Washburn, North Dakota – WashburnLife

Season: May-October

HOURS — Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Saturday: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Open by appointment during winter months or after hours.

Admission: Free-will Donations

602 Main Avenue
PO Box 124
Washburn, ND 58577

Phone: (701) 462-3660
(please leave a message, if no answer)

Email: mcleancounty.nd.museum@hotmail.com
Facebook: McLean County Historical Society

Curator: Rhonda Johnson

McLean County Museum

A Little History

     The McLean County Historical Society, organized in 1967, preserves the history of McLean County and North Dakota and shares it with the public in a series of museums located in Washburn, the McLean County seat.  Included in the museum is the main building, the Joe Taylor Cabin, the Sioux Ferryboat and the Nettle Creek Schoolhouse.

In November 1968, the Society opened the McLean County Museum in the 1905 Courthouse.  Fred Jefferis and many others collected donated items to be displayed.

       In 1969, the Society researched and built Fort Mandan (a replica of where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1804) , west of Washburn.  This was the first project of the historical society. Construction of the fort was completed in 1972.  The Society owned and operated the fort until they leased Ft. Mandan to the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Foundation in 1997, The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department in 2015.  The North Dakota State Historical Society took over the lease in 2021.

      The Society has a great deal of history on Lewis & Clark and Sakakawea, plus a fine display of Indian artifacts.  The Museum also has many displays about McLean County and North Dakota.

      Presently the Society maintains the building on Main Avenue in Washburn.  The original building was named after Fred Jefferis, our first curator.  This building originally was McLean County’s second courthouse and was on the National Register of Historic buildings.  The current museum building was purchased in 1997 was located next to the first museum building on Main Avenue.


  • Fall of 2023– The Mclean County Museum was able to update the roof of their building through donations from Area Washburn Businesses & Organizations and private donors.  Thank you for your donations. 
  • Summer of 2023– The Mclean County Museum and the Washburn Public Library will be hosting story-hour and craft on Mondays at 1pm until July 17th.
  • May 18, 2023– Washburn first graders along with their teachers visited the museum and the one-room schoolhouse for their end of the year school field trip.
  • October 18, 2021–The 1905 Courthouse was torn down to make room for the Washburn Veterans Memorial Park.
  • July 14, 2021–The model buildings, built by Ernest Wagner of Wilton, went back to the city of Wilton and now on exhibit at the city hall and the Wilton Depot. There were on exhibit at the museum from 1999-2021.

  • July 2021—The McLean County Museum was voted “The Best Museum in McLean County” in the BHG Inc. “Best of the Best” poll foe the second year in a row.  Thank you to everyone who voted for us!!!!!!!!


  • Fall of 2023– Building roof update.
  • The museum has been doing some projects while the museum is closed for the season.  The “Energy” display has been updated thanks to Great River Energy, Midwest Ag (Blue Flint) and the Falkirk Mine.
  • The museum has a research area for those interested in doing family history or any other research.  The museum has the Leader from 1883-present and other newspapers in McLean County.  There are various town and county books to help with research.
  • November 2018 marked the 50th Anniversary of the McLean County Museum.  It was an idea of Fred Jefferis.  Mr. Jefferis thought McLean County needed a museum to preserve the history of McLean County and the homesteaders who came to make it their home.  With the help of the McLean County Historical Society and other volunteers, a museum was established in the 1905 Courthouse.

Ongoing Projects 

  • The museum is working on changing up the displays and adding new ones.
  • Obituary Files


  • “Old Abe” Case iron statue (bald eagle on globe)–Ray Wicklander Family
  • Items from Weyburn Johnson (Gramophone with records, butter churn, 48-star flag)
  • Nettle Creek School records
  • Many scrapbooks from various homemaker groups in the county

Books for Sale

  • Fifty Pioneer Mothers of McLean County North Dakota by Mary A. Barnes Williams
  • Pioneer Days of Washburn and Vicinity (Books One and Two) by Mary A. Barnes Williams
  • Homestead Memories on Buffalo Paunch Creek…The Story of North Dakota Pioneers, Lorentz and Martha Lorentzen and family by Yvonne Lorentzen McGuire (15.00)
  • Daddy was an Artist…The Story of North Dakota’s Pioneer Artist, Henry Lorentzen, and his wife Grace by Yvonne Lorentzen McGuire ($10.00)
  • Centennial Celebration -100 Years 1905-2005 Turtle Lake ($25.00)
  • Tracing your Dakota Roots: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the Dakotas by JoAnn B Winistorfer and Cathy A Langemo ($25.00)