Arriving at the front of the Museum you are welcomed by an old time front porch with requisite swing for relaxing. Entering the foyer of the Museum is a large table with current event information and a sign in sheet for Museum guest. To the left of the table is a console with brochures and maps for tourist to use in planning their trips. Also in the front room are several plaques and pictures representing Cullman’s partnering with the German city of Frankweiler. There is a wine barrel lid which was presented by representatives of the community of Frankweiler as a symbol of our strong association. There is a handsome portrait of Colonel Cullman under which is a display case which contains the death certificate of John G. Cullman, a book containing his father’s signature and a legal book written in both German and English.
To the right of the foyer is the entrance to the Museum. This room which was sponsored by the Cullman County Archeological Society, it contains a collection of arrowheads spanning over 12,000 years. Of Interest to younger visitors is a central table with different shaped arrowheads embedded in the top of which they can make a rubbing on paper to carry home to remember their visit. There is a case of pottery fragments which help archeologists date ancient cultures. One pot in particular is especially valuable. It was found in a bluff shelter in Morgan County and dates to around 400-600 A.D. This pot was so valued by a previous owner that when it cracked, holes were drilled to tie it together. The Indian tribes had lived in Alabama for more than 12,000 years and included Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws and Choctaws, but within a few lifetimes after the appearance of the Europeans they were gone. In the early 1800’s the United States government determined to remove all Indians west of the Mississippi, this forced removal has been called the “Trail of Tears”. Don’t forget to say goodbye to “Big Red” our Indian made from one tree that fell during a 1974 tornado.
Leaving the archeological room we enter the pioneer room. This room is a collection of items common in earlier pioneer life from common kitchen items like a churn to farm equipment, there is even a rough wood bed with ropes instead of springs we think of to support the mattress which was stuffed with cotton or cornhusk. (This is where the saying “Sleep Tight” comes from…you wanted to make sure the ropes were tight so you didn’t fall through). Since most people lived in one or two room cabin the bed is high enough for a trundle to be stored underneath to be pulled out at bed time.
Moving out of the pioneer room we pass through the Union and Confederate hall. On the left is a cavalryman’s uniform and weapons from the Union. Over 2,600 Alabamians joined the Union Army; about 2,000 of these were assigned to the First Alabama Calvary. They were valuable to the Union Army because of their knowledge of the people and geography of North Alabama. Also as part of the display is a typical dress style of this period. The Confederate display on the right contains an infantry uniform. Most “Secessionists” in the area that would become Cullman County were independent farmers and were of the opinion that it was a “rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight” most joined voluntarily, while others were forced into the Confederate Army. An interesting part of this exhibit is a dress made in 1849 by a 14 year old girl who picked the cotton, spun the thread, dyed it, wove the fabric and then sewed the dress.
Leaving the Union and Confederate Hall Exhibit we enter the Main Street area of the Museum. Immediately to the right upon entering this area is Cullman’s first lighted advertising sign (notice the price of a new Chevrolet in 1924). In this largest exhibition area of the Museum there is a great collection of Cullman life from different eras, club and school articles, early manufacturing and business samples, the “Doctor’s Office” with tools of the trade including an amputating set used by Dr. Whiteside. There is a mural picture of an early Cullman street scene surrounded by pictures of leaders from the community. The Photography Shop contains pictures of people and place from earlier times. The Children’s Store has clothing articles worn by children of bygone days including a boy’s “dress” from the early part of the last century. Tribute is paid to those Cullman citizens who served in different wars by a collection of uniforms, medals, pictures and an honor roll for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The newest exhibit for the Museum is the Civil War collection which contains cannon balls, bullets, guns and much more associated with this significant event in our nation’s history. The fact that the confederate forces of 400 defeated a Union force of 1,400 right here in this era that would become Cullman County is interesting. A centerpiece of this collection is a video detailing this event. The viewing screen for this video is located on a large map of the area with significant battle sites highlighted.
Exiting Main Street you enter the Children’s Room with examples of toys from earlier times. There is a special doll that was owned by Miss. Esther Beyer whose father George was Cullman’s mayor from 1903-1910. On the wall across from the display is a dimensional painting of children at play.
From the Children’s Room you enter the Parlor exhibit. There is an interesting shaped piano that was owned by Mayor Nesmith. There is also a mandolin, zethern, and pump organ all popular forms of home entertainment before the advent of radio and television. There is also an audio sample of different types of music, just push the button and you can hear Fa-so-la singing, fiddle music and a German hymn, all which you might have heard walking past any home in Cullman in the early 1900’s. Across from the parlor is a wall of pictures of early Cullman scenes. There is a picture of Colonel Cullman surrounded by a group of women when he was host to a Kaffee Klautz at his home in 1892. There is an interesting picture of digging the railroad cut which took place from 1910-1914 and lowered the track 30 feet. The resulting parks and bridges were described in a Birmingham newspaper of the time as “North Alabama’s Venice”.
The final room you visit on the first floor will be the Colonel Cullman Room. This room contains a bust of Colonel Cullman sculpted by Father Timothy Harrison of Saint Bernard Abbey. There are pieces of furniture from Cullman’s home including a bed which was made locally by the Adam Dreher Furniture Factory. There is also a collection of pictures of Colonel Cullman’s family and a picture of the house where he was born in Frankweiler, Germany on July 2, 1823.
The second floor of the Museum which can be accessed by both stairs and elevator contains a nature room with wildlife native to this area. The large bird in the case is called “Eagle Eye” and is over 95 years old. For many years it sat in The Cullman Tribune. Also located on this floor is a display of quilts featuring many different patterns, the centerpiece being one that was quilted at the time of The Civil War.