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Beloit Historical Society: Its First 100 Years

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The beginnings of the Beloit Historical Society took place at the regular meeting (February 10, 1910) of the East End Club in Reverend and Mrs. William Fiske Brown’s living room. William Fiske Brown being the author of “Past Made Present” (1900) and “History of Rock County“ (1908) both primary sources for information about early Beloit based upon his personal experience, observations and knowledge. At the meeting the following resolution was unanimously passed:

“We recommend that the East End Club empower its Service Committee, in connection with Miss Meyers of the Public Library, and with other organizations, to inaugurate a Historical Collection and that the Committee be further authorized upon the approval of the President to draw upon the treasury for necessary funds.”

The cooperating clubs in this venture included: The Daughters of the American Revolution, the Saturday Club, The Coterie Club, The West Side Monday Club, The Parliamentary Club, The Social Reading Club, the West Side Forthnightly Club and The Outlook Club.

The early years provided many challenges for the small nucleus of dedicated members. But future success was assured when, eight years later, under the leadership of Harry W. Adams, a petition with 82 signatures was presented to the Wisconsin Secretary of State and Rock Count Register of Deeds, as an application for incorporation. The application was accepted, and the Articles of Organization were received on December 10, 1918.

Soon after the Society was formed in 1910 it was given permission to meet in and use the upper floor rooms of the Public Library. However, the expanding collection soon outgrew the allocated space. New quarters were made possible by available space on the third floor of the Municipal Center, the former high school, at 220 W. Grand Ave. In 1954, But continued growth to both the Society’s Museum and the Municipal Center Departments forced the Society to look for new quarters.

The Hanchett-Bartlett Site, at 2129 St. Lawrence Avenue, was given to the Society by the Bartlett sisters in 1962. By agreement the transfer of the property became final in 1968. Continued growth of the Museum’s collections again became a serious challenge. But the site had great potential and was developed as a repository for artifacts and educational center.

The limestone house, barn and smoke house were built by John Hackett in 1850-1851, from stone obtained from a nearly quarry. Records show that it became the property of members of the Bartlett Family in 1901, and by bequest to the Society in 1962.

The Beloit Historical Society is proud to have had the Hanchett-Bartlett Farmstead added to the National Register of Historic Places, this honor granted April 11, 1977, qualifying the site for greater recognition nationally.

The site also contains a one-room rural school house, The Daisy Chapin Schoolhouse. It had been built prior to 1864, known as District No. 12 rural school and located on Colley Road, on the Joseph B. Colley Farm. Ronald Dougan purchased the property, and in 1920 moved it to the Dougan Farm. It was used for crop storage until, in 1971, Mr. Dougan donated the school to Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority. He moved the school to the Hanchett-Bartlett site where it was renovated by the Sorority, and dedicated as The Daisy Chapin School. Miss Chapin has served her community as an elementary teacher, school principal and, after her retirement, as Assistant Curator of the Hanchett-Bartlett Museum.

In 1985 the Society moved into the abandoned Lincoln Junior High School on Hackett Street, leased to the Society by the Board of Education. In 1988 and 1989 most of the old structure was demolished and the building remodeled, in which the Society operates today. The facility has the Society offices, a large meeting room, kitchen facilities, large assembly and storage rooms for archives, maps, photographs, records and exhibits, the Luebke Library containing books, articles and documents, a room for storage of textiles and clothing of the past, a Sports Hall of Fame room, and room set aside for the military history of the community, and Hall of Honor for those who gave their lives in the defense of our Country.

Today the Society manages both Hanchett-Bartlett Farm site, with its several buildings and school house, and the Lincoln Center on Hackett Street.