CARTHAGE — A new military museum seeks to showcase Panola County’s involvement in wars throughout U.S. history.
The Panola County Veterans Museum also gives a home to personal and family military items that local residents have donated.
“We keep our old military stuff or we keep our dad’s old military stuff or grandpa’s old stuff,” Panola County’s Veterans Service Office William Morris said. “We don’t know what to do with it. We don’t want to throw it away, so what do you do with it? Share it. Bring it to the museum. We would like to have it.”
The exhibit, which once took up part of a wall at the Old Jail Museum and Library at 213 N. Shelby St. in downtown Carthage, is now big enough to fill the entirety of the Weldon Soape Assembly Hall, a one-story gray building next door to the Old Jail.
County officials and the Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association celebrated the new military museum’s grand opening on Veterans Day after the Veterans Memorial Wall rededication.
Jo Ann Oliphant, librarian at the Old Jail, said the new museum started when the historical association realized it needed more space for its military artifacts.
“Before we had the building next door, it was upstairs, and it was a very, very small, maybe like one quarter of a wall,” she said. “Then when we got the building next door, it moved into the room that is currently the Beckville Depot exhibit. When we started looking, we realized it was all cramped in. So we moved it across and just totally turned that into a military museum.”
One thing Old Jail volunteers haven’t changed is the Beckville Depot, an exhibit on the city’s old train station. That’s because soldiers going off to World War II had to go through the Beckville Depot, Oliphant said.
Morris and his wife, Ashley, were two of the organizers behind the effort, with Morris saying he was first working with the Old Jail to rearrange all the military items by their proper eras. Now he’s also working to expand the military museum even further.
“We have a lot of World War I stuff, a lot of World War II stuff, and we have Korea and Vietnam stuff. But when we get into the Korean and Vietnam era, we’re kind of lacking,” he said. “We’re looking into artifacts from those two areas — also with Desert Storm and the Iraq War. We would love to have those items.”
Morris encouraged residents to help them keep the museum active, with donations of military items or money to help fund and maintain exhibits. Donations can be made to the Panola County Historical and Genealogical Association, at the Old Jail or at Morris’ office in Room 108 at the Panola County Courthouse, 110 Sycamore St., Carthage.