Much of Crow Wing County's history can be gleaned from studying the ebb and flow of the region's commerce: fur trade, mining, logging, railroads, paper production. The stories of these industries and the people who worked in them tells us a great deal about our ancestors and why our communities developed the way they did.
Commerce is not the only segment of society to suffer from boom and bust cycles. Nonprofit organizations, such as the Crow Wing County Historical Society, experience their ups and downs. Currently, the historical society is going through tough economic times, operating at a budget deficit and keeping open only because of the limited savings it has accumulated.
The historical society puts together some fascinating exhibits on Crow Wing County's past at its museum, in the old Crow Wing County Jail. Just a tour of the old jail itself, which housed prisoners up until the late 1970s, is a step back to a simpler time. The old jail doubled as home for the sheriff and his family as well as a correctional facility. It offers an interesting contrast between the stark cells and bars of the jail and the comfortable feel of the sheriff's home.
Although the historical society receives about a third of its budget from the county, the remaining portion must be covered by membership dues and donations if it's going to be able to retain its three-person staff and keep operating.
Even a temporary shutdown of the Crow Wing County Historical Society would be a serious setback in the group's efforts to document and catalog the historical significance of donated items. Sometimes if historical items are not cared for immediately, they're lost forever. This would be particularly disheartening in light of the society's recent work with a large donation of Potlatch photographs and artifacts which were being prepared for a future exhibit.
The historical society is always looking for new members to support its endeavors, particularly now when it's financially strapped. Interested persons can call the society at 829-3268. Supporters of the historical society will also take part in a spaghetti dinner benefit from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Brainerd American Legion.
It's our history, after all. If we don't take the trouble to preserve it it's unlikely that anyone else will.
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