Located at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Main Street, the Two Rivers Museum welcomes visitors beneath a charming black sign with fanciful scrollwork. This place showcases the diverse story of a county caught between the Red and Little rivers, a community rich in history and abundant in earthy, hard-working people.

Mary Francis McKay, Connie Olsen, and Judges John Finley and Clayton Castleman invited me across the threshold and into a unique world where the past beckons visitors to understand its people and how hard life had been for early residents of the community now known as Ashdown.

Once inside the renovated hundred-year-old storefront, at one time a pharmacy, and more recently an antique store, the Two Rivers Museum opened in 2005 and has steadily grown as new items were added to the collection and more space became available as other nearby businesses closed their doors.

Hundreds of pictures tell the story of people who came before, from farmers and cotton pickers to lawyers, hoteliers and railroad men. Military fashions span the wars since World War II and stand behind glass, just feet from an enormous black hearse and an old wooden post office. Perusing the collection, you’re bound to discover things about Ashdown and Little River County you may have never known before.

For example, did you know that Ashdown was originally called Turkey Flats, then Keller, and finally was incorporated under its current name in June 1892?

Or, do you know where Ashdown got its name? Judge Finley explained how nothing is confirmed, but the possible solutions could be that (1) when the mill burned, the people thought they’d call it Ashdown because the town was in ashes; (2) Judge Lawrence Burns originally owned the property and his middle initial is A., which could stand for Ashdown; or (3) Judge Burns was asked to name the town and he named it after his mother’s birthplace in England, the Ashdown Forest just outside of London, where Winnie-the-Pooh has always lived.

Prior to Domtar’s arrival on the scene, Ashdown thrived under other types of industry, including agriculture (the primary crops were soybeans and cotton), factories that built pallets and boxes, Kaufman Seed and even Spotlight, a company that made women’s garments, according to Mary Francis McKay.

Fortunately, many of the items used in everyday life came from people who worked at these very industries. The museum has done a remarkable job of collecting and preserving artifacts. “It is unbelievable what people store in their attics,” Olsen says, “and they’ve generously shared it with us to feature here.”

The museum is a product of the Little River County Historical Society, which has Judge Finley at the helm. “This is strictly a grassroots project,” he says. “What you see is a lot of work done by local volunteers.”

“We’re not funded by the city or county, and we’re not part of parks and tourism either,” says McKay. “We scrape around for anything we can get.”

Although the Texarkana Area Community Foundation has taken an interest in the museum project, the museum still needs additional funding. That’s why on Saturday, August 18 at 5:30 p.m., the museum will host the 2012 Two Rivers Gala for an “Evening in Paris” at the Texarkana Country Club. Tickets are $50 per person and may be purchased at the museum or ordered by calling K. K. Priest at (870) 898-3739.

If you’re interested in joining the museum or making a donation, send checks to Little River County Historical Society, 310 North 2nd, Ashdown, Ark. 71822. Or if you'd simply like to visit, call (870) 898-7200 for details or go between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free, although voluntary donations are accepted.