Newcastle Historical Society hopes to increase presence in 2013

January 3, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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For the better part of its more than 20 years of existence, the Newcastle Historical Society has been a place where passionate history junkies could get their fix by attending monthly meetings where the legend that is Milt Swanson would talk about the good old days.

Swanson, who has lived in the Newcastle area since he was born in 1918, is indeed a treasure trove filled with memories of Newcastle’s past.

In 2013, though, the historical society hopes to accomplish more than it ever has. The organization plans to expand its presence and visibility in the community.

The hope is that the group can bring the story of Newcastle’s history, of which Swanson is an integral part, into the public consciousness, said Pam Lee, Newcastle Historical Society member.

“We’ve really been sort of lazy because we’ve just had Milt to talk to and he’ll just come to a meeting, tell his stories and at the end we’d say, ‘Oh, that was so interesting,’ but we didn’t do anything else. So, we were spoiled,” she said.

The historical society has myriad tasks it would like to complete, beginning with a project that would place historical signage around the city. In addition, “The Coals of Newcastle,” the ultimate handbook that outlines the city’s history, could use some updating, Lee said.

To do these projects, the historical society would have to seek grant money, but in its current informal structure, that would be a difficult undertaking.

“We have to be able to present ourselves to an entity that wants to give us money, and they want to have a lot of rigmarole to do that and that’s never been my strong point,” Lee said.

The group is currently working on updating its bylaws and formalizing its structure, making the historical society a more attractive option to those awarding grants.

The Newcastle Historical Society’s mission is to protect the city’s historical artifacts and educate the community about the area’s rich history.

All that Lee asks of the Newcastle community is that its residents express an interest in wanting to know more about their city’s history.

Nearly everyone knows about the city’s active role in the coal-mining industry, but there is still so much to be learned about the history-rich community, Lee said.

For example, the Newcastle Cemetery is a pioneer’s cemetery, where miners and nearby families from the late 1800s were laid to rest.

Also, one of the reasons a golf course sits on a Newcastle hillside, rather than a large housing development, is because underneath, it’s all honeycombed with coal mines, Lee said.

The historical society is a resource that Newcastle residents can use to learn about interesting facts such as these, and as the group works to increase its visibility, Lee said they hope people would be eager to get involved.

“Newcastle is special because its history is so old and so rich, and even though we are pretty much a little suburban city now, there is quite a history,” Lee said. “I think it’s interesting to find out about the community we live in. Some people are curious why things are the way they are. I know I am.”



What to know

The Newcastle Historical Society meets the first Thursday of every month at 4 p.m. at City Hall. Attend a meeting to learn more about the organization, or call Pam Lee at 891-8149.

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