Knox and Warren Counties are filled with rural communities that are home to generous people with big ideas and can-do spirits. The community of Altona, located in northern Knox County, is certainly no exception.
Two of those community members with can- do spirits are Margaret Swanson and Gretchen Main. They both serve on Altona’s library board, which was approached by an Altona resident looking for a place to display historical items. From there the idea to start the Altona Historical Society was born.
Today the Altona Historical Society has grown into a group of community members interested in preserving local history and refurbishing the second floor of Ransom Memorial Public Library to create a museum and event center. The group knew that to undertake such a large project they would need the support of many people, including residents, past and present to help make the vision a reality.
The Society and their work to refurbish the second floor of the library quickly became a very special project for Society members, Cheryl and David Erickson. They are lifelong members of the Altona community. They are farmers, business owners and actively involved in several community organizations, including the Altona Historical Society.
Cheryl said, “David and I feel like we are part of a very special group. Without the Altona Historical Society, none of the renovations to the Ransom Hall could happen. When Margaret and Gretchen started the group, they asked us to be on the committee. It’s a great example of people with a vision forming a committee to make good things happen.”
With their goals set and a major project of ahead of them, the Historical Society also enlisted the help of the Galesburg Community Foundation to manage their account and provide an additional level of credibility to their fundraising. Society members know that to raise the $250,000 required to renovate the second floor of the library, the community needs everyone to come together and give.
For David and Cheryl, the Altona Historical Society and this special renovation project has become a major part of their lives—they are giving not only financially, but also sharing their time and encouraging others to give.
David said, “For this project to become reality it’s going to take everyone giving. As members of the Historical Society committee, and a family that believes in this project, we gave a gift of grain to financially support the cause. We hope our commitment inspires others to give as well.”
Renovating the hall is a project that both David and Cheryl have felt passionate about for many years.
“David actually bought antique display cases for the project years ago hoping it would happen someday,” Cheryl explained.
It’s just another example of the community effort and that each committee member is providing a special part in the overall project.
David added, “It’s great to be a part of this community effort. In addition to the renovation of the second floor of Ransom Library, we also wanted to ensure that another piece of our town’s history was taken down with dignity. Our son Scott and I worked to tear down Walnut Grove Township High School/Altona Grade School. In that process, we saved parts of the architecture to include in the Ransom Hall. We’re hopeful that this space where the school was can become a town park by the baseball diamond. By being a part of the Historical Society, as well as helping Scott take down the school, I’ve had the unique opportunity to save town history and contribute to the future of our town; and I hope others will give generously to help do the same.”