Ray George collected a museum's worth of antiques over the decades, and his family has donated the collection to the Redwood County Historical Society to display and fundraise from.
When Bill Schwandt, president of the Redwood County Historical Society was contacted by the family of Ray George, he had no idea what was in store. The family, who reside on the east coast, wondered if the historical society was interested in Ray’s collection. If so, they could have it and do whatever they wanted to do with it. Schwandt discussed the idea with the historical society board which opted to accept the donation, and the work of gathering, moving and sorting items began. “I met Ray a couple of times. He was such a wealth of information,” said Schwandt. He was also a wealth of items, as members of the board, with assistance from other volunteers began sifting through a lifetime of collecting. Some of that collection is going to be offered to the highest bidder this Thursday.
The Prairieland Fly-wheelers Two Cylinder Club is hosting its annual consignment auction at 10 a.m. at the Gilfillan Estate. According to Schwandt, there are several hayracks full of items from the Ray George collection which are going to be sold that day, adding because there is so much stuff two additional auctions are going to be held. “Ray would go to auctions and buy things that interested him,” Schwandt said. “He wouldn’t just buy one of something.” In fact there are multiples of many of the items, with Schwandt surmising there are more than 50 saws, dozens of wood planes and in the neighborhood of 20 kerosene lamps among the items they have sorted. There is even a schnitzelbank. A schnitzelbank, which literally means “crafted bench,” is an item that has its roots in Germany and made its way across much of the United States. Schwandt said Ray, who made his living as a farmer, collected lots of tools and other farm-related items, but his interests were varied. That is reflected in the wide selection of things which have been discovered at his home. While much of the collection has value, some of the most valuable items in the collection were already at the Gilfillan site. “Ray donated buildings full of items for the Gilfillan museum,” said Schwandt, adding some of the Gilfillan volunteers began building glass cases to display his collection. “As fast as they could build the glass cases he would fill them.” There are a few more unique items the historical society plans to keep for future display, and Schwandt said other museums in the area have also benefitted over the years from Ray’s hobby. Proceeds from the sale of the items in the Ray Goerge collection are going to be used to enhance the historical society’s display. In recent months, the Redwood County His-torical Society board has been discussing the future of its facilities, and among the ideas being presented is moving the contents of the current Redwood County museum located west of Redwood Falls to a new building which would be erected at Gilfillan. The current museum is located in the area where a new recycling facility is scheduled to be erected, and many are concerned the current museum might get lost in the shadow of that new building causing fewer people to visit. In addition, the building, which once housed the county poor farm, is in need of repairs that would be quite costly. To help move the process along, the Redwood County Board of Commission-ers voted at its meeting this past Tuesday to provide some direction for the historical society. It has given the group until Spring 2016 to vacate that building, with the intent to close and demolish it. The county board has been working in conjunction with the historical society on this idea, and the board said it is going to be very flexible in how it proceeds with this project in coming months. According to Al Kokesch, Redwood County commissioner and member of the historical society, a building committee has been established to find an ideal site for the new museum. “Right now the committee is open to all options,” said Kokesch. Schwandt said the county board has been good to work with in this process, adding Ray George’s family has also been helpful and accommodating. “This was a very generous gift, and we do appreciate it,” said Schwandt, adding he also appreciates all of the volunteers who have been working to muddle through all of the items which have been donated. Kerkhoff Auction is conducting the June 12 sale, and one can find more items which are up for bid at www.kerkhoffauction.com.