By Carol Mowdy Bond
The Piedmont Historical Society’s museum is a true gem on the prairie. Located at 101 Monroe Avenue NW in Piedmont, it houses history related to Piedmont, Yukon, Okarche, and surrounding areas, because the founding families of the area were related or connected to each other in a variety of ways. And admission is free.
Established in 1992, the museum is housed on the first and second floors of Piedmont’s first two-story brick building, which was built in 1917. Initially, the Piedmont State Bank was located on the first floor, and the second floor served as home of the Masonic Lodge, Eastern Star, and Rainbow Girls.
Judge Ken Dickerson was responsible for obtaining the building, as well as the annex in back located at 168 Jackson Avenue NW, and Betty Tharp founded the museum. Tharp and Patsy Stout Moffat, along with numerous volunteers, were instrumental in putting the museum together. Moffat’s grandparents were Jay Stout, who was a drover on the Chisholm Trail, and his wife Anna “Annie” Irene Fry Stout.
Neat, tidy, roomy, well-organized, and very appealing, the museum is graced with the original pressed tin ceiling tiles, the original floor tile entry way, and the original stained glass window in front. Piedmont’s actual first post office has been relocated inside the first floor, along with a jail cell. The post office was established January 1903 and was located two door west of the museum. And the original bank vault is still in place.
The museum is home to thousands of incredible pictures and artifacts.
Artifacts and photos include those of popular entertainer Vince Gill, who is from Piedmont.
When he was a child, Gill frequented Stover Dance Hall in Piedmont, which was a very popular hangout during the 1950s and 1960s. Located on the Northwest Expressway in the Piedmont area, Stover’s offered music, dancing, food, and beer. Herman Stover was well-known for playing his fiddle at Stover’s, and his fiddle is now housed in the museum. Gill became enamored with Stover’s fiddling talent, and that’s why Gill went into music.
Gill even wrote a song titled “Old Time Fiddle,” to honor Piedmont.
In the early days, there were numerous little towns in the area. But Piedmont became the railroad center stop between Guthrie and El Reno. So, many of the businesses picked up and moved to Piedmont.
Parts for Model T cars were shipped to Piedmont, and the cars were assembled at Wiedemann’s Store across the street from where the museum is located.
The Old Store is now located in the Wiedemann’s building.
Dr. Paul Francel, the 1st Vice President for the Piedmont Historical Society, said, “Piedmont exists because of the railroad. The three most historical buildings in Piedmont are this building where the museum is, the Simpson’s Grain Elevator, and Wiedemann’s Store, where the Old Store is now located.”
Francel manages the society’s web site, and he has created a virtual tour of the museum on the site: piedmonthistoricalsociety.weebly.com.
The museum’s second floor houses an unusual exhibit.
It is a reconstruction of Piedmont to scale, during its very early days. Created by Betty and Robert Tharp, it’s quite detailed and worth the visit.
The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s also open by appointment.
If you want to visit on a day other than Saturday, visit the web site for phone numbers to call in order to make an appointment.
Even during COVID, on Saturday, September 12, 27 guests visited the museum.
Francel said visitors are locals, but they also come from other states.
With Jim Orebaugh as president, the Piedmont Historical Society is an active group with about 120 members. Orebaugh said, “Our oldest member is 102 years old.” The society produces a monthly newsletter, is involved in the annual Founder’s Day celebration and other events and endeavors, and normally has a monthly meeting. Due to COVID, there have been no meetings, but the society has continued producing the newsletter.
You may follow the society on Facebook at Piedmont OK Historical Society.