Rediscover Martinsville’s Museums: Bassett Historical Center
Friday February 28, 2020
Did you know that Martinsville – Henry County is home to six museums plus several exciting exhibits? These museums and galleries will encourage your mind to wonder into your past and spark your creativity. In this series, we will let you in on a few secrets and lesser-known facts about some of these award-winning facilities and inspire you to rediscover our museums. The Bassett Historical Center is the place people from all over the world come to find out who they are. The Bassett Historical Center serves as the link to put people and places together. Patrons have come from all 50 states and 9 foreign countries to conduct research at the center. So, to jump right in, below you will find some behind-the-scenes information/lesser known facts:
• Miniature Furniture made by Stanley Furniture: The miniature furniture in the case is one of six sets made by Stanley Furniture in the “Tanbark” pattern when the Queen Mother visited Governor Stanley in November 1954. The six sets were given to each of Mr. Stanley’s three children, one to the Superintendent of Stanley Furniture, one to the Plant Manager, and one was presented to the Queen Mother to take back to her two grandchildren at that time, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The Queen Mother visited Governor and Mrs. Stanley in Richmond in order to pave the way for the Queen’s visit for the 350th Jamestown celebration.
• The Mourning Wreath: One of the most interesting talked-about displays that we have here at the Bassett Historical Center is the mourning wreath made for Fannie Jane Crater Rhinehart (1885-1911). It was a Victorian custom for family members to make a wreath or jewelry out of hair when a loved one passed away. Hair was saved in a hair receiver and was then used to fashion ornate flowers and designs like the one you see here.
• 1850 Chickering Piano: Bassett Historical Center is home to the 1850 chickering piano. This was the first piano in Henry County. It was a gift to Bettie Hairston, of the Beaver Creek Plantation, from her parents. Her beau at the time was JEB Stuart.
• The Center currently houses over 20,000 genealogy books and manuscripts, over 10,000 genealogy family files including 995 genealogy files in the Pilson Collection, over 3,000 local history files, 1,000 family photograph files, and 300 different periodicals. Local company collections from DuPont, Tultex, Bassett-Walker, and Blue Ridge Hardware & Supply Co., are housed here. Henry County is one of the seven counties in Virginia that has a Cohabitation List. Slaves were not permitted to marry legally but did have families, with the counties keeping records of which slaves were cohabitating. Also available is the "Afro-American Marriages of Henry County, Virginia", by Harris and Millner, which would be helpful to find an ancestor dating back to the early or mid-1800's.