Heritage Center provides bridge with the present
by Martha Smith

Imagine it’s the year 1881, and you’re standing ankle-deep in red clay on a plot of land recently cleared, watching the footers for your home be put in the ground.

Maybe in one hand are the rolled plans from the architect and in the other are the reins to your horse. Voices are calling, shouting orders, as the workers dig and carry and heave, and the fog is lifting and burning off in the morning sun, supplies are arriving, hammer and chisel and saw make their marks, dust is stirring, and it’s a mess, but you can see what it will be. You have time, and you have determination. You can picture it in your mind, and you know deep down, you’re leaving a mark that will last over a hundred years. No doubt, the potential of what the land and home could be, could offer, trail-blazed this feat.
If your name was John A. Brown, we very well may have just sifted through your memories from long ago. Mr. Brown sold dry goods and served as the postmaster for Woodville, Ala. If you have ever been to the Brown-Proctor House, you may have stood on the exact spot as Mr. Brown on that fabled morning. Only this time, you’re seeing his dreams made manifest, plans that came to fruition. You can reach right out and touch them, and that’s all thanks to the efforts of your community, legislation, volunteers, donors and staff at the Scottsboro - Jackson Heritage Center located inside the Brown-Proctor House. In 2016, the curators and trustees of the museum had the foresight to realize they needed more space and began consulting with an architectural firm to design an addition onto the back of the house. As the years have gone by, the need for more space, facilities and accessibility has increased with the center’s main focus revolving around housing and displaying the artifacts to their merit.
“The 3,000 square foot addition will include a large meeting room and a smaller conference room that combined will provide seating for approximately 200 and will provide a large area for exhibits, meetings, social events and provide a venue that can accommodate the visual and performing arts; a large storage room; handicapped accessible rest rooms; and a larger kitchen facility that will provide more accessibility for functions and use by caterers during rentals.” (Scottsboro Museum Commission)
Why is this important? Why do people go to museums? What is it museums offer us, that we just cannot get enough of? What is it you’re feeling, deep in your chest, that you can’t put your finger on? It’s a pull, a twinge. Thrilling, heart-breaking nostalgia. Longing? As if these people who made and shaped these things, these men and women we read about in calligraphy or on a brass plaque are like us. We see the accomplishments they made with what time they had.
Favorite things for some to do is to have someone tell them a story, stories of what Scottsboro was like 50 or 60 years ago, to hear about the people who lived here and shared their lives with this town.
The old courthouse on the grounds of the Scottsboro Museum, houses hundreds of ledgers and records, hand-written, row after row of dates, places and names. Each line representing a life, a family here, a birth there, someone’s death, someone’s milestones, losses, gains and triumphs. Ink to paper, two-hundred years ago, and there we are, standing over, breathing in the scent of days, weeks, years passing, recording in our minds this person’s life.
If you’re interested in history that goes back much further than two hundred years, you’re in for a treat. The artifacts at the Heritage Center actually go back a lot further - more like 12,000 years. You can see hundreds of Native American artifacts and learn about where they were found and what they are. Just like each one of us, it’s what we house inside ourselves that really matters - what we keep and treasure and hold dear, what becomes a part of us. The Brown-Proctor House is like that. Each year genealogists, researchers and historians from all over the country flock to the grounds to comb through the thousands of records the center houses at no charge. If you peruse through the stately home, you’ll notice one of the rooms houses quite a bit of artifacts. Stacks of boxes, papers and folios are piled against the perimeter. Tables are heavy with records of the lives of the people of this county from such a long time ago. The addition planned for the center would remedy this problem, by providing more storage and allowing the exhibits to flow into each other and be displayed to the public the way they were first intended to.
Jennifer Petty, Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Center and Museum Director stated, “The Heritage Center has a lot to offer the community as a place where people of all ages can learn about Jackson County’s history. The house and grounds are beautiful areas for all types of social gatherings. The Brown-Proctor House and pioneer village are full of historic and prehistoric treasures, and our library contains material about the people and places of Jackson County’s past. Our collections are growing, and that’s why our addition is so important. Plus, it will offer more to do for the community in that it will feature many more local and travelling exhibits and provide more space and opportunities for public functions.”
Every year, the center hosts a Spring Art Exhibit, Ice Cream Social, Santa at the Center and Holiday Open House and various others. If you’ve been to any of these events, you know to plan for the weather while waiting in line. You have probably experienced frustration, or witnessed it, by someone who could not get up the stairs to view an exhibit or fully participate in said event. The diligent fundraising efforts on the part of the staff of the Heritage Center are being undertaken right now to resolve the above dilemmas. Everyone would be able to see the exhibits and fully participate in events without worrying about the stairs, access for handicap needs would be readily available and you won’t have to wait in the cold, wind or rain. The center is close to reaching their financial goals and beginning this project for the community.
If you’re interested in getting involved or would like to volunteer or donate, you can reach Jennifer Petty at the Heritage Center weekdays from 9-4, or you can shoot an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In the meantime, arrange a tour and give them a visit. Take the kids with you. The Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Center is located at 208 South Houston Street in Scottsboro.

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