Preserving the local history and sharing it with future generations is a big job. The Valley County Pioneer Museum has taken on that task and they welcome visitors into the museum every third Sunday in June, in hopes to draw in new visitors.
This year on Sunday, June 15, from 1 to 4 p.m. Visitors will be able to get a glimpse of a new display, along with a presentation on local agates and a local jewelry store that made their own piece of local history.
Memories remain of Baker's Jewelry when it was under the ownership of LaVern John "L.J." Baker. His children will be in town to present a new display specially built for the museum.
"He wanted this in the museum; it was his wish," Don Baker, son of L.J. said. "The museum was one of his favorite things in Valley County."
Don helped design the display. The photos and words that describe not only history of the jewelry store, but also of Montana agate, were built special to last a long time.
"We wanted to be able to tell the whole story," Don said. "He had a shop and a lot of the equipment he put together himself."
Jerry Baker explained that Bell Mortuary helped engrave the top portion of the wood, using a technique they usually cast on marble and headstones. Special lighting and shelves were built to help display some of the equipment and agates the family provided.
L.J. was a big supporter of the museum and had previously donated $5,000. He passed away in 2002, and his wife, Jean passed away in 2007. He also has a daughter, LaVaun, in Billings. The family will come together as the display is finished and ready for the open house.
L.J. homesteaded in the Lustre community in 1916 with his family. He was just 6 years old when he came to the community. He went to high school in Glasgow and graduated in 1932. After high school, he went on to Northern Montana College in Havre. In 1934, he got a job driving truck at the Fort Peck Dam for 35 cents an hour.
He eventually married Jean on June 15, 1940. Jean was born and raised in Glasgow. She attended the University of Montana. When the Fort Peck project was winding down, he was facing the draft for WWII. He didn't pass the physical and ended up going to work as a brakeman for Great Northern. It was during this time he started cutting agates and wholesaling them between runs.
He opened Baker's Jewelry store in 1948. Jasper Knight, a watchmaker, came back to Glasgow to work for him. Jean and L.J. continued to run the store until they retired in 1984. He sold the store to Harvey Wall, who had been working for him for five years.