Refugio County Museum a secret in plain sight

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Aug. 30, 2014 at 3 p.m.

A collection of arrow heads found in the area crafted by native American Indians are on display at the Refugio County Museum.

A collection of arrow heads found in the area crafted by native American Indians are on display at the Refugio County Museum.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

REFUGIO - Did you know Refugio once had a skyline of oil derricks that could be seen for miles?

What about mastodons? Did you know they once roamed South Texas in cities such as Austwell?

If you don't believe it, there's proof at the Refugio County Museum.

The museum, which has been at 102 W. West St. since 1985, has a lot of the county's history, said museum director Bart Wales.

"I just wish we had a bigger building," Wales said, walking through the museum.

The museum was in a storefront in downtown Refugio before its building was constructed.

Raised in Refugio, Wales knows many of the ins and outs of the county's history, and much of it is on display at the museum.

However, there is more to see, he said, it's just in storage until one day the museum can move to a bigger location.

In storage are historic items such as a full doctor's office with tools and the old chair.

Despite being the epicenter for all things historical, the 500 to 600 visitors who stop by each year are not local, Wales said.

"We get a whole slew of international visitors," he said, adding that some may trickle in from the county, but that's the minority.

What is popular at the museum depends on where a person's interests lie.

Wales does get a lot of comments on the museum's military exhibit, which has been in the making for years. The exhibit features old and new photos of military men and women from the county. The museum also has several uniforms displayed.

Another focal point of the museum is right at the front entry - a 1925 Model T.

The Model T doesn't run, but one of Wales' goals is to have an experienced mechanic make the lights and horn operational again.

Refugio Mayor Joey Heard said the museum is always there for everyone to use, no matter what question they may have about the county's history.

"It's all documented right there in that museum," he said. "It's a great place to stop and take a break and walk around."

The mayor said he has several favorites, including a 10-second video of oil busting in Refugio with people walking around the town.

Wales said he would continue promoting the museum as much as he can "because without history, we're nothing."

"It's our story," he said. "It tells why we were here and why we need to stay here."



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