The Thomas County Historical Society, Inc., is a non-profit community organization dedicated to the collection and preservation of historical documents, photographs, and artifacts related to the families, schools, churches, and other institutions of Thomas County. The Society seeks to share this information with the objective of fostering a keen interest in the unique history of Thomas County.
The collections of the Society are preserved and exhibited at the Thomas County Museum of History. The Society and the Museum are supported by approximately 400 Family and Business members.
The Historical Society grew out of Mrs. William A. Watt’s concern that the history of Thomas County be written. A meeting of prominent citizens was held on January 23, 1952, and Mr. W. W. Alexander was elected president of the newly organized Society.
Miss Bessie Hopkins had previously been engaged to write the history, and in 1951 the county began paying her a salary of $200.00 per month to proceed with the work of gathering data related to the history of Thomas County. Mr. Mitchell Davenport devoted many hours to visiting older citizens and recording their recollections for the Society.
Two rooms were made available in the jail annex for the safe housing of the Society’s collections and a workroom, but the Society suffered a great loss in 1957 with the death of Miss Hopkins.
In 1958 The Historical Society engaged Dr. William W. Rogers, Professor of History at Florida State University to write the official county history. The first volume of this history entitled Antebellum Thomas County, 1825-1861, was completed by Dr. Rogers in 1963. In 1964 Thomas County During the Civil War was published. An active publishing program has since produced two additional volumes by Dr. Rogers, a pictorial history, and a coloring book history of Thomas County.
The Historical Society received a gift from the estate of Mr. Mitchell and Miss Julia Davenport in 1968 which became the nucleus of a permanent endowment. In 1969, the Society acquired a permanent home for its collections through the gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Ireland Poe. Mrs. Poe purchased the Flowers/Roberts home at 725 N. Dawson Street and presented it to the Society in memory of her grandparents, Mrs. and Mrs. Howard Melville Hanna, and her mother, Kate Hanna Harvey.
In 1972 the Museum of History was opened to the public with C. Tom Hill serving as Curator. Since 1972, the Museum’s collections have grown to include more than 100,000 photographs and innumerable objects and documents related to Thomas County’s past. The staff expanded in 1997 to include an Executive Director and, following Hill’s transition to Curator Emeritus, a Curator of Collections in 2007.
Exhibit space and meeting facilities were greatly expanded in 1991 with the addition of the Davis Wing named in appreciation of the contributions to the Society by Marthalene and Jasper C. Davis.
In addition, five historic buildings have been restored and are now included in tours of the Museum complex. The Museum hosts approximately 3000 visitors each year, twenty percent of whom are school children.
In May, 2010, the Historical Society entered into a Concession Agreement with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to operate and maintain the Lapham-Patterson House as a museum and a venue for special events.