HOWELLS — Like other communities when they began before the 1900s, Howells had a livery stable.
Back in the 1800s and early 1900s before the gas engine, people mainly used horses and mules to go places. Travelers to town could leave their animals at the livery stable while they ran their errands or completed their tasks, with the horses fed, watered and provided with stalls to rest for the journey home.
The original Howells livery barn was built at the corner of Second and Center streets by Otto Risch but was destroyed in 1902. It was replaced up the hill a little farther south by Mike Suchan, who later converted it into an implement dealership in 1944.
Fast forward to modern days. The livery barn is being torn down, with the owners — the Risch family — offering to give the stable in the best shape to the Howells Museum.
That’s an invitation that Jean Blum, president of the Howells Historical Society, couldn’t pass up.
Blum said she feels fortunate to live in a community where people are so giving. If they come across something they think might have value, they donate it.
“It’s almost down (the livery barn), but the Risch family is one of the oldest families here. They’ve always been giving, but we have a lot of families who want to retain their heritage. When they are cleaning out grandma’s closet or uncle Ed’s place, they say, ‘Let’s see if they want this.’ ”
Blum said she has had to say to no to items like magazines, but other items that are part of the history of Howells, she gladly accepts.
That’s how it always has been around Howells, even before Blum became involved. The Howells Historical Society was created May 22, 1977, and began in the little Congregational Church that was built in 1887. At one time, it was both the first church and first school in Howells.
Then after a couple of years, a school was built in Howells. Howells was founded by Catholics, Lutherans and Congregational settlers from Germany and Czechoslovakia.
“They were all a hardy, hardy people,” Blum said.
At one time, the Germans and Czechs didn’t socialize together, creating separate Catholic parishes. To this day, Howells has two parishes, St. John’s, which is Czech, and Ss. Peter & Paul, which is German. Today, the parishes are integrated and are served by the same priest, but they never combined.
When Howells celebrated its centennial in 1987, it had excess money that was used to purchase the building where the museum now is located. The building opened in 1989.
In fact, Blum said, Howells has so many artifacts and the collection is growing, so it is time to add on again. In the same block on Center Street as the current museum, another building is being remodeled for additional artifacts, including the stall from the livery stable.
While many towns don’t have museums that record the local history, the Howells Museum has an extensive location. The original church museum is still used as an annex.
The collection includes areas dedicated to churches, businesses, schools, the military, weddings, ballrooms, musicians, doctors, a barber shop and more. The Howells Museum even survived the flood of 1991.
“The water was halfway up the square panel on the door,” Blum said. “I did not help with it, but a lot of items were destroyed. The board members and the community worked their magic, did what they could and we came back. It reopened about 1992, and we have continued on with the collections ever since.”
Blum said she is inspired by the donations. There are so many people who have donated, such as Jim Baumert from Baumert Furniture. His mother was Emma Suchan, and his grandparents owned the second livery stable.
Before the pandemic, the museum was open regular hours but is open now by appointment. To make an appointment, contact Blum by email at email@example.com.
Blum said the historical society is working toward establishing set hours again after COVID-19 and plans to post them.