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Atnip resigns from Heritage Alliance
Atnip calls it quits.jpg
A long-term member of Heritage Alliance is bidding farewell to the organization. Bruce Atnip was a member for 25 years before resigning. He is pictured in front of the Dottie West exhibit at the museum.

Heritage Alliance has worked to preserve Warren County history for 30 years. Bruce Atnip became a member 25 years ago. He was named president in 2021 and he recently tendered his resignation.

“It was a privilege and honor to work with a bunch of great people,” said Atnip. “I’ve loved all the board members, from day one when they accepted me and asked for my help with pictures and whatever else I could do.”

That sentiment extended to current board members.

“We have a great bunch that is taking over now that I’ve stepped down,” said Atnip. “I love them like my own kids. They’ll do a lot of great things. I think the world of them. We haven’t always agreed and this is one of those times. It’s better for the organization for the old man, as I call myself, to step down and let the young ones take over. That was always my hope, that the next generation would step in and do things.”

Atnip said he was asked to join Heritage Alliance by Rachel Killebrew, who enjoyed his photography. City Bank & Trust donated the building located at 113 E. Main Street to the organization to serve as its museum. That was approximately 20 years ago.

“We worked in that building for about three years before we had an official grand opening on June 5, 2005,” said Atnip. “Jimmy Haley and I and my late wife, who depleted her heath and is no longer with us because she gave her heart and soul to that, did a lot of that work. There were others who helped. We took out the old and put in what was needed, saving the history of the building as we went. It was a lot of work in those early years to get the museum that’s there now.”

That endeavor was quickly followed by the McMinnville Downtown Economic Revitalization Project phase one, which ripped up Main Street and allowed Heritage Alliance members a chance to dig into history.

“The infrastructure of that street had not been redone since about 1902 when the first water lines were put in,” said Atnip. “Some of those water lines were used from 1902 until that project. They needed to be replaced. It opened an opportunity for us. I remember getting phone calls ‘Where are you? Can you come down here?’ I’d take my lunch hour and go downtown to see what the work crews had uncovered.”

Atnip says former McMinnville Mayor Royce Davenport created a preservation council, “We would, basically, follow behind the bulldozers as they moved pavement and level streets. We were looking for artifacts. In that search, we uncovered things from our history – the 1860s era, Civil Warrelated things. Basically, it was 200 years of history.”

Some used metal detectors, says Atnip, but he searched for items that weren’t metallic in nature.

“I was searching for broken dishes and other things of that nature. I can pretty much tell you what they had for dinner from the things we found. We found oyster shells, bones from deer, chicken and wild boar. We found parts of the forks, knives and spoons they ate with. Parts of the plates and things that they ate on. A lot of what was found is still on display on the second floor of City Hall.

One man’s trash more than 100 years ago became another man’s treasure.

“They didn’t have dumpster service or trash pickup services,” said Atnip. “Any hole that was there was used for garbage. Back then, things were buried or burned. Sometimes right in the street.”

Cody Prince has been named Heritage Alliance president.

“I have a lot of confidence in him as a community leader,” said Atnip.

Some contentious statements were made that spilled over onto Facebook.

“Everybody made their statements and some not so good. I’ve submitted my apologies to them and wished them well,” said Atnip. “We did have differences of opinion that made me feel like it was best for myself, and for them, to step away. If there’s no resolving those issues at this time, this is for the best. It is sad, though. I’ve offered my support when I can and where I can. If they need me, I’ll help.

The Heritage Alliance museum, located on Main Street, will be closed temporarily as board members sort and catalog artifacts. That endeavor centers around items that had been stored at the Blue Building for more than a decade and recently relocated to the museum.”