The Clearwater County Historical Society was established in 1968 as a 501(c)(3) non–profit organization. The Society created a local history museum in 1974. During the 1970s the Society acquired a number of historic buildings and a modest collection of local artifacts. During the 1980’s, however, the Historical Society languished, handicapped by limited space and limited funding. November of 1989 marked a new beginning for the Clearwater County Historical Society. At the 1989 annual meeting new leadership was elected to the Board of Trustees. Since then the Historical Society has received funding from the Clearwater County Board of Commissioners, service organizations that had not previously given, and have experienced a phenomenal increase in membership. The Society presently enjoys increased support from the county’s townships and villages, increased support from the service organizations, and the acquisition of several project specific grants.
We produce a bi -monthly newsletter to keep our over 700 members up to date on projects and the happenings in the museum.
In the mid-1990’s we moved to a larger museum, the former Shevlin School and have continued to grow and expand. This museum is large enough to handle our growing collection and provides safe storage for our artifacts. The building is handicapped accessible, and meets requirements for archival storage and we now have the space we need to carry out programming or build exhibits.
The basic mission of the Clearwater County Historical Society is to discover and disseminate the heritage of Clearwater County. Beyond that, one of the Societies primary goals is to encourage local pride, to help people appreciate Clearwater County and its unique heritage.
The Society maintains a museum in Shevlin–on Highway 2. The museum is open: ALL YEAR 10-4 Tuesday- Friday and 10-2 on Saturdays in the summer and by appointment. The museum is closed on major holidays and during snowstorms! There is no admission fee charged, donations are cheerfully and gratefully accepted. The board of trustees also holds a business meeting on the last Tuesday of each month that is open to the public.
In 1993, the Society acquired the former Shevlin School. Built in 1911, this building is the home of The History Center. Renovation began in the spring of 1994 and the museum opened in the summer of 1996. In August 1996 the historic buildings, formerly lo¬cated in Bagley, were moved to Shevlin. These buildings include: the Vern/ Alida School, built in 1936 by the WPA; an 1880's log school, which is the first school built in the county, the Halvorson log cabin (1890’s) from the Gonvick area and the Ebro Depot, a “box car” style Great Northern Railroad depot from the early 1900’s plus an agricultural exhibit building, and the recently completed Church replica. The society has over 10,000 artifacts and over 19,000 photographs in its collection. All are available for viewing by appointment or during museum hours, with advanced notice.
The Society maintains Gran Church and Cemetery in Popple Township, which is currently listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In the 1980’s a restoration of this 1890’s church was completed and it is open to the public. The society also cares for the old city/ county jail located in Bagley. Built before 1905 (exact date is not known) it is Minnesota’s longest used jail building, closing in 1998. Restoration of this building is ongoing. The jail is open to the public by appointment and during citywide events.
The museum has thee locations outside its walls for community exhibitions; the Clearbrook Senior Centers hosts a traveling exhibit display that is changed every 6 weeks. The county courthouse hosts a second exhibit display, where photos are changed every month. The 3 area Cornerstone Residences hosts exhibit cases that are changed 4-6 times a year. The society has placed nine historic markers in Clearwater County: Gran Church; the site of the former town of Weme in Eddy Township; the town site of Winsor; at a logging site on Long Lake in southern Clearwater County, a logging site on the Clearwater River near First Lake and one at Long Lost Lake, at the Four Sisters pine trees in Bagley, the town site of Mallard and at the Old Jail in Bagley.
The Clearwater County Historical Society primarily serves residents of Clearwater County. However we have over 780 members, up from 18 members in 1988.