Reception to be held June 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at depot
LEE COUNTY – On Thursday June 16 the current officers and members of the Society will be hosting the 60th anniversary reception to commemorate and review all the accomplishments of the non-profit organization since its humble beginnings back in 1962.
Mainly a group of history-minded area residents had the great idea of starting a museum, but more importantly was to save the crumbling one-room school, called Brush College that had been abandoned. Those interested found the local Soroptimist Club and the Fort Madison Council of Service Clubs also interested that backed the founding of the Society.
The enthusiasm grew and within a couple of years the Brush College building was restored and quite a collection of historical items had been donated for a future museum and furnishings for the historic school.
By 1968 the Society was looking for a home for the museum and the ATSF offered the old Depot complex to the City of Fort Madison for $1.00. The City was required to build a 5’ chain link fence between the depot and ATSF tracks. The city council voted it down three times, but the members of the Society raised nearly $2,000 to construct the fence and council agreed to lease the buildings to the Society and in 1970 final plans were made for the future museum.
It was a task for the Society to replace windows, clean and paint the Depot and Railway Express agency building as it had been open to homeless and was an eye-sore. Later after the abandoned ATSF freight house burnt, the Society added the fire-gutted two story Division Freight Office to the leased buildings.
The Society also led a drive to save the Old Lee County Jail next to the Courthouse that it now has leased and maintains and the War of 1812 Battlefield next to the original Old Fort Site that is now on the National Historic Register.
In 2012 the Society also leased the 1895 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Depot to add to the space needed for the Museum.
The celebration Thursday evening will be held to commemorate the hundreds of volunteers that have kept the dream alive for 60 years and preserved thousands of historic artifacts donated to the Society. Old scrapbooks kept by the early members of the Society and photos will be displayed and a slide show of the Dennis Andrews collection of very old area photos will be presented.
No reservations are needed to attend this event which will be hosted at the CB&Q facilty at 804 10th street from 5:30 pm – 8 pm with refreshments and treats furnished by members of the Society.
According to President Kathy Burkhardt the Society at present has more than 200 members but still needs more to assure history is preserved and shared. Annual membership dues are $30.00 and Lifetime memberships are available for $300.00. Tax deductible donations and dues may be mailed to PO Box 285, Fort Madison, IA. 52627 or dropped by the Museum.