Big Spring Herald Weekend


- Tumbleweed smith By Tumbleweed Smith

The museum in Stamford has displays about the city’s history. “We had one called 1947, the peak population year for Stamford,” says Jewellee Kuenstler, museum curator. “We were at 5,600. So 1947 was 75 years ago when we had 14 car dealership­s in the city limits. We had 25 grocery stores.”

The Museum of the West Texas Frontier in Stamford just re-opened after being closed for 2 years. “People are excited,” says Jewellee, who previously did a stint at Albany’s Old Jail Art Center. “They want their history kept alive. We are a microcosm for every little town in West Texas. We all pretty much started the same way. This was the frontier, the opening of the west. After the Civil War people started coming this way and began ranching and farming, then the railroad came and cities were establishe­d along the tracks. We wanted the museum to be more than just about Stamford, Texas. We wanted to cover the West Texas frontier. So you can come to our museum and learn how these little communitie­s got their start.”

She has big plans for the museum. “We try to change our exhibits once a month. So we have the death of the Marlboro Man, Carl Bradley, who was from our neighborin­g town of Old Glory. He was the original Marlboro Man for Marlboro cigarettes. From Old Glory. How cool is that? We have done a campaign to raise $100,000 because we’re going to re-do the museum to tell the history of this area. We’re going to start with the native Americans, then go on to SM Swenson who was the first Swedish immigrant in Texas and became a large landowner. He brought several families to Texas from Sweden and establishe­d a Swedish colony at Erichsdahl, about 10 miles from Stamford. He was very passionate about bringing his fellow countrymen to Texas and giving them a chance at having a better life. The church at Erichsdahl conducted services in Swedish for years. His sons started a successful ranch operation.”

The museum has a chuck wagon, saddles and other items from the Swenson ranch. It also has stick horses for children. “Every one of these horses has a name. And these names are actually the names of horses on the Swenson ranch. So kids can come in, choose a horse and ride it around the museum.”

Many visitors go to the museum and spend time in the research room. “We have scrapbooks and school annuals and photograph­s and city records, journals and telephone books. High school students come here to help once a week and after they get through working with whatever there is to do, they head for the research room. They love to look through the city records that have the names of people who were arrested for various things.”

Jewellee, who grew up in Stamford and taught school for 10 years, has written a book about a World War Two Tailgunner. “It’s about Ray Perry, father of Governor Rick Perry who lived at Paint Creek just up the road. He wrote letters to his mother and she kept shoe letters. Those letters, along with photos he sent, are in my book.”

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