Take a Tour of our Main Museum Site!
Prior to the addition of Alaska and Hawaii, the 48-star American flag was in existence from 1912 to 1959.
This flag was donated to the museum by the Ralph Hansen family.
The Horse Thief
In 1875, a known horse thief was heard to be on his way to Walnut from Avoca. The scoundrel Barney Dunn was shot and killed by Walnut's justice of the peace, Charlie Hinckley, and has the dubious distinction of being the first person buried in our new cemetery. Or so the story goes...
Jim Hansen has researched this story based upon actual accounts in the Avoca Delta newspaper. This display includes Jim's report, and a painting of the shootout done by Vernon Paasch, former museum contributor and accomplished artist.
Dunn was actually the 8th person buried in our cemetery, and like most horse thieves, was buried just outside the property border in an umarked grave.
Walnut Volunteer Fire Department
Our fire department has always been a source of pride for this small community. This display shows many photos and artifacts of the VFD, which began in 1881 after Walnut's first major fire, and continues as a vibrant service to area residents today.
This display board includes several of our favorite Walnut Bureau photos from the post-WWII era. These represent Americana in days gone bye, at least from the perspective of a small midwestern town.
The Finer Things
Our museum includes an amazing collection of home goods, wedding gowns, dress clothing, assorted finery, and wedding and family portraits, Also included is a staged bedroom from the 1920s. These items occupy a prominent footprint on the 2nd floor. Similar items may be found in our meeting room on the first floor.
The family portraits are for the most part originals, and include many of Walnut's early families. Biographies of these families may be found in a bound notebook in this display.
A Salute to our Military Men and Women
Our fine collection of photographs, scrapbooks and artifacts illustrates our small town's involvement in America's defense over the years.
Highlighting this display is SOME GAVE ALL, which gives information on each of our 15 men and 1 woman who died during war time, including photographs of 9 of them.
Toys and Children
Our collection includes a number of fine antique toys and books donated by area folks, including most prominently the collection of Bertha Drake Undum.
On the wall above the toy display are children's portraits, and photos of local Kids on Parade over the years.
Music and Musicians
This display highlights Carl Hermann, violin virtuoso, Robert Larsen, founder of the Des Moines Metro Opera, and other local musicians such as Henry Sell, Leona Nieman, and the Little German Band. It also displays many fine antique musical instruments, and highlights the Hi-Way Gardens, a dance hall in the 1920s just outside of Walnut that hosted such big-name bands as Lawrence Welk, Lastly, we have a display of our Opera House.
Our Opera House was built in 1899 by the local IOOF. It still stands today. This display shows the original blueprints for the building.
This small display includes photos and artifacts from Walnut's Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.
Our German Heritage
Our finest artifact is a 16' stage curtain which used to hang in the old German Halle, built in 1884. This curtain is part of several German heritage photos and artifacts, including the Walnut Germania Verein (club), German Band, German Halle (our first opera hall), and RingRide Day celebration.
We have recently discovered that the back of the curtain contains several autographs from Walnut children in 1913.
Jim Hansen put together a bound compilation of all the businesses shown on the curtain from 1884.
This display is a reproduction of the top of a prairie schooner, a wagon which was the main mode of travel in the 1860s for those heading west, before the advent of the intercontinental railroad. With little imagination, one can envision our pioneers traveling west from Davenport, or from Pennsylvania even, on board one of these. They were usually pulled by mules, but sometimes oxen would suffice since they were half the price of mules.
Walnut's history of banks dates back to 1874, with the opening of the Exchange Bank. Ten years later, the German Bank opened, in the building which is now still a bank (Rollings Hills). Our display includes the check-sorting table which was used in the Walnut State Bank for six decades, and the original German Bank cast bronze sign.
Walnut's rich history of religious institutions is on display, to include our oldest artifact - a Swedish bible from 1736!
A story of each church and congregation for the area is given, along with some amazing artifacts and photos.
Our Post Office
Walnut's post office began in 1870, with our first postmaster Dr. Marcellus Phinney. This display includes a large grandfather clock that was a gift to the post office in the 1880s, and donated to the Historical Society when the post office was renovated in 1966.
Fraternal and Auxiliary Organizations
Our museum has an impressive collection of artifacts related to the various social organizations in our history. The 2nd floor of our museum was in fact originally the lodge or temple for, and built by, the men of Morro Lodge No 559 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in 1911.
Other social clubs over the years included the two masonic auxiliary groups - Order of the Eastern Star, and Order of Rainbow for Girls, plus the following:
International Order of Odd Fellows, Moriah Lodge No 327
Daughters of Rebekah (IOOF auxiliary), Estella Lodge No 244
Knights of Pythias, Diamond Lodge No 374
Ancient Order of United Workmen, Lodge No 194
Grand Army of the Republic, John A. Dix Post No 108 (and earlier Post 13)
Woodmen of the World, Camp No 32
Most fraternal societies or clubs were designed as social outlets for their members, who gathered for the benefit of volunteerism, philanthropy, or simply to get together with like-minded people or those of the same religious denomination.
Of those on this list, very few still exist today in America - the Masons being a notable exception. Our Masonic Lodge went dark in 1990, when we joined Marne and later Atlantic lodges. The original temple is still fairly intact, with both the East and West altars still there, the tin ceiling Masonic squares, and the original lighting system.
We have reserved one cabinet upstairs for all the various items collected over the years that represent some of the many items one could find in an early 20th century general store. At one time, Walnut had 8 to 10 general merchandise stores, the most prominent being Madson Brothers, which was our first and only "department" store for several decades.