Ann and Jim Callahan unveil plans with Historical Society President Ivan Lancaster on March 29, 2007.
Plans for the Future
by Bill Weaver
photos by Cindy Steele
“I’ve been in the Brown County Historical Society ever since I retired here. I thought—Boy, this is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. We’re on our way!” says Jim Callahan of the organization’s decision to build a new headquarters in downtown Nashville.
Called the Brown County History Center, the new complex will be located north of the Society’s current Pioneer Village Museum at Gould Street and Old School Way. Besides the new building, which will contain a large space for meetings, a museum, archives, genealogic reading room, and sundry other spaces, there will be places for historic buildings like a small school house, church, log cabin, barn, well-house, and Dale Bessire’s apple shed.
The Historical Society has come a long way since September 16, 1957 when about thirty citizens gathered at the Brown County Art Gallery to discuss their dream to explore and preserve the county’s short, but vivid, past. For a time they met in members’ living rooms, but finally the group purchased the old bowling alley on State Road 135 north of Nashville and started seriously collecting archives. The Brown County Genealogical Society was organized and the county’s cemeteries were carefully indexed and published by Helen and Kenneth Reeve.
The Pioneer Women’s Club was founded to practice frontier crafts like spinning, weaving, knitting, quilting, and basketry, while giving demonstrations weekends at the Pioneer Village. They also raise money for the Society’s many projects with quilt and antique shows, garage sales, bake sales, Christmas dinners, and Bucks and Does square dances.
Books the Society has published include four volumes of Brown County obituaries, Brown County Remembers and Brown County: History and Families.
At the Pioneer Village Museum in downtown Nashville historic buildings were brought together to give a representation for modern folk of what the old days were like.
With all the activity and growth in membership the Society’s headquarters were beginning to seem small. Over the years the archives, which had started as “…two small cartons of sundry papers, Brown County Democrats, and a few books,” had overflowed with photographs, memoirs, newspaper articles, and farm implements. There was simply no more room.
Then the True Value Hardware property became available just north of the Pioneer Village. “Things like this just develop,” Callahan says enthusiastically. “Suddenly we’re saying, ‘We’ll just redo this whole end of town!’ We’ve got some people who dream,” he continues, “and sometimes people who dream come up with good ideas, don’t they?”
Steve Miller contributed the first conceptual drawings of the History Center. They show a two-story building made of log and Brown County stone. The first story will be embedded in the hill, lowering the profile of the building. There will be large porches and windows to display the many pioneer artifacts the Society has in storage. A cobblestone walkway will lead past the display area into an expanded Pioneer Village.
“On one side will be the primitive schoolhouse and a log cabin behind it with a porch for storytelling. There will be a well-house, trees, and greenspace. On the other side will be parking, and an old barn with open doors all the way around the bottom where artisans can demonstrate their crafts,” Jim says. There will also be room for an art show and a Farmers’ Market.
“We can expand what we’ve been doing and make our historical society more meaningful to the community,” Callahan adds. “We can have all kinds of educational things. There’s a learning center where we’ve got people who know how to teach early crafts. We have an old printing press, the manual one that can teach the kids this kind of thing.
“Our genealogy and archives will be expanded a lot more. Right now they’re available one day a week or on call. We have people who take care of that and will help you find your family history. Once we get that going it’ll be open all the time. And we’ll have a lot more of the records available to look at.
“It will be an asset to Nashville.”
The Archive of The Brown County Historical Society at 1934 State Road 135 North is open for genealogical and historical research every Tuesday morning from 9 a.m. until noon. Society membership meetings (and pitch-in dinner) is held the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Pioneer Women meet on the last Wednesday of each month at 9 a.m. Pioneer Village in open weekends and holidays from May through October from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This year the annual Quilt Show runs from June 1–3. The Brown County Historical Society’s website is