New Salem Historical Society/Museum
The New Salem Historical Society was organized in 1969 with the purpose of establishing a local museum to create interest in past history and preserve it for the future generations.
The Society was chartered in 1971. On April 26, 1971 an organizational meeting was called by Walter Kitzmann and the first board was elected as follows:
Vice President—R.D. Reif
Directors—Amelia Fuchs, Lorraine Keuther, Marvin Schulz, Rev. H. Schuler, Oscar Letzring, Harry Brandenburg, and Joe Kautzman.
Annual membership dues were set at $5.00 and lifetime memberships were set at $100.
A site was acquired from the Park Board near the North Park. This became the Custer Trail Museum as three buildings were acquired and moved in over the next 2 years. The schoolhouse from Fairview School District is used as an office and display area. The second schoolhouse from the Garfield District was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Erich Wilkens and has been set up as a country school. The third building moved in was the Otter Creek Church, which was placed on a full basement. In 1973 a dedication service was held in the church.
In 1974 a blacksmith shop used before the turn of the century and originally owned by Philip Blank was donated to the Society by Wm. C. Keuther.
In 1976 the 40x100 foot brick and tile building was built as part of the Bicentennial project. It is divided into several rooms and used to display artifacts.
The replica Sandstone House was built by members of the New Salem Pioneer Club.
An annual buffalo and ham supper was held for many years as a fundraiser.
In 1972 Clarence Klusmann and Alice Conitz were elected to the seats vacated by Marvin Schulz and Joe Kautzman. Louise Holle filled the unexpired term of Amelia Fuchs.
From 1973 to 1981 others who served terms on the board were: Mel Clendenen, Frank Sturn, Philip Maier, Viola Reif, Marguerite Brandenburg, Lawrence Kroeger, Condon Hartman, Valmer Sucher, Colleen Heid, Mabel Hintz and Sharon McNeill.
In June 1981 Walter Kitzmann, dedicated promoter of the Museum and Historical Society, died. He had been President of the Society for 10 years. Edwin Holle was elected to fill Walter’s unexpired term, and Lawrence Kroeger was appointed President.
As part of New Salem’s 100th birthday in 1983, a new steel building 100x100 feet was erected to house vehicles and machinery displays.
The Historical Society was able to acquire the New Salem Depot in 1984 and that was moved to the museum site.
In 1989 the house owned by New Salem pioneer John Christensen, was offered to the Society by the families of Ruth Beusen and Edna Horn. The large 2 ½ story house was built in 1910 and would be of great historical interest once restored. The moving of the house was quite an undertaking, both logistically and financially. This was accomplished in October of 1989 by the Carrington House Moving Company.
Further work on the house would have to wait several years until finances would allow. We then proceeded with restoration of one or two rooms a year until 1999 when a grand opening was held in conjunction with a Woman’s Life Society fundraising pie and ice cream social.
The year 2000 saw attention turn to the depot, where the dark dingy freight room was turned into a bright and cheery meeting room and home for the old books of the city library as well as an area for doing research.
Over the years since 1999 the Woman’s Life Society has held an annual pie and ice cream social and we have featured art shows, gun shows, the Centennial Singers, various demonstrations and an antiques appraisal show.
In 2001 and spring 2002 the blacksmith shop was restored and set up for use in blacksmithing demonstrations. In 2005 the wooden windmill was restored by Hoesel Construction.
During the years from 1982 to 2006 the following new people served terms on the board: Gloria Maier, Lloyd Huber, Harold Schroeder, Edgar Schwagler, Erwin Holle, Lloyd Borner, Diane Toepke, Roger Holle, Ingram Opp and Chris Kaelberer.
In 2007 Condon Hartmann passed away and the remainder of his term will be filled by Bonnie Maier. Current officers and directors of the Society are: President—Sharon Hartmann, Vice President—Lawrence Kroeger, Secretary—Gloria Maier, Treasurer—Durwood Toepke and Directors—Bonnie Maier, Lloyd Huber, Chris Kaelberer, Lloyd Borner, Ingram Opp and Roger Holle.