Stacked away in filing cabinets, organized perfectly by section and preserved with the utmost care by staff at the McPherson Public Library is Linn Peterson’s collection.
Peterson collected anything and everything about the history of the city of McPherson and McPherson County. The family donated it back in 2011.
The staff at the library recently finished seven years of work processing the archives.
The collection includes 1,400 archival folders and 1,423 images of the city of McPherson and the surrounding county.
“It’s a tremendous asset for us; even from the beginning when we were just starting to process this information. We use it just about every day. People come in and search for family history and people ask us all sorts of questions about the history of McPherson — it’s definitely well used,” said Steve Read, director of the library. “We made sure they were preserved and put them in archival acid-free folders...with correct subject headings. It took quite some time.”
Having touched every square inch of the files, Read said he could his brain became an encyclopedia of knowledge about McPherson history.
“I’ve touched every piece of paper in there and we had staff working on this as well. I have recalled quite a bit of information from it. One of the things I appreciate about Linn is that he had a historian’s eye for this stuff.
“He found things that we don’t normally think about when we think of McPherson. He found both the good and the bad things — he collected everything,” he said.
Read, staff and others who use these archives are grateful the Peterson family decided to donate this treasure back in 2011, a year after Peterson passed away, as Read noted it was almost like it was meant to be that they now have it at their fingertips.
“We had a longstanding relationship with Linn (Peterson) when he was alive. He would always be in here looking at the old newspapers. I think it was a natural thing that the library would get the archive. Also, with the library being relatively new, we have the McPherson room dedicated to the collection,” he said.
Read said Peterson was born and raised in McPherson and was always able to get his nose into something interesting about the town and county.
“It was a life-long passion of his to collect information on the history of our city and county. He was always collecting newspaper clippings and as he became known as the local historian. People donated things to him as well — that’s how he got such a large collection,” Read said.
Read recalled a few interesting items that came to the forefront of his mind about the collection.
“The most interesting thing to come out of the collecton are those little details.
In the 1800s, you needed to weigh your wagon, weighing was very important and Linn (Peterson) found out the location of the city scale. Every city had their scale. He also found information on hitching posts. When people rode into town, they would need to hitch their horse to a post,” he said.
“Then, in the 1920s or 1930s, there was a fad called tree sitting where people would go and live in their trees for a while.
“It’s all those little quirky things that we have here, those little subjects I find the most fascinating.”
Read also noted that residents of the city and county shouldn’t hesitate to call regarding questions on the city and the collection.
“If they call us and they have a question about McPherson, chances are we’re able to answer it,” he said.
For more information, call the library at 620-245-2570 or visit their website at https://macpl.org.