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Historical society plans 50th anniversary

By Staff | May 16, 2014

My how time flies.

For 50 years, the Emmet County Historical Society has worked faithfully and diligently to help preserve the history of Emmet County.

And now, the Society will be making history for itself as it plans its 50th anniversary observance Saturday, June 14 at the museum complex on South 18th Street and Third Avenue South, across the street from Iowa Lakes Community College.

The original officers were Henry M. Larsen, president; Henry W. Mahlum, vice president; Mrs. Glenn L. Story, secretary; and Sylvester Berge, treasurer.

According to Mildred Bryan, current Society president, 30 people helped organize the original group.

At its inception, there was no building for the historical society – just an idea. However, that idea grew as the group sought and received some generous donations.

Board member Don Koons remembers when the Society first located under the former Emmet County State Bank (now NorthStar Bank) on North Sixth Street, on March 4, 1966.

That same year, the Society used timbers from Fort Defiance to lay the foundation for the Bolstad School, the first building in the museum complex. Within a year, the Society had 254 members.

The museum continued in the bank for 15 months then on June 1, 1967 the Society had to move so items went into storage in Bill Harvey’s barn. It was after that when they bought the old Legion building on South Sixth Street for $12,000 in January 1969.

The Society signed a lease for the meteorite park along Highway 4 north of Estherville Feb. 12, 1970. The second building, the Ivadell Ross building, was built for storage. Then H.G. Albee willed $100,00 to the Society for the current main building dedicated in 1977.

The Farm Heritage Building followed in November 1980. Then in 1988 Mildred Valen donated the former Palestine Church building in memory of Lewis Valen. The church, which officially closed Feb. 8, 1988, was conveyed, complete with furnishings, that same year. That October the Society negotiated with the Emmet County Fair Board to get additional land to the south.

Another building that was added was a 16-by-20 structure which was formerly one of Hasbrook’s Cabins, donated by Louise Hasbrook. That cabin was moved to the complex January 1995.

In 1990 the Society first started discussing obtaining the Scout cabin in Riverside Park. The cabin, one of the museum’s highlights due to the fact that Jesse and Frank James had breakfast there when it was located near Wallingford, was finally moved to the museum complex in 1996 at a cost of $2,200. For his Eagle Scout project, Lyle Clarken rounded up volunteers and in a cold 1998 winter reroofed the cabin.

Another addition was the 1873 Amundson house which came on site in the 1990s.

The Bryan building was dedicated Oct. 16, 2005 and the Hugh Greig Memorial Building was finished about 2010.

Koons said last year the museum saw visitors from 26 states and five countries, with over 500 visitors.

The cabin will be a focal point of the June 14 celebration. Bryan said the Emmet County Cattlemen will offer hamburgers, beans, chips and pop for a freewill offering from noon to 1:30. There will be music in the Bryan building from 2-5 with the Black Knights Car Club also coming at 2.