My first exposure to the Osceola County Historical Society (OCHS) and resulting enthusiastic desire to join as a member began with a story about growth…
In 2011, a community development plan was being prepared for the Narcoossee Corridor with input from local residents collected via a series of public meetings organized by the Osceola County Planning Department and District 5 Commissioner Fred Hawkins, Jr. As a participant, the topic of local historic preservation came to my attention when information was shared that the historic circa 1886 Narcoossee Schoolhouse was slated to be moved out to the Pioneer Village in Kissimmee.
This was disconcerting news to many, as this building was one of the few historic landmarks remaining in the Narcoossee area – one could not imagine driving to or from work, the grocery store, local schools, etc. along busy Narcoossee Road and not seeing this attractive, distinguished marker of the past that reminds us of simpler days and our rich, unique history.
We had taken this building and its continued existence for granted. This was a wake-up call and the knowledge of an impending move motivated me to seek help from fellow concerned area residents in order to take action and do whatever we could to keep the schoolhouse at its original site. Commissioner Hawkins supported our efforts and arranged for us to meet with representatives of the Osceola County Historical Society. Prior to this time, I am sorry to say that I did not know our county had a historical society, but I am so glad circumstances introduced us to one another.
Executive Director, Donnita Dampier, and then-President, Abby Horner, graciously met with Commissioner Hawkins and myself and shared the vision and plans for an expansion of the Pioneer Village that would finally include an original schoolhouse - from Narcoossee. Mrs. Horner also graciously took me on a driving tour in Kissimmee that included the then-current Pioneer Village location on Bass Road, the future site for a museum on Hwy. 192, and the Babb property where Shingle Creek Regional Park would be created and to which the historic Pioneer Village would be relocated and significantly expanded.
To shorten a lengthy story, despite the disruption to some great plans already underway and disappointment over the loss of such a cool building, these ladies, as the official stewards of Osceola County history, understood why we wanted to keep the schoolhouse in place and laid the foundation for the OCHS Board to support our efforts as well. They suggested we start the first-ever chapter of OCHS in Narcoossee as a win-win scenario for all – and in doing so, we could concentrate on education and preservation of the special history of Narcoossee, founded as a British colony in 1884, and nearby areas like Runnymede. So it was with great excitement that my family and I became OCHS members in 2012.
What a rewarding and worthwhile membership this has and continues to be. The benefits have far exceeded the reasonable cost. There is all the stuff you might expect with any membership:
- Free admission to the Village and museum, ticket presale options, special discounts, and even a reciprocal entrance program with participating museums.
But there is so much more…
- Tapping into the terrific resources that OCHS has been collecting and preserving since its founding in 1949, we have and continue to learn so much about the history of Narcoossee and surrounding areas.
- Wonderful friendships and contacts have been formed that will last a lifetime – paraphrasing current Narcoossee chapter President, Scott Sever, “This is the only organization I have ever been involved in with such pure, unselfish motives – no one is in it for personal gain or profit.” Rather, there is a concerted and united effort to work together giving freely of our time and resources to preserve local history for years to come.
- “History is Happening” as the OCHS byline states and so much has and continues to be accomplished by this organization – that new, expanded Pioneer Village is now open at Shingle Creek Regional Park, the history museum/welcome center now exists, attracts many visitors, and offers interesting exhibits and events for all to enjoy, and, yes, funding has been secured and the exterior restoration of the Narcoossee schoolhouse begins this fall
- A financial investment in membership helps keep these historic venues open to the public and preserved for generations to come!
Being a member is also interesting and stimulating...
- Exciting news is shared often as historical artifacts, records, and more are discovered and/or donated ….I liken it to being part of an ongoing treasure hunt with unlimited potential!
- Volunteer opportunities abound for any level of interest or time commitment – whether you have one day a week or simply one hour per quarter – your time spent with OCHS will be productive and enriching!
- Options exist to work with camps and clubs that inspire students to learn local history not offered in classrooms.
In today’s world, our time and resources are precious and we want to use them where we can be excited about what they will accomplish and feel like we are making a difference in our community. In my journey with OCHS, I have found that there are many people like myself - who did not know such an organization even exists here in Osceola County. So our challenge is to get the word out and spread the enthusiasm so that membership is contagious and desired! More members and more chapters are needed.
In conclusion, I am proud and blessed to be part of an organization with so many achievements and one that entertains such a bright future as we work together to preserve and share the past! Catch the fever – become a member today! There are levels and options for everyone at every age – choose the one best for you at www.osceolahistory.org. I look forward to welcoming you to the Osceola County Historical Society - the “Society” that stands the test of time!