The Kewanee Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the History of Kewanee, Illinois.
The Kewanee Historical Society’s Robert and Marcella Richards Museum is located at 125 N Tremont Street Kewanee, Illinois 61443. For information call(309) 370-9857 or (309) 854-1618
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kewanee Historical Society is a not-for-profit corporation with about 350 members. You can help support the Historical Society and Museum by becoming a lifetime member for only $25. If interested please mail a check to Kewanee Historical Society at 125 N Tremont Street, Kewanee IL 61443.
Anyone who would like to donate an artifact or document pertaining to Kewanee can contact us by mail, phone, email or visiting the museum. After donation, the item becomes the property of the Kewanee Historical Society. Be assured that significant articles will not leave the museum holdings. As our bylaws specify, if the Kewanee Historical Society were to ever disband; all holdings of the society would be given to a public entity such as the city or public library or a not-for-profit organization such as the Henry County Historical Society or Henry County Genealogical Society.
As always, if you have old photographs, stories or documents you wish to share with the Historical Society they are greatly appreciated.
The Kewanee Historical Society is governed by a board of directors. Its current officers and board members are:
- Mike DeWalt, President
- Steve Moon, Vice President
- Marci Carlson, Secretary
- Sue Busenbark, Treasurer
- Larry Lock, Curator
- Pat Lock, Curator
- LeeAnn Bailleu
- Jeff Arch
- Arvin Battersby
- Ros Battersby
- William McKee
- Marty Ryan
- Shirley Sumbles
The society’s immediate goal in 1976 was to establish a museum, which it did in 1977 when the old Butterwick Hardware Store was offered for sale. The society raised $5,000 for a down payment and borrowed another $14,000 to purchase the building. The mortgage was retired in four years through memberships, donations and fundraising events.
The Butterwicks started their hardware business in 1868. The current brick building was constructed in 1887. The family operated the business until 1966, after which the building was used for storage by an electrical company and the upstairs was the location of a teen center for a year and then an adult nightclub.
After the buildings to the south were torn down, exposing the wall of the museum to the elements, the surface was plastered and painted. A “Kewanee Landmarks” mural, painted by Kewanee artist Dave Washburn, was dedicated Oct. 18, 1997.
A tremendous amount of work was needed in the late 1970’s to turn the old hardware store into a museum and Bob and Marcella were up to the task. With the help of many dedicated volunteers the building was repaired and remodeled. Since 1977 the current and former folks from Kewanee donated money, artifacts, and their time to make the museum what it is today. That said, for the fist quarter century of the museum’s existence the the driving force behind it were Bob and Marcella Richards.
Accordingly, the society’s board of directors decided in 2001 to name the museum the “Robert and Marcella Richards Museum.” The official announcement of that decision was made at a 25th anniversary banquet on Oct. 7, 2001 at which the Richards were honored for their 25 years of service.
In 2020 the museum was moved to a “new” building at the corner of Tremont and Second Streets in the center of downtown Kewanee. The building was built in 1942 after the “Great Kewanee Fire” destroyed much of downtown. Our new address is 125 N Tremont St, Kewanee IL, 61443.
Do It Yourself with Documents in the Museum
We are happy to share information in the museum about the city of Kewanee or village of Wethersfield and the folks who lived there.
While we are planning to make a more extensive list of research material in the museum, here’s a partial list of what you will find:
- City directories beginning in 1876 and including the years of 1893, 1898, 1900, 1905, 1911, and many others from that point until about 2000.
- Cemetery indexes compiled by the Henry County Genealogical Society of all Kewanee cemeteries.
- Scrapbooks containing over 10,000 Kewanee obituaries … click here to see the index.
- Kewanee High School yearbooks beginning in 1904 and Wethersfield High School yearbooks beginning in 1947.
- Published histories of Henry County, Kewanee and Wethersfield.
- Atlases showing Kewanee and Wethersfield in 1876, 1893, 1911, 1918 and later.
- Scrapbooks containing documents of various kinds on churches, schools, businesses, industries, fraternal and social clubs and individuals … click for an alphabetized index to scrapbooks.
One of the best sources of research material is the Kewanee online newspaper search. It’s free and very good. Click Here to search newspapers back to the 1850’s.
We Can Help
Please note that research is done by VOLUNTEERS … We do not have set fees for doing research, but reasonable donations to the museum are expected and appreciated.
One last note-we do not do general genealogical searches that might involve censuses or visiting the county courthouse for vital statistics. For general searches we can recommend the Henry County Genealogical Society and Henry County Courthouse. (See the “Links” page). We limit our efforts to the material that we have in our museum and looking at microfilm of Kewanee newspapers.
Additional information and photographs are available when you visit the Kewanee Historical Museum
As always, if you have old photographs, stories or documents you wish to share with the Historical Society we would be greatly appreciated.