Tucked away down in the floodplain neighborhood of Lehi is this tiny gem of a museum showcasing the important facts and developments of Mesa, Arizona since the mid-1800s. Mesa is the Spanish word for table, in this case a geologic formation of flat terrain across a hill, butte or mountain. The City of Mesa sits atop such table-like land along the lower Salt River and is the ancestral home of the prehistoric Hohokam peoples, which the museum touches on. It is the third largest city in Arizona and grew from the industries associated with the Five C’s: Cotton, Citrus, Copper, Cattle and Climate.

The museum lives in a century-old building once a schoolhouse, squeaky wood floors and an easy layout, old classrooms become galleries of how life was lived as the city became incorporated. The current exhibits feature the famous Buckhorn Mineral Baths until July this year and baseball’s spring training Cactus League – linked to the Buckhorn Baths – brought us through the door, but the artist/writer Karen Kuykendall’s (1937-2007) Feline Fantasy room took the day. What inspired writing and a gorgeous artistic tribute to the desert and her beloved cats!

The Cactus League’s participation in Mesa is especially significant to the local economy and identity. It is something that put Mesa on the map since a team owner wanted African American baseball players and a warm place to practice, but Florida was still segregated. The MHM puts these unique facets of sports history into perspective with great pictures, artifacts and personalities. Other stories of early settlers and influential families line the walls, including that of Mesa’s first Japanese family of 9 whose only son was mortally wounded by an accidental gunshot and whose dying words became Mesa High School’s motto ‘Carry On’. Tearjerking. Upcoming this August is ‘The Return of the Buffalo’ exhibit.

MHM is fundraising to restore the adjacent Lehi Auditorium into an expanded baseball museum, shining an even greater light on the teams and leaders behind the 100-years of baseball in Mesa. To see how you can participate in Step Up To The Plate, info@mesamuseum.org.

Closed major holidays and Sunday-Mondays, Mesa Historical Museum is open 10-4pm, 2345 N. Horne. The highest priced admission ticket is $7. Their small gift shop has some great locally made items and I may go back for more cat socks! (480) 835-2286.

If your city has a history museum, avail yourself on the knowledge provided therein and learn why it is important to remember those who were there before.