Operated by the Darke County Historical Society, the Garst Museum contains over 300,000 artifacts and includes the world's largest display of Annie Oakley items. The museum is housed within the historic Garst House which was constructed in 1852. The museum acquired this home in 1946 and has constructed six additional wings to hold exhibits on early frontier life, military history, the growth of the region, and a special exhibit on author, and broadcaster Lowell Thomas. The museum has also been the home of the Annie Oakley Center since 2005, an organization that houses the largest collection of Annie Oakley memorabilia and artifacts in the world.
The Garst Museum’s main building, the Garst House, occupies
a former inn, which was built in 1852, and was donated to the Darke County
Historical Society in 1946. Since that time,
six additional wings have been built in order to house the museum’s growing
collection. The museum houses a large collection of
artifacts relating to the Treaty of Greenville of 1795. Although this treaty was not signed by all of the tribes in the area, settlers of European descent continued to rush into the area and even pushed westward past the boundary established by that treaty.
Annie Oakley was born in Darke County, Ohio,
in 1860. As a girl, she grew up hunting small game which she sold to a local grocer in
Greenville to help support her family. Word of her sharp-shooting abilities
spread, and Annie met her future husband, Frank Butler, when she bested him in
a shooting contest. The couple traveled the country showcasing their
abilities and their marksmanship and showmanship even led to a tour of Europe in 1887. Annie earned a wide collection of
trophies, medals, and awards for shooting throughout her life. The Annie Oakley
Center houses photographs, guns, clothes and household items, playbills from
her time on tour, and a variety of other objects from Annie’s life.
The Garst Museum also hosts exhibits related to military
history, including the “Keepers of Freedom” exhibit, which contains artifacts
and uniforms from local veterans, spanning from the War of 1812 to the recent
war in Iraq. The Lowell Thomas exhibit
houses photos and memorabilia related to the radio commentator’s life and
adventures, including his sky-rocketing to fame of the real-life Lawrence of
Arabia. Also located within the museum is the Darke County genealogy library, which
contains Darke County records, family histories, surname files, and other state
and county information.
The Garst Museum was voted the “Best Historical Museum” in
Ohio for 2018, and the Gathering at Garst, an annual festival which hosts
antique and craft vendors and puts on re-enactments, was voted the “Best Summer