1882, the same year the Great Northern Railway completed a branch line as far
story of the agitation of Steele as a separate county reflected the eagerness
of each fledgling town in the area to be the biggest and the best. Hope had
been the county seat of the larger
Election Day an effort was made to have every eligible male in the Hope area
cast a vote. The Hope Paper reported election irregularities in
the grueling creation of a county was completed, the citizens were faced with
the monumental task of setting up a county government. Nevertheless, the development of
Steele County Historical Society is a non-profit educational organization
founded in 1966 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and making accessible
to the public, information and objects relating to the history of
Although incorporated and granted tax-exempt status in 1966, the group’s origin can be traced to about 1957, when local historians gathered to help celebrate Hope’s 75th anniversary. This group evolved into the Hope Community Historical Society, which then became the countywide organization in 1966.
organization has grown and developed over the years, and now operates a
historical museum, archives, and cultural center at its facilities, which are
located on one block in the center of Hope, North Dakota. Hope is a tiny town
(population 280) in one of the smallest counties (population 2400) in
The group has more than one hundred members, a board of nine volunteer directors, and operates on a budget of approximately $40,000 per year. A part time Museum/Artistic Director oversees operations and supervises staff and volunteers, which normally consist of one senior worker and one youth worker (working under Job Service North Dakota programs), a summer intern, and about ten active volunteers.
The collections have been donated by the people of the county, and include home, school, church, and lodge furnishings, buggies, sleighs, vintage clothing, quilts, needlework, general store merchandise, newspapers, journals, family histories, photographs, toys and dolls, books, folk art, farm implements, musical instruments, cook stoves, churns, windmills, spinning wheels, looms, and much more.
Services offered include individual guided tours, assistance with historical research, weaving demonstrations and workshops, period style shows, space for meetings and luncheons, and tours for groups of all kinds.
The museum is open year round with hours varying by season. There is a suggested donation of $2.50 for adults, with free admission for children. In a typical year, approximately 1,500 people visit the museum – usually representing thirty or more states and several nations.
The historical society has an up-to-date computer network and has computerized collections records and will digitize much of the archives in the coming years.
Steele County Historical Society maintains numerous collections including a
large textile collection with items dating from the 1880s, a toy tractor
collection with more than 900 pieces, and a collection of artifacts from the
Masons and Odd fellows, and more. The
Society also maintains an archive collection that includes diaries,
correspondence, and personal/business records of early pioneers in
Tuesday through Friday
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Memorial Day through Labor Day
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Homer Wennerstrom, President
Jeanne Mewes, Secretary
Kayla Copeland, Treasurer
Director: Sue Johnson
The photograph was taken near Hope and provided by Barbara Handy-Marchello
Of the University of North Dakota History Department