County museum plans Memorial Day opening

VOLGA – They’ll be turning on the lights for the season this Memorial Day Monday at the Brookings County Museum.

Memorial Day has long been the traditional beginning of the museum’s summer viewing season.

The museum in Volga’s City Park will open at 1 p.m. Monday. Among new displays will be examples of lighting through the past century, including a rare street lamp globe that provided light on the 700 block of Main Avenue for more than 50 years.

A recent gift from Brookings resident Harlan Larkin, the large globe will be displayed with various delicate oil-fired lamps used in Brookings County homes in the 1870s through the 1940s and often beyond.

Use of oil lamps gradually abated in Brookings County as rural electric service came to parts of the county in the 1940s. Prior to the arrival of the REA, a group of farmers immediately north of Brookings installed their own generator and erected a system for their own, shared use.

Following the opening day on Memorial Day, the museum and three other historic buildings in the museum’s growing complex will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. seven days a week until Labor Day. Admission is free.

The museum’s main building, constructed with gifts in 1968, features an estimated 5,000 artifacts associated with the history of Brookings County. An 1870 original log cabin and a one-room rural school house that served from about 1880 until the 1930s will also be available for viewing.

The Sundet log cabin is furnished with period artifacts, as is the rural school, now the Christianson Family School, with rows of old school desks curving around the coal and cob-fired stove. There’s also the ubiquitous portrait of President George Washington hanging over the blackboard, plus other “old school” memorabilia.

Another museum building, the Vintage Farm Equipment building, features a mint-condition 1940s Belle City threshing machine, three vintage tractors and a host of other examples of rare and unusual horse and tractor-drawn equipment.

Because of the construction this summer of the Trygve Trooien Horse-Drawn Museum on the museum site, the Vintage barn is jam-packed with items that are awaiting completion of that building. The new museum building was made possible with a $100,000 bequest from the late Trygve Trooien, well-known Oak Lake Township farmer.

Although crowded with equipment destined for the Trooien building, the Vintage building will be kept open during the new building’s construction, which begins June 12.

The last building on the county museum campus is the 1884 James Hauxhurst house that was once located where the Brookings City & County Government Center now stands adjacent to the city library. The attractive old house is undergoing improvements and will not be open to the public.

The location of the house in Volga is interesting because of James Hauxhurst’s lasting impact on the community.

He was the county’s first clerk of the county commission when the county seat was moved from Medary to Brookings. Hauxhurst was also in charge of vote counting in the election as to where the county seat should be located.

Both Aurora and Volga had hopes, as did Brookings.

Brookings won out, but in Hauxhurst’s vote count, it was discovered that many Volga votes had mysteriously not been counted, and the case of the missing vote count went all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

As funds accumulate for the reworking of the Hauxhurst house, which was converted to an apartment house when it was located in Brookings, the museum board hopes to replicate the old home’s 1880s decor.


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