On January 26, 1907, at 2 p.m., a group of interested citizens of the county held an organizational meeting in the Supervisors Room of the courthouse for the purpose of forming a LaSalle County Historical Society.
About 60 persons of the county met with Terry Simmons of Marseilles acting as chairman. They adopted a constitution for the Society and elected Horace Hall of Ottawa as the first president.
The Society obtained its certificate of incorporation under the General Not-For-Profit Corporation Act of the State of Illinois on September 5, 1924, under the name of LaSalle County Historical Society. The purpose of the Society was set forth: “To search out, procure and preserve in permanent form, facts and data in the history of the County of LaSalle, Illinois, as related to persons, places and all objects therein.”
In 1931, LaSalle County celebrated its Centennial and the Historical Society enjoyed a surge of new members as each community sifted through the old records of its early pioneer families and the events of 100 years of growth.
The organization had no formal home and meetings were conducted in church meeting halls, school auditoriums, service organization halls, and private homes. Programs featuring speakers and presentations were part of the meetings, which were conducted mostly on a quarterly basis.
In 1952, after a centennial group met, they decided to re-organize and restore an active Society. A public appeal was made for artifacts, records, photos, and items that illustrated some part of the county’s history and the museum’s collection was established.
The Society was re-chartered in 1953 and in 1955 a goal was announced to find a location to store the collected historical artifacts. An extensive search led to detailed discussions of several alternatives, and in 1963 the Clark warehouse and granary in Utica became available.
The 1848 building was saved from demolition and in 1965 the Society began a fund drive to remodel the warehouse into a museum.
In October of 1966 the LaSalle County Historical Society conducted its first annual meeting in the remodeled museum building and 130 area residents attended an open house.
Title to the building was transferred to the Society in December of that year and in May of 1967 the new museum building was dedicated and opened to the public. More than 750 people attended the grand opening.
Steady growth of the collection ensued and the Society added the Kidd Blacksmith shop in 1972, the vintage barn in 1988, and the Aitken one-room schoolhouse in 1991.
The Society celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the museum building in 2006 and at the annual meeting announced expansion plans to increase the building’s usefulness and to improve the display of the collection.