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An article written by Pete Wickland and printed in the Racine Journal Times on or about August 10, 2014 concerning the Caledonia Historical Society and it’s current president Leroy Schmidt, is misleading at best. It’s writer should learn to check facts and sources before publishing.
I am a former member of the Caledonia Historical Society and it’s immediate past president, having served from April 1, 2010 until March 31, 2014. Let me set you straight on a few facts.
During my tenure:
• The depot was purchased, moved and renovations begun.
• The 1840 log cabin was acquired and reconstructed.
• The museum building was constructed and the Caledonia Historical Society assumed ownership of the land on which the buildings are situated. However, I certainly did not do all of that on my own and I would never suggest to anyone that I did.
• The effort to acquire, save and move the original Town Hall was spearheaded by the late, former Town Chairman, Mr. Dennis Kornwolf. Yes, Mr. Schmidt worked on the restoration as did many other people.
• The Depot was acquired through the negotiations of former CHS president Kathy Aiello and Ms Jess Last. I signed the papers transferring ownership to CHS and the moving was done by professional movers who placed the building on a new foundation. Mr. James Woolrage, another past president, oversaw the acquisition of the new foundation. The initial work-release labor to scrape interior paint was arranged by yet another past president, Mr. Larry McCalvy.
• The log cabin was acquired from Alan and Patty Ruud through the negotiations of member Royse Myers. Mr. Myers negotiated with the contractor who built the foundation and also the contractor who reassembled and rebuilt the cabin. Mr. Myers obtained the needed funds from the Ruud’s.
• Mr. Myers conceived, planned and paid for the museum building. He also hired the contractor. Very little, if any, CHS labor went into these structures.
• Mr. Myers negotiated for the donation of the caboose. He and his wife paid to have it moved to the park. It took the labor of a lot of men and primarily women to get that caboose cleaned and painted in time for the first Homecoming in September of 2011.
• Prior to this year, the land which comprises the historic village was owned by the Village of Caledonia. The CHS wanted to acquire the land in order to have more control over the future. I, with the invaluable aid of Ms. Sue Schiut, spent close to a year dealing with the Village. One of my last duties as President was to sign the papers transferring ownership of the land to CHS. Through those negotiations Ms. Schuit, a specialist in non-profit accounting, discovered deficiencies in the CHS accounting system. Ms. Schuit began an effort to correct the problem.
Let me point out that nothing can be done without funding. Major contributions to the CHS coffers in the past four years came from unsung heroes. Russ Gemmell, James Woolrage, Sue Schuit, Preservation Racine, Sebastian’s Restaurant, and Master Appliance are among the many who contributed greatly to CHS. During my term in office the CHS strove to include and cultivate the support of the community. I would hope they continue to do so. In the future, it would be wise to check the facts before disseminating bizarre fabrications to the public. If there is one person who did indeed start the ball rolling to preserve an historic building it would be Mr. Kornwolf and most assuredly not Mr. Schmidt.
Michael E. Michna