Polk County Historical Association’s Night at the Museum brings history to life

Published 12:03 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

COLUMBUS—The Polk County Historical Museum held its fifth ‘Night at the Museum’ event on Thursday evening, featuring reenactors playing essential figures throughout the county’s history.

From 5-7 p.m., residents and students had the opportunity to experience the county’s history coming to life, with the reenactors making historical figures more accessible through the stories they told. The museum also features exhibits, maps, art and even the first cannonball fired at Fort Sumter that began the Civil War.

“The Night at the Museum always feels like a highlight of our year,” said Pat McCool, President of the Historical Association. “This is an excellent educational event for people to come learn about local history and talk about the folks that have lived and come through Polk County over the years.”

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Visitors were able to meet the “Queen of Moonshiners” Bettie Sims, played by Frances McCain, side by side with the first female jailer in the county, Maud McFarland, portrayed by her descendant Becky McFarland Hudson.

“Queen of Moonshiners” Bettie Sims, played by Frances McCain

Other notable figures included local author and historian Susan Speight as Helen Stearns, daughter of Samuel Stearns, the man who developed White Oak Mountain and built the school system. Ambrose Mills once again elegantly acted as Columbus Mills, known as a founder of Polk County and town namesake, while Kimberly Granville portrayed Mary Elizabeth Hughes, the trailblazing first female doctor in the area. Phyllis Martin passionately told the story of the first female Polk commissioner Opal Suave, who was her aunt.

The event also featured members of the Overmountain Men Victory Trail Association Dalton Wade, Mark Anthony, Bob Martin, Tom Vaughan and David Doan, who showcased Revolutionary War tools, trinkets and a variety of antique firearms. They were accompanied by Carol Martin and her dog Morgan, who brought notable toys from the colonial era.

For those who missed the event, the Polk County History Museum at 60 Walker Street in downtown Columbus is open to the public on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all year long.

Local author and historian Susan Speight as Helen Stearns, daughter of Samuel Stearns