Break-in at Old Jail Museum

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 6/24/20

VIENNA — The Maries County community was shocked and distressed to learn that parts of the county’s collective history had been taken from the historic Old Jail Museum during a break-in …

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Break-in at Old Jail Museum

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VIENNA — The Maries County community was shocked and distressed to learn that parts of the county’s collective history had been taken from the historic Old Jail Museum during a break-in and messy robbery of contents of collections that took years to assemble.

A Vienna resident and person very familiar with the Old Jail Museum and the Historical Society of Maries County, Barry Hutchison, was walking by the museum Wednesday morning and noticed a few typed labels lying on the ground near the curbing next to the museum on Mill Street. Hutchison knew they were labels that attached to the individual exhibits they identified in the Old Jail Museum. He walked into the yard and opened the door and immediately saw the mess the deadbeat thieves had made in the historic building. He also saw that all of the antique guns were taken from both gun racks and several cabinets that had been ravaged by the thief or thieves.

One of the display cabinets was almost completely emptied. It had contained military memorabilia and weaponry, coins, tools, and masculine type artifacts. Also taken were Indian artifacts including a large collection of Indian arrowheads collected and beautifully displayed by the late Kyle Hutchison.

HSMC President Lisa Jones said, “We are very disheartened to find the Old Jail broken into and priceless historical Maries County artifacts were stolen.” She said the Old Jail has been used as a museum since the late 1950s and has not had any security problems during that time. Jones said the person who took this history from everyone was “a selfish fool that won’t respect the historical value” of what they took from all county citizens.

The break-in and theft were posted on the historical society’s Facebook page and many people were upset and reacted strongly to the crime. They knew what had been lost.

Vienna Police Chief Shannon Thompson investigated the crime, which he called “brazen,” as the hasp on the heavy, red front door where entry was gained he believes by using a grinder or sawzall tool. It is suspected it possibly was a battery operated tool, which would have made some noise. The Vienna PD is asking Vienna residents to check their security cameras to see any vehicles that drove by their homes late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

Chief Thompson photographed the exhibit tags that were laying about the museum, trying to put together a list of what was stolen. He said what was taken may not have a big monetary value, “But it’s our history and you can’t get that back.” Something that was recovered was a cannonball, that must have been dropped by the foolish thief as it rolled down the curbing and ended up on top of a drainage vent and was found by two youth city workers.

Chief Thompson said people with information should contact the Maries County Sheriff’s Office at 573-422-3381. The crime will be put into the MIAC and sent to agencies statewide where law enforcement and others will keep an eye out for someone with or selling historical, Indian, and weaponry artifacts. Chief Thompson said the items stolen are rare and need “a certain type of vendor” to sell them to. He will continue to investigate in a wide area and statewide.

The Old Jail Museum is the county’s only building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As a museum, it contains all types of artifacts, memorabilia, and items donated by local people as a way to remember their ancestors and to recall and appreciate the past way of life in Maries County.

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