ORANGE GROVE, Texas — Orange Grove is a town of about 1,300 people.
“The Orange Grove area is a community of resilient people, kind people,” Jon Box said.
Box is a board member of the Orange Grove Area Museum. His grandmother founded the museum in the late 1990s. Box still remembers collecting artifacts to put in the museum before it opened.
“We would go to some of these barns outside the city limits and take out whole wagons and buggies and bring them in and put them in the museum. We brought in a biplane, had it dismantled, hanging from the ceiling,” Box recalled.
Unfortunately, half of the museum caught fire on Easter Sunday. The Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department said they believe the fire started in the back of the building, where council members said there was once a saloon.
Orange Grove VFD said they don’t have a case yet.
“It was devastating yesterday,” Box said. “He can’t be replaced, but he can’t be cemented any other way, so we’re sad to lose that part of the story.
“We all seem to hold together when things like this happen,” said Jody Raska, the museum’s treasurer.
Raska has worked at the museum for about five years and said the pandemic hit them really hard because they couldn’t have visitors or tours.
She said they will do their best to preserve what they can for people who haven’t had a chance to see it.
“We’re going to have to start at the bottom and move up and with the help of the community I think we can do that,” Raska said.
But it’s the museum’s unique history that the board says sets it apart from other museums.
“We had a doctor who missed the Titanic when he was very, very young because he had chicken pox. We had a bank robbery and the guy ended up in Alcatraz,” said Jan Rusk, the museum curator.
She said it was a loss for future generations, as they planned to show the museum to elementary schools soon, but said that wouldn’t happen until it was rebuilt.
“I don’t know how much will be on iPads and computers. Seeing it for real is not like reading about it. It just has a bigger impact. They just recognize it more if they can see it,” Rusk said.
A board member said he hopes community members will donate artifacts so they can put them in the museum once it is rebuilt.