An Emporium of East Texas History

Contrary to its name, the Vanishing Texana Museum in Jacksonville is committed to preserving the culture and history of Texas (aka Texana) to ensure that it does NOT vanish – particularly that of the East Texas region, Cherokee County, and of course, the Jacksonville community itself.

To that end, the museum’s curators are passionate about collecting, preserving and sharing an impressive collection of antiquities, curiosities, ephemera and vestiges from the city’s “bygone” era, with the bulk of the items dated from 1830 through 1950.

The museum boasts artifacts from foreign regions as well, including the extensive Antique Coin Exhibition that showcases currency hailing from the Roman Empire as early as 238 AD.

One of the museum’s more unusual items is the Noel Madstone (also known as a bezoar or enterolith). Before the advent of the Pasteur rabies vaccine in 1885, no treatment existed for having been bitten by a rabid animal – except for the application of a Madstone.

These “charmed” stones were borne from the stomachs of various cloven-hoofed animals, and these magical concretions were nothing more than a glorified hairball (mineral salts mixed with hair). Still, it was widely believed that the most effective stones were harvested from the stomach of an albino deer, as with Dr. Noell’s Madstone.

Dr. Jesse M. Noell utilized his particular Madstone throughout his practice in Alto, Texas (just 25 miles south of Jacksonville) beginning in 1860. The efficacy of the Noell Madstone was widely touted and  well documented through journals, letters, newspaper articles and personal recollections. What makes the Noell Madstone unique is its crystal-like appearance which projects a shiny, smooth, near-translucent surface. It measures 2 inches in diameter and one and a quarter inches in length, and is semi-flat on one side.

After Dr. Noell’s death in 1901, his daughter Fannie acquired the stone and continued its use for many years, meticulously maintaining a journal that catalogued 81 patients who were “drawn” by her father’s Madstone. None of the 81 patients cited in the journal died of rabies.

It is important to note that scientists believe that 80 to 85 percent of bite victims escape infection from the virus. In the pre-Pasteur days, Madstones received credit for those survival stats.

Visit the Vanishing Texana Museum