Currency, weapons part of Gregg museum's Confederate exhibit
April 14, 2017 at 11:23 p.m.
The Confederate Heritage exhibit at Gregg County Historical Museum isn't going to make anyone rich, but visitors will learn how money evolved for the Southern states struggling against a financially fortified North.
"When the war started, President Lincoln established the federal banking system in this country," Larry Harper of the Upshur County Patriots said recently, sitting in the Ann Lacy Crain Exhibit Center at the Fredonia Street museum.
A dozen Confederate brigade flags lined one wall near Harper and John Gregg Camp Chaplain Jerry Haymes. A 12-pound mountain howitzer stood nearby, and weapons and other memorabilia filled a display opposite the banners.
The museum's exhibit, lasting through April 29, coincides with Confederate Heritage Month.
"That's a (18)58 Springfield," Harper said of the long rifle over his shoulder. "All our guns, everything that is here, will fire. Nothing's loaded, there are no munitions available as far as powder."
A display case at the exhibit center's east end holds a confusion of paper money.
"Since the South had seceded, we would not use government tender," Harper said. "So, different banks began to establish their own currency."
That phenomenon wasn't limited to financial institutions.
"Any store or business, from what I understand, did issue their own tender," Harper said. "So there was a large amount of inequity, because we were very disorganized here in the South."
"It was almost like a company store," Haymes added, recalling the era when companies would pay workers in script that was legal tender in groceries and other company-owned outlets.
"Companies did that for many, many years," Harper added. "Even after the Civil War."
Southern currency is the starting point for a lecture scheduled 7 p.m. Thursday by the Rev. Richard Hester of Gilmer First United Methodist Church, a regional aficionado.
The Confederate descendants emphasized the exhibit celebrates heritage but not the distasteful side of the era.
"We want people to understand that (the Civil War) was not about slavery," Harper said. "A 42.5-cent tax on cotton — yeah, that's taxation without representation."