Whenever you are in the Tyler County area a place worth visiting is the Tyler County Heritage and Historical Society in Middlebourne, better known to locals as the Middlebourne Museum.
The brainchild of former Tyler County High School Guidance Counselor Ruth Moore and her husband E. Glen Moore, the museum, housed in the former Tyler County High School, holds an impressive display of antiques and historical items that are sure to delight the imagination of young and old.
The former school building itself is reason enough for a guided tour, yet once inside the pillared entrance what next meets the eye are reminders of another day and time. There hanging on the wall is the old school time piece-a charming old windup clock which was presented to the Tyler County High School by the class of 1923. Framed graduating class pictures adorn the walls of the old school, dating from 1934 to 1993. There are also pictures of many Tyler Counties dignitaries past and present, including former W.Va Governor Cecil Underwood. There is a room dedicated to the former governor, listing many of his accomplishments and pictures of his childhood days through his years in office.
Museum volunteer, Shirley Neff (pictured below left), is a treasure herself at the museum, very knowledgeable about items in the museum.
As you venture down the hallways and through the many rooms, each is filled with treasures from the past. The history of Tyler County abounds. One room is tastefully decorated with relics from Sistersville High School, with additions from the town itself. It is a must see for Sistersville residents. The Genealogy room is loaded with family history and the invitation is open to residents to search their family tree. People are also encouraged to bring any information they may have to add to the collection.
Every room in the massive building is filled with displays. Tyler County High School also has a room dedicated to the Red Raiders. Trophies from glory days past fill the room, along with uniforms from the sports teams, band, and cheerleaders. Band Instruments, game balls, equipment, and team pictures help make up the display.
One special feature as one enters the building are the original trophy cases which now house a large array of glassware from many of the valley's former glass factories.
The museum is now open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., or by special appointment by calling 304-758-2100 or 304-771-4715. The museum is operated by Executive Director Becky (Moore) Wilson, daughter of Ruth and E. Glen. She is assisted by volunteer staff members Shirley Neff, Timothy Brown, and Lonnie Leek. Neff is able and happy to provide guided tours of the facility and explain how many of the pieces came to the museum. One such piece she mentioned was an old antique rope bed which was offered to Ruth Moore from a family in California. She said it was even shipped to West Virginia free of charge. Nearly every item in the museum is recognized with a marker describing the item and its former owner.
Touring the facility is no small thing. Plan on setting aside at least three hours as there are three stories jam-packed full. The basement area is filled with antique and unique household and farming tools, equipment, and past necessities. Neff said she gets visitors from all over, mentioning just one day last week she had four visitors from Bath, Scotland.
One of the most impressive features of the museum is the condition of the building itself. Many upgrades have been made. Energy efficient windows have replaced the old wood single panes, high efficiency heat and air conditioning have also been installed. Of special interest to some may be the condition of the former school auditorium. It appears as though an assembly or school concert could happen at any time. It is an awesome sight.
If you are a veteran of any branch of the military, the Armed Forces room is a must see. It is filled with nearly everything from early weapons to modern technology equipment. Medals of all sort fill the display cases. Uniforms from many eras fill the room. There is also a tribute wall for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. There is so much to see and do at the museum and if you ever have an urge to visit a museum, this would should surely be high on your list. It may be the best kept secret in West Virginia, truly remarkable.
Other areas of the museum house antique dentist and doctor displays of equipment and methods of surgery and first aid. There is a Boy Scout room filled with awards and accomplishments from past and current scouts. One room of special interest was the grocery and necessity store of days gone by.
If any question should enter your mind-and it certainly will-Neff is there with the answer. Her knowledge of the items in the museum and the 16 rooms which they fill is as impressive as the displays themselves.
Harry Houdini, who once performed at the Sistersville Opera House, still lives on through the Opera House display. Very impressive as well are the many local crafts people have donated for public viewing. One of the most interesting areas is the collection of items from the U.S. Space Program donated from a private collection by a gentleman in Florida.
Words alone cannot explain how a former school teacher and pillar of the community in Middlebourne, along with volunteers, could turn a rundown former high school into such an impressive place for current and former generations to come to visit and enjoy. The amount of items collected and donated is also a tribute to all who have given of their possessions, time, and energy to make the Tyler County Historical Society and Museum what it is today. Although it seems to be filled to the brink, Neff and Brown both said they are always looking for more to add to the museum and volunteers are welcome.
Although housed in Middlebourne, the museum is about more than just the local area, it certainly contains everything you would want to see or remember about local activities past, including the Big Moses Oil Derrick. But it reaches much farther than that. Plan on visiting soon and while in the area enjoy the sites and sounds of all of Tyler County.