Mission statement of the Howard County Historical Society.
To preserve the history of Howard County in a manner that will educate and inspire interested individuals, to collect and preserve those artifacts related to its settlement: social, ethnic, religious, economic, military service, and farming. To be the storytellers for future generations.
Begun as the Old Settlers’ Society in 1901, with N.J. Paul as president and Robert Harvey as secretary, This group met annually for speeches and reminiscences until it was incorporated in 1966 by N.J. Paul, Henry Jorgensen, LaVerne Jacobsen, and Vance Lind as the Howard County Historical Society. Various historic items had been donated by old settlers and stored upstairs at the Cushman Building, 520-524 Howard Avenue, Saint Paul. The City bought the old District 41 schoolhouse in 1965 which was then moved from Saint Libory to Saint Paul, placed in a city park, and used for storage and display of collected items.
In 1965 the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Farwell closed its doors. Henry Rasmussen purchased it for donation to the Historical Village, public subscription paid for its move to Saint Paul in 1967. It first had a basement for display, but moisture problems forced closure and fill-in of the basement. A small store from Saint Paul’s 718 Howard Avenue, which had served several functions (restaurant, creamery, etc.), was donated to the Village by the Zlomke family. A garage was moved to the Village, given a new false front, and used for storage of machine tools and as a blacksmith shop. The Centennial year of 1976 saw the addition of a 30×80 metal building for storage and display of farm machinery, etc.
In the 1980’s termites were found to be infesting the park site, which was un-treatable because of city water well. In 1991, when Lillian DeVry McBlair, one of the descendants of that pioneer family, could no longer live on her own, the city purchased the balance of the block which had once been entirely owned by the DeVrys. Some of their soil had been scooped up and placed on the Courthouse hill to enhance its height. The DeVrys used the block for an ice factory. The town’s youth had thoroughly enjoyed ice skating on their pond. The four Society wooden buildings were moved to the new site bounded by Jay, Sixth, and Indian Streets, in 1991 and 1992.
In May, 1992 the Historical Society purchased the brick house at 1005 Sixth Street, which was built by Frank Gruber in 1908, as a replacment for the wooden residence on the old site. In 1995 it was opened with a restoration of a 1908 family home on the upper floor. Displays and records of Howard County military veterans are on the lower floor, as well as an exhibit on St. Paul author, Jean Potts, an exhibit of artifacts from vanished Howard County churches and a Native American exhibit which should be completed in 2001. A museum of Nebraska Baseball Greats, housed here from 1993 to 1999, is now at 619 Howard Avenue.
In 1997 the Coufal family donated the newly closed Cotesfield post office to the Society. Public subscription paid for its removal. Its WPA outhouse followed shortly. The Society purchased a Union Pacific depot, originally from Gibbon, and moved it from Shelton to Saint Paul in December, 1998. It was re-roofed and its exterior painted in 1999. Fund-raising continues for matching of a $125,000 grant for restoration of the interior, addition of a platform and transportation-related exhibits. In 1998 the City of Saint Paul decided to separate itself from the Historical Society and sold the Sixth Street block front to the Society for $1.00.