Heritage may be priceless but that doesn’t mean it comes for free, as the members of the Caney Valley Historical Society are well aware. Board President Dale McBride explained, “Many of the ‘older folks’ that donated a lot of money in the past simply are not here any longer. Our funding from the county was cut in half a few years ago and the city has stopped giving any funding altogether. While we have appealed to both of these entities for financial support, we understand that budgets are tight everywhere.”

McBride explained that Caney may be a small town but maintaining and celebrating the town’s history takes a lot of work and funds. “We have several projects that we need funding for,” McBride explained. “Our curator, Nicole Parker, is working on securing grant money to help us continue to fund our organization’s projects. Nicole is also in the process of re-inventorying all items into a computerized system so we can better identify donated or items on loan in our facilities. We will be able to search our inventory and locate items, as well as place our database on our website. Volunteers are badly needed to assist in this project. We also need funding to pay for Nicole to work solely on inventory. This is estimated at $5,000 a year and will require about three years to complete. We have other security-related items that we need funding for. We [also] have other large goals that we will seek grants for but the main thing is that we are trying to improve the Museum, make it more accessible and interesting for the public.”

There is also a matter of keeping the Society’s many buildings and properties repaired and restored. “We are also seeking donations to rebuild all of the steps leading into the Little White School and Doctors Building and paint for exterior wood on the buildings. The estimated cost of this project is $2,500,” said McBride. 

And of course any old building is bound to need a repair or two-or in the society’s case, many. “We have recently discovered roof damage that is now requiring us to replace that due to weather damage. After devoting so much time and money on updates, we must continue to focus on repairing that building. We are working on a final project to cleanup and weather proof the second story, replace doors and cover windows. This will cost another $8,500 for supplies and labor for the entire second story, which is approximately 110 feet long by 35 feet wide, McBride said. “Another project we need funded is repair of an outer wall on the back side of the main building. The area is approximately 8 feet high and 15 feet wide. The estimated cost to repair the wall is $3,500, due to it requiring a man lift to reach the upper floor.” 

Visitors to the museum’s properties might be surprised with how much the group has done with so little. “Our facilities are open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. until 3 p.m,” said McBride. “In addition to the Sandstone building, the Caney Valley Historical Society has the main museum buildings, the Little White Schoolhouse — the first school in Caney dated 1870, and a doctor’s building. These buildings house period correct furniture and items dating back over the history of Caney. Our museum houses approximately 5,000 items and a large research area highlighting the history of Caney and surrounding communities. There are pictures and articles on almost any topic you can think of and its quite fascinating to see what’s there. We sell T-shirts, coffee mugs, postcards, keychains, books etc. with Kansas themes.”

The museum and its features have become an integral part of the City of Caney and the quality of life of its residents as well. McBride said the museum hosts many activities and events each year that Caney-ites have come to see as town traditions. “We give tours of the museum and schoolhouse to grade school students each year, host the Daddy Daughter Dance in December at the Sandstone building, sponsor the Mayfest Prince and Princess contest in May and co-sponsor the Caney Christmas parade with the Caney Fire Department. We also participate in the Caney city-wide sale and Kan-Okla 100 mile sale by providing maps of sale locations. We donate to the Lincoln Carnival, Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt and After Prom. We participate in Shoot-the-U, the newly-formed SEK Museum Coalition, the Grant Writers of Montgomery County and the Caney Community Betterment Group,” he noted.

The Caney Valley Historical Society is not resting on its past either.  The group is always working hard to improve its amenities and bring in new features. “We have done a lot of work in the last 18 months to improve the Historical Society with a website, Facebook page, souvenirs, new displays, updated computers and printer, renovating the Sandstone building … the Board members donate a lot of their time and even their own money to make things happen,” said McBride. “We are so lucky to have such a large facility and room to expand. Yes, we want to expand to the second story of the Museum, but it will take a very large grant to accomplish that.”

McBride said the group works tirelessly in hopes the town’s heritage continues to be recognized and appreciated but the group needs public support if it is to prevent becoming history itself. “I just wish we had more citizen support so we would know the Historical Society is secure and not going to falter like other organizations have,” said McBride. “Since 87% of our budget comes from dues and donations, supporting our fundraisers is critical for us to continue to operate. If half of the citizens of Caney would donate $10 each, that would cover about half of our yearly budget. Or if each of the 866 Facebook followers [of the Caney Historical Society Facebook page] would donate $10, it would help a great deal. We are a 501c3 public charity, so all donations are tax deductible.”

“I’d just like for folks to know that we’ve been here for 35 years, but that does not guarantee we will be here in two years,” McBride said in conclusion. “We just want to make sure we’re here for future generations.”