Tags: Geneva Lake West
June 03, 2014 | 03:15 PMWALWORTH — Looking for some information on Cyrus Church or Don Sellgren?
Or maybe something about Kikkoman and Gov. Patrick Lucy?
No need to travel far to find the answers.
Nancy Lehman and the Walworth and Big Foot Prairie Historical Society have answers for those and nearly every question about the greater Walworth County area.
In crates and boxes, on shelves and stacks, down in barns and basements, Lehman, president of the society, said she and the society members have kept records dating back to the beginning of the county and the entire Big Foot Prairie, which extends into northern Illinois.
“I’ve been saving for years,” Lehman said.
Part of the historical society’s documents and collections are held at the Walworth Town Hall, W6741 Brick Church Road.
Lehman said the society is grateful for the space, located in a small attic space above the town’s garage.
Heating ducts are concealed behind the shelves of history books.
“We are just glad to have the space here,” she said. “I have more books at my home, and items are in barns across the area.”
The records room and museum at the town hall are open Wednesday mornings or by appointment.
Lehman is expecting visitors from Kikkoman, and the society has special displays at the town hall museum dedicated to the company.
In the display, in the main hallway at the town hall, there are photos, dolls and trinkets from the company’s founding in 1973 through today.
Upstairs in the society’s museum space, Lehman has a cabinet with Japanese-related and Kikkoman historical items.
“They used to let the general public come through on tours,” she said of Kikkoman. “Now because of security reasons, they don’t do that anymore.”
Kikkoman donated the land for the town hall.
Other artifacts in the museum include Civil War era clothing, McElwain quilting books, paintings and chairs from the former Seventh Day Baptist Church, now the home of the Agape School for Girls.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Lehman said. “People just give us things.”
Along with all the happy artifacts, Lehman said the society keeps a record of all area deaths.
“We look through the obituaries in the area newspapers to keep a record,” she said.
The obituaries are cut and organized into a file cabinet, reminiscent of an old library card catalog.
“Some of the societies have the obituaries organized by year,” Lehman said. “We do it alphabetically. Sometimes, you just don’t know when the person you’re looking for died. I think this is much easier to find someone.”
Diana Bird, society archivist, has been compiling the obituaries in the office.
Spread across town
From the town hall to Golden Years of Walworth, the historical society has permanent displays in the retirement community.
“Golden Years allows us to use the walls and this part of the activities room,” Lehman said. “It’s really great that we can have some of our exhibits here and hold our meetings here as well.”
Lehman said many of the society’s members live at Golden Years, and it’s a reasonable place for the others to meet.
The society meets at Golden Years twice a year.
In January, the group held its annual “show and tell” event, in which members share a historical item from the area.
The society also hosts an annual meeting in the spring each year with a featured speaker.
This April, the society hosted Jerry Apps, Wisconsin historian, to discuss the history of brewing in the state.
Lehman said the society is always accepting new members.
For information, contact Lehman at (262) 275-2426.