Reinvigorating the memory of history

Published 7:01 am Monday, February 13, 2017

For a number of years, the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Grand Meadow has remained a bastion of history in not only Grand Meadow but for Mower County.

But this summer, the hall, which was one of four originally in Mower County, will be getting an update as Mower County Historical Society curator Jaimie Timm hopes to breathe new life into the unassuming white building on Main Street.

“I want to start over I guess with the exhibit,” Timm said. “I really want to focus the exhibit on the GAR.”

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As it stands now, the building has a wide assortment of items with wider representation of Grand Meadow and the surrounding area, but Timm wants to refocus that to reflect what the GAR Hall was created for in the first place.

“Initially, I think it was a way for the Union veterans to get together and process their war experiences with the only other people that understood what they went through,” Timm explained. “They took care of each other.”

During the time the GAR Hall was used by the veterans, they would hold meetings, go to funerals as color guards, and help out families in whatever way they could.

Sue Doocy, of the Mower County Historical Society shows off an old atlas of Minnesota on display. Eric Johnson/

Sue Doocy, of the Mower County Historical Society shows off an old atlas of Minnesota on display. Eric Johnson/

They also became a lobbying group, fighting for veteran pensions at the national level at Congress.

In an effort to show that, Timm is hoping to arrange the GAR Hall, one of only two in the state still operating. The other is located in Litchfield. She’s also hoping to update things with new displays and updated information and in an optimistic way of thinking, she’s hoping to have it all done by the end of June in time for Meadowfest, June 24-25.

In fact, at least some of the changes will be ready by then, specifically the first of two phases she has planned.

“No matter what happens, we’re opening the new exhibit at the end of June for Meadowfest,” Timm said.

That will include new text panels, all new information, printing new photographs from the Mower County Historical Society collections and rearranging the exhibit.

Aside from a small amount of money set aside from Timm’s exhibit budget, money was donated from the Grand Meadow Lions Club as well as the Lyle American Legion, Stewartville American Legion and Blooming Prairie American Legion. The last three clubs donated money after Timm sent out letters to surrounding area groups hoping for donations.

They also were awarded $500 from a Freeborn/Mower Operation Roundup Grant, which was awarded to the Grand Meadow Lions for the project.

Phase two which could included, among other items, buying new cases, is dependent on Timm hopefully getting grant money from the Worth County Development Authority Grant.

“We hopefully will find out about that in the next month,” Timm said.

A painting by Josie Greening, daughter of Pvt. C.F. Greening of Grand Meadow hangs in the GAR Hall. Eric Johnson/

A painting by Josie Greening, daughter of Pvt. C.F. Greening of Grand Meadow hangs in the GAR Hall. Eric Johnson/

Timm began putting work into the project in 2016.

“I started ticking it around last year,” Timm said. “I started doing research on what was out there and started going to some of the newspapers and talking to the Grand Meadow Lions Club.”

The Lions Club has been a big proponent of revitalizing the building.

“They’ve really been instrumental over the last two years in running the GAR Hall and doing the little things,” Timm said. “Greg Lamp started talking to me last year.”

After looking into it Timm decided it was possible, but writing grants and figuring out funding pushed the project back.

Another hurdle will be determining what needs to be done with some of the items that won’t be displayed there anymore. Some items will be moved back to the Mower County Historical Society, which owns the GAR Hall. But some of these items came from other places which is the hurdle.

“I do want to switch objects around,” Timm said. “Anything not used there will be moved back to the historical society. A lot of the stuff is on a loan from an antique store that I don’t think is open anymore. I’ll have to do some research, look through our collections records and trace it back and try to resolve some of those loans.”

To help show off what the GAR Hall has to offer a number of open houses are being planned this summer into fall at both the GAR Hall and Mower County Historical Society and while the work might be daunting, Timm’s hope is simple.

“I would like to give people more opportunities to come out here,” Timm said.