gmhTODAY Fall 2021 | Page 50

Historically Speaking

The Lady Knows Her History

By Robin Shepherd Photos by Morgan Hill Historical Society
Beth and Olive Belletto , 1980 . elected to the Morgan Hill City Council in 1978 , Beth served as Mayor from 1982-1983 . BELOW : Beth in front of the Morgan Hill History Museum on Main Street .

Beth Wyman has created a wonderful legacy in her 51 years in Morgan Hill . She has distinguished herself as an educator , public servant , women ’ s advocate , author , and preserver of local history .

While Beth ’ s not big on self-promotion , her scrapbooks speak volumes about her legacy . She was born in Kansas , surrounded by acres of wheat in every direction . Around 1940 , when Beth was seven years old , her family moved to San Diego County to start a poultry farm .
“ I candled the eggs , weighed and sized them ,” Beth said . “ That was my job and I never broke an egg !” Beth ’ s interest in history was kindled while studying Social Science at San Diego State University in the early 1950s . “ My history professor was passionate about the subject and made it interesting ,” Beth said .
“ When I applied to the Master ’ s program at San Jose State University , I thought it strange how women weren ’ t encouraged to pursue higher degrees . It didn ’ t deter me . I got my degree , taught History at Gavilan College while earning my history credential , and taught historic preservation at SJSU for 20 years .”
Beth and her husband Don settled in Morgan Hill in 1970 after he was recruited by IBM to work at their San Jose facility .
“ We bought a 1902 farmhouse on Llagas Road surrounded by prune orchards ,” Beth said . “ When a neighbor started building houses all over his property , most of us in the neighborhood were concerned the city was growing too fast despite sewer and other infrastructure problems .”
Eager to have a say in controlled growth , Beth attended city council meetings and then ran for a seat herself . She was elected to the Morgan Hill City Council , and then served as Mayor from 1982 to1983 . Her efforts included supporting the protection of El Toro Mountain from development . Beth also volunteered with the Morgan Hill Historical Society , serving as board president for a time .
Beth befriended Addie and Paul Walgren , who lived in the Hiram Morgan Hill House and ran Homestead Antiques there ( 1939-1984 ). She and other Historical Society volunteers wanted to help ensure the historic home would be renovated and preserved for the community ’ s benefit after the Walgrens passed away .
“ Mary Lou LeVan got the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 to help protect the property ,” Beth explained . “ That took great foresight . You have to be proactive or these places get bulldozed , and then it ’ s too late .” The City of Morgan Hill transferred title to the Historical Society in 1992-93 , and Historical Society volunteers led the renovation of the Hiram Morgan Hill House with a grand opening in 1998 .
When the historic Acton House was gifted to the City to serve as a community museum , Beth joined
Norma Link , Olive
Beth at Booksmart Morgan Hill in March of 2012 with local Wellness Expert and Author Toni Julian .
Belletto , and other Historical Society volunteers to support the effort .
“ The Historical Society was excited to have the Acton House preserved and moved to Main Street ,” Beth said . “ We set up a foundation and raised funds to help cover the cost of moving the building , our volunteers led repair efforts , and we celebrated having a place where we could share history with the people of Morgan Hill .” Beth had researched Morgan Hill extensively for her Master ’ s thesis to fill in some gaps in the city ’ s early history : “ I got tired of telling people that Morgan Hill was a man , not a hill !”
During her research , she had traveled to Hiram Morgan Hill ’ s childhood home in Missouri to learn more . “ I asked around but no one knew of him ,” Beth said . “ I ’ d about given up when a woman at the local newspaper sug-
50 FALL 2021 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com