Unearthing

The Gann Museum of Saline County will present "Unearthing Arkansas," its newest exhibit, starting with its grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. 

The Gann Museum of Saline County's newest exhibit "Unearthing Arkansas," will have its grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at 218 S. Market St. in Benton. 

This exhibit combines artifacts found locally by Brandon Sutton with items from the Gann's collection. 

"This exhibit really hits on the early settlement of Saline County," Museum Director Lindsay Jordan said. 

Jordan gives the history of how Saline County came to be. She said William Lockhart came to the area later known as Saline Crossing in 1815 where the Old River Bridge is. He didn't see another white man for two years. He had a ferry settlers could pay to use to cross or they could just ford the river. 

Jordan said Lockhart convinced many to stay in the area. 

"And that is how our community came to be," she said. 

Sutton is a 1999 graduate of Benton High School who uses a metal detector to find objects. Jordan said Sutton has many items from the Saline River, Jenkins Ferry and more. 

Sutton will be on hand during the grand opening to answer questions. 

The new exhibit shows early life in the county. 

Jordan has the cases divided up by topic with interesting facts about the county sprinkled throughout. 

"There are so many interesting things people don't know about Saline County," she said. "We have a rich history right here."

The first of the cases contain items Sutton donated to the Saline County History and Heritage Society, which the society has lone the Gann for the display. The case holds items including coins found at Jenkins Ferry, old Civil War objects and a ceremonial sword that was found at 616 Main St. in Benton. 

The second case focuses on Civil War items, including bullets, utensils soldiers would have used and even a curved bayonet that was used to move corpses into mass graves. There are also a set of lead knuckles and a railroad tag from the Memphis and Ohio Railroad. 

From early Saline County, she has pictures of the Bell Building, the C.W. Lewis Sawmill and a picture of the Lewis Family. 

The third case features items related to industry, such as hand saws, a horse file, drafting tools and drill bits, along with pictures from the Gann collection. 

The fourth case holds a variety of items from early Saline County such as a straight razor, old coins and a silver engraved spoon.

Case five focuses on women's items. Sutton found old women's compacts in Downtown Benton, a barrette at the Bennett House and Tiffany & Company bracelet in Little Rock. For the display, the Gann collection contributed a red petticoat and black shaw. 

The sixth case features children's items, such as clay marbles, a toy pistol, game pieces made from bullets and a photo of the old grammar school. 

The seventh case is items from around Benton. A photo of Our Drug Store has a group of boys, one of which is Dr. Dewell Gann Jr., who donated his father's practice to the city for a library, which is now the museum. There is also a photo of the then Benton Courier in its offices in 1920. 

The last case features the Saline County Courthouse. Jordan has the box that was placed in the courthouse cornerstone when it was built, along with its contents on display. The case also has a photo of placing that cornerstone. The person placing it is Dr. Dewell Gann Sr. 

Jordan also has maps of Saline County in 1838, 1860 and now to show how its changed. She appreciates the Geographic Information Service at the Saline Count Assessor's Office for the maps.  

At the front, she has the original platt of Benton, which was drawn on silk. 

When the exhibit officially opens, it and the rest of the museum will be available for view from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday until it changes in May.

Jordan wants to thank the members and supporters for making this exhibit possible. 

"Our history is important to our community and it is because of our members that we are able to share this history with visitors," she said. 

Recommended for you