The Kewanee Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and understanding of the History of Kewanee, Illinois.

Kewanee was founded in 1854 and nearby Wethersfield was founded in 1836. Wethersfield and Kewanee combined in 1921.

The Kewanee Historical Society was founded on Nov. 16, 1976 at a meeting of 14 interested people following a public invitation Robert “Bob” Richards. The society was formed and Bob was elected president.  He served in that capacity until 2003.  The other charter officers were Glen Partridge, vice president, Rita Bubnick, secretary, and Marcella Richards, treasurer.

The Board

The Kewanee Historical Society is governed by a board of directors. Its current officers and board members are:

  • Larry Lock, President
  • Steve Moon, Vice President 
  • Marci Carlson, Secretary
  • Sue Busenbark, Treasurer
  • LeeAnn Bailleu
  • Jeff Arch
  • Arvin Battersby
  • Ros Battersby,
  • Mike DeWalt
  • William McKee
  • Marty Ryan
  • Shirley Sumbles

The Museum

The society’s immediate goal in 1976 was to establish a museum, which it did in 1977 when the old Butterwick Hardware Store at 211 N. Chestnut St. 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.

Click here or on the Museum tab at the top of the page to see a selection of what’s in the museum today.

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