Donations for a planned Native American museum to be built on the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum’s ground are nearing the halfway point of the $100,000 needed.
“We’re at about $44,700 right now, which is great as we started collecting donations in December,” said David Murdoch, chairman of the Johnson County Heritage Foundation, which oversees the CTOM, “Hopefully we’ll be able to start construction in April or May, but we’re clicking along and I think we’ll make it.”
Cleburne’s Woodmen of the World Lodge 4 bumped that total with a check presentation held Wednesday in the CTOM’s old schoolhouse.
“We heard about the project and were talking about it and figured well, we’re part of Johnson County and they’re part of Cleburne so we ought to support them,” said Louis Homesley, WOW Lodge 4 past president. “So we all voted on it and wrote the check.”
WOW, Homesley said, established in 1890 and the Cleburne lodge established in 1891 and has remained continually active since.
WOW Lodge 4 President Morris Derting accompanied Homesley to present the check to Murdoch and Verna Riddles, co-chair of the museum’s fund-raising committee.
The museum, to be named the Big Bear Native American Museum, grew out of a 2012 donation from Grandview resident Leonard “Big Bear” Beal.
Beal, who passed away in October, donated more than 2,000 Native American artifacts — a lifetime collection he and his sons, Jay and Jual Beal, spent more than 60 years amassing — to the JCHF.
Murdoch and others spent months combing through and cataloging the collection, which they plan to display in the Big Bear museum meant to honor both Beal and his sons as well as his wife, Anna Mae Beal.
“Once we reach the $70,000 mark we can start building,” Murdoch said. “The entire project is about $100,000. About $77,000 of that is for the building itself. The rest is for furniture and fixtures. This will be a highly interactive museum with video screens and things like that.
“The thing is [the CTOM] runs entirely on donations and volunteers, so everything donated goes toward maintenance and new projects, and money we’re collecting for [the Big Bear museum] goes strictly for that.”
Murdoch predicts the museum will prove a huge draw to residents and tourists alike, helped in part by the 2014 scheduled completion of Texas 121, a toll road linking Fort Worth to Cleburne, which will feed into Cleburne not far from the CTOM, which sits on the banks of Lake Pat Cleburne off of U.S. 67.
“I think [CTOM], because of its location, will soon be one of the premier locations not just for Cleburne, but the county and this area,” Murdoch said during a December meeting to kick the Big Bear museum’s fundraising campaign off.
Established in 2003, the CTOM began with a small log cabin, Johnson County’s original courthouse, and a few tepees. Numerous buildings and attractions have been added through the years all targeted toward preserving and sharing the history of the Chisholm Trail and life in Johnson County during days gone by.
Murdoch, during the December fundraising meeting, said the Big Bear museum will honor Native American heritage, both locally and nationally, in a proper and dignified manner.
Before construction of the Indian Hogun style building begins cedar will be burned at the site to consecrate the ground and the ashes will be placed in a container to be positioned in the center of the museum, Murdoch said.
To donate to the Big Bear Native American Museum project or to volunteer with or learn more about the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum, visit www.jcchisholmtrail.com or call 817-648-1486.
Johnson County Chisholm Trail T-shirts, $15 each, are also available at the above website and phone number. Proceeds benefit historic preservation projects at CTOM and throughout the county.