Written and Photographed By A. C. Slaughter
Update as of 6/26/2020 – When the American Freedom Museum re-opens on July 1, 2020, all visitors to the Museum age 12 or older MUST wear a facial covering or mask while in the museum. Visitors who arrive without masks will not be granted entry to the Museum.
The American Freedom Museum will re-open to the general public with a limited capacity of thirty visitors on Wednesday, July 1st from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
New regular Wednesday and Saturday public hours will begin Saturday, July 4th and will be available for two separate time slots of 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. They will be closed from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. for cleaning. Reservations are recommended. Please call 903-894-5252 to speak with a staff member about making your reservation.
You can also make weekly group reservations for Monday, Tuesday, or Friday for groups of 15 or more during the allotted time slots of 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 when available. We require a minimum of 15 to schedule a group on non-public days.
The Museum is located on the campus of The Brook Hill School
1051 N. Houston St. • Bullard, Texas 75757 • 903.894.5252
There are few day-to-day rituals that remind us what life was like 50, 100 years ago. We surely do not get that good old fashioned feeling from television, internet or radio and yet the battles and wars of America, life of years gone by, have shaped our great nation into what it is today. As we move into the vast future of technology, we forget where we came from, what our roots are, and how our families struggled to get us here. It was not an easy road. It’s not a pretty picture but it is a triumph of American spirit and worth remembering.
No better place to visit these memories than the American Freedom Museum in Bullard, Texas. Yes, that’s right, Bullard Texas. What East Texans may not know is that there is a school, which houses a museum, that is tucked inside horse filled fields under bright open skies right here in East Texas. The location alone is as true as apple pie and that school is Brook Hill.
Created in 1997, Brook Hill is based on faith; a school conceived and run under the direction of a higher power. A ‘calling’ brought Brook Hill to life and founder Steve Dement says he “wouldn’t change a thing.” Of the 540 students, 80 are boarders and the student population represents over 15 countries worldwide. The idea for the school was created simultaneously with the idea for the museum. Who is to say which fueled the other but the result is a top-notch educational facility with a top-notch educational museum on site. The museum is only four years old but is already gaining national recognition and is the envy of history buffs and museum directors all over.
Steve Dement started collecting 25 years ago and his passion for history stays true. He is still active in the classroom as an upper-level history teacher at the school. Beginning with a trip to Virginia, Steve purchased a Civil War sword. His research on the sword led to stories that led to more research and more collecting and as they say, history unfolds itself right before our eyes. Dement says his high school history teacher opened his eyes. “He brought things to life.” Steve’s father also served as a catalyst for his passion. He was a sergeant in the Army, WWII, and his stories have made a great impact on the way Steve sees the past. These two very important persons helped shaped Steve Dement’s love for history and his willingness to “pass it along to another generation.”
Covering 15,000 square feet and 250 years of American history, the American Freedom Museum is a must-see. When you enter the building, an 1861 Parrot Rifle Cannon greets you. Surrounded by tall sunlit windows, you get the sense that this cannon is special and it is. On the first day of school, home football games and select holidays, this very real 895 pound cannon fires not a ten-pound cannonball but a black charge, loud, reminding us all that it once served in the War Between the States and once called West Point home before joining us here in East Texas.
Turning now to the left you enter the museum. Set up as a journey, the museum takes you through 250 years of our history, battle by battle, right up until the present day, ending with pictures and stories of soldiers currently serving. First, you will enter the Hall of Presidents. There are signed documents from every single president, Washington to Obama as well as pictures, letters, and newspaper reports. Starting with Roosevelt there are radio recorded voices of all presidents since, spoken faith-based statements that support our country. There is even a lock of George Washington’s hair.
You will be immediately amazed at the care and thought that has gone into the installation of the museum. The lighting is accented. Shadows give you a sense of yesterday. Benches are scattered throughout so that visitors may sit and reflect, or in the case of our future generations, take in and learn. Music for each section is timely and specific and even the color of the walls changes from scene to scene guiding you through the maze of memories. Maps, muskets, flags, documents, instruments, weapons and clothing, newspaper articles, written curriculum, propaganda posters and political cartoons are among the myriad of momentous memorabilia.
Real-life scenes with uniformed mannequins pepper the tour and help create a sense of ‘being there.’ Nestled inside the Hall of Freedom is a C-47 paratrooper plane, a favorite among students. Visitors can enter the plane and experience what is was like to fly with flight sensation programmed into the exhibit. Also in the Hall of Freedom is an Army Jeep and a Vietnam helicopter. The story goes that while the plane fit through one of the windows, the helicopter would not, therefore the museum decided to place the helicopter first, before beginning construction, built a box around it, then completed the museum working around this incredible machine. A machine so remarkable you must see it to believe it. And once you see it, you will understand.
The American Freedom Museum is filled with fascinating facts. Stories of brothers separated in war and brought back together years later on a deserted island, a blanket which was donated by a local woman after her husband passed, which was known to cause itchiness to whoever wore it only to discover later that it was made from human hair. Women’s uniforms selected for the collection arrived with their makeup compacts, surprisingly, still in each one. There are also samples of silk that was once a parachute collected and used by women to make wedding dresses. All of this is within these walls.
Stories of hardships and stories of triumphs are all caught under this one roof. All of this and more is on display and all these memories share one common thread; that our great country was based on faith and the men and women who got us where we are today fully believed in every cause they fought for. There is no escaping the emotion, the power of war. Even for those who have not experienced it first hand, this collection, the set-up, the thought behind it, reels you in and commands respect.
Located about one mile past the Bullard, Texas sign, off Old Jacksonville (1051 N. Houston St., Bullard, TX 75757), Brook Hill School and the American Freedom Museum are an incredible blessing for East Texans. Their in-depth age and grade-specific tours and commitment to educating our youth is unparallel in this area.
You can contact Jan Hommel, Museum Director, to ask about group tours. Groups of fifteen or more are by appointment only, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. The museum is open to the public Wednesday and Saturday 10am-3pm.
For more information on admission and tours please visit americanfreedommuseum.org or call (903)894-5252.
Don’t wait to visit this incredible museum. Once you go, you will return, as it is our duty as Americans to stand proud of what we are and where we’ve come from.
God bless you East Texas and God bless America.