Washtenaw County Historical Society records, 1827-2014
Using These Materials
- The record group is open to research.
- Washtenaw County Historical Society.
- Local historical society for Washtenaw County, Michigan Organizational records and collected historical materials.
17.5 linear feet (in 18 boxes)
1 oversize folder (UBPl)
- Call Number:
- 86315 Bp.2 2; UBPl
- Finding aid created by Michigan Historical Collections staff
- Scope and Content:
The Washtenaw County Historical Society records include collected historical documents and photographs relating to the people, events, and history of the county, its cities and townships. There are also administrative records of the organization, including minutes of meetings, subjects relating to Society programs and projects, and financial miscellanea.
- Biographical / Historical:
On December 17, 1857, 19 citizens of Ann Arbor called for "a county convention for the purpose of forming a County Historical Association" to be composed of anyone from the townships who cared to attend. The meeting was held at the Court House for the purpose of organizing a Washtenaw Historical Society. John Geddes became the chair of a committee consisting of one representative from each township plus the city of Ann Arbor. The committee was appointed to draw up a constitution "to awaken an interest in the towns." The group met again on January 13, 1858 to adopt the constitution and elect officers. The Honorable Munnis Kinney of Webster Township was elected president. The object was "to collect and preserve the history of the first settlement and growth of Washtenaw County, and to publish the same from time to time as shall be deemed advisable." No records of meetings beyond 1862 have been found to date. It appears the organization continued and that artifacts and archival material continued to be collected but the Civil War may have been the reason for the suspension of meetings.
In April 1873, the state legislature passed a resolution calling for the collecting and preserving of historical information relating to Michigan which resulted in the formation of the Historical Society of Michigan. This probably led Gen. Edward Clark, President of the Ann Arbor Pioneer & Historical Society to call for a meeting on Aug. 19, 1873 to reactivate the county society. A constitution and by-laws were adopted that same day and we became 'The Pioneer Society of the County Washtenaw." Alpheus Felch, ex-governor of Mich., former Justice of the Peace, former U.S. Senator and a UM law professor was elected president. The object stated this time was "to cultivate social relations, collect and preserve biographical sketches, statistics and historical facts and reminiscences, and to preserve and transmit the same to future generations." Members had to be a resident of the county for at least 20 years and dues were 25 cents a year.
In 1876 the Society was incorporated under state law, dues were to be no less than 25 cents and no more than $3.00, members had to be "not less than 40 years of age, who had resided in the county 25 years." At a meeting in 1883, the Honorable E.P. Allen of Ypsilanti stated, "We are now living in the high noon of the last civilization the world will know until it is burned up, and I do not believe the progress of the fifty years to come will be equal to that of the past half century."
Meetings were held in various locations around the county--at first in alternate months, then quarterly and finally only annually and on special occasions such as the 4th of July. Meetings were an all day affair with a business meeting in the morning, lunch prepared by the local ladies, and then reports and, if time, reminiscences of members. It appears that no meetings were held after 1925.
In 1929, the third constitution was drawn up. A new constitution was necessary because the organizers discovered that the old charter had expired in 1906. By this time the pioneers were getting fewer and fewer. The age and residency requirements were dropped and the name was changed to Washtenaw Historical Society. It was felt that the word county limited the activities of the Society. The objects stated this time were "to foster interest in the history of the Washtenaw Area, and to assemble and preserve in permanent collections all materials relating to that history." In 1943, the dues were $1.00 or one could get a lifetime membership for $50. By 1947, the lifetime membership cost had dropped to $25. There were 24 lifetime members in 1950.
Upon expiration of that charter, the Society reincorporated in 1955. When that charter expired in 1985, we were reincorporated in perpetuity as a non-profit organization and the name was changed to Washtenaw County Historical Society.
Through all of that time the Society never had a home. The need for a permanent site was first expressed in 1874 by William Gregory of Saline. In 1930, Dr. Carl Guthe, president of the Society, stated that "the development and fostering of community memory is the function of the WHS" and "the Society is making definite plans for securing an adequate home for the county's memory." Over the years, many locations were mentioned and some discussed at length.
In 1942, Marie Louise Douglass, daughter of Dr. Silas H. Douglass, bequeathed her home at 502 E. Huron along with real estate owned on E. Washington to the Regents of the University of Michigan "being it expressly provided, however, that it be known as the Washtenaw Historical Museum" and "that the enterprise be conducted as a joint museum for the display of the property of the Washtenaw Historical Museum, under the supervision of the Regents of the University of Michigan, with such cooperation, between the groups as may be desirable to effectuate that purpose." The Society was not specifically mentioned but most interpreted the will to include the Society because many of her personal items were left to the Society. The Regents tentatively accepted the terms and the Society held a special meeting to discuss the proposal. It was felt that $150,000 would be needed. Due to the war, most funds were going to the war effort and the Society decided they could not obtain the needed money so they declined. The committee noted that there were a number of other suitable residences in Ann Arbor that might be purchased or donated with an endowment for upkeep.
In 1955, the Society launched a drive to purchase Cobblestone Farm. They needed to raise $40,000 but were unable to do so. Other sites mentioned were Kempf House (too small), Danforth House at 303 E. Ann (demolished), one of the empty store fronts on Main St. Tuomy House was explored in 1967 (and again in 1996 and yet again in 2005). The fire house was considered but rejected due to lack of parking (sure doesn't seem to be a problem for the Hands-On Museum).
In 1974, Dave Pollack offered to purchase four acres of land on Fleming Creek from Fred Matthaei, Jr. which would include the grist mill and land to build a museum. The Society decided it would be too expensive. The spot, Parker Mill, is now run by the County Parks Commission. One site that almost was successful was the Barton Dam Powerhouse. In 1977, the society signed a lease for the Powerhouse and three acres of land. One problem was the access which was off Barton Shore Drive, a private road in Barton Hills. The city agreed to build a new access road off Whitmore Lake Rd. on land that it would purchase. The access problem, the dampness issue, and the inability to raise the money, not to mention the fact that the city decided to reclaim it to generate electricity, resulted in the loss of yet another potential site. We did hold an exhibit at the powerhouse as a fund raiser. The final chapter in our search began in the late 1980s when the University decided to demolish a home at 1015 Wall St. for a parking lot. When Susan Wineberg heard about it, she wrote a letter to the university planner, Fred Mayer, explaining the significance of the house and asking if they would consider moving it. The original lot on Wall Street was sold to Thomas Peatt by Anson Brown's widow and subsequently sold to Dan Kellogg and Ethan Warden. The rear section of the house was built in 1835 by Dorr, Dwight and Dan Kellogg. The front section was added in 1839 when Charles and his wife came from New York State.
The university offered the house to the city which accepted, then decided six months later that they had no use for it. At that time, Thelma Graves, a board member, suggested to the society president, Karen O'Neal, that the Society try to acquire the house from the University. Through Karen O'Neal's determination, the support of the university, the city's agreement to lease the land and in spite of setbacks, including a determination by the DNR that the soil was contaminated by the gas station previously on the site, the project became a reality. On Sunday, June 10, 1990, the Society's first home, the Museum on Main Street, rolled across the Broadway bridge and was set on cribbing, 133 years after John Geddes called for the formation of a society.
[This text was edited from the Washtenaw County Historical Society web-site]
- Acquisition Information:
- The records were deposited by the Society (donor no. 945 ). Periodic additions have been received.
Periodic additions to the records are expected.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Banks and banking -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Frontier and pioneer life -- Michigan -- Washtenaw County.
Railroads -- Michigan -- Washtenaw County.
Buildings -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Buildings -- Michigan -- Washtenaw County.
Churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Dwellings -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Dwellings -- Michigan -- Washtenaw County.
Post offices -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Artists -- Michigan -- Washtenaw County.
Women artists -- Michigan -- Washtenaw County.
Bank of Washtenaw.
Grand Army of the Republic. Welch Post no. 137 (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Ladies Decoration Society (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
United States. Army. Michigan Infantry Regiment, 4th (1861-1864). Company D.
United States. Army. Michigan Artillery Regiment, 6th (1863-1865)
University of Michigan -- History.
Wagner Company (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Washtenaw County Historical Society.
World's Columbian Exposition (1893: Chicago, Ill.)
Ann Arbor City Mills.
Ann Arbor High School (Mich.)
Christian Eberbach House (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Loomis House (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Morgan House (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Muehlig House (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Reighard House (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
University of Michigan -- Buildings.
University of Michigan -- Campus.
Winchell House (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company.
Forest Hill Cemetery (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
McAndrew, Helen Walker, 1826-1906.
Adams, Charles Kendall, 1835-1902.
Burnett, Arthur W.
Demmon, Isaac Newton, 1842-1920.
Dunster, Edward Swift, 1834-1888.
Frieze, Henry S. (Henry Simmons), 1817-1889.
Haven, E. O. (Erastus Otis), 1820-1881.
Hempl, George, 1859-1921.
Jones, Charles Nelson, 1848-1913.
MacLean, Donald, 1839-1903.
Palmer, Alice Freeman, 1855-1902.
Pond, Elihu Bartlit, 1826-1898.
Tyler, Moses Coit, 1835-1900.
Van Hoosen, Bertha, 1863-1952.
Allen, John, 1796-1851.
Bronson, Titus, 1788-1853.
Chapin, Lucy E., 1834-1910.
Howell, Seymour, 1841-1909.
Lyon, Lucius, 1800-1851.
Maynard, William Sumner, 1802-1866.
Gilbert, Edwin H.
Taylor, Howell., Mrs.
Ann Arbor (Mich.)
Ann Arbor (Mich. : Township)
Bridgewater (Mich. : Township)
Dexter (Mich. : Township)
Freedom (Mich. : Township)
Lima (Mich. : Township)
Lodi (Mich. : Township)
Lyndon (Mich. : Township)
Manchester (Mich. : Township)
Northfield (Mich. : Township)
Pittsfield (Mich. : Township)
Salem (Washtenaw County, Mich. : Township)
Saline (Mich. : Township)
Scio (Mich. : Township)
Sharon (Washtenaw County, Mich.)
Superior (Washtenaw County, Mich. : Township)
Sylvan (Washtenaw County, Mich. : Township)
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
York (Mich. : Township)
Ypsilanti (Mich. : Township)
Ann Arbor (Mich.)
Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Churches.
Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Dwellings.
Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Post offices.
Sault Sainte Marie (Mich.)
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
Washtenaw County (Mich.)
Washtenaw County (Mich.) -- Buildings.
Washtenaw County (Mich.) -- Dwellings.
Washtenaw County (Mich.)
Using These Materials
The record group is open to research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Donor(s) have not transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, box, Washtenaw County Historical Society records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan