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Museum exhibits highlight Ceres from its inception
• Tours are by appointment only these days
Sheryl Trout in Museum
Sheryl Trout enjoys showing the Ceres Historical Museum to folks on an appointment basis. She is especially proud of acquiring original flour sacks of Daniel Whitmore from the 1880s. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Ceres has changed dramatically since its settling as a town in the late 1860s. The Ceres Historical Museum attempts to preserve items and photographs documenting life in Ceres as a sleepy farming village to the growing city of under 50,000 residents.

Located next to the first home built in Ceres, the Daniel Whitmore House at 2928 Fifth Street, the museum is open by appointment only through curator Sheryl Trout. Her late father, Phil Reynders not only helped facilitate the establishment of the museum but also built many of the displays. When he died, Trout took the mantle, admitting that the membership of the Ceres Historical Society shrinks with deaths.

“It’s kind of random,” said Trout when asked about the incidence of requests to see the collection. “Sometimes I’ll have big groups come through.”

The museum’s collection focusses on items which were used in daily life in Ceres, such as the large cash register that rung up sales in the Ceres Hardware Store on Fourth Street, inside what was the Collins-Warner Building razed decades ago. The register was donated by Gus and Janice Ingwerson.

Trout prefers to walk visitors through the collection to share information locked in her head that is not on display cards.

The first display, titled, “From Amber Grain to Fruited Plain” includes photo of the early days of wheat growing before irrigation, and two highly prized original flour sacks used at Daniel Whitmore’s mill in the early 1880s. She found both on eBay.

“It came from England,” she explained. “The lady was from Nottingham and she hand makes teddy bears and buys old quilts and uses the material for the clothes. So when she washed it (the quilt) and it got wet she could see the graphics on the other side of the backing of the quilt. She thought somebody would be interested in it.”

Trout won the auction for approximately $60 and had the woman cut the flour sacks free from the quilt and ship them to save on postage.

“The mill was only in existence for two years to actually come an original bag. It caught fire and burned. What are the odds of getting an original bag from Whitmore’s Mill?”

School Days Ceres Museum
Sheryl Trout’s late father, curator Phil Reynders, made this “School Days” museum exhibit complete with pot belly stove inside the Ceres Historical Museum. Reynders passed away in 2019. - photo by Jeff Benziger

One display recalls the service and sacrifice of Ceres native Walter Perra who was killed in France during World War II. He was 24 years old when his plane was shot down in France on June 15, 1944.

Perra was a Minnesota native born in 1919 to Richard and Ida E. Perra. The family moved in 1931 to Ceres where he and brother Medrick Perra built model airplanes as youngsters, the first indication that Walter was interested in aviation. Walter flew a P-38 on numerous missions over enemy territory, disabling railroads and supply lines, and clearing the way for advancing Allied forces. He lies in a French grave.

The display includes Perra’s Purple Heart award.

A sewing machine set in an oak cabinet that once belonged to Florence “Flossie” Ulch Worrell is also in display. Her mother was Allura Ulch, the first woman postmistress of Ceres and Ceres’ first librarian.

A collection of clothing irons and a heater donated by the late Wilma Martin triggered Trout to share a tragic story about one of her own family members.

Studebaker surrey
A Studebaker surrey owned by Caryl Fowler is on display in the Museum annex behind the Daniel Whitmore Home. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“After I read it I’m like oh my gosh it just makes me feel terrible – I found an ancestor of mine that lived in Ceres. It was when they had oil burning stoves and her stove blew up and she caught on fire and died and left her children with three young children in Ceres.”

A glass case contains clothing from Willa Whitmore and red hats owned by teacher Mae Hensley. Another case holds infant and childhood clothing of Richard “Hardy” Fowler who died in 2004. Atop the case is the wedding photo of his parents, Carroll and Aurelia Fowler. Carroll Fowler came to Ceres in 1901 to become a farmer on land that is now occupied by Smyrna Park and Carroll Fowler Elementary School.

An organ donated by Aleene Landreth Landers sits next to an 1877 Steinway piano once belonged to the Hiram Hughson family who founded the town of Hughson.

A silk wedding dress worn by Hattie Williams in 1909 is also on display.

Artifacts from the Bank of Ceres include a signature card drawer and coin tray used by cashiers as well as ledgers, stock certificates, checks and embossing seal. Some of the items were donated by the late Eldred “Mac” McElrath who was a bank manager.

The museum has furniture and a vase once owned by Vaughn and Jennie Caswell Whitmore that once were inside the Clinton Whitmore Mansion.

A photo donated by the Berryhill family shows Ceres native Claire Berryhill shaking hands with President Richard Nixon. Judging by the background, it was not taken in Ceres but gubernatorial candidate Nixon did visit in 1962.

“I remember seeing him as a child in Richland Market,” said Trout. “I remember being in there with my mom and him being at the front of the store shaking people’s hands. Of course it didn’t mean anything to me as a young kid.”

The museum annex behind Daniel Whitmore’s house includes the very heavy and round-topped vault used in the Bank of Ceres and a Studebaker surrey owned by Caryl Fowler. One wall is adorned with a giant photo of an aerial photo of Ceres as it appeared relatively undeveloped in the 1950s.

Trout said she is surprised that Ceres teachers have not taken advantage of the museum for classroom tours even though she has extended invitations in the past.

Anyone may arrange for a visit by phoning Trout at 209-581-3134.

Bank of Ceres safe
The old safe from the defunct Bank of Ceres is on display inside the Ceres Museum annex. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Ceres Hardware Store cash register
This antique cash register, in a solid oak case, was used for decades by the Aspinall family at the Ceres Hardware Store on Fourth Street. It is on exhibit at the Ceres Historical Museum. - photo by Jeff Benziger