Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library
in the John Morgan Ingraham Seed House
120 W. Whidden Street, Arcadia, Florida
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: http://www.dar.org/sites/default/files/RGG-1003.pdf. 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 email@example.com, 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.
“The Negative Project”
Charles Moore and Dick Davenport were studio photographers in Arcadia, and when they retired, Howard Melton—Arcadia’s local historian—bought their negative collections with photographs from the 1920s through 1980. He generously gave negatives of local families to those family members whom he knew. In 2008, he sold the negatives that remained to the Historical Society with the other material in his “historical research library.” After the death of Winnie Duncan—also a professional photographer and journalist in Arcadia—her family also donated thousands of her negatives to the Society.
Now the Society has an ideal facility in which to store these valuable historic materials—the John Morgan Ingraham Seed House. Volunteers are working to clean, inventory, and archive the collection, and more help is needed. In 2015, the Society gratefully received a $500 donation from the Arcadia Rotary Club to purchase archival materials for the safe storage of the negatives. Additional materials are needed to complete this project. The Society welcomes and appreciates donations for archival materials as well as for the purchase of a scanner that will print large negatives.
For more than two decades, Howard Melton worked to document the history of Arcadia and DeSoto County and write a weekly newspaper column about it. He self-published two books collecting his articles: Footprints and Landmarks: Arcadia and DeSoto County, Florida in 2002 and More Footprints and Landmarks: Arcadia and DeSoto County, Florida in 2004. Both books are available from the Society—check our Museum Store for details.
He saved his collection of historical photographs, newspaper articles, obituaries, letters, telegrams, prescriptions, and more—mostly in three-ring binders. In 2008, the Historical Society purchased 200-plus binders as well as other research materials for $20,000.00—with funds raised by the community.
As the Society worked to restore and open the John Morgan Ingraham House as a museum, a public restroom was needed. Plans called for construction of a modern “outhouse.” Instead, Harold McLeod designed a building that was a replica of Ingraham’s business known as the Ingraham Seed House where Mr. Ingraham sold seeds, fertilizer, garden tools and the like. It once stood adjacent to his home.
Fundraising and construction for the Ingraham Seed House project was completed in 2011, and the new facility opened in 2012. (Again, the community donated all the funds.) The Ingraham Seed House replica does have a public restroom, and the exterior resembles the original store. However, the interior is a modern archive and research library that is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays, except the second Thursday of the month, plus the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, and by appointment.
This facility preserves and provides access to the Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library. Since its opening, the Research Library’s collection has increased—thanks to donations of materials—both in print and in digital format. (For example, the library now has a non-circulating collection of unique and rare books about Florida history.) Volunteers work to conserve, organize, and digitize the collection. Research assistance is available. Please contact Research Library Coordinator Carol Mahler at 863-445-0789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.