PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For the past 50 years, the oldest still-standing house in what used to be Plainfield Village has been a museum working to preserve the story of the Civil War hero who lived there.
In 1973, West River Road was being expanded. The new road plans brought the road right up to the porch of a home built in 1852.
“It was the home that had been built by Dr. William Hyser, who was a Civil War hero and he had been the principle doctor and surgeon for Plainfield Village, which had existed there in the mid-1800s,” Deb Havens, president of the Plainfield Grand Rogue Historical Society, said.
With the expansion of the road, the house was either going to need to be moved or destroyed. A group of people who were interested in history banded together to save it.
“They went to the township board and the township board said, ‘OK, we will agree to pay for having this house moved but where are we going to move it?'” Havens said.
It was moved to donated land located at 6440 West River Drive, west of Northland Drive. Since then, the historical society has worked to make the home look and feel how it did in the 1800s.
“We do have a toilet in the house now and we do have electricity, so we did make those concessions, but other than that, we really want to make sure that when you come into the home you understand what it would have been like to live there as a country doctor,” Havens said.
When visitors stop by the Hyser Rivers Museum, they enter into a hallway.
“If you were a patient of the doctor back in 1850 plus, you would then enter through a parlor that was on the right side. We have French doors that were there when he was there, and the parlor was sort of a sitting area,” Havens said. “…When it was (a patient’s) turn, they would go down the hall and they could turn into a second room, which was his surgery.”
She explained that the historical society wants to transform this room into a period representation of Hyser’s surgery.
“We don’t think he did surgery literally there. (He) probably dealt mostly with broken bones and illnesses, that type of thing,” she said.
Behind the surgery is the kitchen area. Originally it was not attached to the house because it was a fire hazard.
“Even though now if you come out of his surgery and go back into the hallway, there is an attached kitchen now. The earlier owners did attach that but it’s not period-accurate,” Havens explained.
As visitors head up the stairs, they can explore the master bedroom, the children’s room and a sewing and craft room.
The Plainfield Grand Rogue Historical Society is in the process of becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the IRS. It is currently recognized as a nonprofit by the state of Michigan.
In the future, the historical society wants to put in a display to represent the Civil War. Havens said recently a uniform jacket called a “fatigue blouse” that Hyser wore during the Civil War was advertised for sale on a collector website.
“Unfortunately, the $15,000 price tag is out of our reach,” Havens said.
The museum also hopes to highlight more of the work Hyser did in the community.
“We want to make sure that people understand that he was in the war. He was injured, he was actually discharged temporarily while he was healing and then he went back after he healed to continue,” she said.
After the war, he came back to Plainfield Village and became the postmaster, the school inspector and a justice of the peace.
“He was well-known and well-respected in the community,” she said.
The museum is open from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month starting in April or May, depending on the year, and ending in November or December, depending on the weather. Havens said there also may be special events throughout the year when the museum is open to the public. For more information, visit the township’s website.