Heritage Museum honors 2 women
BY FAITH HARPER
The East Texas Heritage Museum Association honored two women for their years of service to help preserve the history of an East Texas icon, Camp Ford.
At a meeting Monday evening, Ann Lawrence and Maxine Herbst were given distinguished service awards by the organization, which is formerly known as the Camp Ford Association.
Camp Ford was the largest Confederate prisoner of war camp west of the Mississippi River during the Civil War.
Members said about 8,000 Union soldiers went through the facility, north of Tyler, from 1862 to 1865.
David Pierson, president of the association, said the only other recipient was D.M. Edwards, past president of the organization. He was granted the award in 2011.
Pierson said the plaques were small tokens for a lot of gratitude.
"They were selected because they worked so hard for many years, from 1999 to 2012 -- 13 years -- they labored for it to be what it is" today, he said.
Mrs. Lawrence is the wife of the late Lee Lawrence, who was one of the founders of the East Texas Historical Society in the early 1960s. Members said Camp Ford was handled by a committee until 1999 when they branched off to become its own 501(c)3.
Mrs. Lawrence said she got fully involved with the organization after her husband died in 1996 and was on the board from 2004 to 2012.
Her husband had a hand in getting the metal marker signs on designated historical spots and Camp Ford was the first one put up.
She said an elaborate ceremony was planned for the first marker and busses of senators and representatives from Austin were in attendance.
"I spent weeks on my knees on the floor making a cover to put over it so it could be unveiled," she said. "I had letters and stars and all the fixings."
"It was January day and it was freezing cold, pouring down rain the wind was blowing ..." she said with a giggle. "The men would not get off the bus from Austin."
Mrs. Lawrence said she was thankful for the award.
"It's a very, very worthy cause, and I hope we can continue to make this an important part of Smith County," she said.
Mrs. Herbst said she was on the committee before they broke away from the Smith County Historical Society. She served as executive secretary from 2004 to 2012. All in all, she worked for 15 years preserving the history of Smith County.
She said the organization had great plans to build a museum, and they worked very hard toward the goal. She said she was honored to receive the award from her peers.
"I worked hard for it, but I think it is very, very nice that they would do this for me, Mrs. Herbst said.