Dreams of the West

McHenry County Historical Society fixing up old city hall to someday house collections

Submitted Photo The former Towner city hall building was acquired by the McHenry County Historical Society for a future museum.

TOWNER – A building recently acquired by the McHenry County Historical Society could eventually become a repository for the largest Louis L’Amour collection outside of the famous author’s family possessions.

The historical society recently purchased the 1906 original City Hall in Towner from the city. Although the $5 transaction price was right, the society is looking at lots of work and thousands of dollars to turn the building into a museum.

“The building is sound,” said Larry Haman, county commissioner and society board member, Towner. He noted the interior will need some work, though. The city had used the building for storage, and the Masonic Temple had rights to the upper floor.

The society is researching grants in hopes of someday establishing the McHenry County Western Museum with exhibits for each of the towns in the county, the display of a stagecoach from Chris Schatz that is now in storage and a gifted Louis L’Amour collection.

The L’Amour items, known as the “Hawkins collection,” consist of memorabilia from the late Reese and Margaret Hawkins. Their daughter, Meredith Hawkins Wallin, has generously offered to gift her parents’ collections to the McHenry County Historical Society once the society has a home for it. Meridith and Reese co-authored a book called “Remembering Louis L’Amour.”

Anna Thorson, president of the McHenry County Historical Society, Towner, said the Hawkins were from the Upham area and had been friends and traveled with L’Amour. L’Amour, a popular western fiction writer, was born at Jamestown in 1908 and died in 1988.

Thorson said the original county historical society had been founded in 1972 and established a museum in a former Lutheran church in Towner. The museum ended up closing and the society went into dormancy until about two years ago. The opportunity to obtain the L’Amour collection led to the desire to open another museum.

“We are trying to make a home for this collection and for other things in McHenry County that would reflect the western theme,” Thorson said. “We are just open to donations and awareness as to what we are doing because we can’t go forward with anything until we have the money.”

Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to the McHenry County Historical Society at P.O. Box 194, Voltaire, N.D. 58790. People also can obtain more information by following the society’s Facebook page or calling 537-5551.