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Lyon County museum receives $10,000 donation for building search

October 11, 2008
By Deb Gau

It will take help to find the Lyon County Historical Museum a permanent home, museum director Ellayne Conyers said. That's why a recent donation to the museum building fund is a hopeful sign.

The Franklin and Vi Johnson family donated $10,000 toward the Lyon County Historical Society building fund, with the instructions that the money be used for a permanent museum location.

"We knew they were looking for a building. We thought it was a good start," Vi Johnson said.

The Johnsons had been in business in Marshall since 1936, with the Olson and Johnson Trucking company. Franklin, Vi and their children Dean and Dee Ann determined together how the donation money should be used, Vi Johnson said.

The Johnsons have made contributions to Southwest Minnesota State University and other causes in Marshall, Vi Johnson said. Franklin was a big supporter of the Murray County Historical Museum in Slayton because of family connections with the area, she said, but he thought it was time to give to Marshall's museum, too.

"We've been here for 60 years," Vi Johnson said. "Marshall has given us a lot."

"It certainly helps," Conyers said of the donation.

She has been looking at possible permanent sites for the museum for the last two years, she said, and if one is found, funds will be needed to purchase it.

The museum can't stay at its current location on Third Street in Marshall because of rising rent costs, Conyers said.

The historical society does have some building funds stored up already, Conyers said. When the museum moved out of the old Lyon County courthouse in 1994, the society raised $60,000 in a fund drive. Investments made the amount grow to $100,000. That's not enough to purchase a new museum site, Conyers said, but together with the Johnsons' donation, it might help make a down payment.

"If we could get a site, even if we don't have a million dollars, we could make a good down payment," she said.

Conyers said she is in the process of looking for possible museum sites, some more likely than others. The Coca-Cola bottling plant building in Marshall would be an ideal location for the museum, she said, but the company had told her it wasn't interested in selling the property.

Another possibility, albeit one that Conyers said she hasn't formally brought before the Marshall City Council yet, is the old junior high property. With its proximity to parking space and downtown Marshall, the lot would be a good location for the historical museum or other local nonprofit groups, she said.

"It would keep (the museum) downtown," Conyers said. "We're always worried about downtown drying up."

Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said the city hasn't yet discussed uses for the old junior high property. However, discussion would probably begin after demolition of the school building is completed.

Conyers said she had also looked at three houses on nearby Redwood Street, but they weren't big enough for the museum, and would require some additional renovation.

Conyers said she hoped other longtime Marshall residents would come forward to support the museum. A working committee was formed this spring to help with a facilities search and fund-raising, she said.



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