The first Decatur County museum was located in Greensburg on the third floor of the old West End School which stood on the Northwest corner of Washington and Monfort Streets, where the Billings School playground is now located. The museum collection was quite extensive and housed many relics from the area.
Upon destruction of the old building, no place could be found to locate the exhibits, so many of the artifacts were returned to the original owners. The remaining objects were sold.
During the year of 1976, the Decatur County Historical Society organized the present museum as a project celebrating the nation’s bicentennial year. It was located on the second floor of the Knights of Pythias Building.
After five years in this location, an anonymous donor contributed the money for the present home at 222 N. Franklin Street, the Lathrop/Shannon House. Since then the house has been restored as a museum keeping the ambiance of a late Victorian house.
In 2005/2006 the Museum used a welcome, anonymous gift to build a new addition to the house which consists of a meeting room, archive room, bathrooms, warming kitchen, and a gallery on the second floor.
The history of the house and property is interesting and corresponds to events and movements in the county. A part of the house was probably built ca. 1850. With the coming of the railroad to Greensburg in 1853, the Civil War, and an economic boom after the War, Greensburg grew wealthier and more sophisticated houses were built around the town and county. In 1872 Ezra Lathrop, an early settler from the 1820’s, bought the property and remodeled the house adding rooms and a hallway. The front of the house is essentially the same as Ezra and his family left it. Other rooms and porches were added later. The museum is a typical 160 year-old house which has been lived in by families for that amount of time. The Lathrop/Shannon family lived there from 1872 to 1980, so there is a continuity of use.
The Museum has been fortunate in its donors and has a good collection of furniture to exhibit for visitors. The North Parlor is decorated as a Victorian parlor and exhibits a collection of mid-Victorian chairs, sofa, and tables with a lovely grandfather clock and a four-square grand piano all from the 19th century. The South Parlor is more modern and has furniture from the late 19th century through the 1920’s. The Dining Room contains a full set of dining room furniture made in Batesville by the Batesville Furniture Company in the early part of the 20th century. The kitchen exhibits kitchen furniture and wares from the 19th and early 20th centuries arranged as a kitchen from mid-Victorian times. The upstairs contains a Victorian bedroom and a children’s room. The Gallery and other display cases downstairs display special exhibits and other historical objects in the museum. Most of the materials given to the Decatur County Historical Society museum have been donated by local people, so it is a composite of the community’s interests and backgrounds.
Special collections: Victorian furniture, textiles (quilts, coverlets, late 19th and early 20th century women’s clothing), children’s toys (1900-1950), military uniforms (mostly WWI and WWII), Greensburg Daily News Clipping Files (1930-1980), photographs, local diaries, scrapbooks, and photograph albums.
Exhibits: Each year the museum has several large exhibits and arranges small ones of special interest. Throughout the years, the museum exhibits have included: china, tea cups, toys, wedding dresses, Native American artifacts, schools, sports, fashions, quilts and coverlets, military life, Civil War, tools, Underground Railroad, gas stations, photographs, children’s clothing, and needlework of various sorts, Most of these exhibits are a combination of the Museum resources and community loans.