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Historical Society History

The Mercer Island Historical Society was incorporated by the Department of State, Olympia on 30th day of March 1954 and recorded in Book 64 at page 794-797 and signed by Secretary of State Earl Coe. The first president was Mr.Christ D. Lillions.

The early minutes and records of the society are located in the files at the office of the present society. Regular meetings were held in the homes of the members and refreshments were served. Activities included collecting early memorabilia from Island residents, storing and displaying them on special occasions. They also worked on designating historic buildings and landmarks. They reported at several meeting about an early cabin that they had received title to and they were working on finding a location to where it could be moved.

They also had programs that included one about the floating bridge, which reported on an article that was published in the Seattle Times, a book review �Gold mountain year 1875 Pioneers in Issaquah Valley by Mrs. Frank Sandin, a program about Alaska becoming a state, and more. These are outlined in the minutes that are in our archival files.

The early records of the society cover the period from 1954 to 1965. At this time there was a problem with officers carrying on the organization and some effort was made to try to get the group started again. After 1965 they apparently did not meet.

The text in the article at left reads: The Mercer Island Historical Society now has on display items and materials of historical importance on the Island dating as far back as 75 years. Shown above is one of the exhibits on display in the Mercer Island shopping area. Members of the historical society shown above are, from left, Mrs. S. B. Olney, Mrs. Ivan Palmaw, Mrs. P.T. Scott and John N. Wilson. Mrs. Olney was chairman of the committee which arranged the exhibits and Wilson is president of the society. Photo was taken by Foley Photo, American Engraving. This photo is believed to be taken around 1960.

During the celebration of the American Revolution Bicentennial in 1975-1977 on Mercer Island an effort was made to investigate the early Mercer Island Historical Society. Ruth M. Fricke, chairman of this event appointed Judy Gellatly chairman of the Heritage Committee. The Mercer Island Bicentennial committee published the book Mercer Island the First 100 Years in 1977. Judy Gellatly was the author, however Amos Wood, Lee Lowe, Virginia Ogden Elliott and many other contributed a great deal to this project. The book was marketed very successfully and left the organization with a profit. The committee decided to give the profits to the Mercer Island Historical Society and therefore the Historical Society was reorganized and established in 1977 by Dorothy Garrison, an earlier member and Judy Gellatly. Several thousand dollars were transferred to the Historical Society in 1978.

On February 13, 1991, the article at the right was published in the Mercer Island Reporter. The text reads: The Mercer Island Historical Society is seeking new members - and the whereabouts of some historical items that were donated to the organization years ago. The photo, taken in about 1955, shows some items that disappeared in the years that the group had no permanent location. The next meeting of the Historical Society is 2 p.m. on Tuesday Feb 19 in its office in City Hall. Historical memorabilia being catalogued will be on display. All are welcome.

Dorothy Garrison was the first president after the reformation of the society.

The society has regular meetings the third Monday of the months of September to November, and March to May. These meeting are usually held at the Mercer Island Community Center and always include an interesting program. These programs are video taped and the videos are kept in the societies archival storage and are available for rent. The programs cover a full range of historic activities on the Island. At the meeting refreshments are served. Marilyn Mathis, and Anna Matheson carried on this project for years. Florise Stenhouse, and many others have given of their time and energy to this.

In 1989 Linda Jackman and the board asked the Mercer Island City Council for a room in the new remodeled city hall and it was provided to us. Ruth Fricke was instrumental in obtaining donations to furnish this room from the Boeing Company surplus and from old city hall. The board meetings and archives are held in this room. Our President calls a regular board meeting the first Monday of each month. Our archives were moved from storage at the community center to our new office later in 1989. We purchased a computer (with a 286 processor high tech for its time) and Bonnie Hamilton and Ruth Fricke started the present filing system. Currently we are working on updating our computer system and making efforts to make the records safe for preservation. One of our most valuable collections are the records that were given to us (through the efforts of Mural Winterscheid) by Eleanor Hadley. This collection includes the original records kept by Eleanor's father Homer M. Hadley, the man who originally had the concept of a concrete floating bridge. Kisi Goode, Jo Joseph and others have worked on preservation of these files.

We also were given all of the old files of the community clubs that ran the Mercer Island community policies before the city was formed. These were recorded and filed in 1990 by a graduate student and stored in files. In addition we have all of records of the Bicentennial and much more.

In 1978, the Mercer Island Historical Society republished the history of the island under the title Mercer Island Heritage. Vern Lewis, a former city councilman, did the revision. Also we have had all of our large photos copied and prepared as slides ready for school programs.

In 1990 Phil Flash led the effort to mark historic places on Mercer Island with brass markers. Many people on Mercer Island have donated money to this project and we will continue to do this.

We publish a newsletter periodically which is sent to our mailing list. Delores Erchinger, editor and our secretary has recorded our minutes and maintained our mailing list for many years.

Now we need younger adults in this community to become involved in helping us to keep our history current. We look forward to hearing from you and we hope you will consider becoming a member.