Swift County Historical Society and Museum

Preserving and Sharing the

History of Swift County

and Its People…

Yesterday and Today

Welcome to the Swift County Historical Society and Museum Website

Welcome to the Swift County Historical Society and Museum website. We sincerely hope that the information contained herein will be of help to you. We especially want to thank you for your unwavering in-person and financial support. Without your visits to the Museum, generous financial gifts and membership fees, as well as your requests for assistance during genealogical or historical research projects, we would not be able to continue to serve you and the Swift County community. We are here to assist you in person and digitally through this website, email, phone and social media. We also publish the Historical Society newsletter, the ECHO, six times per year. If you wish to receive a digital copy of the ECHO, please email us at: swiftmuseum@embarqmail.com.

Regular Museum Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm

We are also open by appointment anytime. Simply call us at (320) 843-4467 for an appointment. Please leave your name and phone number if we do not answer and someone will return your call as soon as possible.

We are closed on Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, July 4, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). The Museum closes at 3:00pm on the afternoon prior to a holiday

Our historical and genealogical research library is available by appointment. We have added the popular internet site Ancestry.com to our genealogical library. Should you wish to use the Society’s Ancestry site, you may do so in person at the museum. However, you will need to schedule a date and time prior to arrival. Please call for further information.

Welcome to the Swift County Historical Society and Museum!

Current and Upcoming Exhibits and Programs at the Society and Museum


Spring 2023 Brown Bag Lunches

April 13 Brown Bag ConversationMy Service and Experience in Vietnam During the War with Mr. Ken Hanson who will speak about his experience in Vietnam as well as some of the issues he experienced when returning home from his two tours with the U.S. Army. Ken spent a total of 25 months in Vietnam. Born and raised in Swift County, he is a graduate of Benson High School, Willmar Community College with distinction in law enforcement and sociology and attended the University of Minnesota Morris. Ken served on the Benson Police Department from 1975 to 1978 and as Swift County Sheriff from 1979 to 2004. Please join us as we continue our series on Vietnam and the Vietnam War.

May 11 Brown Bag ConversationPhilatelics with Mr. Jerry Swenson. Postage stamp collecting began around 1840 shortly after Britain issued the first postage stamp, the Penny Black which pictured a young Queen Victoria. By 1860 thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world as this new study and hobby spread across Europe, European colonies, the United States and other parts of the world. The rapid growth of this hobby soon produced an entire industry related to philately with the production of stamp albums, stamp related literature and retail shops selling new and used postage stamps for collectors, especially stamps from foreign countries.

All Brown Bag Programs begin at 12:00pm and All Are Welcome!


Swift County Historical Society Annual Memorial Day Event

Thursday May 25 at 7:00pm the Historical Society will hold its annual Memorial Day Program. The speaker this year will be Mr. Ken Hanson, former commander of VFW Post 1403, who served our country during the Vietnam War, especially important this year as we continue our year-long remembrance of all those who served during this period of conflict. We will also remember all the men and women who have served our country throughout its history and look forward to meeting those who will be present with us. “Friends” quartet will provide musical entertainment, and refreshments will be served. All are welcome to join us as we honor our servicemen and women.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vietnam-wall.jpg


Special Short-term Exhibits

Winter in Minnesota Minnesota

January 23-March 30, 2023

This short-term exhibit showcases everything that we love about Winter in Minnesota, from the cold ice and snow to the warmth of hearth and home. See the progression and history of ice skates, snow skis and winter clothing; learn how early settlers coped with the long and bitter winters; and enjoy learning about long-forgotten ways to keep warm: bearskin coats, animal fur gloves and metal foot warmers. A great way to help us look toward the warmth of Spring!

Annual June Wedding Dress Revue

June 6 thru July 28

The Annual June Wedding Dress Revue will be on hiatus this year as we present a short-term exhibit, Quilts of Swift County, in its place. Over the past three years we have been able to display about 95% of the wedding dresses and related attire from our collection, but in order to keep the Revue fresh and welcoming, the Dress Revue Committee decided that we would have a different exhibit this year.

The Swift County Historical Society has a small but very interesting and diverse collection of quilts, both handmade and machine sewn, and we hope that you will join us for this artistic and educational exhibit —June 6 thru July 28. 

ca. 1940 Wedding Band pattern quilt, fully hand stitched


St Paul and Pacific Railroad Arrival

Benson, Minnesota, June 1870

Every family, like every farm, village, town and city, has a story. If yours has a connection to Swift County but you are lacking that final piece of information or would like to know more about the farm your grandfather grew up on, we may be able to help. The Swift County Historical Society is dedicated to discovering and collecting any materials that may help to establish or illustrate the history of Swift County. The Society has the largest collection of Swift County-related genealogical records, in addition to many individual family photo files, church and school records, newspapers from Appleton, Benson and Kerkhoven, Naturalization Records, US and Minnesota records and Swift County maps and Plat books, of any institution in the County. We also have access to most of the US and World files found on Ancestry. So whether you are looking for genealogical or historical information, and whether you would like us to do the research or you would like to do it yourself, call us for further information.


In preparation for the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Swift County Historical Society (still a few years off but we would like to have everything ready prior to the celebration), renovations on the southside exterior of the Museum have been made. In addition to a new sidewalk, new windows and a new door there is also new siding, a wider overhang for better access, and a lower stone offset.  If you would like to contribute to the Anniversary fund, please make the notation “Anniversary Fund” on your check. There is more information about the Anniversary Fund and updates on current and upcoming Museum changes in the current issue of the ECHO.

July 4, 1901

We are always looking for good quality, archival photos and postcards of the business areas, railroad depots and cities of Swift County. If you have any that you would be willing to permanently donate to the Museum we would be most grateful. We are especially lacking in imagery of Fairfield and Swift Falls.

Our Facebook page is regularly updated. While the update is always ongoing, we are now available to assist you in any way possible. And of course we are always looking for comments to help us improve the website and Facebook page. Thank you.

If you would like more information on the Historical Society and Museum, or would like to become a member or volunteer, please email us at: swiftmuseum@embarqmail.com or call us at: (320) 843-4467. Thank you!

Open Hours and Location Information:

Sat-Mon: Closed

Tues-Fri: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Open other times by special appointment

2135 Minnesota Avenue

Benson, MN 56215

(320) 843-4467


Swift County Historical Society Board of Directors

BR, LR: Ron Laycock, Ed Pederson, Jan Iversen, Orvin Gronseth, Gerald Swenson and Dale Erickson

FR, LR: Diane Loen, Jan Pagel, Donna Ascheman (retired) and LoAnn Hagen

Not pictured: Toni Lindstrom, Anne Schirmer and Warren Hanson


The Rev. Gary E. Mills, Th. D., Ph. D., Director

Ms. Phyllis Stewart, Museum Assistant

Ms. Deb Mennis, Bookkeeper