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Heart of Texas Historical Museum

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Heart Of Texas Historical Museum

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By John Hallowell

While the hours have changed, the museum in Brady’s old jail is better than ever!

By the time Brady’s classy new jail was built in 1910, the mob violence was over in McCulloch County, and civilization (for the most part) prevailed; although the jail is equipped with a fully operational gallows, the hanging rope has never been used!

Judging by the graffiti in the drunk tanks on the third floor, the jail did come in handy for many years before the state ruled in 1973 that it no longer met requirements, and would have to be replaced.

In 1974, the building was purchased for $5 by a nonprofit corporation, and the Heart of Texas Historical Museum was established in the ground floor. Since then, the museum has seen steady improvements and expansion, so that Fort Worth columnist Jon McConnel called it “the best small museum I have seen.”

Heart Of Texas Historical Museum
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The Texas state legislature formed McCulloch County in 1856, and named it for the famous Indian fighter and Texas Ranger, Benjamin McCulloch, who later rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. Settlers were few and far between until well after the Civil War; the 1870 census counted only 173 people in McCulloch County, but extensive settlement began within the next few years. In 1876, the county government was organized, with the town of Brady (named for surveyor Peter Brady) as its seat.

The museum contains many artifacts from Brady’s early days as an agricultural center and before (Bert Striegler, who served as museum president for twelve years, and is still a board member, has organized and catalogued a huge collection of arrowheads and knives dating back for thousands of years. “McCulloch County is absolutely covered with Indian artifacts,” he says). It commemorates small railroad towns like Placid, Melvin and Rochelle, and it documents Brady’s transformation into a thriving cultural and commercial center for the entire area. But a main focus of the museum is the county’s role in World War II, when it served as a training center for thousands of pilots and as a prisoner-of-war camp for German captives, including Gestapo, S.S. and members of Rommel’s Afrika Corps.

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