HJ/EDHerald Journal, Jan. 9, 2006

Museum offers local links to days gone by in McLeod County

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

The McLeod County Historical Society museum is filled with surprises that can open a window to the past.

One of the items currently on display is the first telephone that was used in McLeod County.

The phone was donated by the Ollig family, who owned the Winsted Telephone Company, Treasurer Gerard Stifter said.

The first phone line in McLeod County was built in 1892, and ran from the office of the Winsted Roller Mill to Lester Prairie.

Items from the ordinary to the unexpected are on display in the museum, located on the west side of Hutchinson.

The displays are changed periodically so that different items can be featured, Stifter said.

The historical society receives donations every year from communities throughout McLeod County.

“We have received a lot of items from Winsted and Lester Prairie,” Stifter commented.

One recent addition was a collection of old issues of the Winsted Journal from the mid 1930s, which was donated by Milo Kubasch. Stifter said these are the only known copies of these issues, and they have been sent to the Minnesota Historical Society to be microfilmed. After that, they will be returned to McLeod County.

Other items that have been donated are the window from the old Winsted post office, which is currently on display in the museum, some hardware from the old Winsted public school, some original blueprints of the Luce Line Trail, and a “hand calculator,” that is the size of a bread box, from the Citizens State Bank in Winsted.

The museum also currently has a prototype Allis Chalmers fuel-cell tractor that is on loan from the Smithsonian.

Stifter said that during the early days of the space program, NASA asked all of the tractor manufacturers to design fuel-cell tractors. The tractor now on display at the museum is the only such tractor ever built by Allis Chalmers.

In addition to the displays, the museum also houses a library and archive area that contains a wealth of information about the county.

Genealogical information is available for people interested in researching their family tree.

Historical maps and documents are available, along with a collection of photographs that are filed by location and by subject.

Also in the archive area, is a microfilm library that includes many area publications and census information.

The McLeod County Historical Society was formally established in 1940, and was reorganized with a new constitution and bylaws in 1952, combining local area chapters into one unified society.

More information is available on the web site, www.mcleodhistory.org.

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