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Historical museum closes successful year

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POLSON – Volunteering at the Polson Flathead Historical Museum is a labor of love for two dozen or so locals involved. Two of them were honored last week at an end-of-season get-together at First Presbyterian Church.

Past president Bill Olson and manager Gay Cochran were presented gifts by board member Steve Sherick and president Karen Dunwell. 

The museum, which closed for the season in mid-September and re-opens on Memorial Day, had 32 percent more visitors than the previous year and generated 52 percent more revenue. That’s the good news. 

The not-so-good news is that the museum needs to raise $90,000 for a new roof. 

Dunwell said a local roofer will be working this month to make temporary repairs to four leaks that are located directly above some prized artifacts, which have been covered for protection. She said the museum will begin a fundraising effort this fall. 

Dunwell, whose maternal grandfather J.F. “Faye” McAlear founded the museum in 1972, recently moved back to the area from England after retiring. 

The approximate 10,000-square-foot former cinder block production building at 708 Main St. houses numerous items, most of which were donated by area pioneers, Dunwell said. 

Some of these include: an Allard Stagecoach that ran from Ravalli to Kalispell in the early 1900s; Rudolph, a stuffed Scottish Highland ox that was popular in parades in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s and ‘70s; the “Flathead Monster,” a 7.5-foot, 181-pound white sturgeon that was caught in 1955; and Calamity Jane’s saddle from her last ride. 

Dunwell said the reservation was inspired by the “Reservation Pioneers,” a group of locals who homesteaded during the first few decades of the 20th Century. These pioneers were the source for McAlear’s book, “The Fabulous Flathead,” which was published in 1968, Dunwell said. 

Donations can be sent to: Polson Flathead Historical Museum, P.O. Box 206, Polson, MT 59860. For more information, call 883-3049. 

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