The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 2, 2008

Historical society dispute heats up

LE CENTER — The parties astride a dispute over a historical society museum in Elysian faced off in court for the first time Wednesday.

The hearing was triggered when the museum’s new occupants, called the Elysian Area Historical Society, were late with a response to an August lawsuit demanding they leave the museum.

District Court Judge William Macklin didn’t make a ruling but declined to grant the plaintiff’s case simply because the defendants were late with a response.

The disagreement centers around the Le Sueur County Historical Society and its Elysian chapter.

The defense’s response, filed Sept. 26, claims the Elysian Area Historical Society is a continuation of the Elysian chapter.

The countywide society, though, says its Elysian chapter was reorganized under new leadership. In their view, the Elysian Area Historical Society is squatting in the museum illegally.

Le Sueur County has stopped funding the county historical society because of a lack of financial reporting from the Elysian chapter.

“They’re not satisfied with the progress that has been made in Elysian,” Le Sueur County Attorney Brent Christian said of the County Board.

Now the dispute has moved to the court system.

The core defense argument: The group now called the Elysian Area Historical Society has operated the museum since 1990 and now owns the building even if it does not have deed title to it.

The countywide historical society has deeds to the museum dating to the 1960s.

But defense attorney Paul Grabitske says the Elysian group has acquired ownership through a legal concept called adverse possession, a principle better known as squatter’s rights.

Grabitske said if a group occupies real estate for 15 years, a court can grant them ownership, regardless of whose name is on the deed.

But historical society attorney Jerry Lucas told the judge the Elysian chapter has always operated the museum on behalf of the countywide group by verbal agreement, all “part of one big happy family.”

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