Getting to know the Hettinger County Historical Museum

Are you downsizing, cleaning out drawers or boxes or wondering what to do with it all?  If you have or find some old documents or similar memorabilia, consider donating it to the Hettinger County Historical Society Museum.

The Hettinger County Historical Museum is located on Main Street in Regent.
The Hettinger County Historical Museum is located on Main Street in Regent.

Submitted by MARLENE KOUBA
For The Herald

Are you downsizing, cleaning out drawers or boxes or wondering what to do with it all?  If you have or find some old documents or similar memorabilia, consider donating it to the Hettinger County Historical Society Museum.  Carol Witte is in charge of Carols Corner of the Museum and she has been organizing all such information into binder scrapbooks.  The former café building is now an Arts and Crafts room and  has area arts and crafts, paintings by local artists, collections of scrapbooks, family albums, atlases and maps, copies of Regent Times newspapers from 1910 to 1935, books on towns and schools in the county, and binder scrapbooks that include much information on many county residents. The binder scrapbooks go from A to Z by last name and include news articles and photos, funeral folders, and much more.  A separate obituary book is kept up to date.  Information is being added all the time to guide anyone looking for family history or past residents for research.  All past and current members of Hettinger County are being included. Come see what she has stored about you and your family in these archives!

The Hettinger County Historical Museum is a county museum and began with the donation of the Dr. S. W. Hill Drug Store in 1968.  The Hettinger County Historical Society was organized in 1962 but didnt have much to work with until Dr. Hill donated his store to them after his retirement. The Drug Store housed a drug store on the main level and a steep staircase leads to the doctors office upstairs.  His office is furnished with his medical equipment and furniture.  Birth and medical records were kept on paper forms in a glass cabinet nearby. The Drug Store has an original marble top with soda fountain fixtures, table and chairs, display cabinets and shelves filled with some of the items he sold.   Dr. Hill always wore a dark business suit to work and often gave a pack of chewing gum to children who came into his store.

The Museum is located on Main Street in Regent and its series of buildings occupy much of a city block. Other attractions in the museum complex include the Austin Frontierland, a 7,500 square foot steel structure built by Oscar Austin and Andrew Anton from plans drawn by DeLores Tollefson.  Housed in this building are a variety of pioneer farm machinery and tools, the Tepee Butte School with desks, the Zion Evangelical Church from Burt with altar and pews, a 1957 red Chevrolet Bel Air car, a windmill, and a homebuilt airplane. Along one wall is a replica of a Pioneer Street with a boardwalk, which fronts typical small businesses or buildings, such as a jail, town hall, hotel, merchandise store, bank, saloon, barber shop, meat market, print shop, harness shop and a complete blacksmiths shop with tools that had been in John Krebs shop.  A typical pioneer home, furniture, furnished with antique furniture from the area, is also located in the museum.

Christys actual grocery store was added to the complex and filled with suitable items. The museum also houses an Indian Room with a wigwam, buffalo robes, and artifacts plus uniforms and displays of World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and the Korean Conflict are on exhibit.  One of the rooms contains all of the large frames of the Regent graduates photos and one features U. S. Senator Byron Dorgan who lived in Regent.

The Museum is a top attraction for bus tours that travel the Enchanted Highway giving them a bonus on the way or some travel the highway and visit the Museum as a bonus.  Visitors have come from all over the nation and marvel at the large number of artifacts and memorabilia and their good condition.  Tour guide Don Wagendorf does an excellent job in explaining what is in the museum and about people who used to live in the area. When the colorful flag saying Open is hanging by the door then he is present to guide a tour. If there is none, you can call the number on the office door, 563-4636, and he will soon be there to give you a tour. The Museum is usually open from 12 to 5 each day except Sundays from May through  September.

The Hettinger County Historical Society operates the Museum. Its officers are President Jess Kouba, Secretary Tracy Kruger, Treasurer Paula Anderson with Steve Sloan, Gary Greff and Shannon Hummel as the remaining board members. They also help take care of needed repairs, painting and cleaning and general upkeep.  A new handicapped accessible bathroom was recently added in the office.

Past history books of the Regent area are also for sale in the museumOur Fifty Years, Regent Reviews (75 years) and Regent Reflections (100 years).

Visit the Museum and take a step back into history of eras gone by. See an old plow, coal stove, dresses and suits, childrens toys and much more that are some of the items in the Museum almost any time during the week.  New items are usually welcome.   You can donate any item that is of historical value, such as photos, journals, albums, scrapbooks and numerous items. They will be labeled to show who used it, when and who donated it.  Call any of the board members listed below to see if they can use what you have.

This museum belongs to all members of Hettinger County.  Your taxes give it some funds but it largely depends on contributions since there is no admission fee. Grants and donations of any size are always welcome. Stop in for a tour and when you do, be sure to allow a few minutes or a few hours to go through all of the historical items and data of years gone by. All ages find them interesting.

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