RANBURNE — The Ranburne Grassroots Initiative now has a project to which it could allocate its $5,500 in grant funding: a pioneer museum.

A group of about 10 residents held their second meeting of the week Thursday to nail down a project, so that they could move on to the next phase of the program — writing the grant application.

The Grassroots Initiative is a program of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University that teaches leadership and project planning to community leaders. Ranburne is one of four communities in the state to be selected to participate. During the program, which kicked off in March, the group has held public meetings to learn what area residents would like to see in Ranburne. Monday, the members tried to commit to a project, but couldn’t come up with one.

Thursday, armed with a renewed sense of focus and a lot of ideas gathered from a Facebook survey, the group members got to work.

“We’ve got to get down to the brass tacks tonight and decide on a project,” said Pat Skinner as she opened the meeting.

The first thing the group did was make a list of ideas, both those culled from Facebook and their own.

But Mike Wiggins, executive vice president of human resources at Southwire, sent the group in another direction when he suggested the group figure out what’s special about Ranburne and build the project around that.

“We need a gimmick,” Wiggins said.

The group discussed a few events including a big annual garage sale along Alabama 46, a farmers market and a dog show. But the thing that they decided was special about Ranburne was its pioneer roots. They discussed hosting a pioneer day event.

Kevin Thomas said if the city were to host an event like that or others, the organizers would need a venue.

Mayor Owen Lowery said there was an old house, probably one of the oldest in town that the owners at one time had offered to the town if the town would turn it into a museum. The deal fell through, though, he said. Scott Hanson, one of the owners of the house, was also at the meeting. He said the details would need to be worked out but that donation was still a possibility.  However, he said the house would need to be moved.

A good place, Hanson said, would be 12 acres the town already owns on Alabama 46.

“It’s going to have to be almost taken apart to be restored properly,” Hanson said. “What an incredible community project that would be.”

Skinner said the Cleburne County Career Tech School might be able to provide students to work on a project to move the house. Wiggins said Southwire has lots of volunteers in its workforce.

All members of the group agreed — this was the project they wanted to take on.

“There’s something here for everybody,” said Jackie Howle, one of the group members. “And it involves everybody.”

After more discussion, members of the group decided to write the grant requesting the money to prepare the lot for the building.

The next step will be to contact the program partners to schedule a meeting to explain their vision of the project to them, Skinner said.


Staff Writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545 or, in Heflin, 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.