More than just a shop: Bosworth and Son opens Geyserville history museum

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When 80-year old Harry Bosworth decided to remodel his store last year, it inadvertently resulted in the addition of a new history museum and formation of the Geyserville Historical Society.

Bosworth and Son, a family-owned retail business that has been a fixture in downtown Geyserville since the beginning of the last century, seems a fitting place for the town’s new museum.

The building originally was constructed in 1902 to house a buggy shop and mortuary for Bosworth’s grandfather, George Bosworth, who was a mortician. He is credited with establishing the Olive Hill Cemetery in 1900 on land previously owned by his own father, Calvin Bosworth.

George and his son, Obed, founded Bosworth and Son in 1911. Over the years, in addition to serving as a general mercantile store, the building has been home to a post office, a hardware store, a feed store and, now, a museum.

Although the mortuary closed in 1925, the Bosworth and Son store continues to maintain the cemetery office and is guardian of the burial records dating back more than a century.

The museum actually got its start a number of years ago when the Sonoma County Library had a Geyserville branch. Someone installed a couple display cases and, before long, townsfolk began bringing in artifacts of local historical significance from their homes or the estate of a family member to be put on display.

Bosworth says he can’t remember exactly when the library closed, but when it did, he offered to store all the items until another suitable location could be found. After many years, the 2018 remodel of the Bosworth and Son store resulted in one-third of it being set aside for the museum.

Ann Howard, a longtime volunteer coordinator and member of the Healdsburg Museum Board of Directors, is the new museum’s volunteer curator. Her job entails identifying each artifact, labeling it with the donor’s name and then cataloging the information into a database.

“Fortunately, when I started this, about half of the items had the donor’s name on them,” she says.

One of the more challenging aspects of being a curator is identifying people and dates based on photographs.

“Harry and I usually brainstorm on these,” she says. “We’ve even set up a ‘History’s Mysteries’ table in hopes visitors might recognize someone.”

They have an array of yearbooks sporadically dating back to the 1920s, with a goal of eventually acquiring as many of the missing ones as possible.

Howard, 75, also has written about 50 Geyserville-focused historical manuscripts, complete with photographs. Each is about 100 pages and bound into a folder for easy reading.

Genealogists researching ancestors from the area will find a wealth of information, including yearbook photos and cemetery records. A desk has been set up for anyone wanting to browse through the journals, yearbooks or other written documents.

Among the items on display are a wooden commode that came from the back porch of George Bosworth’s 1904 house; a wooden storage box that held Waltham School Crayons that were sold in the store during the early 1900s; and six silver spoons hammered out of pre-Civil War, 50-cent pieces.

A big metal toy truck and old metal toy fire engine are favorites with the younger museum visitors.

Josephine Brignole, Geyserville’s first May Day Queen from 1930, is immortalized in a clay bust created by her husband. Brignole, who was 16 at the time she won her crown, died last year at the age of 103.

The newly formed Geyserville Historical Society is led by local writer and historian Joe Pelanconi, and membership meetings are held quarterly.

The group is still working on the paperwork for its nonprofit designation. Much like the museum, Howard says, it is all a work in progress.

Bosworth’s daughter, Gretchen Crebs, 47, oversees the store and is usually the first person visitors meet. The lifelong Geyserville resident is very knowledgeable about the history of her community and is always happy to answer questions.

Along with her father, Crebs was instrumental in the store’s recent remodel, bringing in more apparel and gift items and adding hat cleaning and crushing to their list of services.

“We have a wide array of hats for men and women, ranging from cowboy hats to fedoras and straw hats. We also sell men’s jeans, shirts and tops for both men and women, and western boots, hats and clothing for children, as well as greeting cards, postcards and some jewelry.”

It is probably safe to say, one would be very hard pressed to find another retail store anywhere that not only showcases its town’s history museum, but also sells T-shirts, hats and cemetery plots.

Bosworth and Son, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, is located at 21060 Geyserville Ave. For information, call 707-857-3463.

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