By David Fleet
It’s been a half century since a dilapidated century-old grist mill began transformation into The Old Mill historical museum in the Village of Ortonville.
At the center of the project is the Ortonville Community Historical Society who next month will celebrate their 50th anniversary.
“In recent years the Ortonville Community Historical Society has made a strong impact on the community due to the devoted volunteers in the organization,” said Judy Miracle, OCHS president. “It seems that at each membership meeting new members are joining our group and that speaks to our success. It’s been a pleasure for me to help bring local history to the community it serves.”
The OCHS was founded in 1968 with the purpose of preserving the history of Ortonville and surrounding areas.
Mary Alice Seelbinder is one of the founding members and is active today.
“The first order necessary, was to charter an organization to accept the Old Mill as a gift from Baxter (Jack) and Emeline Hamilton,” said Seelbinder.
“Emeline had visions of a historical museum for Ortonville. The grist mill had been closed in 1960 and in desperate need of repairs.”
The new historical society group was sponsored by the Ortonville Women’s Club—chartered with 25 members, she added.
“A ‘Save the Mill Fund’ was launched and the community came forth with a very nice donation,” she said. “Now 50 years later the museum has thousands of artifacts on display. The second floor is dedicated to local military expanding from the Civil War to present.”
Today volunteers from the age of 13 to 93 are members of the OCHS. Personal histories are shared, and the museum continues to be a resource for local research. It houses the bound copies of The Reminder and The Citizen from 1964 to the early 2000s.
Some of the OCHS accomplishments include: Collaborations with the Brandon Township Library with programs of interest; Santa Claus at the museum during Christmas in the Village; hosting three different Ortonville High School class reunions; hosting Ghost Tours during the month of October; hosting school tours which include hands-on activities and often churning butter; hosting reenactments of the One Room School day with actual lessons and writing with ink pens, having an annual Pie Baking Contest within SeptemberFest just to name a few.
In celebration of 50 years of volunteering within the OCHS several activities are planned for Aug. 3- 4.
On Aug. 3 the OCHS will be hosting an “Escape at the Mill,” an opportunity to experience figuring out how to get out of a locked room in the Old Mill Museum. Further information will be forthcoming on this fundraising event.
On Aug 4 the museum will open from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., as usual, but with fresh coffee along with FREE tours of the museum and the Mann One-Room Schoolhouse. Beginning at 2 p.m. the Golden Jubilee celebration will begin in the tent outside of the museum. Music will be provided by a local instrumental group, “The Ensemble.” Honored OCHS members and local officials will be introduced, a overview of the past 50 years’ accomplishments will be presented, and celebratory cake and ice cream will be offered.
Finally there will a celebratory old-fashioned pot luck supper. Cake and ice cream will be at 3 p.m., and supper will begin at 5 p.m. These events are FREE and open to the public. Bring a dish to pass to the pot luck; the meat, drinks and paper products will be provided.