Garst Museum – Darke County

My first post for 2017 is going to talk about the last trip I was able to make in 2016 to the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio. To be honest, I didn’t know anything at all about Greenville until I was told that they had an amazing museum there. I can honestly report that they were right. It turns out Greenville has played a major part in US history, and was the birthplace of a couple of very famous people.

I will say that driving up, the Garst Mansion that the first part of the museum is housed in looks quite small from the outside. In actuality, there are several buildings all connected to make a surprisingly large museum complex.

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The museum starts as many do in this area, with an array of showcases filled with arrowheads, mastodon bones, and boards that explain the settling of the area. One of the more interesting facts is that Greene Ville (as it was originally known) was home to the largest wooden fort ever built (built by “Mad” Anthony Wayne), and was where the Treaty of Greenville was signed in 1795. This treaty ended the Northwest Indian War and is what basically allowed Ohio to be settled by European settlers.

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Going up a narrow set of stairs from here leads you to a room filled with various military garb, some of which goes back to the War of 1812.

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In this room is also a small area dedicated to Zachary Lansdowne, pilot of The Shenendoah. The Shenendoah was the first of four rigid body airships built for the Navy, and the first to make a flight across the United States. Tragically, it crashed over Ohio in 1925. Lansdowne and 13 others were killed in the crash.

Moving back downstairs, we reach what are undoubtedly the highlight galleries in the museum: the two rooms dedicated to Annie Oakley.

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Annie was a sharpshooter, and was one of the most famous performers in the legendary Buffalo Bill Wild West show. The two rooms in the Garst Museum are filled with various pieces from Annie’s personal and professional life. And yes, there are a lot of guns on display.

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Moving down the hall is the gallery that I had the most interest in seeing. One of my other hobbies is collecting View-Master reels. A lot of the best reel sets are travel photography related. Many of those sets were edited by Greenville native Lowell Thomas.

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Far more than View-Masters though, Lowell was a renowned travel journalist. His most famous work was his coverage of T.E. Lawrence during World War I which later became the book, and even later the movie Lawrence of Arabia. There are some quite fascinating artifacts in this area, including this flag that the sign says was reportedly the last Turkish flag to fly over Bethlehem.

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That’s quite the vacation souvenir.

On the outer ring around the Lowell exhibit is an area called “Americana.” This exhibit has a small collection of Currier and Ives prints…

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…and several rooms full of items donated by local residents. These rooms are all set up to look like they might have in their original settings. These are neat rooms, although tricky to photograph because they are all behind windows. It feels very Peeping Tom-ish to take pictures in this area.

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To get to the next section of the museum, you have to double back through the Annie Oakley galleries. This area is another series of rooms made up of donated items. Unlike the last section though, these are all set up as businesses. So there’s one bank building, a toy shop, a telescope shop etc. Unfortunately, all of the shops were closed off so you couldn’t walk inside, but you could at least still “window shop.”

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The final main area of the museum was a little less organized than everything up to this point has been. This area had a lot of farm implements and vehicles, but there wasn’t much in the way of a theme or order. It felt like a large stall at an antique mall. Neat stuff, but not organized in a way that helped tell much of a story.

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The last room in the museum is called the Lowell Thomas Room, but it is more of a meeting room than anything else. In one corner is an exhibit about Private First Class Douglas Dickey. During the Vietnam War, Dickey threw himself upon an grenade in order to save the lives of others. This display tells his story, as well as shows his Medal of Honor and Purple Heart.

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The Garst Museum tells a lot of fascinating stories. Any one of which could probably be expanded into its own museum. Greenville is a little bit off the main roads, but well worth the visit. Greenville also supposedly has a great burger place. We didn’t have a chance to stop, but we heard good things. Just look for the building covered in used chewing gum (seriously). (We will probably go back in the near future).

Link to Flickr album with more pictures

Map of Garst Museum:

Bonus stop

About 10 miles outside of Greenville is Brock Cemetery. It is a very small cemetery, but it is the final resting place for both Annie Oakley and PFC Douglas Dickey.

There is a rather interesting legend that Annie Oakley isn’t actually buried under her tombstone, but was cremated and then placed inside the casket with her husband, who died just two weeks later. There is an Ohio Historical Marker in the cemetery to show Annie’s gravesite, and PFC Dickey’s is just a couple rows away, with flags waving nearby.

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I thank everyone for following along. This is now officially 12 out of the 88 counties visited. There probably will be a bit of an extended break as Ohio winters are difficult to predict, and many of the places of interest I want to visit are closed. I have many points of interest ready to go.

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