Our roots began in 1875 with old settlers meeting periodically to recount tales of pioneer days and displaying relics. These meetings resulted in an annual "Old Settlers" meeting and later organized as the Washington County Historical Society, located in two small rooms in the courthouse basement.
In 1965, with only 15 active members and $50.00, we became the benefactor of a former resident. Her generosity and that of hundreds of interested people (both monetary and volunteer), enabled us to build a facility known as the "Stevens Museum". We also acquired the John Hay Birthplace, restored it to the 1840 period and placed it on the "National Register for Historical Places".
This beautiful complex, known as "The John Hay Center" was dedicated in 1971, debt free. Later additions to the museum include opening the "Dean Gallery" on the 3rd floor, doubling the display space and building a two story wing to the library in 1984. A Pioneer Village on the grounds began in 1980 by moving and re-assembling an authentic Log Cabin. The village now also includes a Loom House, Log Chapel, Log School, Carpenter Shop, Blacksmith Shop, Jail, Smokehouse, Carriage House , General Store and an Agricultural Building.
Our Genealogical Library is known nation-wide for the outstanding collection of research material on local and affiliated history: and is added to weekly by our staff, volunteers and patrons.
Sponsored activities of the Museum are: an annual Christmas Open House to usher in the community Christmas season;, the annual Old Settlers Arts and Craft Fair which has expanded into a county event drawing an estimated crowd of 10,000 each year; and an annual Quilt Show.
As a continuing effort to assist researchers and expand the interest in local history, we have published several books for sale. We wrote and published the 1976 History of Washington County; published the 1850, 1860, 1870,1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 censuses; reprinted three county histories, and county cemeteries by township , including parents and spouse of deceased. We have two full-time paid staff members and a custodian; all other work in volunteer.
Members host activities, conduct group tours, build pioneer building and copy material for our library. A quarterly newsletter and a weekly article in the local newspaper, entitled "Historically Speaking" features local historical articles and informs the public of our efforts to preserve our heritage.