Following a long renovation process, the 1910 Jail was transformed into a history museum. On April 19, 1970, the Hidalgo County Historical Museum officially opened to the public in a grand ceremony with the local American Legion raising the United States and Texas flags.

On July 15, 1971, Margaret H. McAllen organized a group of women volunteers to form the Museum Guild. The Guild played an essential role in raising funds through an annual Heritage Round-Up and assisting in day-to-day operations. The Museum’s first official employee was part-time custodian Bennie Calvillo. Noe Gorena of Edinburg, from January to July of 1973, and Anne Jorgensen, 1975 to 1977, served as the first two directors.

The Museum partnered with local school districts to provide student tours and hosted early exhibits on the Hidalgo County cities of Weslaco, Mercedes, Hidalgo, and Mission. In 1975, the Museum began planning to add an archival wing to the Jail on the North side of the building. Construction started the following year.

In 1978, construction on the archival wing was completed, and the Museum hired new director Xenia Francesca “Fran” Alger of McAllen and Curator of Exhibits Tom Fort. Taking an original drawing of the 1910 Jail, the Museum crafted a new logo and looked for new ways to broaden its community impact.

Chairwoman Margaret H. McAllen and Darrell Brumley unlock the front gate of the hanging tower for the first time to the general public during the opening ceremony of the Hidalgo County Historical Museum April 19, 1970.

Opening day ceremony with the Texas and United States flags raised in front of the Hidalgo County Historical Museum.

Mamie Closner Griffin (daughter of sheriff John Closner) and Laurier MacDonald hang the official Texas Historical Commission Historical Marker on the wall of 1910 Jail.

The Hidalgo County Historical Museum.
Photo taken February 2, 1975.

In the mid-1970s, the Museum hired Ashley, Garza, & Humphries Associates to extend an archival wing from the north wall of the 1910 Jail. These are the sketches and floor plans for the new archive wing.

Museum Director Anne Jorgensen in 1976 in one of the Museum Exhibits. Jorgensen previously worked in education and for an office of the FBI in Washington D.C. before retiring and moving to Weslaco with her husband.

Originally from La Coma Ranch in Hidalgo County, Bennie Calvillo was hired in the early 1970s as a part-time custodian and first paid employee at the Hidalgo County Historical Museum.

The third director of the Hidalgo County Historical Museum was Fran Alger. Born and raised in Mercedes and McAllen with a background in anthropology and museum studies, and extensive experiences in studying and living abroad, Alger developed a vision for what the Museum could become.

Staff photo taken in October 1978. From Left to right: Douglas Jasso, Bennie Calvillo, Zela Wood, Maria Gorena, Fran Alger, and Tom Fort.

An early program started under Fran Alger, a puppet show was put on by volunteers from the Edinburg Junior Service League. Back row from left to right: Linda Hendrickson, unknown, Susan Lard, and Peggy Garcia. Front row: Carol Hudsonpillar, unknown.

Young visitor enjoys the newly added exhibit inside the 1910 Jail.
One of the museum’s very first exhibits.
To view more “Golden Memories,” please visit here.

Photographs: Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives

Exhibit: Archivist Kelly Francis-Love; Archival Assistant Luna Galván; Archival Assistant Susie Mathews; Associate Education Officer Joseph Fox; Senior Historian Tom Fort; Development Officer Lynne Beeching; Chief Executive Officer Francisco Guajardo, Ph. D.; Programs and Events Officer René Ballesteros; Programs and Events Assistant Anna Garrigos-Hervert

Contributors: Communications Officer Pamela Morales de Hendricks, Communications Assistant Santiago Alanís, Communications Assistant José Antonio Peña, Cindy Us, Rachel Amaya, Adel Hussein, and Mark Trejo

Thanks to our Golden Partner, and first Corporate Donor, for generously supporting our 50th anniversary.