Several dozen people gathered Thursday afternoon at the Civil War-era Boone-Murphy House on Fourth Avenue to officially open the Pine Bluff Military and Veteran’s Museum.
The museum is currently full of World War II-era artifacts but will feature a rotation of different items from other eras throughout the coming months and years, officials said.
Interim Museum Director Curtis Cook said that Thursday’s event means a lot to him and other veterans.
“I was in the Army during Vietnam and through the Gulf War,” Cook said. “I have been involved in this project for about two months. This means that we are putting veterans up front in the minds of our citizens.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson, also a veteran, thanked all those in attendance and said the museum “is great for Pine Bluff.”
Carolyn DeVos, the museum’s secretary-treasurer and a board member, credited Pine Bluff resident Tess Hill for spearheading the idea for the museum back in 2014.
DeVos called Hill a “Rosy the Riveter type” who worked at the Pine Bluff Arsenal during World War II.
“She had a dream about a museum for the arsenal,” DeVos said. “She worked in the production area during the war. It was her dream for a long time, but it never really got off the ground until one day she was at a meeting with the Daughters of the American Revolution. They partnered in 2014, and we got organized after that.
“It has taken us from the first part of 2015 to really get things going. We held fundraisers and got people interested. I credit Greg Gustek with giving us our seed money. He gave us $1,000 to get things going.”
DeVos said the museum has partnered with area schools’ ROTC programs, and “they have helped us by working on the grounds.”
“We want to bring them in and see what our freedom is all about,” said DeVos, who worked at the Pine Bluff Arsenal for 45 years and considers herself part of the Army, even though she never enlisted.
Patsy Milligan, a member of the museum’s board, said that she was grateful for the turnout on Thursday.
“We have worked really hard,” she said. “We faced some hurdles, but we are so thankful.”
The museum’s location is in itself a historical landmark.
It was built in 1860 by Thomas A. Boone, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. The home played a significant role during and after the Action at Pine Bluff in 1863. Serving as the Union headquarters during the Civil War, the Boone-Murphy-Moore House was utilized as the residence of Federal commander Colonel Powell Clayton.
The small wooden-frame home is a one-story, single-pile weatherboard house with one-story additions to the east and west. It is raised slightly above grade on concrete pier foundation (alteration) with a tin shingle gable roof and shed roofs on the additions.
The house has flat-roofed porches with turned posts and sawn brackets that flank the building on the northeast and northwest corners, corner boards and cornice molding articulated on principal elevation, oculus-shaped vent in gable, decorative bargeboard with central pendant and iron roof cresting (both added circa 1880), and various sizes of double-hung one-over-one light windows throughout.
Originally situated at 702 West 2nd Avenue, the home was relocated to its present location on West 4th Avenue in 1977 to ensure that it would be located in a historic district. Today, it sits in the 5th Avenue Historic District. On February 14, 1979, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The home played a significant role during the Civil War, serving initially as the personal residence of Union commander Colonel Powell Clayton.
According to his neighbor, Anabelle Lanktree Wilson, Clayton “is a very gentlemanly man & by his humane & obliging manners has quite won the people, he is now living [as] my neighbor, in [T.A.] Boone’s house establishing headquarters there.”
According to one source, prior to the Action at Pine Bluff on Oct. 25, 1863, a band of Confederate spies raided Clayton’s residence, securing intelligence of Federal goings-on in the area.
Buck Walton recalled the raid:
“By night I had all our arrangements made and we made a dash for the headquarters of Col. Clayton, who was in command. We captured his headquarters, but the birds were gone, although the nest was warm. Somebody must have leaked, for when we got to headquarters, everybody had left and gone into town. The headquarters were [outside] the town. We got his papers—and some valuables—but Col. Clayton was safe. It was him we wanted. The dash was a water haul, as you might say. We captured nobody—nor lost anybody, killed or wounded.”
With Confederate forces on their way, Clayton began making preparations for an imminent clash.
It was the fast action by Clayton that prevented his force of less than 600 to be overtaken by an overwhelming Confederate force of more than 2,000 on the morning of Oct. 25, 1863, during the action.
Following the Civil War, Boone had mortgaged the house to Robert S. Thompson and William H. Dupuy, and when the loan was not paid, the property was sold to John P. Murphy. The Murphys resided in the home until John P. Murphy’s death in 1892. Following Murphy’s death, John’s widow married Charles F. Moore.