History of the Depot Museum
Sources indicate that the building dates back to July 1911. On June 10, 1912, the Iron Mountain #6 was the first train to arrive at the new Depot. The first Prescott and Northwestern (P&NW) passenger train departed the station on June 11, 1912. P&NW continued passenger service from this depot until November 1945. The Missouri Pacific, successor to the Iron Mountain Railroad, maintained the ticket office until 1965 (or 1967?). Railroad passenger service shutdown in 1965 (or 1967?).
In 1969, the building was threatened with demolition. On November 19, 1969, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company and the City of Prescott, Arkansas entered into a lease for the 441x60 plot of land on which the depot building sits and the adjacent parking lots, with the lease effective March 18, 1970. On March 18, 1970, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company issued a "Bill of Sale" to the City of Prescott, Arkansas for the 24'x188' one story brick depot building for the amount of one dollar.
The original plans were to convert the building to city offices and a courtroom. The noise of passing trains soon ended this plan. Briefly, there was an adult education class held in the south waiting room. The noise soon ended this project as well. From 1969 until 1972 part of the building was rented to local businesses as a warehouse.
The city and county Centennial Celebration during the summer of 1972 changed the future of the depot. Headquarters for the celebration were established at the depot. The train ride furnished by Potlatch and the P&NW Railroad that disembarked from the depot and featured the "great train robbery". Maxine Covington installed the "Short Branch Saloon" in the center hallway of the building. George Ivey built a complete replica of a pioneer cabin in the north waiting room. This exhibit was complete with a cooking fireplace, trestle table and string bed. It was this display that proved to a number of people what could be done with the Depot.
A group worked to establish a state park designation for the Prairie DeAnn Battlefield. The depot would be part of this project, serving as headquarters for the park development. Led by Charles Yarbrough, others who worked so hard to get the museum going include Pam Yarbrough, Nancy Russell, Nancy Worthington, Norman Whitaker, Dorothy Whitaker, Margaret Pemberton, Bernice Berryman, Mary Joe Hamilton, Frances Thrasher, Wanda Stevens, Jan Stroud, John Teeter, Kay Wren and many contributors.
In 1976, the group arranged for the Chamber of Commerce office to be moved to the depot, which provided personnel to keep the building open to the public. That marked the beginning of the museum, with John Teeter volunteering as the curator. Initially, there was only a small exhibit in the north waiting room. However, dozens of people took an interest in preserving the history of the area and hundreds of items of interest poured in, including material from persons across the country.
Through the efforts of the Nevada County Historical Society, application was made to the National Register of Historic Sites in 1977, and the depot was awarded historic site designation in November of 1978. Prescott was one of the first abandoned train stations in Arkansas to be so designated.
On March 10, 1978, Articles of Incorporation of the Nevada Country State Park Association were filed in Nevada County Circuit Court. The association was to operate the Depot Museum and was formed by R.C. McBrayer in his capacity as the Mayor of the City of Prescott, Bobby Taylor in his capacity as the Nevada County Judge-elect, Johnny Brannan in his capacity of President of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, Charles Yarbrough, A. Glenn Vasser, Nancy Russel, John Teeter, Lawrence McKenzie, and Dan Pittman.
On Sunday afternoon, May 25, 1979, the official National Register designation was held. Jack Doss of the Arkansas Cultural and Historical Commission made the presentation speech. Lieutenant Governor Joe Purcell was the principle speaker. Over 200 people attended this ceremony held under the north portico of the Depot.
On May 14, 1982, the Internal Revenue Service issued its Advance Ruling declaring the Nevada County State Park Association a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
On April 20, 1992, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program provided a Grant-in-Aid for $10,000 for repairs and renovation of the building, with the funding coming from the National Parks Service.
In July 1996, marking "this month's" 85th anniversary of the depot building and the 20th anniversary of the Depot Museum, John Teeter stated that the office, north waiting room and south waiting rooms were crowded with over 2,000 items, 2,400 old photographs, family histories, church and school histories, cemetery records, railroad memorabilia, and artifacts from the Battle of Prairie De Ann.
Teeter also proclaimed the future of the Depot Museum. His statement included comments of "preparing for the 21st century" by computerizing the museum's records, inventory and information and that information being placed on the Internet. Teeter also stated, "Much has been accomplished toward preserving local history during the 20 years the museum has been here. We will do much more during the next twenty years."
In February 2000, the City of Prescott received a large grant made possible by 1998's Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and is administered by the Arkansas State Highway Commission as part of its Arkansas Transportation Enhancement Program. The grant provided for a large-scale renovation and restoration of the entire building. The museum was closed in late January 2002, while the work was done Total cost of the renovation and restoration was $233,771, with $164,888 from the grant and $66,883 from the City of Prescott. [More on the Renovation]
In late 2002, employees of the City of Prescott moved back the fixtures and exhibit items. The museum reopened in 2003.
At the meeting of the membership and board of directors on Sunday, November 17, 2002, it was recognized that the original purpose of the Nevada County State Park Association -- to pursue the establishment of the Prairie DeAnn Battlefield as a state park -- is never going to be possible. When goals shifted to the operation of a museum, the membership and board voted to change its name to the Nevada County Depot & Museum .
Once again, quoting John Teeter from July 1996:
"Anything we write or say about the museum concludes with the statement that we could not operate 30 days without the complete support we receive from the City of Prescott. If anything breaks that we can't fix, someone from the city always helps. They keep the grass cut and the grounds clean. The City keeps the lights burning and the water running."