Resident at Grace Ridge Retirement Community Celebrates 20-Year Legacy with Local Museum
A remarkable resident at Grace Ridge Retirement Community, Judge Claude Sitton, has achieved a visionary milestone by establishing a museum in Morganton, showcasing the rich history of Burke County. Judge Sitton, who retired from the bench in January 2003, drew inspiration from a museum near the courthouse in Murphy and subsequently convened a group of dedicated individuals in February of the same year. Their mission was to create a museum that would serve as a haven for preserving and sharing the captivating history of Burke County. The museum officially opened its doors in 2003.
In a fitting gesture, Judge Sitton had the honor of donating the inaugural artifact to the museum—an intriguing Belgian flintlock rifle with a sawed-off barrel that he had discovered in a barn back in 1945. Word spread among the museum staff and board of directors, sparking interest in acquiring historical items for display. “The first year, we received nine donations,” recalled Judge Sitton, “and the numbers kept increasing each subsequent year.”
Judge Sitton assumed the role of executive director, a position he holds to this day. The museum’s first curator was Ruby Pharr, and Keith Brown served as the initial registrar of artifacts, while Betty Whitaker held the position of treasurer. Judge Sitton acknowledged the meticulous work of Betty Whitaker in establishing and opening accounts with the Community Foundation of Burke County to create an endowment.
As the museum’s collection expanded, the county allocated more space within the building to accommodate exhibits, storage, and office needs. When the Burke County Board of Elections relocated to the Foothills Higher Education Center on Sterling Street in 2009, the museum gained full possession of the facility.
Judge Sitton expressed his deep gratitude for the countless volunteers who have contributed to the museum’s success over the past two decades and his pride and joy in witnessing school children, as well as Boy and Girl Scout troops, explore the museum, emphasizing the educational value it holds for young minds.