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Massive history collection moving to Olive Hill Center for Arts and Education

Jim Plummer has been carrying on the work of three generations of his family by collecting history of all kinds: local, geological, Native American, astronomical, and more.

Plummer had a large display of his collection in the gymnasium of the historic Olive Hill High School during the annual Olive Hill Homecoming festivities.

The collection was once completely housed at Plummer’s facility on Carter Caves Road. However, when robbers invaded his facility, he decided it was time to find a more secure location. He had been at this location since 1972.

His great-great-great-grandfather started the collection when Native American artifacts were discovered in the area that is now Carter Caves State Park, during the War of 1812.

Among Plummer’s local history collection, he has four of Matthew B. Sellers’ airplane propellers.

The very first issue of the Olive Hill Dispatch, the city’s main newspaper at the turn of the last century, is also in his collection. Along with a few issues of “The Comet,” the student publication of Olive Hill High School.

Familiar names show on the first page, including Dr. Chas. McCleese, a well-known name in medical care history in Olive Hill.

“An Epidemic of Laughter” was also a headline in the issue when three Illinois teenagers were believed to be near death from “irrepressible merriment.”

He was also able to procure a replica poster of the James H. Drew circus shows.

“I was able to get in touch with Drew himself,” Plummer said. “Some time went by after our first phone call. I called him back thinking he had forgotten; he hadn’t and told me to keep an eye on the mail.”

A few days later a poster arrived via the Postal Service and was placed into the collection.

Among his collection, he has Carter County vehicle license plates from 1925 to 1945, except for 1943. He believes license plates were not produced that year to save metal for World War II.

Meteorites, fossils and rare minerals are also part of his collection. These are bought when Plummer attends trade shows.

“Some of the smaller meteorites are pieces of a large rock,” Plummer explained as he pointed out a rock that was confirmed to be from Mars. “Sometimes they can be found for a reasonable price.”

60 aluminum locking cases secure smaller artifacts for easier transportation. He can stack them on a hand truck and easily load them into his vehicle.

Plummer says he has a mental catalog of his items but admits that it’s hard to remember all of it as most of the items are strung across a fairly large geographical area.

Some are located at Plummer’s booth in a Milton, W.Va. market, among other places.

He hopes to soon have most it collated in a room in the former Olive Hill Elementary building, located directly behind the Olive Hill Center for Arts and Education (historic high school building).

There is much more to his collection, such as local Native American history. There are stone pieces with pictorial etchings from people who lived in the Tygart Creek area possibly hundreds of years ago.

He currently has a small collection of local and military artifacts in a room on the west end of the building. But, he simply has too much to fit into that room and is expanding into the other facility.

Plummer expects to have the new room open sometime in August and hopes, eventually, to have regular hours where visitors can visit this exhibit.

It will not be open, however, until proper security precautions are taken. Cameras will be installed to better secure items and deter would-be thieves.

Donations will also be accepted to help with the upkeep as Plummer has paid for everything he has now out-of-pocket.

If you would like to help in the cause or sponsor supplies, contact Olive Hill Historical Society President Linda Lowe at (606) 316-0285.

Correction: This article was updated to correct “War of 1912” to “War of 1812.” We apologize for the error.

Cory Claxon can be reached at or by phone at (606) 225-5912.

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