Tom Ellig's history with the Minnesota history goes back to 1968, when a demonstration fur trading post was about to open up in nearby Pine City....
Tom Ellig has always had an interest in history, and that is not going to change even though events in his life are now different.
Ellig, who has four decades of personal history in helping tell the story of Minnesota’s past, opted to retire from his role with the Minnesota Historical Society.
Ellig, whose most recent role was that of manager of community outreach and partnerships, actually got his start working with history when he was still in school.
“I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd,” said Ellig. “I knew I did not want to teach history, but I wanted to have a way to share with others the love I have for history.”
It was during the summer of 1968 when Ellig was first introduced to the state historical society when the state entity obtained and planned to open a nearby fur trading post as a historical asset.
That Pine City historic site became Ellig’s introduction to the organizational side of history, as he spent several summers working with a re-construction crew to get that site ready for the public.
While in college he continued to work in history and in 1974 Ellig got his first full-time position with the historical society working at Fort Snelling. Two years later he moved north to the Split Rock Lighthouse historic site where he served as site manager serving in an ad-ministrative role.
In 1982, Ellig was called to a new site, which is where he would remain for the rest of his career.
“I became the south district manager,” Ellig said, adding that meant having an office at the Lower Sioux Agency historic site.
Ellig then oversaw the work going on at 10 different sites over the next several years.
During his time with the historical society, Ellig has seen a lot of changes, as the organization has reorganized numerous times and has experienced the ups and downs of funding as other state-funded entities do.
In his final position, still working out of his office at the Lower Sioux site, Ellig traveled around the state working with all of the sites.
“I am very glad I was able to keep my office here,” he said.
Ellig said he has always enjoyed telling the stories of people and events from Min-nesota’s past.
“I have enjoyed being here where history happened,” he said. “Standing in the location where things took place means so much more. I think you can really understand and appreciate history more when you see where it actually happened.”
Ellig said what he has always appreciated is knowing every day when he got up for work he looked forward to it. That, he said, made the past 40 years very enjoyable.
While Ellig is retiring from his job, his passion for history is not going to end. It just means instead of coming to his office, he can sit at home with his cup of coffee and study.
While Ellig said he is planning to take some time to “see what retirement is like” he has no plans to stop being active in the community. He is currently involved with the library commission, and Ellig said he is hoping to get more involved with that in the future.
Ellig also said he plans to make himself available for the historical society if they need someone to help with projects.
Specifically, historically speaking, Ellig is on a mission.
“There are only two photos we are aware of from the Lower Agency when it was operating,” said Ellig. “I have always suspected there are more out there. I want to see if I can track them down.”
Ellig said he has appreciated his role and the opportunity he has had to work with the public. Now he is ready to start the next part of his life, with his wife, Char, who is already retired.
That means doing some traveling around the U.S. and spending more time learning about people, places and events of this country’s great history.