SEBASTIAN – “I’m feeling so old,” said Indian River County historian Ruth Stanbridge as she stood on the stairs inside the Historic Sebastian Elementary School during the 25th Anniversary celebration for the Sebastian Area Historical Society.
A quarter-century ago, the historical group formed in an effort to not only preserve the history of the area but also satisfy the curiosity of the newcomers to the area who wondered about street names and landmarks.
The county’s historical group helped the Sebastian historians get their group off the ground – having formed a scant two years before them.
“There was a passion that started this organization,” Stanbridge said of the Sebastian Area Historical Society.
The historical group marked 25 years on Saturday, with a small ceremony and tours of the museum, which houses countless artifacts from the past including tools of various trades, cameras, jewelry and clothing, school desks, and a pew from a Wabasso church.
Many of the items were donated to the society or are on loan from members of the community.
“We’re constantly updating,” President George O’Neill said of the museum, with the help from a “very dedicated crew.”
O’Neill has been a member of the historical society for seven years and said he was happy to see the group turn 25.
“It’s a milestone,” he said.
For long-time member Shirley Kilkelly, she said turning 25 is a major feat.
“It means the people of Sebastian are trying to preserve their history,” Kilkelly said.
Not only has the organization worked to help chronicle Sebastian’s history, it has also “provided a lot of friendship for me,” she added.
Doris Jorgensen, a member from the beginning, warned potential future members “the more you get into (history) the more you want to know.”
Her favorite is learning and tracing the family names – those long-since forgotten names of the settlers and early shapers of the city.
Pam Cooper, of the Indian River County Library’s Genealogy Department, regaled the assembled crowd with the history of David P. Gibson, for whom Gibson Street was named.
In the late 1800s, Gibson settled in the Sebastian area and worked to dig an inlet – near present-day Sebastian Inlet – to create access to the Atlantic Ocean from the Indian River Lagoon.
According to Cooper, along with trying to dig the inlet, Gibson murdered someone, fell into foreclosure in Georgia where he lost everything, and later fell on hard times in Sebastian, losing thousands of acres of property here.
It is such stories of family histories that keeps Jorgensen involved in the club.
Also on hand at the celebration was Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beth Mitchell, who came to show support for the Chamber’s former neighbor.
From 1998 to 2007, the Sebastian Area Historical Society called hall of the Chamber’s building at US 1 and Main Street home.
“It’s just incredible,” Mitchell said of how far the organization has come, adding that the two organizations have had a long partnership and continue to do so. “It’s important to preserve our history.”
The Sebastian Area Historical Society is located next door to Sebastian City Hall on Main Street in the Historic Sebastian Elementary School, 1235 Main St. The museum is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information about the organization, call (772) 581-1380.