Monongahela historical society stages a comeback

March 12, 2014
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
These political campaign buttons are among the collections at Monongahela Area Historical Society. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Susan Bowers, president of Monongahela Area Historical Society, stands in the entrance to the organization’s museum at 230 W. Main St. in Monongahela. Order a Print
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Among the collection at Monongahela Area Historical Society is an old photo of Cheerful Willoughby, a local model who went to Hollywood and became a silent film star.

MONONGAHELA – As president of Monongahela Area Historical Society, Susan Bowers thought about closing the group’s museum and placing its archives in storage because of dwindling finances.

Bowers said she decided, however, to mail a survey in December to determine if local residents wanted to keep the museum open, and if they did, they were asked for help in accomplishing the goal.

“To my surprise and astonishment, 99 percent of those who replied wanted to keep it open,” Bowers said Wednesday as the society finalizes plans to hold a fundraiser to shore up the organization’s finances.

The society is including nearly 40 local businesses in a May 3 downtown walking tour, “Stroll, Shop 'n' Sip,” in which everyone with a ticket gets something free as they go from storefront to storefront.

“It could be something to eat, drink or take home,” said Bowers, who is hoping to sell at least 1,000 tickets to the event and raise $5,000. “It’s very expensive to have this museum. It averages $1,000 a month.”

Bowers said enough people agreed to volunteer since December that the society has organized 10 committees to perform such tasks as raising money and archiving the museum’s collection.

“Everybody said they would dig in to fight to keep it open,” Bowers said.

The society owns original deeds to local properties, a large collection of century-old scrapbooks created by a local dental surgeon, information on the Whiskey Rebellion and valuable old books, Bowers said.

As a result of the survey, she said, the society will keep consistent museum hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

The society also intends to have a greater role in the annual Washington Whiskey Rebellion Festival because Monongahela is where statesman Albert Gallatin quelled the revolt with an eloquent 1794 speech.

Through the May 3 stroll, the society is hoping to bring people downtown to remind them of other events, including the new summer concert series at the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium along the Monongahela River and the farmers market at Chess Park.

It also will create a special museum exhibit on domestic life from the 1930s through the 1950s.

“We are coming back,” Bowers said.

The stroll will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the museum at 230 W. Main St.; C.J.’s Furniture, 142 W. Main St.; and the society’s website, For information, call 724-258-2377 or 724-258-5905.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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