Martinsville, Virginia


December Discoveries: MHC Heritage Center & Museum

MHC Heritage Center

This story is the fourth in a series of posts called "December Discoveries". Through the eyes of our staff and a few guest bloggers, the posts will shed light on fun activities to enjoy, new exhibits to experience and the interesting stories behind some of our local businesses. Whether you are discovering these attractions for the first time or rediscovering an old favorite, we hope that you enjoy the series. 

The historic Henry County courthouse is a local landmark which most Martinsville-Henry County residents are very familiar with. The stately building proudly sits on Main Street in Uptown Martinsville. Even though it is a prominent structure, I sometimes wonder how many people are aware of the treasures that lay behind its doors.

The courthouse is now home to the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center & Museum. During our recent FAM (familiarization) tour in the area, the MHC Heritage Center was one of our stops.  

I was excited to have the chance to revisit the museum and enjoy new and familiar exhibits. The first room I visited was one section devoted to the new exhibit: "On the Shoulders of Giants: Furniture, Textiles, and Tobacco." This particular exhibit featured the history of the tobacco industry in Martinsville-Henry County.

The majority of the tobacco history focused on B.F. Gravely, one of the most prominent Rucker & Witten Labelstobacco producers in Martinsville-Henry County history. However, I was extremely excited when I noticed pouches, tags, and other items featuring Rucker & Witten tobacco. Ancil D. Witten, one of the founders, is my three-times great uncle. He, along with many of my great-grandparents and other family members, were from Tazewell, VA.

A.D. Witten spent much time in Martinsville-Henry County with his tobacco ventures as well as helping found American of Martinsville, which is also featured in the museum. I was very proud to see a little piece of my family legacy represented at the museum. 

Bassett Furniture Exhibit

Many other prominent Martinsville-Henry County businesses are represented in the exhibit as well. The important historic companies featured include: Bassett Furniture, Bassett Mirror, Bassett-Walker, DuPont, Tultex, Stanley Furniture, Pannill, and Martin Processing. These exhibits contain examples of products produced by the companies, historical documents, photos of important company officials, and much more. One section of the exhibit focuses on the modern-day furnishings manufactured by Bassett Mirror Company.

If you or someone you know was involved with these wonderful companies of our area's history or if you would like to learn more about the history of the area, I highly recommend stopping by the Heritage Center & Museum to see this exhibit dedicated to the accomplishments, impact, and legacy the businesses gave to our community.

This, of course, is not the only exhibit in the museum. As you stroll throughout the various 1852 Trunkrooms, there is a wide variety of beautiful and historic objects to learn about. There are a few that I am particularly drawn to every time I visit the museum. The first is a cabinet maker's trunk from 1852. I am partial to all older trunks, but this one is particularly special because of the many compartments inside as well as the beautiful, elaborate painting both inside and out.The second is a beautiful organ. I enjoy music, including listening, playing and singing, and this organ makes me want to take lessons again! It is made of rich, dark wood with beautiful carving throughout the piece. My final favorite is the Civil War Field Officer's desk from the 8th Calvary Regiment of Tennessee. While some make look at it as a plain, old-fashioned writing desk, I enjoy it because it reminds me of the war the desk survived. The Civil War is a hugely important event in American history that should always be remembered. 

I invite everyone, both residents and visitors alike, to stop by the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center & Museum. Enjoy the wonderful exhibits, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and beautiful antiques and objects.

Comment below and tell us your favorite exhibit or piece at the museum!