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The Wilkinson County Museum
The museum opening in October, 1991, marked the twentieth year of preservation efforts by the Woodville Civic Club. The building was acquired in 1971, a turn of events that established the Civic Club as the leading preservation organization in the county.
The building which houses the museum was erected in 1834 as the office of the West Feliciana Railroad Company and is located on the southeast corner of the Courthouse Square in the Woodville Historic District.
The West Feliciana Railroad was the third oldest railroad in America and was constructed by Judge Edward McGehee with the help of other Woodville financiers. Built to transport cotton from the county seat of Woodville to the river boats on the Mississippi at Bayou Sara, Louisiana, it was the first railroad to use standard gauge track and the first to adopt the use of the cattle guard. This railroad, which made its first run in 1842, was the first to issue and print freight tariff bills, and its home office in Woodville is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the nation.
It was used by the railroad, latter the Illinois Central until 1919, when the government acquired the property for use as the United States Post Office. Interestingly, in those early days the postmaster and his family lived in the apartment with rooms upstairs, a gorgeous winding staircase in the north east corner, a large room to the rear of the first floor, and a kitchen in the dependency building...just as the bank presidents had done so in the early years of the railroad.
After World War II a new post office was built and the building housed the county welfare department for many years until it was acquired by the Civic Club to prevent any chance of its being demolished.
The African American Museum
The African American Museum was built as the Branch Banking House of the State of Mississippi and was a bank for many years. It has exceptional Federal millwork, mantels, and original wood graining.
It was acquired by the Woodmen of the World after a fire in 1912 had destroyed a rear wing and the roof and attic of the main building. That fire was at the core of an embezzlement scandal wherein it had been hoped that evidence of the fraud might have been destroyed (see entry 119 of Volume III of The Journal of Wilkinson County History).
A parapet wall was built on three sides and a flat roof was put on the building. For many years it was a barber shop and then after World War II it was the Woodville Public Library. The Civic Club acquired it in 1973 for $5000 to save it...and charmingly many years later those funds were returned three-fold by the Woodmen of the World as a donation for the matching funds needed for our MDAH grant. It was in bad shape.
In the mid-1970's the rear brick wall and part of the east wall had to be rebuilt with custom made bricks to prevent it from falling. In the 1980's the roof rafters were raised and the gable ends were restored and a temporary roof was put on. In 2004 thanks to a Mississippi Department of Archives and History Grant the restoration was completed and the service dependency with bathrooms and storage facilities was built.
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