Larry Dablemont speaks in Houston about his plans for a county museum highlighting the Big Piney River and its culture. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO


Next Sunday, Jan. 8, we will have another service at the Brown Hill Baptist Church, which is about four miles east of Houston on the  Brushy Creek Road.  Join us from 11 to noon if you have no other church to attend.

I would love to get that little country church going again since it was the first church I attended as a small boy. It is remarkably much like it was then, and I believe it likely started more than 100 years ago as a small one-room schoolhouse.

I am trying to get a minister to join us and deliver a sermon and trying to find a piano player.  The church recently acquired a new piano and there is also an organ there. 

I don’t want to have people attend our service who have a church to go to, because all around the county are big, fairly new churches, even well out into the country. 

But if you haven’t been going to church somewhere else, come and join us.  That Brown Hill church does not need to be closed.  It has a history, and there are families in that area which can make it an important house of God once again.  You do not have to dress up.  I won’t.   Just come as you are.  You might wash behind your ears.  When I was young, my grandma always made me do that on Sunday morning. What memories I had from my childhood when I was a boy.  I will tell you  about some of them Sunday.  Come and join us at 11 a.m. if you do not have a church to attend. I know God will be there, and I’ll bet He will be smiling.  I think God has often laughed heartily at things I have tried to do!


When I was young, nothing about school interested me.  But now I am a naturalist writer who loves the outdoors and I  can’t get enough of Ozark history.  I have dreamed of a Big Piney museum for a long time.  It is soon to become a reality, because we have acquired an acre of land south of town beneath some big oaks and a giant pine tree where we can build it. 

Now we are getting ready to pour a foundation.  Such a museum is to be a combination of the outdoors and history both, and a place where the old timers can come and tell visitors about what they saw and experienced.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a lady who knew how to operate an old-time spinning wheel, or several ladies who could make a quilt while folks watched?

I envision having two or three old-time musicians playing banjos or mandolins there from time to time.  The location is better than I envisioned, with the possibility of nature trails close-by, and a big rock fireplace where you could have checker tables and fresh coffee.  Nearby will be a pool table that came to Houston brand-new in the early ’20s, made by the A. E. Schmidt company in St. Louis.  The named it a Victory Table, for the freshly ended World War I. 

Just  outside the museum we will display two historic john-boats, one a wooden john-boat like the first ones to run the river, and another made from aluminum, created in 1952; 20 feet long with a serial number of 0001. It was the very first aluminum river-boat made for the Piney River.

I haven’t said much about it before but in 1960  a 13-year-old kid found an ivory-pendant artifact in a Big Piney River cave with a second piece of broken, carved ivory. Still today it is said to be the only ivory artifact found in Missouri, obviously carved from a mastodon tusk, radio carbon tested and 8,000 years old.  I will bring it to the Brown Hill Church Sunday with some other artifacts, so others can see it. Much of what that kid found in those dozens of caves will be a big part of the museum. I’ll let you guess who he was, one of the local high schools worst students!

But there will be lots more than what I have mentioned.  I know it cannot be finished as quickly as I would like, but by the beginning of the next year, I believe it will be close to completion.

There will be something about the Big Piney museum unlike most…It will be free for all visitors! But it will be a place where local people can sell what they make; quilts, paintings, books, woodcarvings, etc.

Larry Dablemont is an outdoors writer who lives in Bolivar. He is a Houston alumnus.

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  1. Brown hill school house is right up from brown hill church. It was a one room school house. It had two out houses. there’s still the original playground equipment there. My granddad grew up there on brown hill and attended the brown hill school from kindergarten until he graduated. It has since been remodeled into a house on inside most of the outside is still original.

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