History of the Historical Society of Decatur County
The Historical Society of Decatur County dates from June 1959, when the charter membership closed with 205 members. There were attempts to found such a group starting as early as 1916, but the society evidently had a short life span because it had to be “revived” in 1924 as the Decatur County Historical Society. At this time there was no specific location for artifacts and genealogy lists, but in 1928 the Greensburg School Board granted the Society the use of the third floor of the old West End School which stood on the Northwest corner of Washington and Monfort Streets. The museum collection was quite extensive and housed many relics from the area. Officers continued to be elected and the Society remained active until the West School was slated to be razed so the new Billings Elementary School could be built on the site. Between 1954 and 1959, there is no evidence of an active historical society in Decatur County, but the collections and genealogical records were still intact and kept in the third floor rooms of the Knights of Pythias building.
The circumstances of the Society underwent a change in 1959 when the revised Historical Society of Decatur County was formed by a group of eleven county residents who met at the home of attorney William Woodfill. The group’s first meeting was held in March at the Greensburg City Hall. Officers elected were Paul Huber, president, Mrs. E.A. Porter, vice-president, Mrs. Betty Woodfill, secretary, and J. Elwin Gibson, treasurer. Mr. Huber also served as editor of the Society’s Bulletin, until he was succeeded by Mr. Van Batterton.
In November of 1981, an anonymous donor gave the Shannon-Lathrop house (across the street from the Post Office) to the Historical Society. This property afforded a permanent location for the establishment and development of a significant addition to Decatur County’s historical and cultural assets because the Society now had more room to effectively display its growing number of artifacts and genealogical records. Additionally, the house itself is a rare example of early 19th century architecture.
After twenty-four years of continued growth, both in the variety of artifacts and genealogical records, the group made a fortuitous decision: the Historical Society’s board of directors was able to build an addition to the Shannon-Lathrop house because the Society again received an anonymous and unrestricted donation.
Careful planning for this significant project began in 2005 with the hiring of Thomas Gordon Smith as the architect and the firm of Bruns and Gutzwiller as the general contractors The construction of the addition, along with remodeling of the Shannon-Lathrop house, took the better part of two years. The addition affords significantly greater display areas with an open gallery adaptable for a number of uses.