BEECHWOOD - Residents of rural western Iron County are keeping the history of the area's ghost towns alive through the Beechwood Historical Society.
Back in the late 1800s, many small towns popped up in western Iron County either along the Chicago-Northwestern railroad or near logging operations.
Some of those towns were Gibbs City, Basswood, Elmwood, and Beechwood.
Members of the Beechwood Historical Society Jan Melstrom, left, and Charlotte Bofinger display the old Beechwood School’s bell, which they recently “stole” from the Iron County Museum.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
Beechwood, located approximately nine miles west of Iron River, was established in 1882. The community included a general store, post office, railroad depot, sawmill, school, church, and residences.
After the school closed in 1933, Iron River Township converted the school building into the Beechwood Hall, which functioned as a voting precinct and community center.
Beechwood Hall, along with the Bethany Lutheran Church building and several residential homes, are the only remaining traces of Beechwood today.
In order to preserve their community heritage before any more of it was lost to time, a group of Beechwood residents banded together in 2008. The group formally organized as the non-profit Beechwood Historical Society in October 2010.
The society's first mission was to save the Beechwood Hall, which had been closed for a few years due to code violations.
On May 31, 2011, Iron River Township sold the hall to the society for one dollar. Since then, the society has added a handicap-accessible entrance and made improvements to the electrical system, plumbing, foundation, front steps, parking lot, and much more.
"Our membership has been very generous with their donations and their time," said Beechwood Historical Society Chair Charlotte Bofinger. "We like to get everyone involved, even the kids."
With the hall up to code, society members can now concentrate on other goals.
Bofinger pointed out that part of the society's mission is to gather and house artifacts related to the history of Beechwood and the surrounding ghost towns.
"We want to preserve our past for future generations," she added.
Currently, the society has two prize exhibits that are on display at the hall: the post office boxes from the Beechwood post office and the bell from the Beechwood School.
The bell is a brand new acquisition on loan from the Iron County Museum in Caspian. Society members "stole" the bell from the museum following the recent play "The Stealing of the Bell."
Many more projects are on the society's agenda for the future.
Members continue to hold community events such as the annual Halloween party and fundraising events to pay for the hall's electricity and utilities. There are also plans to update the hall's lighting, windows, and flooring once grant funding is available.
For more information on the Beechwood Historical Society, go to www.beechwoodhistoricalsociety.org.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.