The new Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum (SAAM) welcomed its first visitors during a “soft opening” Saturday, but the facility could be open permanently as early as next month.

The new museum is located in the basement of the Surgoinsville Pubic Library and includes multiple sections on different aspects of life in Surgoinsville.

SAAM was designed with the assistance of retired Marine Capt. Charlie Grow, who is the former curator of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va.

As you enter the facility the first display is about veterans and features newspaper clippings, photos, uniforms from different branches of the services, and a TV with a slide show featuring different local veterans.

As you follow the route into the first section there displays on river life, schools and education, and farming.

In a narrow hallway leading to the public restroom there is a display of old irons courtesy of Peggy Cook, as well as a display about famous storms and tornadoes that hit Hawkins County.

A second room is dedicated solely to the Ural Ward native America collection. A longtime local relic hunter, Ward donated hundreds of arrowheads, tools, weapons and other items he found in the area, including a large intact clay pot that he found buried along the bank of the Holston River.

Continuing on from the Native American collection there are displays on pioneer life, local businesses, and the Civil War, leading up to a section discussing the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the coming of electricity to the area.

As you round the corner to the final section before completing the tour there are displays on quilting, churches, local artisans, local musicians, and Dr. Conner Lyns who was Surgoinsville’s first mayor and a beloved local physician.

Originally the Board of Directors hoped to be open at least three days per week beginning in January. The board intends on applying for a grant that requires the museum to be open at least 150 days per year.

Board chairman Johnny Greer said the museum could be open the the public sometime in December.

Planing for this museum dates back to the early 2010s when Greer was mayor of Surgoinsville.

“When I was mayor we started planning for our Bicentennial, which didn’t come up until Mayor Graham’s time (in 2015),” Greer said. “But, we were planning even back then. We realized we didn’t have a museum in a 200-year-old town. It started from there.”

Greer added, “We’re not done. We’ve got a lot of defining to do, and telling stories on boards so people know what they’re looking at.”

For updates more information you can check the Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum Facebook page.

A video of the soft opening can be seen in the online version of this article at

Surgoinsville, TN

Nov. 20, 2021