Janet Jeffries, President
Scott Kuncl, Vice President
Marilyn McElravy, Secretary
Kathy Sand, Treasurer
The Crete Heritage Society was created in 1975 as The Crete Bicentennial Society, Inc. to choose and sponsor a project in celebration of the nation’s 1976 bicentennial anniversary. The group decided to purchase and preserve a 20-acre tract near Tuxedo Park in northwest Crete that was once part of Crete founder Jesse C. Bickle’s original 80-acre homestead. A section of Crete is situated on this homestead, and the town’s first post office was located in Bickle’s 1864 log cabin. This original log cabin is part of the 1870s frame Carpenter Gothic house, still extant on the property. After many years of fund-raising activities, the organization paid off the $38,000 mortgage, and the property has been renovated and is well maintained. It is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Known commonly for many years as “The Maples,” the name of longtime owner M.O. Smith’s meat market, the property has also been designated a Nebraska State Arboretum site. Today, students of all ages, and also adults, participate in heritage activities at the facility each year.
The Bickle farmstead, located on the northeastern portion of the acreage, includes the house, an early 20th century barn, and small outbuildings. Also located on the property are Saline County District #1 Star School, renovated in 2004 in ca. 1910 style, and the Benne Memorial Museum.
The Heritage Society annually sponsors several activities, including picnics, special exhibits, quilt shows, and particularly pioneer living classes in conjunction with the Crete Public Schools. One of the largest events held on the property is the award winning fourth grade Pioneer Day held each May. On this day, more than 125 students and their teachers from Crete Elementary School and St. James Catholic School, dress as pioneers and spend the day rotating between several hands-on history stations manned by teachers, Heritage Society members, parents, and community volunteers. Stations include quilting, leather working, frontier survival, candle and soap making, and more. The students also clean up using a wash basin, eat picnic lunches, play historic games on the green near the house, and walk the nature trails. Several fourth graders also bring Chautauqua-style presentations to the museum as the culmination of their Notable Nebraskans project. Eighth graders hold heritage activities on the grounds, and other grade levels participate in Arbor Day activities here. The Society has also worked with community organizations to produce one-time, special history-related events. The Riverside Music Festival, an annual, two-day old time country/variety music event was launched in July, 2009.
Benne Memorial Museum
The Benne Memorial Museum, located on the southwest corner of the property, is named for long-time members Arthur, Cleo, and Myrtle Benne. It was completed in June, 2003 with a bequest from their estates. The building houses an exhibit gallery, office, library/archives, workshop, artifact storage space, kitchen, and a public meeting room that is available to other civic groups as the Society’s schedule permits. The museum is the site of heritage education events, lectures and workshops, and special exhibits interpreting Crete’s history. The building allows for expanded options in heritage activities, and serves as the administrative headquarters of the 20-acre Heritage Society campus. Doane College students use this facility as a laboratory museum during applied history and museum studies classes, and also as an internship site. Several permanent exhibits are in place, and each year at least one temporary exhibit is mounted.
View and print the Crete Heritage Society Membership Form. Membership dues are $10/year. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30pm at the Benne Memorial Museum.