NEOSHO, Mo. — The term “they don’t build them like they used to” perfectly describes the structure that houses the Newton County Historical Society, and there’s a reason for that.

The building that currently houses the Newton County Historical Society Museum was constructed in 1887, and you could accurately say it has been serving the county ever since in a couple of different ways.

“This building is very substantial. It’s very strong. If you’ll notice the width of our doorways when you come to tour, they are very wide. That’s because they are three bricks thick, and the brick was actually thrown right here in Neosho out of our caves,” said Deanna Booyer, Historical Society Park Director.

Each of its rooms is devoted to important periods in the county’s history, ranging from mining, clothing, wars its young men and women served in, to some of its most famous residents like George Washington Carver and Thomas Hart Benton.

In fact, only one room in the building has remained the same.

“Across the hallway where the parlor is, that’s exactly what it’s always been and we do our very best to keep it decorated according to the time when this building was used as a home,” said Booyer.

So who lived here? Well, that would be the sheriff of Newton County, the sheriff’s family and county inmates.

It served as the Newton County jail from 1887 all the way through 1937, at which time the department and jail moved into the current Newton County courthouse.

That’s right. Inmates and the sheriff’s family members would intermix from time to time, in fact, the wife not only cooked for her family but also the inmates.

This room had to be added to the building for a sheriff, his wife, and 13 children. Female inmates were housed in a second-story room.

Prior to the building opening up as the museum, the portion that housed the men was later torn down.

“Picture in our tool room upstairs of two gentlemen that deserve a great lot of credit for organizing the Newton County Historical Society and collecting the original artifacts that are possibly within this museum, and those two gentlemen are Floyd Jackson and Ralph Duncan,” said Booyer.

Duncan was a long-time employee of the First National Bank, while Jackson was a long-time employee of the Neosho post office.

Booyer says both men started collecting historical items even before they became adults and their efforts paid off in 1958 when the museum opened to the public.