The original organization of the Grundy County Historical Society occurred in 1923. On May 31, 1923 a preliminary meeting for the purpose of forming an historical society was held in the Morris Public Library. The bylaws were drafted and officers were elected with Dr. W.E. Walsh, a Morris physician, becoming the first president of the Grundy County Historical Society. This first iteration was a very active and productive organization for a number of years.
In May of 1948, a group of people met at the Court House to reorganize the Society. A second meeting was held on June 2, 1948 and permanent officers were elected with Harry L. Hough as president and treasurer. Mr. Hough was one of the organizers of the original society in 1923. The group remained active until the early 1960s.
On May 1, 1967, a group of interested persons met in the Farm Bureau Auditorium in Morris to discuss the establishment of an official historical society (again) for Grundy County. The first decision the group had to make was whether to start a new society, or to reactivate the old historical society. It was decided to reactivate. Yes, the old saying, “The third time is the charm” has been proven true. Today, after 55 years of continuous activity since our reactivation we have realized the dream of our founders with a museum space in which to display our history, as well as to continue to preserve the history of today for tomorrow’s residents.
In 1923, many of the cases that you can see in the Museum were made from lumber taken from the old Hoge Homestead. The wood was formerly part of the first schoolhouse in Grundy County and in the lower panel of one case the initials H.H. may be seen which had been carved into a desk in the old schoolhouse by Hendly Hoge. In 1925, a third case was made from wild cherry wood. This was made for the relics of World War I soldiers. These three cases were designed by C.A. Baker and made by Ommund Fosen of Morris.
Our first museum was in the basement of the Grundy County Court House. In 1948 Mr. Harry Hough brought in his collection to add to the Museum and it opened at Corn Festival of that year. In 1981-1989, the Historical Society used a county building at 201 E. Illinois Avenue. However, as the county grew, we were forced to use an unused court room on the second floor of the Court House in 1989. In 1991, the Museum moved to 102 Liberty Street and we rented space there until 2008 when we purchased a part of the old Coleman Warehouse building at 510 W. Illinois Avenue. Thanks to the many volunteers, both members and non-members, on a cold December day in 2008 we moved into the space from both 102 Liberty Street plus what we had stored in the Court House. In 2009, the many Museum volunteers, built, placed, or set up displays of treasures and artifacts in a manner that would interest visitors and members alike.
In February 2012, we had a major revamping of our layout in order to accommodate more new exhibits and treasures given to use.
In 2018, a new addition was added which nearly doubled our space and gave us more display room, plus a dedicated archive room and research area. It was dedicated in September to the Ken and Joan Sereno family. This had been a dream of Ken’s and the generous donation by Joan from Ken’s estate made it possible.
In 2020, the building at the back of the new addition, which had been purchased previously from the Christian Youth Center, was made weather and “critter” proof, plus electricity and minimum heating was added. It is used for storage that does not have to be climate controlled.