Historical society houses over 100 years of history

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2003

Bricelyn’s 100th birthday was enough justification for a day of festivities, but that did not stop Esther Ziemer and Janet Peterson from continuing to remember the town’s history.

About two years before the centennial celebration in 1999, the two retired teachers and friends began plans to create the Bricelyn Historical Society.

&uot;We wanted to remember our history and we thought (near the centennial) was the time to do it,&uot; Ziemer said. They started with writing a history of the town.

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The self-appointed archivists appropriately used the First Baptist Church to house artifacts for the society.

&uot;We heard they were going to try to move the church out of town and we said that we wanted it here,&uot; Peterson said. Aged over 100 years, the church itself is an artifact. It is the second-oldest church in Faribault County.

The church was refurbished for the society. The outside was painted and the basement, which stores the items, had to be remodeled to make room for everything.

&uot;It took a lot of work by a lot of dedicated people,&uot; Ziemer said. She said that a man from the Twin Cities who knew about creating historical societies also came to Bricelyn to provide guidance.

Once the church was ready, the historical items were organized. The basement is full of pictures and books and war uniforms and record books and kitchen utensils. In addition to donations from residents and businesses, many items were gleaned from the local school. The school closed a while ago and now many trophies, pictures and uniforms are stored at the society.

Ziemer said that there are two reasons that the objects are meaningful for two reasons. The first is that they are not replicas-they were used by people for many years. The second is that the objects are old and portray the history of the town.

Membership fluctuates from year to year.

The zenith was during the same year as the centennial, with about 200 members. Currently, there are about 20 year-long members and between 25-30 lifetime members. Members pay a fee for their membership, which is basically a donation to the society. Ziemer said that members are usually people who &uot;have a feeling for the town.&uot;

&uot;It’s not as active as some museums,&uot; Peterson said, &uot;but every year we count up how many people visited and are surprised.&uot;

Residents use the society for numerous reasons. Some use it to feed their genealogical interests. Some visitors are former residents who want to rehash the past. One of the more significant features of the society is a microfilm reader which has issues of the town’s old newspaper, The Bricelyn Sentinel.

Both women are happy with the success of the society.

Peterson said that a highlight was &uot;just the satisfaction knowing that the church and memorabilia is preserved.&uot;

Work is still being done for the society. One current task is to label some of the items with their name, date and function.

Ziemer said that she is very pleased with the reception from the residents. The church is open only by appointment.

(Contact Benjamin Dipman at ben.dipman@albertleatribune.com or 379-3439.)