Fayette’s Bean Creek Valley History Center Continues Its Expansion

ANYTHING LOOK FAMILIAR? … Colleen Rufenacht stands next to boxes of historical items, all archived on sturdy metal shelves. The strength of the shelving is well proven, as they are the former pop shelves from the Fayette Supermarket. (BY TIMOTHY KAYS, STAFF)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2017

By: Timothy Kays

Since opening its doors in February, the Bean Creek Valley History Center (BCVHC) has been growing at a phenomenal rate. Not only has there been major renovations inside the building, but outside as well with the need for a new water line.

Donations have been received from several people and organizations, including a collection of local history books from the Fayette Normal Memorial Library, and a donation of items pertaining to the West Franklin United Methodist Church from Judy Hutchison Rand and Jan Hutchison. Verna Williams has donated several hours of research and preparation time in providing detailed histories of several of the business buildings in Fayette. Her efforts are on display in the Yost Room of the History Center.

The work on the BCVHC is bringing the community and other organizations into the project. Brent Holland, the Plant Manager of Sauder Manufacturing, is working with the History Center on the construction of a new community table, made from some very old materials. “We’ve been collecting boards from historic Bean Creek area buildings, such as old barns and houses,” said BCVHC President, Colleen Rufenacht.

“We’ve got a board from the Medina Union Seminary School from the 1850s; its dormitory is still standing. That’s in Medina Township in Michigan, at the corner of White Pine Highway and Lime Creek Road. These boards are going to become the tabletop. My brother Bruce is going to make a map of the tabletop so that we know which board belongs to what, and I have been doing a history of each of those buildings. The table, as we sit at it for our Coffee Talk sessions, will be a storyboard.”

The Coffee Talk meetings are a unique feature offered by the History Center. “The Coffee Talks are one of the mainstays here at the History Center,” Colleen said. “Every Saturday morning, we are open from nine until noon. You can come in for ten minutes, or you can come in for the whole three hours. We sit at the community table, and talk local history. You don’t have to stay. You don’t have to get involved. Just pop in for however long you want. There’s coffee, doughnuts and cookies, and we have a lot of fun.”

Community involvement has made the progress of the BCVHC possible. The archive shelving system in the back came from the Fayette Supermarket. “They changed their shelving system,” Colleen said, “…so they weren’t using these. There’s been a lot of community support in getting this building done. Everything from monetary donations, to the donations of windows and doors. The carpet in the front room is from the Christian Church. They got new carpet, and offered their old carpet to us. We haven’t had to spend a lot of money doing this. I like to say that we’ve been doing this on a ‘fishing line’ budget, which is more skinny than a shoestring budget. We’ve been very pleased with the community support.”

With some of the financial donations, the History Center has acquired the PastPerfect museum collection management software for the purpose of identifying and cataloging the artifacts contained in the archives. Colleen beamed and said, “We have that because of a very generous, anonymous $800 donation, specifically for the purchase of the software. The software keeps track of the names, addresses, phone numbers and membership information. It serves as a contact list. It generates thank you letters. It generates deeds of gift. When we start putting items into the computer system, it generates an accession number that is attached to every specific item, just like a library.”

“We have a lot of work to do. Each and every piece has to have that accession number physically put on it. Then we take a picture of the artifact with its accession number. When we get our money situated, we need to spend another $400 on additional software upgrades that will allow us to put the picture onto the screen of the page of the particular artifact. What we’ll then have is who donated it, its accession number, a full description of what the artifact is, and a picture of the artifact. Not only does the software hold this description of each piece, it also will tell where in the building that we have the item housed.”

The BCVHC is now accepting financial donations, as well as donations of photos, family histories, obituaries and stories from the past. They will be more than happy to make copies of your items at the History Center. financial donations allow for the purchase of software upgrades, and help cover unexpected expenses, like the recent water line issue and its nearly $3,000 tab. The History Center has received 503c3 accreditation as a non-profit organization, thereby making your gifts tax deductable. Contact Colleen at 419-388-3518 with any questions regarding donations to the BCVHC.

Being a proactive, community-centered organization, the BCVHC has a fall lineup of events and activities for the young and old. On October 5, the Fayette Normal Memorial Library will be conducting a Lantern Tour at Fayette’s Pleasant View Cemetery. Bring along a flashlight or lantern, and prepare to meet some of the interesting people of Fayette’s past, as you visit them in the cemetery by the light of the full moon. Colleen Rufenacht will be teaching a course in basic genealogy called Digging Up Your Roots. Beginning October 24 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the BCVHC, this series of five one-hour classes will give you the tools to discover your own ancestry. The cost is $40 for BCVHC members, and $50 for non-members. Call Colleen at 419-388-3518 with any questions.

The next installment of Down Home at the Opera House is scheduled for October 21 at 7:00. This fundraising series for the BCVHC and the Fayette Opera House carries a $10 admission, and usually packs the house. Scheduled to appear on stage are Aubrie Calvin, GoKart John and Colleen, Steve and Tina Snyder, Bill and Kathy Beck, and featuring the Galbraith Clan.

Membership in the BCVHC has its benefits. The annual dues of $30 single and $45 for a family help pay for utilities, internet service and building maintenance, and also allows for on-site member access to Ancestry.com. The History Center is open Fridays from 1:00 until 5:00, and on Saturday mornings for the Coffee Talk sessions. The center is also open by request be calling Colleen at 419-388-3518.

Tim can be reached at tim@thevillagereporter.com


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