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Orange Grove Area Museum hoping to rebuild after losing artifacts in a fire on Easter

Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 18, 2022

ORANGE GROVE, Texas — Orange Grove is a town with a population of about 1,300 people.

“The Orange Grove area is a community of resilient people, kind people,” Jon Box described.

Box is a member of the Orange Grove Area Museum’s board of directors. His grandmother founded the museum in the late 1990s. Box still remembers collecting artifacts to put into the museum before it opened.

“We’d go out to some of these barns outside of the city limits and pull entire wagons, and buggies out and bring them in and put them into the museum. We brought in a biplane, had it pulled apart, hanging from the ceiling,” Box reminisced.

Unfortunately, half of the museum caught on fire on Easter Sunday. The Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department said they believe the fire started in the rear of the building, where board members said a saloon once was.

Orange Grove VFD said they don’t have a cause just yet.

“It was devastating yesterday,” Box said. “It can’t be replaced, but it can’t be cemented in any other way, so we’re unfortunate to lose that part of history.

“We all seem to hold together when things like this happen,” Jody Raska, the museum’s treasurer, said.

Raska has been working at the museum for about five years and said the pandemic really hit them hard because they couldn’t have visitors or tours.

She said they’re going to try their best to preserve what they can for people that didn’t get an opportunity to see it.

“We’re going to have to start from the bottom and work our way up and with the help of the community, I think we’ll be able to do that,” Raska said.

But it’s the museum’s unique history that the board of directors said makes it stand out from other museums.

“We had a doctor that missed the Titanic when he was very, very young because he had chicken pox. We had a bank robbery that the guy ended up in Alcatraz,” Jan Rusk, the museum’s curator said.

She said it’s a loss for future generations because they were planning on having elementary schools tour the museum soon, but said that won’t happen until it’s rebuilt.

“I don’t know how much of that will be on iPads and computers. Seeing it for real is not like reading about it. It just makes a bigger impact. They just recognize it more if they can see it,” Rusk said.

Board member said they are hoping to have community members donate artifacts so they can put them in the museum once it’s rebuilt.