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Origins of the Springfield Museum

Origins of the Springfield Museum


A friend asked me recently how the Springfield Museum got started.  I checked the old notes of the curator (my Dad, Clark Thomas) and found this information: “In the late 1970’s a group of Springfield people who were concerned about preserving the artifacts and memorabilia of the area, started the Springfield Historical Society.  They put many days into gathering and preserving several thousand items from the area.  These were displayed in the old Fire Hall.  When the building began to crumble, all the items were removed and stored in the old married students housing units at the former Southern College Campus.  After about 2 years the buildings were sold and the items had to be removed.  A community fund drive was held and enough money was raised to buy the former bowling alley building on 8th Street.  By 1994 they had organized the large room with varied items including the full collection of senior class pictures from Springfield High School; a smaller library room; a room for antique dresses and uniforms; a typical country school room; the altar furniture from St. Mary’s School for Indian Girls; memorabilia from Southern State College; a typical pioneer home, 5 typical early Main Street stores, and many other items from the past.” 

The Old Fire Hall that served as the first museum building was one of the original buildings in Springfield.  It was built from local Chalk Rock, so couldn’t endure forever.  It apparently did last for nearly 100 years.  The building was located in the middle of the 800 block of Elm Street so that the city water tower stood just behind it. The bell tower on the top held the historic bell from Fort Randall’s Community building which was built and owned by their local International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge.  The bell was returned to the Pickstown/Fort Randall community in more recent history.  

In 2003 the College Museum got it’s own building.  The museum is a 1200 square foot building that built at the Mike Durfee State prison, and moved to the lot donated by Dr. Tom Monfore, next to the Springfield Historical Museum.  It now houses all the memorabilia from the college including athletic records and uniforms.  The museums are connected by a short porch, so visitors to either museum can have full access.   And don’t forget to put your empty aluminum cans in the collection building between the two museums. See you at the museum!