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


Fall Brown Bag Lunches and Other Events

Swift County Historical Society Annual Meeting

Thursday October 27, 2022—7:00pm

The 2022 Historical Society Annual Meeting and Special Program will be held on Thursday evening, October 27 at 7:00pm. There will be a brief business meeting, election of Board Members, a review of Society finances and a look at the coming year’s events and exhibits. Following the meeting, Mr. Jerry Swenson and Mr. Siebe Wilts will give a presentation on Native Americans in Swift County Prior to 1870. Members and non-members are welcome.  There will be a special remembrance from the evening for all young people attending. As always, coffee and refreshments will be served.

November 10 Brown Bag Lunch—Ron Laycock and Gary Mills—History of American Coinage

The Thursday November 10 Brown Bag Lunch will be a presentation and discussion about Coinage in the United States, starting with the earliest coins and continuing through the modern era. Do you know the role that Spain played in early American coinage, the meaning of the phrase, “two bits,” or the difference between small and large cents? This is just a fraction of what will be discussed. This conversation will be much less formal, less in-depth and not as instructive or broad as the Members-Only presentations on November 10 and 12.  12:00pm-1:00pm

Various Pre-1933 American Gold Coins

January 12 Brown Bag Lunch – “How Sacagawea Helped Women Get the Right to Vote”

All Brown Bag Lunch Conversations begin at 12:00noon and are open to the public. All are welcome!

Two Special Numismatic Presentations and Exhibits

November 10—7:00pm— History of American Coinage. Did you know that the silver coins of Spain played a crucial role in the American colonies for many years, or that after the United States declared itself independent of Britain in 1776 the “Spanish Milled Dollar” and its fractions remained the principal currency in everyday circulation? These coins were legal American tender as late as 1857. What is the true meaning of the phrase, “two bits”? What do you know about US gold coins? Did you know that between 1795 and 1933 there was a total of 36 major US gold coin types issued for circulation? Can you name one of the rarest modern five cent pieces, tell the difference between small and large cents, or explain what it means to have a “proof” coin? Are there different types of coin collections? What are some of the ways to start a coin collection and to avoid the pitfalls? There will be a display of coins relating to this educational event, many of them rare and valuable, during the presentation. There will also be an educational booklet for all attendees that we hope will be of value to both the novice and the seasoned coin collector. This will be a wonderful time to introduce young people (of all ages!) to numismatics, as well as for seasoned numismatists to gather locally and learn from one another as Swift County coin collectors of all levels share their experience and expertise with all gathered.

November 12—10:00am— History of American Coinage. This is the same program and exhibit as above but especially geared toward families with young people.

Both coin programs have limited space and you must pre-register by calling the Historical Society. These two programs are for Society Members only. Consider becoming a Society member today. If you are not a member and wish to be placed on a waiting list, should there be space available, please call the Historical Society at 320-843-4467 and ask to be placed on the list. We will need your name and phone number. Thank you.


Special Exhibit

Pre-1870 Native Americans in Western Minnesota

September 6-November 4

Prior to the settlement of Swift County in 1870 by North Americans and European immigrants, the territory that is now Swift County was home to the  Sioux (Dakota and Lakota) Nation.  The Upper Sioux Reservation was originally established for the Whapeton and Sisseton bands of Upper Dakota. Under the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851 with the United States, it encompassed an area about 20 miles wide and 70 miles long  along the Minnesota River, including land that is today part of southwest Swift County. Following the Dakota War of 1862, the federal government punished the Dakota by drastically reducing the sizes of two reservations along the Minnesota in an attempt to force the Dakota out of the area. Many Native Americans did move west and settled on reservation in South Dakota. There remain a handful of descendants in Yellow Medicine County.

Woodland Period Arrowheads

Looking to the Future

Running of the Model Trains through the Christmas Villages: Saturday December 3, 10 and 17 from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Annual Historical Society Christmas Open House

Saturday December 10 – 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Come and celebrate the holidays with us in ways old and new on Saturday December 10 from 10:00am to 2:00pm at the Swift County Historical Society Christmas Open House. This is a great time for folks of all ages! Open to the public and all are welcome! Some of the fun events and happenings for the day include:

Christmas Cookies, Candy and Lefse for Sale

Raffle for a New Hardanger Table Runner and a set of Norwegian Rosemaled Ornaments             

Christmas Village Trains, Museum Doll Collection and Antique Toys Exhibit

Rosemaling Christmas Ornaments for Adults

Photos with Santa and the Museum Christmas Tree

Lefse Making and Ice Cream Making

Painting Wooden Christmas Ornaments for the Kids

Christmas Crafts for Kids of all ages

“Friends” Quartet Sings Christmas Favorites

Christmas Caroling with the Player Piano

Coffee, Water, Cookies and more available throughout the day to purchase and enjoy while having conversation with friends old and new


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.

Museum New Back (2)

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 and LoAnn Hagen

Not pictured: Toni Lindstrom, Anne Schirmer and Warren Hanson


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

Ms. Phyllis Stewart, Museum Assistant

Ms. Deb Mennis, Bookkeeper