There is a gem in Bainbridge Township’s town center, and many who pass by every day are not aware it exists. It is the historic Bissell-Tucek House, and it is occupied by a museum created by the Bainbridge Historical Society.
The township historical society is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Its goal was and is to preserve and document the rich history of the township for current and future generations.
So many people, however, do not know there is a township historical society, much less the museum, according to historical society members. Presence of the museum in the community will be more visible, with the installation of a sign to designate the historical society’s museum in the Bissell Tucek House.
The house is owned by the township. It is located at 17870 Chillicothe Road (Route 306) at Heritage Park, adjacent to Bainbridge Town Hall and the Bainbridge Fire Station. The museum is filled with donations of furniture, tools and household antiques reflecting the past.
The historical society recently received approval from Bainbridge Trustees for a sign, which will be installed by the township to designate the museum. The society is welcoming donations to help pay for the sign. The society depends on donations and memberships to exist.
Donna Lucas is co-president of the society with Elaine Witmer. Donna Yuse is first vice president and program chairwoman while Grace Henry is second vice president and membership chairwoman. Harriet Novy is secretary and Sharon Edds is treasurer. Becky Obradovic is in charge of the newsletter and news releases.
Maureen Wolfe, the first treasurer, noted that the historical society started in 1990 out of need.
Founding members included descendants of early Bainbridge settlers. All believed it was necessary to preserve the history as well as the memory of those early settlers of the township, she said.
Over the years, many historic buildings and homes have disappeared through demolition in the former farming community as well, making it evident that the preservation of that history is necessary.
The historical society collected many donations of antiques and other items over the years but did not have a place for them, Mrs. Wolfe said. Eventually, they were able to lease the Bissell Tucek House for a museum.
“So many people today don’t even know we have a museum,” Mrs. Wolfe said. The sign should help especially on the periodic Saturdays the museum is open to the public.
“And we have wonderful programs at our historical society meetings,” she said.
The historical society meets on the second Wednesday of the month at the Burns Lindow Building through the fall, winter and spring months. It draws together those who have a real love for the township’s history, Mrs. Wolfe noted.
Mrs. Witmer is a charter member of the society and a former president. Jack and Millie MacRitchie were first co-presidents in 1990.
The society was formed to preserve the historical objects, materials, records and memorabilia and to discover, collect, preserve and disseminate the knowledge of the history of Bainbridge Township in all formats Mrs. Witmer noted. Not too many historical societies have something like the Bissell-Tucek House, she said.
She is curator of the museum and has inventoried the contents and changes the displays regularly. “The historical society and museum exist to preserve what has gone before so we don’t forget,” she said.
The Bissell Tucek House has a long history in the township. The southern part was built in 1835 by Justice Bissell who was the township’s first postmaster. The house served as a post office and some of the original post office slots still remain in the house. The northern section of the house was added in the 1870s. The historical society began leasing the house from the township in 2012 and started the journey to make it a museum.
The house is named after the first and last families that lived in the house. It was also used as a tavern and gathering place for dances and parties. It was a way-station for people traveling along Chillicothe Road (Route 306) and they would board there overnight. The house was moved to its present site in 2009 to accommodate a new addition to the township fire station.
Chuck Hesse was president of the historical society for seven years. He is also a former township trustee and was involved in the negotiations by the township in 2002 to buy the Bissell Tucek house.
In looking at the historical society’s activities, he noted it organized and presented events for the township’s bicentennial in 2017. The celebration of the township’s 200 years began with a popular skit at Kenston High School with resident actors telling the story of the creation of the township, including the area that would later become separated as Auburn Township.
Mrs. Lucas also noted that the historical society, when Karl Kuckleheim was president, was a driving force and instrumental in arranging the society’s lease with the township trustees of the Bissell-Tucek building with Bainbridge Trustees.
And while the township conducted general upgrades to the building, the historical society with Mr. Kuckleheim and Mr. Hesse were instrumental in getting the extensive renovations done to preserve its character and history. Some of the wood used for the floors was donated by the late Hugh Edwards from his saw mill.
In addition to holding open houses at the house, the society hosts Kenston Local School District third graders each year at the museum as part of the school’s local history studies.
The society was also instrumental in getting the tuberous begonia named as the township flower in the early 1990s. Members asked the township trustees to adopt the plant as its township flower. “It was a big accomplishment for the historical society,” Mrs. Lucas said.
The late Carlton Lowe brought the flower to the U.S. Mr. Lowe had a greenhouse in Bainbridge and saw the flowers in Belgium while serving in World War I. He made arrangements with the farmer there to send him seeds. He grew them at his nursey, now Lowe’s Greenhouse.
At the museum, Mrs. Lucas said, “We are working on digitizing our photographs and paper archives.” Connie Clark is the museum librarian. She is also looking for old photos of Bainbridge. The more who visit and tour the museum, the more who will understand what its goals are, and what an asset to the township it is, she said.
The museum is open 1-4 p.m. on the last Saturday of the month and for special events. Admission is free. The historical society meets on the second Wednesday of the month at the Burns Lindow Building, hosting programs of historical interest. Its website is www.bainbridgehistoricalsociety.com.