What in the world is a rabbit gum, an Oval Oak, and why’s a woman on the Seal of Chatham County holding a cap? The Louvre of Paris has its appeal; the Metropolitan in New York City holds treasures too, but neither museum contains the answers to the above questions. To acquire that knowledge, you don’t need to cross an ocean nor Amtrak up I-95! All it takes is less than a quarter tank of gas and gps to lead you to the historic Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro, which holds the Chatham County Historical Museum. There lay the answers, and the cost of admission is NADA!
When exposing your child to history, start small. Begin with the familiar. In this museum, located in the quaint town of Pittsboro, surrounded by bucolic scenery, your child will familiarize himself with arrowheads, corn shuckers, and button hooks. Your petite offspring will see artifacts from past centuries that are part of Chatham County’s history and North Carolinian history. The Grand Foyer’s floor displays the Chatham County Seal which is modeled after the North Carolina Seal. Here children learn what each symbol represents to its citizens. Also, in the Grand Foyer is a copy of the Ramsey 1870 map of Chatham County, and it’s enlightening to compare it to the present day map. Right away one notes the lack of a huge mass of water, Jordan Lake, in the 1870’s map.
In the museum room, kids will follow the time line from the era of Native American settlement to the speech William Pitt, the Elder, made to the British Parliament regarding the American colony, on through the American Revolution, the Civil War, the World Wars, to present times. All events had an impact on Chatham County. Old fashioned telephones, like ones in the 50’s, carry stories told by everyday Chatham County figures of the past, which the kids listen to, while holding the heavy receivers up to their ears. One child recently asked a docent how to use it! A corner of the museum room is dedicated to the one room schoolhouse of the past, and another corner displays the merchandise of an old general store. In this room, you can find a bowler hat worn by Judge Walter Siler, a samples book of labels from famous manufacturers that were made at Chatham Mills which is now closed, and an iron mortar and pestle used by Dr. Hanner. Letters by a Civil War soldier from Chatham County, a letter by Governor Charles Manly whose law office was in Pittsboro, and a slide show of folks who have served in American Wars are on display.
Upstairs the restored, wooden paneled courtroom is a thing of beauty and worth the trip in itself. Below the courtroom are photos of the terrible fire half a decade ago that almost destroyed this historic courthouse—our National Treasure.
A few steps from the circle where the courthouse stands are an old fashioned soda “shoppe,” antique stores, and local eateries.
This is a field trip for parents, kids and grandparents who can traipse down memory lane as they gaze at the exhibits. They can relate to their grand offspring “the way it was, back in the day.” The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and the study of human history should begin in one’s backyard. For Raleigh, that is a short trip west on Highway 64.
The museum is open Wednesday thru Friday from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and the First Sunday of the month from March thru December, noon until 4:30.p.m. The phone: 919- 542- 6222. The website: www.chathamhistory.org