Merrill Historical Society provides more than a static view of local history
The Merrill Historical Society is bringing local history to life with a host of programs designed to engage us with the past.
The Sept. 19 “Nickel Tour” brought the history of Merrill’s trolley line to an unexpectedly large group of participants. The event commemorated the 125th anniversary of public transportation in Merrill. The current Merrill-Go-Round buses of Merrill Transit took riders on a tour of the original trolley line while exploring the history of the buildings along the route. Two crews of costumed presenters manned the buses during the tours.
A total of 178 people took advantage of the opportunity.
“We were hoping for six bus loads, and we took eight,” said Tom Burg, a Historical Society volunteer who helped coordinate the Nickel Tour. “The museum was just buzzing. We had close to 100 people in there before we started.”
Adding to the fun atmosphere, Merrill Transit Administrator Rich Grenfell was grilling brats in the parking lot of the historical society’s History and Culture Center. Proceeds from the brat fry were donated to the Historical Society.
The event drew in participation from the community, with involvement by the T.B. Scott Library, Merrill Post Office, Lincoln County and Blooming Wishes.
The Merrill Historical Society is always looking to bring these types of interactive history lessons to the public.
“Merrill Historical Society has distinguished itself with these kinds of activities,” Burg said.
A Iroquois beading workshop, that ties into the museum’s new Native American exhibit, will play to a full house this weekend.
The historical society also has more activities planned for the fall. An open house at the History and Culture Center will be offered on Oct. 17 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The open house will celebrate the completion of the new museum, featuring demonstrations throughout the day by artisan Greg Johnson, who follows the crafts of the Chippawa, creating moccasins, birch bark baskets, and Native American costumes.
The History & Culture Center has drawn compliments from visitors, Burg said, even the currators of other small museums.
Anchoring the museum are the Pinery and Native American exhibits, both permanent features that display the artifacts and provide information on the earliest inhabitants of the Merrill area. The Pinery explores the early lumber boom on which the community was built and the forest products industry that has been the backbone of its economy for generations. Other exhibit space in the museum will be ever-changing.
Tickets are on sale now for cemetery tours in Merrill Memorial Park, which will be offered on Saturdays, Oct. 17, 24 & 31, and Sundays, Oct. 18 & 25. Cemetery tours have proven popular in the past and this year’s tours will feature people who were involved in the transportation industry. The tours will be led by local historians Wayne Vandre and Jane Francoeur.
The Merrill History & Culture Center will host its first Trivia Night on Nov. 7. Registration is now open and space is available for 15 teams of up to six players each. The contest will explore eight categories, but organizers are tight-lipped about the topics.
“It would be handy to have someone from Merrill on your team,” hinted Jane Francoeur, “and a multi-generational team might be good.”
The entry fee is $120 per team, but the winners will walk away with a substantial cash prize. The last place team, however, will be photographed in dunce caps. The contest will start at 7 p.m. Beer and wine will be available for purchase and players may bring their own food and snacks. Googling will not be allowed and smart phone use will be policed.
Looking ahead to the spring, the historical society is planning a second annual History Hunt in April. The first history-themed scavenger hunt received an encouraging response last year.
“We even give people who lived in Merrill their whole lives a different look at things,” Francoeur said.