The mission of the De Pere Historical Society is to promote public awareness, understanding, and appreciation for De Pere’s rich historic past through educational programs; to discover, to collect, and to preserve materials related to De Pere’s history; to serve as a repository of information for others interested in De Pere’s history; and to chronicle the events of the present for future generations.
Towards the end of the 1960’s, Mayor John C. Growt of De Pere, contemplated the rich history of the city and the importance of preserving its heritage for future generations. This prompted him to form a citizens committee which he directed to work with the local Chamber of Commerce and other residents towards the creation of an historical society for De Pere. This committee was composed of eleven prominent citizens including: Father Anselm M. Keefe, O.Praem, Max Franc, Paul J. Creviere, Charles A. Lawton, John P. Lee, Robert F. Mc Monagle, Dr. O.S. Keiser, Herb Wenberg, Martha Baeten, Roger Rebman, and James L. Quinn. Growt’s efforts were lauded in an article published by the De Pere Journal which stated that, “There has been a need of a local society for many years, for De Pere is richly endowed in history which should be preserved and taught to our children. We wish this group success and hope that all De Pereans will help them in every way possible.”
The work of the committee quickly bore fruit. On March 11, 1970 the De Pere Historical Society was launched at a charter dinner held at the Swan Club. Robert G. Etter, President of Nicolet Paper, presented Roger Rebman, first President of the De Pere Historical Society, with a check for $5,000 to be used as seed money to assist him and his officers and directors in making the organization an immediate and on-going activity for the community.
William J. Schereck, Supervisor of the Office of Local History for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, gave the keynote address. In his speech, he succinctly laid out the future mission of the newly formed De Pere Historical Society. He stated that, “The prime function of an historical society is to collect, preserve and disseminate the history of the community. It collects artifacts and records and takes on the burden of housing them in a library or museum. It disseminates by creating school programs and through other media. It organizes the collections so that they can be used in research or for the sheer pleasure of viewing them . . .”
The first order of business was to provide governance. In addition to Roger Rebman, other charter officers of the board were Fr. Anselm Keefe, O. Praem, Vice-President; John P. Lee, Secretary; Wayne H. Treutelaar, Treasurer; and Max Franc, Curator-Historian. The remaining charter board members included: Martha Baeten, Paul J. Creviere, John C. Growt, Dr. O.S. Keiser, Martin J. Krach, Charles A. Lawton, Robert F. Mc Monagle, James L. Quinn, and Herbert Wenberg. Under their leadership the De Pere Historical Society established its footing and grew into a thriving organization.