Baker Block Museum Fall 2019 Newsletter

Page 1

Baker Block Museum Newsletter Experience. Discover. Connect. Fall 2019

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Director’s Notes and President’s Message, page 2

15th Annual Baker Heritage Day Festival Saturday, Nov. 2 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

Museum birthday celebration, page 3 Life Flight, page 4 3rd Saturday event, page 5 Laurel Hill’s Miss Mac turns 105, page 5 New book: A History of Laurel Hill, page 6 First Baptist Church of Milligan, page 8 Veteran’s Day salute: Ola Richbourg, page 10 Calendar of events, page 15

CONTACT Phone: 850-537-5714 Mail: P.O. Box186 Baker, FL 32531 Email: Location: Corner of State Road 4 and Highway 189 in Baker


pend the day at North Okaloosa’s much-anticipated heritage event happening the first Saturday in November at the Baker Block Museum Heritage Park.

Heritage Demonstrations Quilting Flintknapping Blacksmithing Weaving Shingle making Woodworking Beekeeping

The Museum and Baker Mercantile are open all day.

Vendors Jewelry Candles Clothes Rustic furniture Face painting Homemade banjos

Food provided by Sherry’s Catering Ice Cream Boiled Peanuts

Music Gospel Bluegrass

2 Director’s Notes

President’s Message

We are excited to announce the release of the fifth book in our series on local history published by the North Okaloosa Historical Association. A History of Laurel Hill will take readers from the area’s Spanish occupation, to the coming of the Yellow River Railroad, the town’s incorporation, through generations of Laurel Hill School history and much more. The book is filled with old photographs, maps, newspaper articles and advertisements, in addition to the many pages of historical narrative. Authors Tracy Curenton and Mark Curenton have combined years of historical research with their own rich ScotsIrish Campbell clan heritage to bring us this unique history of Laurel Hill. Mark your calendars for our 3rd Saturday event Oct. 19 at the Baker Block Museum to chat with Tracy and Mark while they sign copies of their book.

We’re making final preparations for our annual Heritage Day Festival which is just around the corner. Plan to join us Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a fun day of music, food, heritage demonstrations and shopping—it’s never too early to pick up a Christmas present or two. A few vendor spaces are still available, but they’re filling up quickly. We also need volunteers to help with the museum’s booths. Contact the museum at 850-537-5714 for more information. While you’re here next month, consider supporting the museum by becoming a member or sponsor. Membership forms and sponsorship applications are included in this newsletter and are available on the website. We look forward to seeing you next month.

Tracy Curenton

Ann Spann The Baker Block Museum is a 501-3(c) non-profit organization of the North Okaloosa Historical Association, Inc., and is managed by its Board of Directors. The Museum newsletter is published by the North Okaloosa Historical Society, Inc., and is an authorized publication for distribution to Museum members and visitors. Contents of the newsletter is copyrighted, all rights reserved. Items to be considered for the newsletter may be submitted to the Museum at P.O. Box 186, Baker, FL 32531 or emailed to Deadline for submission is March 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Dec. 15 for consideration in the next quarterly issue. Articles received after the deadline will be considered for future use. All submissions will be edited for accuracy, clarity, brevity and conformance with newsletter guidelines.


Baker Block’s birthday bash

North Okaloosa history and heritage museum celebrates 23 years Article and photos by Brian Hugues The Baker Block Museum observed its 23rd birthday July 20. Museum Director Ann Spann and North Okaloosa Historical Association President Tracy Curenton welcomed visitors during July’s 3rd Saturday event. The association operates the museum and its adjacent Heritage Park. As often happens at the Baker Block Museum, once visitors have perused the two main rooms of exhibits—ranging from North Okaloosa County flora and fauna to its industries, communities, churches, schools and even illicit booze distilling—they eventually congregate in the heritage library to talk history. Saturday was no different. The history lessons continued, this time through perusal of old Crestview and Baker High School yearbooks, binders carefully shelved by topic or family, old newspapers, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office logs and microfilmed documents. Spann and Curenton’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of the region augmented the history materials. The museum is located in an historical early 20th-century brick building known by locals as the Baker Block. During the years it has housed shops, a grocery store, the Baker Mercantile, the community’s post office, a credit union and other businesses. The museum store, housed in the former credit union, offers local history books, calendars and nice-quality finds for sale. But visits to the museum, the adjacent Heritage Park of North Okaloosa historic buildings and picking the brain of the museum’s director and staff are always free.


Museum Events Life flight in the park A life flight helicopter landed at the Baker Block Museum’s Charles and Jeannette Henderson Heritage Park Aug. 1, a first for the park. Okaloosa MedFlight, a medical air ambulance service based in Niceville, was invited to participate in the Baker’s Holt Academy summer program. The three-person helicopter crew consisted of a pilot, a flight paramedic and a flight nurse. Once the helicopter landed, Academy children were allowed to climb aboard and look around. The group then gathered on the porch of the Elliott Kennedy log cabin in the Museum’s park to listen and ask questions about the emergency medical flight

Okaloosa MedFlight nurse Amber Ratcliff helps Holt Academy students learn about the air ambulance mission at the Baker Block Museum Heritage Park Aug. 1. mission. During the summer, older elementary children attending Baker’s Holt Academy had the opportunity to learn about and listen to special guests and their career fields. Previous guests included

law enforcement, the fire department and emergency medical services. The medical flight crew was the last special presentation for Baker’s Holt Academy’s summer program.

Left: A MedFlight helicopter lands at the Museum’s Heritage Park Aug. 1. Top: Holt Academy students listen to a presentation by the crew.


At the Baker Block Museum

Left and above: Members of the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association demonstrate metal working with hammer, anvil and forge.

Florida Artist Blacksmith Association The Florida Artist Blacksmith Association participated in the Museum’s 3rd Saturday event Aug. 17. About 50 visitors stopped by to watch as assocation members lit their forges and pounded out metal projects from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Projects included nails, hooks, knives and tongs using only hammer, fire and anvil.

Members of the association will be on hand during the Museum’s annual Heritage Day Festival Nov. 2 where they will demonstrate forging techniques and the art of blacksmithing throughout the day. Heritage Day runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Heritage Park. The blacksmith demonstration will be located at the blacksmith cabin.

Miss Mac Campbell turns 105 Laurel Hill’s oldest resident, Christian McDonald Campbell, celebrated her 105th birthday in July. Campbell is known as “Miss Mac” to family and friends, as well as the number of children during her years as a schoolteacher at Laurel Hill School. She also taught in Marianna and Crestview high schools. After teaching, she helped establish the Laurel Hill school library and served as the first librarian.


At the Baker Block Museum

Meet the authors Saturday, Oct. 19 10 a.m. — 3 p.m. Tracy Curenton and Mark Curenton, the authors of A History of Laurel Hill, will be on hand to discuss their new book, answer questions and sign copies. Laurel Hill, located in north Okaloosa County, began as a logging camp in the 1890s. The town grew rapidly and was incorporated in 1905. When Okaloosa County was formed in 1915, Laurel Hill was the only incorporated town and had the only bank in the county. The town’s history is built around timber, farming and the railroad. Drawing from interviews, newspapers, public records and photographs, this book tells the story of this historic town. The book covers the early history of the area under Spanish rule through the Civil War, the coming of the railroad, the Great Depression and into the modern era.

By Tracy Curenton and Mark Curenton

Selected excerpts from A History of Laurel Hill From Chapter 2, “The Coming of the Railroad”: ...Mallie Martin came to Laurel Hill in 1899 as a 14-year-old to work as a clerk in the railroad office. In a letter written to a friend in DeFuniak Springs shortly after his arrival and published in the Okaloosa News=Journal in 1933, Martin describes the trip from Crestview to Laurel Hill on the Yellow River Railroad: “The train from Crestview was a mixed freight train with one passenger coach and one combination express, baggage, and mail car. The locomotive was a very small wood-burning engine and stops were made along the way to get fuel from wood racks on the

7 right of way. We made stops at Richbourg’s Crossing, just out of Crestview; at Shacktown, a few miles further, where a spur track leads to a log landing on Yellow River; at Green’s Crossing; at Campton, where there is a turpentine still and a lot of Negro shacks; at Tyner’s and at Williamson’s— other turpentine places. We left Crestview at nine fortyfive and arrived at Laurel Hill at eleven forty—one hour and fifty-five minutes making seventeen miles. At each stop we loaded and unloaded local freight and express mail, and set out and picked up cars of freight and empty cars to be loaded with lumber, naval stores, and ties.

Life on a Laurel Hill street in 1900

would loan money to area farmers and, if they missed a payment, he would ruthlessly foreclose on their farms. In this way, Spear came into possession of a large amount of property. Unfortunately, it also made him very unpopular. On the evening of December 11, 1932, From Chapter 8, “Three Notorious Murders, while he was seated in his home reading the Thomas J. Spear is killed”: newspaper, Spear was killed by two shotgun … Spear came to Laurel Hill from Opp, blasts fired through his front window. The Alabama, where he had served as the killer escaped without being seen by other town’s first mayor. He moved to Laurel Hill around 1915, opening a mercantile business. family members who were in the next room. … In the spring term of the circuit court He was also involved in money lending. He in April 1933, James McCall, Coy Strickland, and Homer Strickland were accused of the murder. However, the grand jury ruled there was not sufficient evidence to return an indictment. Authorities continued to investigate and gather additional evidence. At the August term of court, the three were indicted for firstdegree murder and the trial set to begin on October 2. … It was alleged that Jim McCall, Spear’s son-in-law, hired the Strickland brothers This one-story brick school was built in 1932-1933 to replace a two-story brick to carry out the murder. building that burned in 1931. In 1972, this building was also destroyed by fire.


Firefighters from Baker, Holt, Crestview, North Okaloosa and Eglin Air Force Base respond to a fire at the Milligan Baptist Church July 9 after a lightning

strike. (Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office)

Milligan Baptist destroyed by fire The First Baptist Church of Milligan, home to one of the oldest congregations in Okaloosa County, burned to the ground July 9. Firefighting units from Baker, Holt, Crestview, North Okaloosa and Eglin Air Force Base responded to the blaze, but couldn’t save the building. The building and most of its contents were completely destroyed after a lightning strike caused a catastrophic fire. No one was in the building at the time. Pastor Charles Smith had just left the building trying to make it home before the rain began when he got the call that the building was on fire. Milligan’s Baptist church was organized in 1864 near the banks of the Yellow River as a log-cabin mission at Chaffin Station in what is now Milligan. When Milligan

became the short-lived county seat of the newly established Okaloosa County, the congregation was the principal church there. Built in 1953, the former building, located on the same site as the first mission, was

9 a replacement for one built in 1886 which was also destroyed by fire. Because an area black church was also destroyed by fire at the same time, arson was suspected. The day following the blaze, church members met for a bible study in a member’s garage. Services the following Sunday were conducted in the First Baptist Church of Baker’s fellowship hall. The church resumed regular services the week of July 23 in the former Baker United Methodist Church building, vacated by the Methodist congregation just prior to the July 9 fire. An annual homecoming dinner is scheduled for Oct. 6 at the Baker Arena. The church plans to rebuild on the same

site. The Baker Lions Club hosted a pancake breakfast in September to help raise funds for the construction.

The First Baptist Church of Milligan celebrates 155 years Oct. 9 Homecoming services begin at 11 a.m. at the former Baker United Methodist Church building followed by a covereddish dinner at the Baker Arena.

Past Heritage Day Memories

Top: (left) Facepainting for kids of all ages. (right) Spinning demonstrations Bottom: (left) Quilting set up in the cabin. (right) Cyprus shingle making


Why become a member of the North Okaloosa Historical Association? Besides supporting the preservation of the history of Okaloosa County, membership in the NOHA has its benefits: »» »» »» »» »»

Membership card Quarterly newsletter 10% discount off books and calendars published by the NOHA Email notification of special events Invitation to the annual meeting in January

Lifetime members receive all of the above, PLUS: »» 20% discount off books and calendars published by the NOHA »» Recognition in the annual report »» 10% off nomination for any Family Heritage Wall of Honor submission

Salute to Veteran’s Day–Nov. 11 Laurel Hill resident

Ola Richbourg The Baker Block Museum salutes retired U.S. Marine Technical Sergeant Ola Richbourg. Richbourg was born in 1921 in Laurel Hill to John Franklin and Haite Haynes Richbourg. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 at the height of World War II after seeing a commercial asking women to join the service to free up men to fight overseas. Following World War II, Richbourg returned to Laurel Hill thinking her military service was done. However, One of the newest displays in the Museum salutes retired Tech. Sgt. Ola Richbourg who enlisted in she reenlisted without the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. hesitation during the Korean War. In the end, she wound up dedicating herself to the Marine Corps for nearly two decades, retiring as a technical sergeant in 1966. Righbourg’s accomplishments were recognized into the Congressional Record by Congressman Jeff Miller in the U.S. House of Representatives to the 108th Congress in February 2003. She died in Jan. 2006.


North Okaloosa Historical Association Membership Form

Membership in the North Okaloosa Historical Association is open to anyone interested in preserving and documenting the history of Okaloosa County and its pioneering families. NOHA serves as the governing body for the Baker Block Museum. Member benefits include the quarterly newsletter, e-mail notification of special events, discounts in the Baker Mercantile store and an invitation to the annual meeting in January. Name: _____________________________________________________________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________________ City: __________________________ State and Zip Code: __________________________ Phone: ________________________ Email: _____________________________________

Type of membership (check one) q Individual $25 per year



$50 per year



$15 per year




____ I would like to volunteer at the Baker Block Museum ____ I have items I would like to donate to the Baker Block Museum ____ I have photographs that I will allow to be scanned for the Museum’s collection

Return this form with your contribution made payable to: North Okaloosa Historical Association Membership P.O. Box 186 Baker, FL 32531

The North Okaloosa Historical Association is a 501(c)(3) organization. Membership and any donations are tax deductible.


15th Annual Baker Heritage Day Festival Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Demonstration Application Name: ______________________________________________ Phone: ________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________________ City: __________________________________ State: ___________ Zip:_______________ Email: _____________________________________________________________________ Demonstration description: ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Have you participated before?



Complete the form and return it no later than Oct. 18 to: Baker Block Museum PO Box 186 Baker, FL 32531 For more information, please call the Baker Block Museum at 850-537-5714 or email at

Sponsored by the North Okaloosa Historical Association, Inc. Baker Block Museum • 1307B Georgia Ave • Baker, Florida • 850-537-5715 •


15th Annual Baker Heritage Day Festival Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vendor Application $40 per 10’ x 10’ space $50 per 10’ x 10’ space with electricity Limit of 2 spaces per vendor • Spaces are assigned by the date the application is received. • Exhibitors must furnish tables, chairs, tents, covers and any other items required for their displays. • Exhibitors must be set up and in place by 8:30 a.m. and stay until 3 p.m. the day of the event. Name: ______________________________________________ Phone: ________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________________ City: __________________________________ State: ___________ Zip:_______________ Email: _____________________________________________________________________ Description of art or craft: ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Have you participated before? Do you require electricity? Y



Complete the form and return it no later than Oct. 18 to: Baker Block Museum PO Box 186 Baker, FL 32531 For more information, please call the Baker Block Museum at 850-537-5714 or email at Sponsored by the North Okaloosa Historical Association, Inc. Baker Block Museum • 1307B Georgia Ave • Baker, Florida • 850-537-5715 •


Create a Legacy Make a legacy gift to the Baker Block Museum How would you like to be remembered?

Legacy gifts are one of the most significant demonstrations of commitment to the community an individual can make. A legacy gift, deferred gift, or planned gift is one you decide upon now and that provides for your favorite nonprofit program later. You can leave a wonderful legacy to the Baker Block Museum by including the North Okaloosa Historical Association, Inc., in your estate planning. There are many tax advantages when you make a planned gift. We encourage you to consult with your attorney or financial planner for your specific circumstance. Bequests While there are a number of ways to build a legacy contribution, a charitable bequest is one of the easiest and most popular ways to leave a lasting impact on the Museum. You may designate our organization as the beneficiary of your assets by will, trust, or other instrument. Simply specify an amount, a percentage of your estate, or what remains of your estate to the North Okaloosa Historical Associaiton, Inc., after you have provided for your children or other beneficiaries.

For more information on legacy gifts, contact the Baker Block Museum at 850-537-5714. The North Okaloosa Historical Association, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization. Donations are tax deductible.


Calendar of Events October






1 2 3 4 5

1 2

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

6 7 8 9 10 11 12

3 4 5 6 7 8 9

8 9 10 11 12 13 14

13 14 15 16 17 18 19

10 11 12 13 14 15 16

15 16 17 18 19 20 21

2o 21 22 23 24 25 26

17 18 19 20 21 22 23

22 23 24 25 26 27 27

27 28 29

24 25 26 27 28 29 30

29 30 31

2 Baker Heritage Day Fetival, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

7 Pearl Harbor Day



14 Columbus Day 17 North Okaloosa Historical Association Board meeting, 6 p.m. 19 Museum open from 10 a.m-3:30 p.m.

19 North Okaloosa Historical Association Board meeting, 6 p.m.

3 Daylight Savings Time ends 5

Election Day


Veteran’s Day

21 Museum open from 10 a.m-3:30 p.m.

19 Book signing: A History of Laurel Hill 26 Crestview Fall Festival 31 Halloween

21 Winter Solstice 16 Museum open from 10 a.m-3:30 p.m.

25 Christmas – Museum closed

21 North Okaloosa Historical Association Board meeting, 6 p.m.

25-Jan. 1 Museum closed for Christmas break, reopens Jan. 2

28 Thanksgiving – Museum closed

31 New Year’s Eve Jan. 1 Museum closed

29 Museum closed

Okaloosa County Heritage books Vol. I & II Limited Quantity

$53 each

Includes a history of Okaloosa County, pioneer families, industry, schools, towns, family stories and geneaologies