gmhTODAY Fall 2021 October-December 2021 - Page 48

Morgan Hill Historical Society

Steeped in History

by Robin Shepherd

Flash back to 1970 . Morgan Hill and surrounding areas were experiencing a growth spurt and residents were feeling the impacts of that growth . Among them were three gentlemen who got together to share their concerns . Little did they know their conversation that day would ultimately change the course of local history .

Inside Lum ’ s Café on Monterey Road in Downtown Morgan Hill , Bob Foster grabbed a cup of coffee with Francis Crawford and John Hammond . Foster and Crawford had law practices in town and Hammond was the pastor at a local Presbyterian Church .
“ We were just casually talking about how our small town was not going to last much longer ,” Foster said . “ The population had grown . There was pressure to develop and our history was being lost , paved over . We all thought something should be done to preserve it , so why not form a historical association ?”
And so , Bob Foster drafted the articles of incorporation , Francis Crawford wrote the bylaws , John Hammond inspired a group from his church to lend a hand , and the Morgan Hill Historical Society was formed on July 15 , 1971 .
Along with Hammond and Crawford , the Historical Society ’ s initial group of directors included Mary Lou Weis , Robert Rice , and Morgan Hill ’ s “ unofficial historian ,” Margaret Stone . Their nonprofit formation documents included a list of 73 charter members who ’ d made a personal commitment to support historic preservation on behalf of the people of Morgan Hill , Coyote , Madrone and San Martin .*
Over the next 35 years , the all-volunteer Historical Society achieved a truly remarkable set of accomplishments that benefit the community today and will continue to do so long into the future .
In the early days , they met at the Friendly Inn , the Grange Hall , and various other locations around town and began to develop traditions to support their mission . The Annual Founder ’ s Dinner recognized families with 50-plus years of history in Morgan Hill . Frontier Days included re-enactments of everyday life in bygone days . The El Toro Hike gave people an appreciation for preserving scenic landmarks . Holiday Boutiques featured handmade items by local artisans . Booths at Mushroom Mardi Gras and Taste of Morgan Hill were a chance to bring history to the community . Dedicated volunteers like Trish Johnson , Ruby King , Ginny Grimsich , Susan Farris , Mary Dutra , the Sullivan sisters and many others made these programs a success .
Meanwhile , members of the Historical Society were concerned that the City ’ s iconic Hiram Morgan Hill House was dilapidated and in serious need of repair .
According to former Historical Society Board President , Scott van Keulen , “ In 1992 , the City asked if we wanted to take title to the Hiram Morgan Hill House and take on the responsibility of preserving it . We jumped at the chance . It gave us great focus to tackle something we ’ d wanted to see happen for a number of years .”
Among the many people involved during the renovation were local architect Charles Weston , soils engineer Peter Anderson ,
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