A treasure in Murfreesboro

Published 4:10 am Saturday, January 31, 2009

If you’ve not visited the Brady C. Jefcoat Museum in Murfreesboro, N.C., you’ve missed a great treat.

With my wife, Sherry, executive director of that community’s chamber of commerce, I was privileged to be able to do that in the company of Brinson Paul, probably the single person most prominent in bringing to Murfreesboro this collection, sought after by many of the best-known venues in the nation, including the Smithsonian, but finally secured by Murfreesboro.

What is now the Jefcoat Museum was built in 1922 as Murfreesboro High School. It graduated its last high school class in 1972 and closed as a school in 1992.

It has been open as a museum since 1997 and can be visited by the general public on Saturdays and Sundays or by special arrangement at other times.

The museum contains more than 12,000 items and is, to say the least, eclectic. It includes at least three elements that are the largest collection of their kind anywhere — and a fourth that might be.

Brady C. Jefcoat, Paul told me, is 94 years old, lives in Raleigh and remains very active. He was a plumber, then an electrician and finally a general contractor. He married late, my host told me, and his wife died early. Jefcoat began his collection to help assuage his grief.

As anyone who has visited the museum will easily understand, I cannot possibly give you an accurate picture of its magnitude.

But let me give you some little snapshots.

In the basement of the museum is a room — a huge room — full of early washing machines.

A washing machine is a washing machine is a washing machine, right?


For me, what these machines illustrated was the ingenuity of those who came before us.

On the top of one of them was a gear set that looked like it was missing several teeth. It wasn’t. What happened was that, as the gears turned and as they came to the empty space, they turned back on themselves, creating an agitating action within the machine.

Another had a large “belt” of sorts. Paul explained to me that the family dog could be put on the belt and as the animal walked, the belt provided power for the machine to which it was attached.

And on and on and on.

The ways in which those who came before us used their minds to make their lives or the lives of their loved ones slightly easier or slightly more convenient were fascinating to me.

The museum includes a collection of traps — mouse traps, including one that resets itself after catching one of the little pests, rabbit traps, gopher traps, mole traps, squirrel traps and on and on and on.

There is a collection of door knockers. There is a collection of irons — more than 1,000 of them, the largest such collection in the world.

he Jefcoat collection includes blacksmith tools, carpenter tools, kitchen tools, service station (back when they really were service stations) equipment, cobbler shop equipment, including an X-ray machine used to accurately fit children’s feet.

Paul showed us a Crosley Icy Ball, a device that, before everyone had a refrigerator, used anhydrous ammonia to make ice. It was a complicated process. You’ll have to let your tour guide explain it to you.

I’ve told you about only a fraction of the things I saw. And, because the hour was getting late, I did not even step into three of the museum’s rooms.

The fee for a tour of the museum — and it will be a guided tour — is $8 per person.

You should invest that $8. I guarantee you will get far, far more than your money’s worth.