Slices of History
A family-friendly destination near Mount Vernon, the Little Alamo Mission Museum lives up to its slogan, “Bringing Texas to Young Texans.
While driving in Franklin County, about a mile and a half off I-30 near Mount Vernon, travelers might startle — or scratch their heads — when they turn into the drive of a small version of the Alamo mission, complete with the same stone facade and wooden gate. A Texas flag flies high in front, welcoming visitors.
More than an oddly-placed replica, this Alamo is a small historical museum designed to educate guests of all ages about the history of the mission as well as about pioneer arts and other phases of Texas history.
The Alamo Mission Museum of Franklin County, geared toward learning activities and hands-on fun, entails six buildings, each with a different theme and coinciding educational elements. At every building, costumed guides greet visitors and offer verbal snapshots of what it was like to live in Texas in years past. In one building, guests are introduced to Davy Crockett; in others, they meet pirates or prairie women. In the reconstructed schoolhouse, a teacher walks guests through a history lesson from the time period.
With a slogan of “Bringing Texas to Young Texans,” the museum welcomes adults, but many of the visuals and atmosphere are clearly geared toward younger audiences. Jacqueline Miller, museum president, says school and group tours are offered at no cost.
“If we asked them to pay, we would eliminate the kids that need it the most,” she explains.
The quirky museum is an offshoot, Miller says, of an old antique shop she owned that was called Texas Traditions. She’d acquired a railroad car to use for her shop, located on the interstate, but the costs of running electricity to it grew untenable. Eventually, she canned the idea of fixing up the shop and settled, instead, on the notion of creating a little Texas-themed museum.
“People would always come into my shop and tell me I should charge admission and open a museum,” she says, “because I had so much pioneer furniture and wonderful old things like spinning wheels and butter churns.”
She notes that the idea expanded and she forged ahead with a new plan to educate children of all backgrounds about various aspects of Texas history, creating a nonprofit and opening the museum on three acres of land in 2005.
One building at the museum is devoted to the Texas coast, complete with nets, lobster and crab traps and shell and rock collections — all in a building decorated like a pirate ship. Pirates are part of the mix, Miller explains, because Texas was home to more than 2,000 pirates at the time, including the famous pirate Jean Lafitte, who developed Galveston Island as a prominent smuggling base in late 1815.
In the Alamo building, which involves stucco materials surrounding the old rail car that started it all, there’s an interactive diorama of the Battle of the Alamo, where visitors frequently pick up and rearrange the soldiers. Miller says half of the Alamo building is dedicated to railroad cars because the Cottonbelt Railroad has such a rich history in East Texas. Nearby, another building celebrates pioneer arts, while the Bonnie & Clyde building provides information about that infamous duo — Bonnie was homegrown in Winnsboro — and delves into the region’s moonshining history as well.
The Alamo Mission Museum hosts a variety of annual community events throughout the year, including a chili cook-off and blues festival, a turtle derby and a Halloween hayride. On Easter Sunday, there’s an afternoon Easter egg hunt on the grounds. Hayrides, offered to scout and church groups, give children a chance to visit the museum’s tiny herd of Texas longhorns and ponies.
“We have three ponies on an adjoining property that we lease,” Miller says. “When the kids go on hayrides, feeding the ponies is always a favorite thing.”
Also on premises is the county’s only 32-foot stage, available for rent for private parties, musicals, plays and other performances. Miller says the museum occasionally hosts country weddings and baptisms at the site as well as receptions, business meetings or school functions.
On April 13, crowds will descend on the museum for the 6th Annual Chili Cook-off, Blues Festival, Trades Day, Tractor Pull & Antique Tractor Show. For more information and directions, visit thealamomission.com or call 903.380.2739.