caweyerhaeuseA    If you drive into Little Falls from the south, you’ll see a large green mansion perched along the road on the west side. Look a little farther back and you’ll see two equally impressive mansions situated on the east bank of the Mississippi. These were the family homes, built in 1898, of two men important to the economy of early Little Falls. Charles A. Weyerhaeuser and Richard “Drew” Musser were partners in the Pine Tree Lumber Company, which was established by their fathers in 1891. For nearly 30 years, Weyerhaeuser handled the lumber mill and managed the company employees while Musser took care of the finances.
The property on which the two houses stand is now owned by the city of Little Falls. The buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the site is known as Linden Hill.
If you were to climb into a boat and row across the river and then let yourself drift south a bit, you’d find the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum. Lacking a boat, you might want to drive north on Main Street, take a left on West Broadway (also known as Highway 27) and another left on Lindbergh Drive. Go south about two miles and just after another Charles’ boyhood home (Lindbergh), you’ll be at the museum which Charles Weyerhaeuser’s children, Sarah-Maud and Carl, made possible. They had heard the Morrison County Historical Society, which was established in 1936, had plans to build a museum to house the artifacts which at that time were displayed in what seemed like shrinking space in the courthouse. The collections were outgrowing the dedicated museum space, even taking up part of the downstairs hallway, and the time was right to build; especially when the Weyerhaeuser children so generously offered to fund the construction. They wanted to support the mission of the society while creating a memorial to their father.
The low-slung landscape-hugging structure was designed by Foster Dunwiddie whose design firm had a special interest in aviation projects and historic preservation. Dedicated in August of 1975, the museum has offered nearly 40 years of historic preservation, displays of Morrison County history, collections and special exhibits.
Jan Warner is the museum’s executive director. She worked with Dunwiddie in assessing the needs of the historical society to design a structure that would serve its needs for a long time. In 1981 they already found a need for more space and built a seamless addition of the archives and artifact collection wings which matched the original structure. Jan’s tenure with the museum has lasted more than 45 years.
Mary Warner, Jan’s daughter-in-law, has worked at the museum for 16 years and currently serves as the museum manager. She will happily answer questions about local history, or you can fill out a research request form, and she’ll search family history archives, help you with the history and/or provenance of a historical artifact, guide you in your own research or direct you to temporary exhibits, permanent displays and collections. She can also guide you to documents about local cemeteries, historic homes and sites, books and probably things you wouldn’t normally realize were there.
“People are often surprised at how much we have to offer in terms of research at the museum. Volunteers and staff, from the very beginning of the historical society, have worked hard to pull together research in a way that makes searching easy,” said Mary.
Curator of Collections Ann Marie Johnson watches for future artifacts as well as those items already identified as significant historical pieces. “The Weyerhaeuser Museum has a rich and diverse collection of artifacts, spanning from the earliest days of county history through today. We actively engage in what the museum field calls ‘contemporary collecting,’ preserving items like cell phones and Barbie dolls, because today’s things are as much a part of history as button hooks and corsets.”
The Charles A Weyerhaeuser Museum website is also a great source of information. Are you wondering what might be worthwhile to save of your own family’s artifacts, how to take care of brass and bronze, what to do about mold, or how to preserve old Christmas ornaments? Just look under the “Preservation” tab. If you’re looking for books about Morrison County look under “Publications.” If family names are on your research list, click on “Research,” then “Family Names” and you’ll find A-Z listings of last names of a large share of Morrison County residents through its history. The names are not linked to more online details but stop in at the museum and someone will direct you to the files holding that family’s information.
“Museum Life” offers a long list of articles of interest to history buffs, many of them written by Mary Warner’s well-honed pen. “These articles are our way of giving people a behind-the-scenes look at running a museum,” said Mary.
Check out the website at www.morrisoncountyhistory.org and visit the museum year round, Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Make arrangements for large group tours (15 people or more) by calling (320) 632-4007. Individuals and small family groups are invited to just stop in during regular hours.