West Salem Historical Society is keeping history alive

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Every night this week, we’re spotlighting the people, places, and things that make La Crosse County unique in the latest edition of our County by County series.

Members of the West Salem Historical Society are encouraging others in the area to dive into the town’s history. First News at Nine’s Dashal Mentzel visited West Salem today and takes a look at the history of the historical society.

The West Salem Historical Society has preserved 3 historic houses in West Salem. The Hamlin Garland house and the Palmer Brothers Octagons. The society was founded by former history teacher, Errol Kindschy. “I came to West Salem in 1959 as a teacher in the (West Salem) high school. I was teaching history and civics. I love history. Always have loved history. And I love to get kids interested in history. And it’s not boring. It’s fun.”

Kindschy began realizing the love people had for the history of the town when he wrote a 67-page book on the history of West Salem, “We charged a dollar apiece for them. Two weeks later, they were all sold out. So, I knew there was an interest in West Salem history because that book was nothing to be bragging about. But it was a start.”

According to Kindschy, the West Salem Historical Society currently has around 1,500 members from 42 states. He explains, “It’s former people from West Salem, former students and so forth that once lived here that still have an interest. And, of course, you find names from people and you encourage them to join.”

One of those members is Patsy Hofer, who has lived in West Salem her whole life. Hofer says, “We have had people from all 50 states and from a number of different countries, and there is so much that has gone on in West Salem with the businesses that have been here and the number of important people who have come from West Salem.”

Kindschy says he’s enjoyed history his entire life and, ever since he moved to West Salem, he’s wanted to make sure the town’s history will be preserved for all to see, “Because you got to see it. You can read about it. But if you don’t see it, you don’t get the feeling. And that’s the whole idea. You go through a house and it kind of comes on you. You kind of remember it.”

From the writing of author Hamlin Garland, and the movement of the Octagon Houses, there’s plenty of history among the three homes. “They’re all important. They’re all worth stopping and seeing, not to just anybody off the street, but everybody off the street because they can learn something about history, see how people lived, enjoy it.”

For County by County, Dashal Mentzel First News at Nine.

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