History of the Bellville Historical Society
Discussions of the need for a local historical society were started in 1977 with a small group. The initial meeting to consider the formal organization was held on Dec. 11, 1977, at the home of Jim and Joe Bishop with a total of 17 history-minded citizens in attendance. By Feb. 12, 1978 the interest group had grown to 35 people and the formal structuring of the Bellville Historical Society, including the adoption of By-Laws and officers, was accomplished.
The first preservation project identified for the Society was the creation of a monument using the bell and the cornerstone from the 1887 Victorian Courthouse which was lost to fire in 1960. This monument now sits on the Courthouse lawn using a platform of bricks recovered from the old Courthouse.
Other projects followed with the painting of the Springfield Building on the south side of the square. and the refurbishing of the Cumings Crypt and grounds. A Texas Historical marker was obtained for the Cumings Crypt. These projects using only volunteer labor challenged both the physical endurance and the fund-raising capability of the small band of members.
In 1983, a unique opportunity was presented to acquire the old Masonic Lodge building. The membership rose to the challenge and supported the complex negotiations for the purchase and the physical restoration of the building. The program required approximately ten years from beginning to end. This property is now the home base for the Society.
While the acquisition and restoration of the old Lodge Building was the major project over an extended span of time, other activities were undertaken. Some of them were:
• Hosting the reunion of the International Bell Clan
• Organizing and presenting the local works of the noted architect, Alfred C. Finn
• Initiating historic home tours placing markers on 13 buildings around the Square
• Undertaking a program to rehabilitate local cemeteries and the burial areas of pioneer families
• Contributing to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty
• Participating in a myriad of community events such as the Sesquicentennial Celebration for both the State of Texas and Austin County
By 1995, the Society was once again looking outward for preservation programs of consequence. One new talented member proposed a joint project with the City of Bellville and the Bellville Historical Society. A venture to restore and upgrade the Pavilion at City Park. This sparked a program with extraordinary participation by a host of City and Society members. The restoration brought this structure back, as much as possible, to original construction.
The celebration of the 100th birthday for the 1897 Turnverein Pavilion was held in November 1997. More than one thousand citizens attended this all day event.
The city and the Historical Society once again joined forces to celebrate the 150th birthday of the City of Bellville in July 1998.