GRINNELL — Gone, but not forgotten. That’s a motto for the group of approximately 10 Gove County-area women who set out a decade ago to help preserve regional history.
The Grinnell-Angelus Area Heritage Center officially was born in 2007 — the same year Grinnell and Grainfield school districts entered a cooperative relationship and Grinnell’s high school was closed.
“When they closed our high school, we wanted to save the warrior — that was our mascot — and that’s how we started,” said Lynette Wolf, one of the group’s members.
“And now there’s just a little bit over here with the warrior,” she added with a chuckle, gesturing to a small section of the heritage museum, now becoming crowded with donated artifacts and local relics.
The museum, 110 S. Adams, focuses on five rural communities: Grinnell, Angelus, Campus, Orion and Orange, which no longer exists. The towns cover a region incorporating parts of Gove, Thomas and Sheridan counties.
“You cannot talk about Angelus without talking about Grinnell, and you can’t talk about Grinnell without talking about Angelus,” member Judy Hart said. “Because we are more or less a unit here.”
The non-profit organization is open from May to October, due to the historic building — dating back to 1921 — not having heat. It doesn’t have air conditioning either, but usually isn’t too unbearable during summer, Hart said. All items are kept covered during winter to protect them from the elements.
“It kind of also started when they shut down Angelus grade school,” Hart said of the museum. “All of the stuff disappeared from the school and we didn’t know where it went. And we didn’t want that to happen with the (Grinnell) high school stuff.”
So the group immediately went to the Grinnell school board and was given many pieces of school memorabilia to display, and that became the first donation to their grassroots museum.
Memorabilia include the Warrior mascot on a chunk of gymnasium floor from the old high school, an old popcorn popper from the school concession stand, and two movie projectors from historic theaters.
The group publishes four newsletters each year and also compiles genealogy and historical information for regional families, with a research center available for public use. A grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation allowed the museum to digitize all editions of the Grinnell newspaper.
Signs and items from many former businesses also have been donated, including a door from a historic hotel that was demolished, a chair from a long-time beauty salon and the last marshal’s uniform from the days of court-ordained law enforcement. Grinnell now is patrolled by Gove County sheriff’s office.
There are binders of information and memorabilia from a regional local civic club and children’s group, maps dating back to the early 20th century and a list of all Civil War veterans buried in the local cemetery.
“A lot of people don’t understand that what we had here is not necessarily all gone, but it will be if we don’t preserve it,” Hart said.
“You cannot believe all the business stuff we have now, how many different businesses and their memorabilia we have. Somebody’s always digging in a junk drawer and finding something. ‘Would you like one of these?’ Yeah, we sure would.”