By Tim Leeds
A must-see for anyone visiting, or living in, Big Sandy is the Big Sandy Historical Museum.
"It is a super museum," said Big Sandy resident Dianna Webster. "A lot of local artifacts anything to do with local history."
"They've done a tremendous job up here that museum up there is really important," Big Sandy Mountaineer Publisher James Rettig said.
"We have a very successful program," Keith Edwards said. Edwards was one of the founders of the museum, one of the original group of the Big Sandy Historical Society. He said Burlington Northern Railroad donated the old railroad depot in 1988, and the museum has been housed there since.
"The Depot is to preserve the artifacts and history of the Big Sandy area," Edwards said. "We're a local museum. Fort Benton has a regional museum, we have a local museum. The focus is different. If someone donated a collection of shark bones to us, we wouldn't display them."
He said the museum focuses on three main areas: Indian history, open range history and the homesteaders. He said the most extensive collection is the homesteading era, simply because most artifacts and information is available from that time. The town didn't have a newspaper until 1911, the start of homesteading.
"We've really got an awful good homestead collection," Edwards said, "the most complete."
However, Edwards said the most noticeable thing might be the 40 foot mural by Vernon The Boy of an Indian encampment.
"Probably the most striking thing there," he said.
Edwards said they do also have some artifacts from that time, a teepee, arrowheads and so on.
He said the collection on the open range era could be more complete, but it is still a good presentation.
"We have (documentation,) not as extensive as we would like" but it's still good, Edwards said.
He said the railroad is also a main focus of the museum, since it was such an important part of Big Sandy history. He said it's appropriate that the museum is in the depot.
"The old depot is in excellent condition," he said. "We've maintained that, restored the train signal tower "
Edwards said one of the displays is of photographs of the old residents of the town. He said they will post a black-and-white 8 by 10 inch photograph of any old resident who has died, and they now have about 400 posted.
"To honor the homesteaders and those that came before us, being mindful of Indian heritage; got to keep in perspective," Edwards said, noting that the Indians were here long before any European-descended settlers came to the area.