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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 , 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.

Wow! Thanks.

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.”

Gregg Nelson May 24, 2011 at 03:31 PM
This is a great article! A month of two ago, I was able to get into this room, and went through some of these materials looking for information on a house I recently purchased. I was able to find the address in the phone books, and eventually figure out who built the house, how long he lived there, and even the names of his family members. A very fulfilling experience!
patt colten May 24, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Nice Article Brenda. So many people are unaware of this information. Willis lived a block from me, and shared allot of interesting story's about the Comstock-Andrews family with me. I have been restoring the old Comstock house. When Ruth Andrews died back in the 1940's he went up to the red barn that was behind the house and carried away (in his old wood wagon) stacks of documents that are now in the Archives at River Falls University library. There are many handwritten letters, as well as the diary of Ellen Andrew from the year 1900. There are many families and names that you will recognize in these documents that make it a fun way for people to learn about the daily life back 150+ years ago in Hudson. I will try to scan one of these and attach it to this article. Thanks again.
Brenda Bredahl May 24, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Patt, Thanks. Indeed, Willis was an amazing man with many gifts he shared with everyone he met. I have done a couple of articles on him; the most recent on his historic legacy to UWRF after his death: http://www2.uwrf.edu/falcon-features/1001/2welcome.php?f=willis At some point in time I will probably write something on him for Patch...
patt colten May 25, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Thant would be great. Thanks for the link to your article.
Jacki Bradham May 26, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Another great treasure in the History Room is the Architectural Survey which was done in the 1980s. It has a lot of information on many local buildings.

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