For those interested in researching the history of their family, an old building in town or just wanting to learn more about the history of Ogle County, the Ogle County Historical Society and Museum is the perfect place to start.
With the founding of Ogle County dating back to Jan. 16, 1836, the county is full of old buildings and rich history. Whether it is old newspapers, past events, family heritage in Rochelle or the previous owners or history of a building, the OGHS is dedicated to documenting and maintaining the history of this county.
“The central purpose of the historical society is to preserve the history and culture of Ogle County,” past OCHS president Beth Simeone said. “Over the years, we have acquired a very large collection of artifacts that reflect what early life in the county was like.”
The creation of the OCHS is credited to Mrs. H.B. (Margaret) Walker, of Byron, when she proposed the project to the Ogle County Federation of Women’s Clubs in March of 1953. On May 31, 1953, the OCHS constitution was completed and adopted by the first board of directors which included Victor Conkey, Frank Coffman, Willard Jones, Mrs. Isaac (Maude) Canfield, Miss Lillian Storz, Russell Poole, Everett Webster, C.C. Parks, George Etnyre, Kenneth Cleaver, Mrs. C.M. (Grace) Tilton and Mrs. Edith Carmichael.
For the first decade, meetings were held in many different towns and locations in order to fit the growing organization of 100-plus members. Then, when OCHS member Ruby Nash passed away, she willed her 1878 home, located at 111 N. 6th St.., in Oregon, to the historical society and the Oregon Library, with each receiving half ownership.
Since the house was split between the historical society and the library, the historical society purchased the other half from the library, giving the society the space it needed to display all of its artifacts. The historical society has used the building as its museum site ever since.
“After the purchase of the home, a historical society museum space became a reality,” Simeone wrote in an email. “Prior to this, an unknown number of members stored their ancestors’ belongings in barns, attics, trunks and other buildings waiting for a final destination. These historical items consisted of household utensils, homespun woolens, handmade clothing, lace quilts, farming implements, tools, blacksmith creations, precious books and Bibles.”
Currently, many of these artifacts are on display at the OCHS and Museum, still located in the original 1878 Ruby Nash home. The museum usually offers different display cases, tours and a research center, but due to COVID-19, it is currently offering research by appointment only.
To schedule an appointment, contact the museum by phone at 815-732-7545 or via email at [email protected] The OCHS and Museum is also strictly volunteer based and thus it relies on membership fees, fundraising and donations to function.
“This is an ongoing operation and in order for us to keep on preserving the county’s history, we certainly need support,” Simeone said.
To become a member, visit the OCHS website at www.oglecountyhistoricalsociety.com or contact the historical society via email or phone. Anybody that would like to donate can do so by sending donations to P.O. Box 183, Oregon, IL.