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The Saline County History and Heritage Society, Inc. (SCHHS) was formed to preserve the history of Saline County and to increase interest in it with public outreach. Saline County is one of the few counties in Arkansas with its records virtually intact. Many noteworthy Arkansans have hailed from Saline County, which was created from Pulaski County and is near Little Rock (Pulaski County).
Founding members Carolyn Earle Billingsley, Genevieve Meeker O’Neal, and Anthony Rushing met to discuss forming the organization. A few months later, on February 7, 1986, thirty-three charter members interested in preserving the county’s history met at the Benton State Bank Community Room and voted to organize SCHHS. Rushing was elected president, Larry Cook vice president, and Billingsley secretary-treasurer. Various committees were formed, including Genealogy and Family History, Archives, Artifacts and Historic Sites, Publications, and Membership and Publicity.
Through its members, SCHHS has transcribed county records into twenty-nine books and published another thirteen books about the county as of 2011. The award-winning journal The Saline began publication in April 1986 with Billingsley as the first editor; it is now published in April and September and disseminates 160 pages annually about Saline County history. SCHHS offers monthly public speakers on historical and genealogical topics on the third Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the organization’s Archive and Research Center, which was founded in 1993. Located in the center, SCHHS’s library houses about 2,067 books, 130 rolls of microfilm, 240 compact discs, and eighteen file cabinets of county records for researchers to peruse.
SCHHS’s public outreach comes in many forms. Its books are available for sale three days a week at the center, but they are also sold at school reunions, Old Fashioned Day, and other countywide celebrations. SCHHS has sponsored public genealogy classes to introduce beginners to genealogy and history. Monthly programs are open to the public and are advertised in the local newspaper. For the county’s 175th anniversary, the society exhibited a photographic display at the courthouse.
SCHHS has had several homes, beginning with space offered at the Gann Museum of Saline County in 1988 for the growing collection of research material. In 1993, the school district rented a classroom in the basement of the old Benton Middle School to the SCHHS. On January 20, 2006, the society moved into its current headquarters at 123 North Market Street in downtown Benton (Saline County). This site—the historic I.O.O.F. Building, built in 1913 and on the National Register of Historic Places—is leased from the county. The Archives and Research Center near the Saline County Courthouse is open Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Notable members of the SCHHS have included archivist Russell Baker, longtime publishers Carolyn Earle Billingsley and Eddie Landreth, longtime presidents Melton Fulcher and Art Wilson, and archivist and librarian Pauline Brown.
For additional information:Saline County History and Heritage Society. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~arschhs/index.html (accessed April 16, 2014).
Marlo B. KruegerSaline County History and Heritage Society
Last Updated 10/19/2016
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