Family Tree Project
One of Louise Johnson’s founding visions for the DeSoto County Historical Society was to collect and preserve information about how members of our community are interrelated. To fulfill that vision, Kathy Bryce suggested that we ask the resident of DeSoto County to complete “family trees.” The Board of Directors approved the project and the use of a “pedigree chart” provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution which can be filled out online, saved to the hard drive, and printed: If you already have completed your “pedigree chart” for the DAR or the Sons of the American Revolution or any similar organization, please share it with us. Send completed “pedigree charts” to Carol Mahler at, to her attention at the Society’s address, P.O. Box 1824, Arcadia, FL 34265, or bring them a Society meeting or to the Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library.


Historic Photographs of Arcadia and DeSoto County
       The Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library has a wealth of the historic photographs of Arcadia and DeSoto County.  Some of these have been published in Howard Melton’s books and the Society’s Recollections series (see additional information on the “Publications” Web page).  Others have been “borrowed” or used “courtesy of Howard Melton” in other books.  Many have never been published.
       The foundation of the collection are the photographs acquired and saved by Howard Melton—including photographs by Charles Moore and Dick Davenport who were studio photographers in Arcadia.  Additions include donations of photographs by—and in honor of—Winnie Duncan, a professional photographer and journalist.  Many others have donated individual snapshots and portraits.  Some of these are dated and identified; others remain mysteries.
       Research Library volunteers work to digitize the historic photographs, and they welcome additional donations of historic photographs or digital images of those photographs.  In most cases, people may bring their historic photographs to the Research Library, and the volunteers are able to digitize them immediately.  Those who allow their historic photographs to be scanned and the digitized images added to the Research Library’s collection may receive high-quality digital files of those photographs for their own use.
       For more information, please contact Carol Mahler at 863-445-0789 or online at


Thank you Hal Thompson for salvaging the cornerstone with the construction date 1937 from the U.S. Highway 17 Overpass that was built over the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad tracks north of Arcadia! After FDOT dynamited the overpass in the late 1980s, he used a come-along and some boards for ramps and muscled the stone onto his trailer. He hauled it to his property with his Jeep Wagoneer and kept it all these years. We are grateful he has donated it to the Society!

We also appreciate Hal for hauling it to the Ingraham House Museum and to the City of Arcadia's Steve Underwood for directing City Worker Shannon Smith to bring the "claw" truck that the City of Arcadia uses for picking up yard debris to help unload it and place it in front of the Museum. We are grateful to the Rev. Stuart Swanberg, pastor of Victory Baptist Church across the street, for helping to set and level the stone. We'll soon have a plaque to tell the story.​

The John Morgan Ingraham House, 300 N. Monroe Avenue, Arcadia

     The Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library is open in the John Morgan Ingraham Seed House, 120 W. Whidden Street, Arcadia, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays (except the second Thursday of the month) and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month.​
      The Ingraham House is named for Mr. John Morgan Ingraham who lived there from 1919, until his death at age 96, on February 29, 1980. Mr. Ingraham represented DeSoto County in the State Legislature from 1945-1949 and was highly respected by his legislative peers.  He joined in passing the "fence law" which ended the "open range" in Florida, funding the creation of G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital, and participating in the establishment of Everglades National Park. On December 6, 1947, he attended the Park's dedication by President Harry Truman. Upon Mr. Ingraham's death, Tom and Marguerite Hankins purchased the home from his heirs and donated the property to the DeSoto County Historical Society on April 20, 2001. The plans are to restore this turn of the century "cracker house" to its original condition and open it to the public as a "historical museum", displaying period furniture, lifestyle and the simplistic life of the early pioneer families of the city of Arcadia and DeSoto County. We were working on the restoration with volunteer help and community donations, but in 2004, Hurricane Charley wrecked the house beyond our ability and finances to repair it. We are grateful for grant funding from the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Mosaic Foundation to complete the restoration.   The John Morgan Ingraham House had a grand opening on January 27, 2014.


Visitors come from everywhere to view our collection and to ask for help with research of their own.

  Restoration was financed with grants by the State of Florida, Bureau of Historic Preservation.


The Society Collections

The purpose of the DeSoto County Historical Society (DCHS) is to preserve and promote the history of DeSoto County, Florida, for future generations. To this end we identify, select, gather, preserve, maintain, and catalogue historical documents and significant artifacts from DeSoto County and make them accessible to the public.   The DeSoto County Historical Society maintains four distinct collections that include objects that are on, by, about, or representative of the DeSoto County area and the activities of the people who live or have lived in the DeSoto County area.

Collection I:  The Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library
The foundation for this collection is more than 200 binders, books, newspaper articles, programs, letters, telegrams, documents, and other information-oriented artifacts that the Society purchased from Howard Melton in 2008.  This collection continues to grow with donations of other historic photographs, documents, and/or digital copies of such items, plus “family trees.”

Collection II: The John Morgan Ingraham House 
The foundation of this collection is the furniture and other artifacts that belonged to John Morgan Ingraham.  A committee of the Society has and will continue to acquire other artifacts and replicas to recreate the house as it was when the Ingraham family lived there during the 1920s and 1930s. The Ingraham house also displays non-permanent museum exhibits from the Society’s museum collection as described in Collections III below.

Collection III: The DeSoto County Historical Society Museum Collection
This collection includes all artifacts donated to the Society from its founding in 1987 until the present time.  Many of these--plus glass display cases and other display items or containers--were acquired when the Society leased the Brownville School to use as a museum. Others are on display at the DeSoto County Chamber of Commerce, the Opera House Museum, and in other such locations in Arcadia. 
All future museum acquisitions will follow the guidelines as established within this document.

Collection IV: Non-accessioned collection. 
Items that exist at the Society on a temporary basis that consist of 
a. Research and education: Informative material, e.g. from other collections, libraries, genealogical research to enhance further such studies, exhibits, lectures, public education, publications, etc.
b. Short-term or long-term loans for purposes of cataloging, exhibition and/or study. 
Click here to read the complete Guidelines.

Any time that the John Morgan Ingraham House Museum is open, guided tours are available.  A guided tour of the museum may also be combined with a guided walking tour of downtown Arcadia (see the Home page.)