Our History

Organizing and Election of Officers

On May 20, 1999, Doug Evans, Judy Tonges and Jean Struewing met to discuss the history of the City of Batesville, and how its treasured past could be recorded for future generations to discover and enjoy. The group formed what was to be known as the Batesville Area Historical Society, with Doug Evans agreeing to serve as President for the organization’s first year. The following year elections held in 2000 named Jean Struewing as President; Don Karbowski, Vice President; Judy Tonges, Secretary; Rick Fledderman, Treasurer; and Gayle Evans as Membership Chair. In 2001, Paul Wonning assumed the Secretary position, and Joan Karbowski agreed to serve as Membership Chair. In 2004, after Rick Fledderman was elected Mayor of the City of Batesville, Margie Wilhelm agreed to serve as Treasurer.

Members of the Batesville Area Historical Society continued to meet monthly, and to accept donated artifacts that were kept in the Batesville Memorial Public Library’s storage area through an agreement with the library’s board. As the number of items in storage continued to grow, members began to discuss the need for a permanent location where the organization could display its historical treasurers.

Celebrating Batesville’s Sesquicentennial

In 2002, when the City of Batesville prepared to celebrate its Sesquicentennial, the Society was encouraged to create a temporary display of the City’s history during the week-long Sesquicentennial Celebration slated for August. Permission was granted to use the former Rite Aid Pharmacy building that was at that time an empty storefront on Main Street across from the Village Green where much of the week’s festivities were to be held.

Through the coordinating efforts of Jean Struewing Judy Tonges and Carolyn Dieckmann, the former pharmacy was transformed into a wall-to-wall display of historical artifacts, photos, books and memorabilia from Batesville’s first 150 years. Visitors to the temporary museum strolled through the displays throughout the week and kept the hosts well past closing time each evening as they enjoyed sharing their memories of the City’s past. The need for a permanent museum became even more apparent to the Society’s members, and to those who visited its temporary museum.

On October 28, 2003 the Batesville Memorial Public Library Board of Directors agreed to allow the Batesville Area Historical Society to display some of its memorabilia in the former downtown Cinergy building located on Boehringer Street, which served as the library’s annex. Soon displays were created inside the library’s annex building, and arrangements were made to have volunteer hosts available to keep the facility open to the public. On May 13, 2005, members of the Batesville High School art classes painted a beautiful mural on the side of the building depicting the City’s history, and for a while, the Batesville Area Historical Society had a home for its vast collection. Unfortunately by July of 2007, the library needed the annex building for their own use, and the Batesville Area Historical Society members packed everything into storage and moved the items to the basement of Ham and Jean Struewing’s home.

As membership continued to grow, so did the interest in locating a permanent museum space, and member Elsa Soderberg offered a substantial amount of funding to help the Society locate a home for its museum. In recognition of her generosity, on October of 2007, Elsa Soderberg was named “Patron” of the Society as she helped members locate and finance a permanent museum space.

The Museum has a Home

In 2008, a Board of Directors was elected to help with the process of obtaining a new building, and on August 18, 2008, the Batesville Area Historical Society purchased the vacant house located at 15 West George Street to serve as its museum.

The house at 15 West George Street was built around 1910 for the John O. Kaiser family and was originally located where the current US Post Office is located. It was home to the Kaiser family until 1969, when Harry Ferkinhoff purchased the home and lived in it until 1974, when Bob Goldsmith purchased and then sold it to Dr. A Daftary in 1976, who used it to house his medical practice until 2000, after which it was sold to Dr. Manalo to be used as a medical office. The Society purchased the home on August 18, 2008 to serve as it museum.

Renovation was started and progressed through the efforts of many volunteers who were led by Jean Struewing’s husband, Ham, who agreed to oversee the project. The Building committee, with the help of many dedicated volunteers, began the renovation work on November 8, 2008 and completed the project in September of 2009. Sixty-three volunteers contributed over 1,215 hours of labor, 12 Batesville High School students contributed 54 hours, and 22 Kiwanis members contributed 545 hours. Local contractors provided the skilled labor tasks such as plumbing, roofing, siding etc., but in the end it was all the volunteers who made the museum a successful project.

The goal of the building’s renovation was to restore as much of the home back to its original state as possible. A few examples of the preservation include the home’s stained glass windows, wooden floors, staircase, baseboards, exterior doors and pocket doors which were sanded and refinished. The exterior siding and trim were chosen to reflect a Victorian look as the home had in earlier days. The floor boards in the sports room were salvaged from the former Batesville High School Gym.

A Victorian-style garden was constructed on the south side of the house, and pathways were paved with memorial bricks that were purchased by friends of the BAHS. The garden includes a mural of some of the area’s historical sites which was painted by a Batesville High School art class, and had originally been displayed on the library’s annex building while the museum was temporarily housed there.

Grand Opening of the new BAHS Museum on George Street was held on October 4, 2009.

“The Batesville Area” is published

On November 13, 2007, Jean Struewing was asked to present the history of Batesville for attendees at Batesville’s annual Farm-City Banquet. Following that presentation, she was asked by The Arcadia Publishing Book Company to compose a book about Batesville, which she entitled: “The Batesville Area,” and it was ultimately offered for sale on January 26, 2009, and continues to be sold at the museum.

Provisions for Operating Expenses

On August 16, 2011 Tim Dietz was instrumental in starting an Operating Endowment Fund through the Ripley County Community Foundation to help defray the expenses of running the museum. On August 21, 2012 members of the Batesville Area Historical Society requested that the City of Batesville take over the ownership of the museum building and preserve it. They agreed and Society members vowed to keep the organization operating and viable.

Changes in Leadership

In 2014, after fifteen years of service, Jean Struewing decided to relinquish her position as President due to health concerns, and with her announcement, Margie Wilhelm decided to also step down as treasurer, and Joan Karbowski as Membership Chairperson. A public reception was held to thank these women for their many years of dedication to the Society, and the new officers were announced as Carolyn Dieckmann, President & Treasurer; Bill Flannery, Vice President; Christy Moentor, Secretary and Janet Maple as Membership Chairperson.

In 2016, Ken Baran relinquished his position as Secretary, and Christy Moenter agreed to serve in this capacity.

In 2018, Sue Siefert and Tim Dietz relinquished their positions as President and Membership Chairperson respectively, and three new Board Members agreed to serve the organization, Aaron Garrett, Bonnie Pratt and Paul Wonning.

Through the years decisions were made to change the name of the BAHS Historical Museum to the BAHS Historical Center, to change the members’ meeting schedule from bi-monthly to quarterly, and more recently to schedule meetings based on speaker availability.

Today the Society displays its artifacts on a rotating basis so that there will always be something new for visitors to see each time they visit. The museum does not charge admission but freewill offerings may be given to help offset the cost of operating the museum. New members and donations of Batesville-related artifacts are always welcome.