My House of Old Things

My House of Old Things Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks
My House of Old Things

If you think I’m talking about my own home, it does contain a lot of old things. However, this "My House of Old things" is a Museum in Ancho, New Mexico.

Located two miles off U. S. Highway 54 to the east, this large eight-room railroad depot displays the history of a thriving town’s brief life and economic demise. It was built in 1902, the same year Ancho was established.

Ancho’s history is brief. A plaster mill was constructed to make plaster and fertilizer after a gypsum deposit was discovered. Later fire clay was discovered and a brick plant was built. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, trainloads of Ancho brick were sent 1,460 miles to reconstruct that city.

But when U. S. Highway 54 was paved and rerouted two miles to the west, bypassing Ancho, it spelled disaster to the town. The school closed, as did the brick plant, and the railroad canceled its stops there in 1959.

However, because of one woman’s dream that future generations might understand and study the frugal and pioneer beginnings of the West, the Museum known as "My House of Old Things" still brings tourists to Ancho from May until October.

Jackie Straley Silvers was a descendent of the Straley family who homesteaded there the early part of the century. She was an avid collector and could not throw anything away nor refuse anything that was given to her. People even willed things to her:  a collection of rocks, dolls, bottles, dishes, cigar bands. Friends, instead of taking things to the dump, gave her old washing machines, rusty stoves and farm implements. Her collection became immense.

To house her growing collection she bought the old abandoned railroad station and moved it next to her home. The grand opening of her "House of Old Things" was held in June of 1963. People came from all over New Mexico. Newspapers reported the event, and the Secretary of State came. For the nine years until her death in 1972, Jackie thoroughly enjoyed giving tours.

Now her daughter Sara and her husband, L. Y. Jackson, continue the legacy. Even though antique lovers would be ecstatic to be able to purchase some of the items in this Museum, none of it is for sale.

There are rugged hand-wrought iron nails, early kitchen utensils and appliances, delicate silver, china and glassware. Furniture styles of the past are displayed in many of the eight rooms. Part of the old post office wall is appropriately there, as Jackie was postmaster of the Ancho post office, a position that someone in her family held for fifty-six years.

For railroad buffs there is a complete station with its relics from Ancho’s past. An operating telegraph key, switch controls and hundreds of mementos attest to its authenticity.

For those of us who are older, there are many things to remind us of items our grandparents owned. For the younger generation it gives them a glimpse into pioneer life. Perhaps it will make everyone appreciate the inventions and ways in which our lives are soft compared to the hardships of our ancestors.

A trip through this charming and authentic display is a nostalgic trip into the past.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks