Historical Society offers many research tools
In Versailles, there sits Emily’s Brew Coffee Co. that receives plenty of visitors. Beside it sits the offices of the Ripley County Historical Society, a place that unfortunately doesn’t receive as many visitors as its neighbor, but is still deeply important to the fabric of our community.
One of the historical society’s goals, according to Cheryl Welch, is to serve the community in researching ancestors. The Ripley County Historical Society accomplishes this by having a plethora of legal documents available to the public. “We have marriage records, we have wills, we have probates. We have civil records. We have divorce records. We have obituaries. We have family files for people to find research on their families. We have cemetery records of where people are buried in the county,” Cheryl explains.
Steps have been taken by the historical society to modernize the organization and bring information into the contemporary era and make it more accessible to younger generations of people. Newspapers and some other records dating back to the 1800s have been scanned and are available online, thanks to the efforts of the Ripley County Historical Society. “it involved a lot of scanning,” quips Dannie Welch, who handled much of the scanning process.
The individuals who do this work and apply the time to preserve critical pieces of Ripley County’s history do it without compensation. “We are all volunteers,” Cheryl states. “No one gets paid.” The historical society is hoping to expand and increase its staff. Cheryl elaborates, “We have two new people coming in to learn so they can volunteer.”
The story of how some of the historical society’s buildings came into their possession shows Ripley County’s selfless commitment to its history. “The [museum] building was donated to us by the GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] to be used as a museum,” says Cheryl. The historical society’s log cabin was donated by the Wehr family in 1979.
Records and family history books are frequently donated to the historical society to enrich its well of information. The Ripley County Historical also sells books detailing the history of the county. Cheryl says, “We have Volume I and Volume II of ‘The Ripley County History’…We have a postcard book that Alan Smith put together – it has old pictures of the townships.”
The Ripley County Historical Society meets four times a year. To become a member, it costs $15 per year. To become a lifetime member, it is a one-time cost of $150.00. If someone who is not a member of the historical society contacts the society wanting research conducted, it is $7 for every day of research and $1 for any copies sent in the course of researching.
For those who are involved in the historical society’s inner workings, the experience has been exciting, fulfilling, and educational. Cheryl says, “It’s just been fun to find stuff – you find different stuff here all the time. You find different jewels.”
Barbara Eades concers. “There are constantly discoveries here that no one knows exists. It’s looking at the books, looking at what’s there. Some of my best finds in my own family research when the historical society is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 1 to 4 p.m.
“We’re the best kept secret in Ripley County,” says Barbara. When you see for yourself the sheer breadth and scope of the historical society’s resources, how the organization shrewdly preserves the past in order to preserve the future, you’ll have no choice but to heartily agree.