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 Texas : Architecture : Museums :

The Spirit of Somerville

Somerville Historical Museum
Somerville, Texas

Address - 651/655 Avenue A
Mailing address - P.O. Box 782, Somerville, TX 77879
Hours - Sat., 10am - 12 noon and 1 - 3 pm
or by apppointment call 979-596-1604

Somerville, Texas Area Hotels
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There’s no excuse for not finding Somerville’s Historical Museum since its right on main street (Highway 36). Occupying two former stores (with a cozy park occupying the space where a third building once stood) the museum may at first resemble many Texas small town museums.
Somerville TX Museum - Building Date

The Dateplate of the Museum
TE photo, April 2010

The town’s railroad connection is immediate evident by the “illustrated” miniature locomotive appropriately called Somerville’s “Train of Thought” parked in the grassiest part of the park. Local artists have painted every flat space on the wooden engine with scenes from Somerville’s history, many taken from photos in the museum’s archives.
Somerville TX Train Of Thought
Somerville's "Train Of Thought"
TE photo, April 2010
Somerville TX - 1900 Santa Fe Round House In Snow
1926 photo of 1900 Santa Fe Round House in snow
Courtesy Somerville Historic Society and Museum
More Texas Railroads
We spent a good hour in the museum before our guide mentioned (as gracefully as possible) that the museum was actually closed. She was there getting ready for an event to be held the next day when we entered – but we can’t imagine a more informative tour, even during business hours.

So, from our very first personal contact with Mrs. Sylvia (Tinka) Murray we realized there was an strong undercurrent of energy in Somerville. She spoke of the abundant volunteers in Somerville and mentioned a few of the town’s ongoing projects. We never leave a museum without asking the docents or curators what their favorite relic or artifact is – and we were a little surprised to learn that Tinka’s favorite was a “cooling bed” from the local funeral home. It is indeed a rarity but what makes it Tinka’s favorite is the reactions it brings from visiting schoolchildren.
Somerville TX Museum - Cooling Table
The mortuary Cooling Table
TE photo, April 2010
Other rarity is a license plate from a time when drivers had to make their own. Our favorite was an oil painting of the neighboring town of Lyons. Painted in 1983, it was spotted at a yard sale by a Somervillain who bought it and donated it to the museum. It was that recognition and (perhaps more importantly) the museums acceptance that won us over.
Somerville TX Museum - Handmade License Plate
Home-made License Plate
TE photo, April 2010
Somerville TX Museum - Painting Of Lyons, Texas
Painting of neighboring Lyons, Texas
TE photo, April 2010

There’s a well-done bust of the museum’s founder, a local boy Barney M. Davis who never forgot his hometown despite his huge success in business. If it wasn’t for Mr. Davis, there wouldn’t be a museum. Not far from Mr. Davis’ bust is a photograph of a Mr. John Morgan (circa 1950) holding aloft two of his cantaloupes (which weighed 9 and 10 pounds). You have to love the egalitarianism of small town museums.In Somerville it extends beyond the museum doors.

Somerville TX Museum - Bust of Founder
Museum founder Barney M. Davis
TE photo, April 2010
Somerville TX Museum - Man with Cantaloup
John Morgan bursting with pride with his cantaloupes
Courtesy Somerville Historic Society and Museum
Outside, in the all-weather relic category, you’ll find Somerville’s first traffic signal as well as the “pole” of a former barber not far from Somerville’s old two-cell concrete jail. Relocating the old cells from their original location two blocks away was initially thought to be impossible, but determination and the free loan of a crane and operator lowered the jail into place – over the existing power lines.
Somerville TX 1940 Jail

The two cell Somerville Jail, circa 1940
Transported by crane and lowered intact over power lines.
TE photo, April 2010
More Texas Jails

If there’s a rating system for small town museums, Somerville ranks firmly in the top ten percent.
Somerville TX Vintage photo - Woman On Bridge

The story may never be known: a woman leaves her car (with door open) on a Somerville bridge c. 1920s.

See Somerville Vintage Photos >
Courtesy Somerville Historic Society and Museum

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