GATESVILLE, TEXAS — Gatesville may be best known for its role in housing prisoners in the Texas Department of Corrections, but some may not know its other claim to fame. 25 News visited the Coryell County seat to check out the largest collection of spurs in the world.
There are 6,000 pairs of spurs at the Coryell County Museum — prompting the 77th Texas legislature to designate Gatesville as the 'Spur Capital of Texas'.
Board president of the Coryell Museum and Historical Center, Ervin Adams, tells 25 News that Lloyd Mitchell was a teacher and coach at Gatesville High School.
Many years ago, he found a spur in New Mexico and that started his passion for collecting them — which led to about 10,000 total pairs in his lifetime.
“In 1995, we were donated 6,000 spurs — and this is just a small portion of them here. We have some downstairs as well and some in another room and we can't display it — we just don't have a space for it," Adams said.
Also of note, there were English riding spurs worn by a young Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy — later Jackie Onassis.
“I guess we had one of his students or players that he used to coach and had gone up to the Boston area and somehow or got them — so, people would send them to him from all over the world," Adams said.
The museum houses just about any spurs one can think of — even a pair that belonged to notorious Mexican bandit, Pancho Villa.
The Coryell Museum is much more than just the Lloyd and Madge Mitchell spur collection.
Coryell county’s first jailhouse, dating to 1854, has been painstakingly reassembled. It’s one of the few double-walled log structures still standing in the US. It once held outlaw Sam Bass, who spent some time under the jail — literally.
“It was a little community south here called Al Creek that he got in trouble in and then he was put in that jail. The unique thing about the jail is it had a four-foot space underneath it," Adams said.
"That's where the prisoner stayed — they only had four foot, and they couldn't really stand up. The jailer stayed at the top — it's a very unique jail.”
The museum is thematic —with scenes from the past like an old-time doctor’s office and soda fountain, with early Texas kitchens and bedrooms — and even a hotel lobby.
It shows different ways that folks had to live by bringing that aspect of history to life.
"We try to talk about the migration to Texas after the Civil War from states like Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. This was the promise of the future — coming through Texas or into Texas," Adams said.
There’s a display devoted to former governor and Baylor President, Pat Neff, and the creation of the state park named for his mother.
Also with the influence of Fort Hood, an extensive area is devoted to the military.
“We have the women and in the military display, which is a lot about the women that started serving in World War II — setting a new history for the country," Adams said.
Perhaps a favorite at the museum are the dollhouse displays of miniatures. Some depict scenes from the classic film 'Gone With the Wind' that have a real touch of authenticity.
“The lady that collected the dolls and put together displays contacted the MGM studios and they sent her swaths of the cloth for her to be able to use on the costumes," Adams said.
"The green dress can stand right out — that was on Scarlett O'Hara. The cloth from the actual movie was used on the dolls.”
The Coryell Museum and Historical Center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — admission is free, but donations are appreciated.