Most older businesses, establishments, organizations, and groups have a past, present, and look to the future for growth and prosperity. One cannot forget the present because you are living it and you cannot forget the future because it has not happened yet. The past is the one that you need to remember and not forget. Remembering what happened when you were a child, or you lived in a certain place, or when some noteworthy event happened that changed the course of history, is an important part of your individual history. It is great to remember these things, but even better to have the things written down so that families of the future will learn from them.
Two ladies in 1965 had that idea. Bea Mount and Bette Ore had a love of history and antiques. They decided that Miami County needed a historical society. While talking about a historical society, the goal down the road was a museum. The first few meetings were held in different places. Bucyrus High School, Hillsdale, Louisburg’s Fox Hall, Indianapolis School near Osawatomie, Fontana’s American Legion building, and other places.
There was an ongoing drive to get a physical space for a museum. In 1973, one of the society’s members passed away and a lease on the house was offered to the historical society, but it was turned down because of many problems. A log cabin was offered but it was to expensive to move to a different location. One other offer by a Paola businessman was the second and third floors of a building in downtown Paola. After consideration, it was decided that the stairs would be too much of a problem and the offer was turned down.
Later, it was learned that the Arnold Building on the north side of the square was available. This was in March 1977. The building was purchased for $12,500. Now that a permanent structure was acquired, it needed a name. A contest was held and the name “Swan River Museum” was chosen. The museum could now display artifacts which it had in storage and on the second floor they established the Ethel Hunt/Mildred Russell library. The museum grew rapidly and soon needed more space. A new location was sought for. In 1999, three adjacent buildings were purchased on Peoria Street and the museum was moved to that present location. The first two buildings were used right away. The third building was later transformed into what is now the Indian Room. Many artifacts and information on the early Indian tribes are present in the room. At one time, the Swan River Museum and the Miami County Historical Society were coexisting and it was decided that they should both be under one name because they are both under one roof. Our present name” Miami County Historical Museum” was decided on and that is what we have today. Our present address is 12 East Peoria, Paola, Kansas.