Located in northwest Arkansas on the border with Oklahoma, Siloam Springs, Ark. is only a short drive from my home in Bentonville, Ark. Yet, it was only recently that I took the opportunity to visit the Siloam Springs Museum and I am pleased that I did.
Founded in 1969, and first located in the old Kansas City Southern railroad depot, the Siloam Springs Museum is now housed in a former Church of Christ building located at 112 North Maxwell.
The museum has “permanent and rotating exhibits highlighting Indian culture, pioneer life, medicine and many other facets of our history.”
One of the first things I learned is that northwest Arkansas was once the hunting grounds for the Osage tribe. Around 1600 A.D., the Osages dominated the Ozark Plateau living in villages in what is now Missouri but their hunting grounds extended into Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas including the town now called Siloam Springs.
In 1808 the Osages ceded control of most of northwest Arkansas to the United States, which had acquired the Louisiana Territory through the Louisiana Purchase. Arkansas became part of the United States following the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
Eventually, around 1825, the Osages were forced to leave their lands and move to a reservation in northeastern Oklahoma.
White settlers, many of German descent, moved to Hico, now Siloam Springs, in the 1830s.
Curative powers were ascribed to the springs in the area, and Siloam Springs became a center of medicine in the 1880s.
Visitors to the museum are harkened back to the days when doctors made house calls and bartering for services was common. The town had an infirmary and many of the doctors were trained at medical schools rather than through an apprenticeship process.
One exhibit reminds visitors of the change in prices since the late 1800s early 1900s. According to sign, there was a time when corn sold for 35 cents per bushel and a day’s wage ranged between 50 cents and one dollar.
The exhibits feature relics from local a local doctor’s and dentist’s offices as well as from one of the town’s earliest post offices.
In each of the exhibit rooms historical objects are showcased including a surprisingly large RCA Victor radio, a Florence Rotary sewing machine, and a Hickory Garland Junior stove from The Michigan Stove Co.
Furniture, clothing, and other household items from “t he homes of local citizens prior to the Civil War and at the turn of the century” are displayed including children’s toys, irons, china, and handmade lye soap.
If you have any questions at all, literally any questions about Siloam Springs’ history, ask for Don Warden, who is the director of the museum and has been since 1991. Take it from me, if Mr. Warden doesn’t know the answer to your question right off the top of his head, he will know exactly which document to consult in order to provide you with an answer.
Upon entering the museum you will see a sign indicating that admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted. It is very likely, as in my case, that visitors to the Siloam Springs Museum gratefully donate prior to leaving because your present has been enriched by the past just experienced.
Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Closed on certain holidays)
112 North Maxwell (one block east of Broadway between Central and University) Siloam Springs, Arkansas