THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Society
FACTS:
The Rentschler Farm Museum and the Depot Museum logged 5,717 visits in 2015. Many of these came to special events including the events, Harvest Time and Rentschler Farm Christmas.

The society has a permanent collection of 3,147 cataloged items. One little known compilation is the Obituary Collection available by appointment for research purposes.

The Historical Society has about 225 individuals, families, patrons and business members. The society needs your help as a volunteer and a member.

DIRECTORS, OFFICERS & VOLUNTEERS
<Click above for information>

NATIONAL PASSPORT STAMP:
During the summer season, a visit to Rentschler Farm is an official National Passport Stop. For information, see National Passport Stamp Program. Passports and stamps are available in the Rentschler Farm Gift Shop during the summer season. Hours: Saturdays between 11:00-3:00.During the winter months when the farm is closed, the stamp will be available at the Railroad Depot Museum on Saturdays, 11:00-3:00.

WANTED:
LOCAL HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS: Let us scan your family photos for our archives, especially if you can supply the name of the subjects. All photos can be returned to you, the owner. Call the society office for an appointment: 734-944-0442 .
SALINE HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOKS: We would like to develop a collection of Saline High School Yearbooks. If you have one that you don't want, keep us in mind.
OBITUARIES: A great deal of local history can be gleaned from old obituaries. If you have any to share, especially old ones, we can scan them. You keep the original. Let us know.
 
History of the Society
by Wayne Clements, Past President

Our fathers told us that some day, the area east of our town would be solidly built up between Saline, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. As kids in a 1940s one-room country school, we thought Dad was smoking some funny tobacco. However, looking back, we know the forecast was a good one and that we should seldom question the common sense trait that comes naturally to farmers.

Today, there is only one stretch of open land separating our communities. All the farms have been replaced with houses or industrial buildings. This mammoth change in our Saline community has influenced our residents in a variety of ways. The Saline Area Historical Society has felt the effect of the changing environment and has resolved to do something about it.

In the 19th century, Saline was an active member of the Pioneer Society of Washtenaw County and had many local members. Saline shared monthly meetings with other towns in the county. William M. Gregory, who had a farm in Section 15 of Saline Twp., is the first known leader of this group. He wrote many articles and gave talks for the Pioneer Society.

The Saline Area Historical Society began as the Literary Society, an arm of the local library. Our organization has been alternately active and dormant. In 1966, we were very active because of the Centennial of Saline (1866-1966). At that time, the group was led by Mary and Daniel Lirones, Paul Meyers, Norman Blackie, and Alberta Rogers. Unfortunately, the society went into decline in the early- to mid-1980s as key members either died or moved away.

More recently, it came back to life in 1987 when a core group began working "to preserve our past for the future." Community interest grew through the projects and activities of the society. In 1988, a vacant historic house developed into a successful Designers' Showcase House Tour. The next year, preservation of barns and windmills drew increased public attention to the efforts of our resurrected society.

Income came from membership dues and a small, annual antique show, so our treasury was thin. At that time, we operated mainly out of our homes and held meetings at the Saline Senior Center. We began to realize that if we were to survive, a close working arrangement with the City of Saline would be paramount.

The opportunity to "go for it" came our way when an 1830s livery barn, scheduled for demolition, came to our attention. Fortunately, an experienced timber framer offered to supervise volunteers to take it down and rebuild it. But, we needed a site.

Ever since the local railroad stopped running in 1961, our railroad depot built in 1870 and now owned by the City, was being used for various activities. Research told us that originally the railroad complex included two barns for storage. Our preservation instincts told us to re-create the landscape at the historic depot site by moving the livery barn. After public hearings and cooperation with the Saline Historic District Commission, we were allowed to re-establish the livery barn on the depot site. In the spring of 1990, the restored barn was formally presented to the City of Saline.

Ever since the local railroad stopped running in 1961, our railroad depot built in 1870 and now owned by the City, was being used for various activities. Research told us that originally the railroad complex included two barns for storage. Our preservation instincts told us to re-create the landscape at the historic depot site by moving the livery barn. After public hearings and cooperation with the Saline Historic District Commission, we were allowed to re-establish the livery barn on the depot site. In the spring of 1990, the restored barn was formally presented to the City of Saline.

From then on, activities mushroomed as membership grew to 100 persons or more:
  • 1991: An original Saline Standard Windmill was restored.
  • 1992: Second Designers' Showcase was held at the Tefft Farm on Textile Road.
  • 1993: We went to the Michigan State Fair to demonstrate our Operating Windmill.
  • 1994: Positive public support grew for developing a Depot Museum.
  • 1995: The Saline Depot Museum opened on July 4th.
  • 1996: The loading dock at the depot was restored.
  • 1997: An authentic wooden caboose was installed on the tracks and furnished to period.
  • 1998: Ground work was laid for developing a second museum.
  • 1999: The Rentschler Farm Museum opened in May with a gala Springtime on the Farm.
  • 2000: The Society was honored with two statewide awards: "Special Events Award" by the Historical Society of Michigan and "Quest for Excellence" by the Michigan Museums Assoc.
  • 2001: A bronze bust of Saline's Founder Orange Risdon was commissioned and presented to the City.
  • 2002: The One-Room Weber-Blaess School was donated and moved to property owned by Saline Area Schools. It was completely restored for historic classroom experiences.
  • 2003: A wooden windmill was installed at the Depot Museum; our first book was published: Voices over the Valley by James Cameron.
  • 2004: The 100th Anniversary of the REO was celebrated by hosting a Hometown Truck Show at the Rentschler Farm.
  • 2005: The 135th Anniversary of the Depot and the 10th Anniversary of the Depot Museum was celebrated in July.
  • 2006: Rentschler Day drew 75 family members. The day was part of our year-long celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Rentschler Farmhouse. History in a Tent in Downtown Saline was the society's contribution to the 75th Anniversary of the City of Saline.
  • 2007: History in Motion was a new activity that provides a trolley with a step-on guide for visitors from Downtown Saline to the Depot Museum during Summerfest. Another highlight was an effort to update society bylaws.
  • 2008: Rentschler Farm celebrates its 10th Year as a museum with a big celebration in September.
  • 2009: The Depot Museum hosted an Old Vehicle Day for the first time. A small building was acquired from the old Cody Farm on Textile Road. It was moved to the Rentschler Farm for a future gift shop.
  • 2010: An enlarged gift shop was moved to the Cody building at the farm and opened in May. A new water system to the outbuildings was installed and the farm electricals were updated. An Antique Tractor Show was held at the farm museum.
  • 2011: A decision was made to have the farmhouse windows professionally restored. Preservation by Design of Tecumseh won the bid and work began in December and continued throughout the winter.
  • 2012: This year is our 25th Anniversary Year. Although the society had more than one start and stop, in 1987 it began again in earnest and continues until now. We celebrated with a Windmill Tour of five wheels. One at the depot museum, three at the farm museum, and a power windmill at nearby Braun Farm on Bemis Road.
  • 2013: The Rentschler Farm made the National Register List and the big barn received the Barn of the Year Award. The railroad caboose was painted in and outside, the logo was installed, and the semaphore was restored.
  • 2014 The society re-installed one of two original cast iron watering troughs along S. Ann Arbor Street.
    SAHS hosted State History Day with contestants coming from all over the state.  Big Barn was repaired and repainted.
  • 2015 With city approval, the society began serious work on an archaeological dig at the Saline Salt Flats, under the direction of an experienced archeologist. A new roof was installed on the salvage barn.

Our Mission Statement is: "To provide an association for people sharing common interest in the history of the Saline area and to encourage preservation and provide education and activities that best illustrate local heritage."
 
LOCAL HISTORY: Saline Area Historical Society Archival Library

Members and other interested persons may use the local history books and files at the SAHS Archival Library, located at Rentschler Farm Museum. This material is for reference use only. Books and files may be browsed, read, and copied with limitations. They may not be removed from the archival library. Books and other materials are to be handled with white gloves.

An appointment is necessary (734-944-0442) as we are staffed by volunteers with irregular hours. Call several days ahead.

To see a listing of books we have, click here. The Local History Room at the Saline District Library is another rich source of local history, including microfilmed local newspapers.

Researchers, including students, are required to acknowledge the courtesy of the Saline Area Historical Society in written papers. Materials may not be used for profit without written permission