On June 21 during our annual dinner, we will celebrate the founding of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society. See our website at www.fwhistorycenter.com for more information.
The Historical Society was founded in 1921 on February 12. About 141 residents of the community, among them prominent business and social leaders of Fort Wayne, met in the auditorium of Wolf & Dessauer to enjoy an historical revue of the Wabash and Erie Canal and to officially enroll as charter members of the Historical Society.
You can find the names of those charter members on our Facebook page.
Two days later, on February 14, an organizational meeting was held in the Director’s Room of the Lincoln National Bank. The meeting was called by Samuel M. Foster and Floyd Neff acted as secretary.
On March 23 an open meeting for all of those in the community interested in joining the Historical Society was held at Central High School. Membership dues of $1 were paid by 208 persons who signed the constitution of the organization.
The first officers were
William Peltier, president
Bert Griswold, vice president
Margaret Crankshaw, secretary
Ross Lockridge, treasurer
Beginning in 1902, the Mary Penrose Wayne Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution displayed relics on the top floor of the Allen County Courthouse. These artifacts were merged with those of the Historical Society in 1925 and moved to the Swinney House in 1926.
The Swinney Homestead, located just east of Swinney Park on West Jefferson, was willed by Thomas Swinney along with 240 acres of land to the city of Fort Wayne as a park in 1874. A stipulation of the will was that his children would be allowed to continue to live at the Homestead until the last of his survivors had died.
The Historical Society leased the Swinney Homestead from the city in 1924 and with financing from the county and Society members, established the first permanent museum. The formal opening of the museum was on January 17, 1927 with over 200 people enjoying an open house that afternoon.
Information for this blog post comes from the Old Fort News, Volume 58, Number 2, 1995. This edition highlighted the history of the Historical Society on the occasion of the 75th anniversary. Our next blog post for the 90th anniversary will highlight some of the challenges and accomplishments of the Historical Society during its history.