Hudson Library's History Room Offers Portal to the Past
Its collections, maintained with the help of the St. Croix County Historical Society, St. Croix County Genealogical Society and Friends of the Hudson Library, are a valuable resource.
I knew my Dad was married to someone before he married my Mom in 1948. Her name? I simply pulled out a volume with my father’s entry in the Hudson Biographical Index in the History Room at the Hudson Library and found it: “Anita Bishop, m. 1944.”
There I was too, under Dad’s entry, with a cross-referenced birth announcement in the Hudson Star-Observer, available from the microfilm collection.
Information on deceased Hudsonites and their families from 1890 to 2005 can be found in that handy index, one of the many lifetime accomplishments of the late Willis H. Miller.
A lifelong Hudson resident except when he attended St. Olaf College, Miller was a former editor and publisher of the Hudson Star Observer and a prolific author of local history publications.
His index—literally thousands of meticulously typed index cards—took four years to enter in a database by the St. Croix County Genealogical Society and is available on CD for $29.95.
Plus the Friends of the Hudson Library provided the printing and binding of all 9,200 pages totaling 24 volumes, so the index is accessible to all in the History Room.
A Treasure Trove
In fact, the History Room is mostly the work of volunteers—from individuals who conceived of it in the early 1980s to groups like the Hudson Women’s Club, who purchased the newspaper microfilm collections. Last year’s eighth grade class donated money to buy books for the collections. It’s a collaboration of local organizations, their volunteers and the library.
The biographical index is indeed its crown jewel, says Nancy Hawkinson, a volunteer and member of the St. Croix County Historical Society and St. Croix County Genealogical Society. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays, she’s on hand in the History Room to help patrons seeking history of some sort or another.
“The Biographical Index is definitely a highlight, and something that is very unique to the History Room and our area,” says Hawkinson, who worked in data processing at State Farm Insurance before taking on a “retirement” job as a volunteer historian.
“Since the library has moved to this location, usage of the History Room has really picked up,” she said. “Through the genealogical society we can provide an hour or so of free research assistance, using the resources here in the History Room, at the St. Croix County Historical Society, the New Richmond Library, and the UW-River Falls Archives and Area Research Center.”
In cases requiring extensive research, for-pay services, or when staff can’t uncover answers, they steer people toward other resources including how-to classes, state or county historical societies, other genealogy organizations and websites, says Hawkinson.
A Wealth of Resources
The History Room’s more than 1,300 items include the Wisconsin, St. Croix Valley, and Hudson collections. Each contains holdings such as A.B. Easton’s two-volume 1909 History of the St. Croix Valley; the Hudson Area Directory 1899-1949, which includes the only known Polk & Co. city directory from 1899 and telephone books from 1911 to 1949; as well as text and photos from a 1984 architectural and historic survey of Hudson and North Hudson.
Other resources include high school yearbooks and school newspapers, plat books and maps, marriage indexes, censuses, cemetery indexes, anniversary print editions of the Hudson Star Observer in accessible archival binders, and a clipping collection organized by topic. In addition, how-to books on conducting family or property research and individual published genealogies are available.
“Many people have contributed their own research, such as Lorraine Jacobs’ clipping collections including North Hudson history, and Dick Larson’s Civil War collection,” said Hawkinson. “We welcome donations of family histories too.”
Also welcome are donations of volunteer time to the Library or funds designated to the History Room through the Friends of the Hudson Library or St. Croix County Historical Society. She says, “If people are interested in history, there’s plenty to do. We always welcome more volunteers.”