Grant County Veterans Memorial Hall more than many expected
By C.A. Ray
Grant County Herald
The new Grant County Veterans Memorial Hall addition to the Grant County Museum in Elbow Lake is more than you might have expected. The museum features:
A realistic, scale model of Fort Pomme de Terre, a lonely U.S. Army outpost located between what is now Elbow Lake and Ashby built before the Civil War;
Personal items carried by Grant County soldiers onto the battlefields of the Civil War, WWI, and WWII;
A library of military books for research;
Photos and news articles about local soldiers as they were covered in their hometown newspapers.
The hall, which was dedicated earlier this month, came about when the Grant County Historical Society Board of Directors were trying to find a way to display some WWII items.
"We decided to talk to the Elbow Lake Legion Post about it and they asked us for a space to put on a display," said Chris Spaulding, Board of Directors chairperson. "We looked all around the museum and nothing was right. So they went and had a meeting and came back and suggested they build an addition. In my wildest imagination I never would have imagined something like this."
That was last summer. Thanks to the drive of Legion Commander Clint Grove, the hall has opened less than a year later.
"The volunteer hours put into this are truly amazing," said Grove. "We figured at least 2,800 volunteer hours. And those were just the hours we counted."
Grove himself put in 750 volunteer hours before the first of the year and admits to working on the hall nearly every day since, usually with his wife Evie.
But the hall is more than just the work of Elbow Lake Legion. Every Legion Post in Grant County has been invited to donate items and all have, or are planning to. Other items on display were items already in the museum's collection which it didn't have proper display space for, such as machine guns and other weapons, or other recently donated items from members of the community.
And there are some special displays, such as copies of the "Terms of Surrender" documents signed to end WWII, or pictures of Erdahl native Olof Haroldson, who served in WWI, and his seven sons, all of whom served in the armed forces until 1960.
There is also a window display of precious Civil War items including weapons, documents, and a hand-made quilt from the era.
Even the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn., donated a photo showing the importance of that meat product to the war effort during WWII.
Grove said they are still taking donations, such as clean, washed uniforms, and he is trying to find an authentic Italian Fascist flag to go with the authentic Nazi and Japanese Empire flags on display.
A huge oil painting that was discovered in the corner of the museum had the name of every man from Grant County who served in WW I painted on it. But the painting was so dirty it was hard to read. It was sent to a professional painting restorer and now, looking as good as when it was painted, occupies a place of honor on the east wall.
The walls themselves speak at the VMH. They are full of paintings of iconic American images such as Mt. Rushmore, eagles, the Statue of Liberty.
The hall will continue to add new items and displays such as their plans to complete a video library of interviews with local vets, and displays from returning Iraq War veterans, as well as uniforms from the women's branches of the service.
"Hopefully the Veterans Memorial Hall will bring more people to the museum itself," Grove said. "We really don't think there is anything like it anywhere in the area."