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WILSON BREWER PARK: The Importance of History

December 9, 2016
Gary J. Groves - Wilson Brewer Historic Park Committee Chairman ,

The Wilson Brewer Park is a story of community. A story of Wilson Brewer who established the Town of New Castle in the early 1850's and whose name was changed in 1857 to Webster City. The story would continue through the grandchildren of Wilson Brewer when in the year of 1932 they conveyed by gift the nine acre tract of land along with a cabin, a museum and numerous pioneer artifacts to the City of Webster City in exchange for the community's promise to forever maintain the land as the Wilson Brewer Park and to forever preserve the existing buildings, as well as any additional buildings that may in the future be located on the park premises.

The City has owned and maintained the park over the past eighty-four years. During this time a one-room country school house, a prairie or country church, the first Hamilton County Courthouse and the Illinois Central Depot have been re-located to the park premises. In addition thereto, the inventory of artifacts, relics and collectable items has vastly increased the personal property assets of the park.

The present reality confronting our community is that the Wilson Brewer Park is in major need of renovation. The City Council has provided funds through the years for the care and upkeep of the park; however, budget restraints limit its capacity to fully fund the escalating costs of preservation and renovation.

Article Photos

Frank Bonbebright working in 1931.
At work creating one cabin from the Brewer family cabin and the Jackson Groves cabin.

In response to the challenge, the Wilson Brewer Historic Park Committee has adopted a Three-Phase plan to preserve this heritage. Phase-one is currently underway in organizing volunteer committees to assist with the development of an overall Master Plan. Preliminary designs for the renovation of each building are progressing. Heating and cooling options together with various landscaping concepts are under consideration. Once all costs are determined and a Master Plan approved, a community-wide fundraising effort will be initiated early next year as Phase Two of the overall plan. Upon completion of the renovation, the third and final phase will be in the decision on how the park is to be staffed and operated in the future.

As we move forward with the fund raising phase to preserve these stories of our past, the question for each of us to consider is whether or not these stories are important enough in the lives of our generation and that of our children and grandchildren for us to keep the promise made some eighty-four years ago to the grandchildren of Wilson Brewer.

For me, the meaning of history is much more than simply memorizing dates and events of the past. History is a story of people. The story of men and women who encountered the challenges of life in their time. It is a story of family and community which is relevant to our lives because it allows us to discover universal principles of human nature.

"Knowledge of history," author Robert Pawn Warren wrote, "cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves and our common humanity, so that we can better face the future."

I hope you agree!!!

For more information about the Park, contact Kent Harfst,

Assistant City Manager/Recreation & Public Grounds Director,

Fuller Hall Recreation Center, 515 832-9193

or e-mail



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