About the Bates County Historical Society and Museum

The Bates County Historical Society & Museum was founded in 1961 and is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation.  Celebrating over fifty years of preserving the history of Bates County, the Society & Museum has become known as a center of culture throughout the county.  Citizens have long recognized the importance of Preserving Our History and Sustaining Our Heritage and the collections held by the Museum are some of the finest in the region.

The earliest organization formed to preserve the county’s history was the Old Settler’s Society.  The first meeting was held in 1897 and founding members had to have lived in Bates County for at least twenty-five years. The Old Settler’s Society continues to meet annually and hosts a special program each August to commemorate the early pioneer families who settled this land.  A strong bond of friendship and partnership exists between both Societies.

Recognizing the need for a Museum, in the early 1960s the Society’s Board approached the County Commissioners about purchasing the old 1894 Bates County Jail & Sheriff’s Residence.  The building was vacant and the Commissioners sold the property to the Society for the grand sum of $1.00.  The Museum was housed in the old jail until 2006 when the final move was made to its current location.  The Bates County Museum is now housed in the old County Poor Farm which was built in 1915.  The Society purchased the property in 2000 and spent six years rennovating the building.  Additional land was purchased and today the Museum sits on thirty-four acres of land.  In 2011, the Society ‘sold’ the old Jail & Sheriff’s Residence to the Bates County Sheriff’s Posse for a whopping $2.00, which was double what the Society had originally paid! 

In 2006, two old school buildings were moved to the Museum grounds.  The Nyhart School, built in 1901, is being fully restored and the outside restoration is nearing completion.  Nyhart was a community about 8 miles southwest of Butler and there was a Nyhart Alumni group that met annually to collect donations to aid in the restoration.  The Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority has adopted the old school and volunteers help maintain the building.  The second building is the Wilcox School. Although a new roof was installed in 2012, the restoration of the Wilcox School has not yet begun.

Future plans call for the building of a barn on the Museum grounds so the numerous artifacts not yet displayed will have a new home.  The Museum has countless agricultural artifacts, a full blacksmith shop along with a cobbler’s shop, the original printing presses for The Rich Hill Mining Review newspaper, buggy’s, wagons, and an incredible assortment of various other artifacts that can only be displayed in a barn.

Bates County Historical Society


~Preserve Our History & Sustain Our Heritage~

Founded in 1961, the Bates County Historical Society & Museum is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation.  Funding comes through donations, memberships, admissions, sales, event receipts and from an endowment.  Each line of revenue is vital in maintaining the standard of excellence that has become the hallmark of the Bates County Museum.  The organization is funded through purely private means and no public money is received.

Governed by a nine member Board of Directors, the Society endeavors to Preserve Our History & Sustain Our Heritage. Partnerships with various community and civic organizations have strengthened the significance of the Museum and opportunities to share educational programs with area students provide a means of connecting with young people which can often lead them to an interest in history.  The Society’s work reaches far beyond the county lines and we have excellent associations with various state and regional organizations including Missouri State Parks, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, University of Missouri in Kansas City, Missouri State Archives, the State Historical Society of Missouri, local Chambers of Commerce, the Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission, and many museums and historic sites in both Missouri and Kansas. 

Bates County Historical Museum

Visitors often comment they are surprised to find a museum of such quality in a rural county!  

The Bates County Museum is located in what once was originally the County Poor Farm which was built in 1915.  On the first floor there is a Visitors Center, Gift Shop, Research Room, and the Eddie Herrman Archives Room.  The main exhibits are housed on the second floor which can be reached by stairs or elevator.  Located in the West Wingthe TimeLine Room begins with the Osage Indians, then Pioneer life, the Civil War, the prosperity of the 1880s-early 1900s and an extensive exhibit honoring Veterans of all wars including the Cold War during which time Minuteman Missiles dotted the landscape of Bates County.  A variety of photos are displayed in the Hall Gallery.  Moving to the East Wing, various theme rooms include a General Store, Barber Shop, Music & Arts and many more.  Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein, who was born in Butler and never forgot his roots, is honored.  

Throughout the Museum, seating is available for periodic rests during your tour.  Folks are encouraged to linger and take as long as they like to learn about the unique history of our area.  Guided tours are gladly given upon request.  Located in the heart of Bates County, the Museum strives to be certain that all visitors will leave here feeling as though they just experienced something more than was expected!

Virgil Ward Exhibit

Virgil Ward Exhibit

Cold War Exhibit

Cold War Exhibit

Pyrex Exhibit

Pyrex Exhibit

Robert Heinlien Exhibit

Robert Heinlien Exhibit

Museum Grounds

The Bates County Historical Society has rescued two area buildings and moved them to the museum grounds. One is the 1901 Nyhart School which is furnished as the one-room schoolhouse that it was. It is open to the public. The other building is the Wilcox School Building which houses artifacts from rural and town life in generations past.

The Nyhart School

The Nyhart School – Established 1901

Wilcox School

The Wilcox School Building

Cook Shack

Cook Shack