About Us


The Kewanee Historical Society is a not-profit-organization currently possessing about 350 members. A board of directors of 10 to 20 members conducts the business of the society and manages the museum owned by the society.

The society was founded on Nov. 16, 1976 at a meeting attended by 14 interested persons, following a public invitation in the news media by Robert "Bob" Richards. Bob was promptly elected president and served in that capacity until 2003. Other charter officers were Glen Partridge, vice president, Rita Bubnick, secretary, and Marcella Richards, treasurer.

The society's immediate goal in 1976 was to establish a museum, which it did in 1977 when the old Butterwick Hardware Store at 211 N. Chestnut St. was offered for sale. The society raised $5,000 for a down payment and borrowed another $14,000 to meet the sale price. The mortgage was retired in just four years through memberships, donations and fundraising events. Besides Bob and Marcella, officers at that time included C.C. Pryor, vice president and Helen Matson, secretary.

The Butterwicks started their hardware business in 1868. After a fire in 1886 the current building was completed. The family operated the business until 1966, after which the building was used for storage by an electrical company and the upstairs was the location of a teen center for a year and then an adult nightclub.

After the buildings to the south were torn down, exposing the wall of the museum to the elements, the surface was plastered and painted. A "Kewanee Landmarks" mural, painted by Kewanee artist Dave Washburn, was dedicated Oct. 18, 1997.

A tremendous amount of work was needed in the late 1970's to turn the old hardware store into a museum and Bob and Marcella were up to the task. They did have the help of a number of dedicated volunteers who assisted in structural repair and remodeling of the building. Others helped with the receipt of numerous donations of artifacts and arranging displays of those materials.

However, it is safe to say that with all the money, time and artifacts donated by the community, there would not be a Kewanee Historical Society and Museum today if it were not for the incredible time and effort of Bob and Marcella Richards.

Accordingly, the society's board of directors decided in 2001 to name the museum the "Robert and Marcella Richards Museum." The official announcement of that decision was made at a 25th anniversary banquet on Oct. 7, 2001 at which the Richards were honored for their 25 years of service.


Additional information and photographs are available when you visit the Kewanee Historical Museum

As always, if you have old photographs, stories or documents you wish to share
 with the Historical Society we would be greatly appreciated.

Email us here  or call us at 1-309-854-9701

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About Us Local History Board of Directors
Membership & Donations Exhibits Research in the Museum
How to Find Us Outside Links Robert Richards Eulogy
Western Tube Company Billy Sunday in Kewanee Junius Sloan- Artist
Kewanee Boiler/Museum   General John Howe Kewanee Area Parks