Alexandria’s little-known treasure trove of history

The Alexandria Historical and Genealogical Library and Museum is a building you have likely driven by and never realized how much deep history it holds.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 7:34 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Alexandria Historical and Genealogical Library and Museum truly is a treasure trove of history, but residents around Central Louisiana have likely driven by the building dozens of times without realizing just how deep that history runs.

“It always amazes me that people who have lived here all their lives, they walk here and they go, ‘I pass it every day. I never knew this is what was here,’” said Museum Director Pat Boone. “That’s what we need to get to the public. That we’re here. Come in, we’ll give you a tour. And you know, we want everyone to come. And it’s free. I mean, everything’s free.”

Looking to connect the branches of your family tree? The building holds an extensive genealogical library. Looking to find rare pieces of Louisiana history? Head down to the ground level and that is where glass cases of centuries-old artifacts, relics and documents line the walls.

“We just have so much here,” said Boone. “I mean, I find things here that I don’t even realize that we have.”

Contributions to the museum continue to pour in. That was the case when Marylynn Wesson brought in pieces of her family’s history for donation Wednesday, August 3.

“I said, I needed to get these items back home,” said Wesson. “I knew about the museum, and I called Pat Boone. She has graciously agreed to accept them and display them.”

Wesson’s family migrated to Rapides Parish in the 1860s from Texas. Later down the line, her great-great-grandparents were wealthy landowners who settled down around Pineville with eight children.

“I’m just glad to have been able to have the opportunity to bring these back home,” said Wesson. “We called him PaPa, and PaPa is back home in Rapides Parish where he belongs.”

One of those children was Mabel Brasher, who made a name for herself around the state as an educator and whose namesake now belongs to an Alexandria school, Mabel Brasher Montessori Elementary School.

However, Boone said they are running out of room in the museum for donations like Wesson’s.

“We have so much stuff that we can’t even put everything out,” said Boone, noting they have cabinets filled with artifacts that they have no room on the shelf for.

That is why they are expanding to the old Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church at the end of Washington Street, creating a special space for Louisiana history in a building with a rich history all of its own. Though they have already purchased the building, due to the church’s disrepair, the project will cost an estimated $2 million more to complete. So, they hope a renewed interest in the museum will bring in the necessary funding to preserve the state’s history at home in Central Louisiana.

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