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Exploring the Meeker County Museum

First-time visitors to the Meeker County Museum at the G.A.R. Hall are often surprised by the museum’s size. The front half of the building consists of the historic G.A.R. Hall, but attached to the rear of the Hall is a two-story addition full of history! While the G.A.R. Hall focuses on the Civil War, the rest of the museum covers a wide range of topics and eras. Here are a few highlights from around the museum.

The Samstad Cabin

The interior of the Samstad Cabin at the Meeker County Museum in Litchfield, MN
Step inside the Samstad Cabin!

One of the more memorable artifacts, not to mention the largest, is the Samstad Cabin. The cabin was originally built in 1860 and stood in Acton Township. The Samstad family lived in the cabin from 1907 until 1923. The family donated the cabin in the 1960s, around the same time construction was completed on the museum. The cabin was dismantled and rebuilt as an exhibit. You can still see the numbers written on the logs to help with reassembly. The cabin also includes several items once used by the Samstads and is a great example of early life in Meeker County.

So Much to See!

The history continues on the upper floor of the museum. On display are some “firsts” in Meeker County, including the first Post Office that was little more than a cupboard. Early post offices were usually part of small general stores that once dotted the county. Another of the county’s “firsts” can be seen in the medical display – the first X-ray machine! It was used by Dr. Sherwood and some of the early X-rays can also be seen. There is also medical equipment and artifacts from Doctors Danielson, Robertson, Wilmot, and Nolan.

The military displays give just a glimpse into the lives of some of the men and women who have served in the US Military from Meeker County. For example, Joel Nelson was a bugler in World War I. Thomas E. Lawrence was the first person from Meeker County to graduate from West Point. Purple Heart recipient Donald Nygaard was in the US Navy and died near Iwo Jima in World War II. Genevieve (Desens) Lenhard was just the second woman from Minnesota to join the US Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, or SPARS, in 1942. Patrick S. Mitchell was a member of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Vietnam.

Dig into Your Family History

The Museum is also home to a Research Library that includes local history books, biography files, plat maps, and much more for family researchers and genealogists. If you are curious about your Meeker County roots but aren’t sure where to start, just ask our staff! The Research Library also has over 150 years of newspapers available on microfilm, plus physical copies of most issues of the Litchfield Independent Review. As yesterday’s news is today’s history, we are grateful for all the local history recorded by the Independent Review and its predecessors. The closing of the newspaper is truly the end of an era.

The Meeker County Museum at the G.A.R. Hall is open Tuesday-Friday from 10:00-4:00 and Saturdays from 12:00-4:00.

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