If you enjoy homemade sweets and bidding on interesting items, you shouldn’t miss the 24th annual Chocolate Tasting & Silent Auction on Monday, December 5th at the Victor Heritage Museum. It takes place from 3 to 8 p.m. at the museum, located on the corner of Main and Blake in downtown Victor. All proceeds will benefit the museum and this is the major fundraising event of the year for this little museum.
In 1989 a group of people with deep roots in Victor met at the home of the late Peggy Thornbrugh to discuss the possibility of creating a museum for Victor. At the time the old train depot was being used as a warehouse. The group set about fundraising and when they had $2000 they hired Joe Gates to move the “depot” building and freight room from across the river on the eastside of the valley to a location in downtown Victor.
In May of 1992, the museum opened and in August of 1996 it was formally dedicated.
According to Joann Hosko, who has served as secretary of the Victor Heritage Museum Board of Directors since its inception, the current depot building that houses the museum was the third depot. She said one burned down in 1916 and a second depot stood for a long time next to the railroad tracks which used to be on the west side of the river. The railroad line was moved to the east side of the river and the old depot standing alongside Hwy 93 eventually became the home of Martin’s Inn, a well-known restaurant and bar. That building was demolished to make way for highway expansion.
The annual chocolate tasting and silent auction held on the first Monday in December is the only major fundraiser of the year for the Victor Heritage Museum. “We were looking for a fundraiser and Jean Woodard had the idea for the chocolate tasting,” said Hosko. “We did it every year until Covid hit, and now we’ve missed two years.”
There are a lot of expenses in maintaining the historic building, which houses an impressive amount of Victor area history. “Right now we have to replace the 30-year-old heating/air conditioning unit,” said board president Suzanne Tout. “It’s failed five times already, in both winter and summer. We also have to pay the high cost of insurance, electricity, water. All this we have to pay for even when we’re closed,” like during the recent pandemic.
The all-volunteer board is committed to keeping the museum viable. They apply for grants whenever they can. “We applied to the State of Montana for a grant to get our storage building and bathroom joined together for climate control,” saidHosko. “We didn’t get that grant, so we had to raise the money ourselves and get it done.” But Hosko said there have been many generous donors in the community, including the Rapp Family Foundation. “The Rapp Foundation has been very good to us.”
President Tout has served in that position for about 12 years and says she would like to step back. She has been encouraged lately by the interest of a few younger community members, two of whom have been volunteering and one who even joined the board. It gives her hope for the future of the museum because she says she will inevitably have to retire. “I’m feeling good about that,” said Tout. “One of the two new volunteers told me how grateful she is that she’s able to volunteer here and be of use here.”
The Victor Heritage Museum is open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. The museum is also available for special events. For more information call 406-642-3997 and leave a message. The museum also has a website and a Facebook page.
The Chocolate Tasting & Silent Auction will take place on Monday, December 5th from 3 to 8 p.m. Admission is $5 and free for ages 4 years and under.
There will be a few changes to this year’s event, said Tout. They will still have their famous Hot Wassail, and chocolate creations from about 35 local women, all of whom Hosko knows personally. But rather than allowing the public to pick from open plates of goodies, selections of sweets will be grouped and covered in plastic wrap. The room has also been rearranged to give people more space.
Auction items are varied, and include some memorabilia and collectibles and many locally handmade arts and crafts, even some one-of-a-kind items specially made for this auction. Contributors include Joanna Barker, Chris Weatherly, Karen Langton and Olive Parker, to name just a few. Bidding on the silent auction will end at 7:30 p.m. Winning bidders will be contacted the next day.
Last Saturday, some of the volunteers were preparing the museum for the upcoming event. Volunteer Maggie Marie Nordenstrom said she “will do whatever I’m asked. I help with weeding in summer, and decorating for special events and holidays. I’m having fun with it.”
Karen and Brian Langton have been volunteering for the past five years or so. “I’ve enjoyed being a docent one day a week,” said Karen. “I enjoy getting to know people and learning more about the community.”
“I’m the resident maintenance man,” said Brian. “My great grandfather was the depot agent for Victor in 1904-05. Our family has been here since 1880.” Brian also mentioned his brother Jeff, who wrote “The Victor Story,” a history of the Victor area.
Board member Jean Jensen said she is most interested in family history. When she volunteers at the Museum, she can “refer people to the Stevensville genealogy library and also do my own research while I’m here.”
“We do help people quite often with information related to the Victor Cemetery,” added Hosko. “Who’s buried there, where they’re buried, etc.”