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The community, including family members of the late Joanna Lewis, gathered July 4 to celebrate the opening of the Joanna Lewis Museum of Coffee County History, located in Manchester’s downtown courthouse. Pictured, from left, are Emily Lewis, Danielle Lewis, Jackie Little and Wesley Lewis.

Community members gathered in Manchester’s downtown courthouse July 4 to celebrate the opening of the Joanna Lewis Museum of Coffee County History.

Named in memory of former county historian Joanna Lewis, the museum welcomed several of her family members to the holiday opening ceremony.

Among them was Lewis’ grandson, Wesley Lewis, who said it was very exciting and heartwarming to see the museum honor his grandmother. It was his grandmother who instilled in him a love for history and a respect for the country.

Among the attendees were also Emily Lewis and Danielle Lewis, Joanna Lewis’ granddaughters.

 

About the museum

The Joanna Lewis Museum of Coffee County History is dedicated to Lewis, a late member of the society who died March 5, 2018. Lewis was the Coffee County Historian, served as President of the Coffee County Historical Society, and was a member of the Middle Tennessee Amateur Radio Society. A historian and genealogist; she also co-published Tombstone Records of Cannon County, Tennessee.

Lewis’s husband Jesse, also deceased, worked to preserve the local history as well. He joined the historical society in 1975.

The museum features scrapbooks, items from the Gilmore Funeral Home, old books, toys, notebooks from the Green Thumb Garden Club and the retired teacher’s club that date back to the 1960s and Central High School sport records that date back 30 or 40 years.

Museum curator Eugenia “Button” Dale, who has been in charge of the museum since its inception mid-2018, has in the last year collected donations from local families to feature in the museum and renovated the area to display them. Even the display cases themselves – or at least five of them – are local history pieces.  They were donated by a now-defunct local grocery store.

The museum is funded, in part, by a $5,000 Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee grant awarded to Historical Society member Beverly Vetter. The foundation administers the Lillian Ashley Field-of-Interest Fund, established in 2002 from the estate of a Manchester resident who wanted to better the county.  The monies will go toward archiving and preserving museum inventory. Funds were also provided by the High Pressure Laminate Settlement Fund.

The opening ceremony was originally planned for May, but was delayed to allow for a bigger celebration.

The museum will be open Thursday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admittance is free and donations are appreciated.

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at ecawley@manchestertimes.com.