Relics reunited: Newly acquired Malakoff Heads unveiled at Pearce Museum

The Pearce Museum at Navarro College unveiled two newly acquired Malakoff Heads Tuesday. Shown with the updated exhibit is Mary Love Sanders who donated the first head to the college.  Daily Sun photo/Michael Kormos

The Pearce Museum at Navarro College unveiled two newly acquired Malakoff Heads Tuesday. Shown with the updated exhibit is Mary Love Sanders who donated the first head to the college.
Daily Sun photo/Michael Kormos

Posted: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 7:50 pm

Mystery and discovery abound at the latest addition to the Pearce Museum inside the Cook Education Center at Navarro College. On Tuesday, the curtain was pulled back on its newest archeological gem — the remaining two heads of the Malakoff Man collection.

“We are excited to finally have this entire exhibit on display in our museum,” said Cory Hurless, museum curator.

 One of the heads has been on display since it was donated by Mary Love Sanders some time ago. A lifelong resident of the area, Sanders loves local history and acquired the statue-like figure from her great aunt and uncle, Judge William and Jessilyn Carpenter Bishop. Research completed by Allison Syltie of Pearce Museum, and Thomas Vance of Navarro College, notes that before coming to Navarro College, the other two heads, known as One and Three, were housed in the Texas Memorial Museum and later moved to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. Although all three of the artifacts were discovered on the same piece of land within a ten-year time frame, they have never been housed or displayed together.

Until now.

With the help of Texas State Representative Byron Cook, all three heads are now considered to be the property of Navarro College. Cook was responsible for drafting a series of letters that resulted in the transfer of the heads from the University of Texas at Austin to Navarro College in February of 2015. Since that time, a custom-made display case has been constructed so the heads may be viewed together under one roof. Dr. Barbara Kavalier, Navarro College district president, values the new exhibit at being worth more than $500,000.

According to Syltie and Vance, all three of the Malakoff Heads were discovered on Judge Bishop’s commercialized gravel pit during the Great Depression era. In 1929, laborers for Thomas Bartlett’s Malakoff Pressed Brick Company discovered the first head while performing their routine daily work. It was kept on display in Mr. Bartlett’s store until November 1929 when it caught the attention of a mining engineer for the Malakoff Fuel Company by the name of V.C. Doctorman. He informed Dr. Elias H. Sellards of the University of Texas, which put the discovery on the map. Sometimes referred to as Head one, the sculpture has been housed at the University of Texas, and the Texas Memorial Museum before making its home at Navarro College.

In 1935 merely 1,000 feet from the previous find, the second artifact was found. Although it was not analyzed to the extent the original was, it remained preserved and well-cared for in the private collections of Judge Bishop and Mary Love Sanders. It has previously been loaned to many various exhibits around the state including the State Fair of Texas.

The third and final Malakoff piece was found as the result of an excavation conducted by the Works Progress Administration and the University of Texas in 1939. It too was housed in the Texas Memorial Museum prior to calling the Pearce Museum its home.

The heads are controversial to say the least. Some believe they are little more than rocks carved out by nature’s erosion. Others think they are a hoax. However, there are educators and historians alike who believe them to be authentic. Perhaps that is what makes them so special, no one seems to know exactly how old they are, or how they came to be-only that they are a major part of the local archeological history of East Texas.

The Malakoff Heads are just a small portion of the archeological and historical findings on display for the community at the college.

“The museum is a hidden gem of Corsicana full of wonderful resources for the community,” said Hurless. “We encourage people to come enjoy the treasures we are fortunate enough to preserve and display for them here.”

The Pearce Museum is located at 3100 W Collin Street. They are open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. They are closed on Sundays. Entrance to the museum is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens (55 and older), and $4 for students (ages 6-17).

SOURCE: Corsicana Daily Sun