Day focused on Three Oaks’ historic past

Published 10:17 am Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Region of Three Oaks Museum is run entirely by volunteers, including Roger Barksdale, Judy Jackson, Roy Brown and Teddie Jelenik. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

The Region of Three Oaks Museum is run entirely by volunteers, including Roger Barksdale, Judy Jackson, Roy Brown and Teddie Jelenik. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

THREE OAKS —If you’ve ever wondered about the history of Three Oaks, April 5 is the day for you to get your questions answered.

On that day, the Region of Three Oaks Museum will be hosting their Second Annual History Day from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., complete with a variety of activities. Maps for an interactive walking tour of the town’s historic locations will also be available. In fact, 20 other locations around the town are participating in the event by hosting their own historically oriented events.

In addition, Robert C. Myers, author of a new historical account of Three Oaks and the curator of the Berrien County Historical Association’s History Center at Courthouse Square in Berrien Springs, will be in attendance to sell and sign copies of his new book.

“Three Oaks is a great town, a town with a fascinating history,” said Myers. “‘Greetings from Three Oaks’ is actually the fifth book in a series that we’ve done. We’ve done others on Berrien Springs, Buchanan, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.”

The book, which took Myers about a year and a half to complete, includes both a written history as well as hundreds of photographs. In fact, it is the first general history of the town to be published in 75 years.

“We’ve been able to include photographs from the library, the museum, from our own collection, and from private residents who let us borrow their photographs,” Myers said. “It was just a fun town to do a history on.”

“We are very excited about that book,” said Judy Jackson, vice president of museum board and a member of a family whose roots in Three Oaks go back many generations.

In addition to the book signing, members of the museum’s board of directors have a variety of demonstrations and programs planned. For example, Pastor Ron Ahrens will be on hand to explain lace-making. Jackson will demonstrate turn-of-the-century food preservation techniques. The American Legion will also be present to discuss the military service history of Three Oaks’ residents.

Event-goers will also have an opportunity to enter a drawing for prizes provided by Three Oaks businesses. The drawings will be held at the Region of Three Oaks Museum at 4:30 p.m. Weather permitting, free horse and carriage rides will also be available from the museum. Although the address is 5 Featherbone Ave., the building is actually located in a parking lot at the end of the old Featherbone Factory building.

Although the details of all of the activities planned at nearby businesses and organizations around Three Oaks are too numerous to recount, one highlight will be an opportunity to tour the historic Warren Featherbone Factory and learn about how turkey quills were turned into a clothing accessory known as “Featherbone.” Many of the other participating locations are included on the Register of National Historic Places.

More details about the event can be obtained on the Region of Three Oaks Museum page on Facebook or by contacting Three Oaks Village Manager Adam Umbrasas by phone at (269) 756-9221 or by email at

While the museum will open on History Day, its regular season will run from May through October, with hours being 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. However, groups that would like to visit the museum can call (269) 336-9557 to schedule off-season tours.

According to Jackson, many of the artifacts housed in the museum were originally collected as a part of the Warren-Chamberlin Memorial Museum. Disbanded in 1952, the 80,000 artifacts in the collection were donated to Michigan State University.

Now, many of those artifacts have returned to Three Oaks under an agreement with the university. Some of those are permanently owned by the museum, whereas others are on loan for a year at a time. One such loaned item is a unique, hand-made steam locomotive.

Therefore, visitors can view displays of clothing made with Featherbone, historic toys, farm implements, Civil War artifacts, and several areas furnished with historical furniture and appliances.

Although the focus of the museum is the Three Oaks region, a great deal can be learned about the history of the Midwest and of the country for their collections as well. April 5 will be a perfect day to become acquainted with those collections.

“We’re looking forward to History Day,” Jackson said. “In fact, we’re just excited about this whole summer. It’s going to be great.”