffalo into Burnet County.
Fort Croghan was built and manned in 1849 by the USA 8th Infantry of C Company. It was one of four protection zones provided the state by the U.S. government after Texas was annexed in 1845. At the time, the town that grew up around the fort was called Hamilton. In 1852, the Texas Legislature officially named Burnet County, in honor of David Burnet, the first president of the Republic of Texas. Hamilton became the city of Burnet in 1958.
All that history and more can be found at Fort Croghan Museum, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, April to mid-October. The museum is located at 703 Buchanan Drive (Texas 29 West) in Burnet.
The Falls on the Colorado Museum is housed in a two-story building known as the Old Granite School. It was built in 1891 as a college and became the classrooms for grades 1-12 for the Marble Falls Independent School District when it first formed. It last held classes in the late 1980s, although most of its space was used by district administration at the time. The building was transformed into the museum in 2008, a fitting home to hold the artifacts of the area’s history.
A huge collection of photographs in the broad hallway displays the early days of Marble Falls, before dams formed the Highland Lakes. Mannequins display 19th and early 20th century clothing, including items worn by Marble Falls Mayor Birdie Harwood. The petite horsewoman served as mayor before women were even allowed to vote.
Also displayed are photos and artifacts of convicts brought in to quarry granite used in building the state Capitol of Texas in Austin. The museum also holds furniture, pharmacy goods, cookware, clothing, and daily utensils from those early days when the town was first settled.
Going even further back in time, “Rockie,” a 700-year-old bison skeleton has its own room, which also includes Native American artifacts.
The Madolyn Room presents much of the history of the Marble Falls ISD, with school photos of graduates and school memorabilia, including purple Marble Falls Mustang lockers from the old high school.
A replica of the old Mormon Mill tells the story of Lyman Wight, who established a Mormon communal society in Marble Falls. As the story goes, he was drawn to the natural beauty of the area instead of Utah, where Mormon founder Joseph Smith settled.
The Falls on the Colorado Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday year-round. It is located at 2001 Broadway in Marble Falls.