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  • Kurt Fedewa

The Portland Area Historical Society

The Portland Area Historical Society was founded in 1970 by fifteen residents of Portland. Then head librarian of the Portland District Library, Mrs. Richard Anesi (Betty) was instrumental in assembling the group. The society was formed in response to the outpouring of interest in Portland’s historical heritage that was generated by the 1969 centennial celebration.

According to its mission statement, the purpose of the society is to research and to preserve the past and present for the future. It is also to inform the public of the Portland area historical heritage and to mark and to preserve historical sites in the Portland area.

Dan Bewersdorff serves as president of the society. Margaret Sheffer is currently acting as secretary.

“I’ve always liked history and my mother was from Portland,” said Margaret. “I like the social aspect of the society and I enjoy learning more about our city. I also enjoy making people aware of the rich history of Portland and in helping them to appreciate our community,” she said.

The society has several ongoing projects. Among these is a cemetery walk which is held every October.

“The society selects four deceased citizens and we have an actor or actress portray them,” said Margaret. “The actor dresses in period costume and he/she gives a biographical, first person monologue about the deceased person. People really enjoy these presentations and we enjoy doing them,” she said.

The society also helps out at Portland Community Days every year and it partners with the Old Time Baseball Team. Finally, it hosts a display of Portland history at the Ionia Free Fair. Membership in the society allows people to access online programs of the Michigan Historical Society.

“If someone would like to become a member of the society, then they may contact us through our Facebook page and obtain an application,” said Margaret. “New members are always welcome. If someone is interested in joining us, then I would suggest that they get to know us by attending a few meetings or by attending any of our projects,” she said.

The Portland Area Historical Society meets at the Senior Center, 144 Kent Street, on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Meetings begin at 6:30 pm.

“Everyone is welcome to attend our meetings,” said Margaret.

Future interests of the group include establishing a museum of local history with a place for individuals to do research on Portland’s heritage.

Courtesy photo.


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