Museum Housed First Chartered School
The building that now houses the Paulding County Museum was once a school and residence.
The little red building on North Johnston Street behind Hershel Jones Middle School wasn’t always a museum. And, it wasn’t always in its present location.
The home of the Paulding County Museum originally was Dallas’—and likely Paulding County’s—first chartered school. It was started in the 1860s by Angus Johnson, who also was one of the owner’s the Henderson House. Johnson served as inferior court justice and, in that role, was responsible for monitoring the county’s schools. Another of the Henderson House’s former owners, Methodist minister Jacob Owen, also was involved with the school as a trustee.
“I got the charter from the state archives and it used to hang in one of the displays,” said Betty Sparti, a local resident who has dug into the history of numerous properties in the area.
After housing the Dallas Male and Female Academy, the building became the home of Joe Ragsdale and his family in the 1890s.
“His daughter, Mildred Ragsdale, contributed several pictures to the museum of her family which used to and may still hang in the museum,” Sparti said. “She gave several stories of the building that were handed down by her family. She said the building had been used as a Civil War hospital base, as most buildings were, and had several ball shots into the building. She told a legend of Union soldiers coming in and a hornet's nest falling on their heads.”
Later, the building was acquired by the First United Methodist Church of Dallas, the organization that eventually gave it to the Paulding County Historical Society to serve as the county’s museum.
According to the Paulding County Historical Society’s website, the Methodist church donated the building to the historical society in 1995. Sparti said officials with the First United Methodist Church had planned to tear down the small building—which was located in the back of their lot—in order to build a church annex building. It was then that the historical society began looking for a new location for the building. Eventually, their members were able to talk the Paulding County Board of Education into donating land behind Hershel Jones Middle School to house the museum.
Then it was time to find the funding to be able to cover the costs of the move, something that was spearheaded by the Rev. William Byrd, who was the museum chairman, and Johnnie Lester, who was the historical society president.
“Those two men took the marketing packages I created around to community leaders and asked for contributions and got them,” Sparti said.
And in 1997, the building was moved to its current location. It was then restored to near-original condition and was dedicated as the museum in 1999.