On January 16, 1916, an organizational meeting was held in the Chamber of Commerce offices in the Post Building, creating the Historical Society of Battle Creek. Within the next few months a constitution was adopted and annual membership dues of fifty cents were approved. The first officers were E.C. Hinman, president ; George B. Willard, Edward Austin, Howard Sherman, Grant Bennett and Miles S. Curtis, vice-presidents; Charles H. Wheelock, secretary and treasurer; Forest G. Sweet, historian and James H. Brown, curator.
In order to create public interest in the new Society, a contest was held to locate the oldest living resident of Battle Creek, the oldest person then living anywhere who was born in town and the person who could claim the longest continuous residence. To celebrate the first anniversary of the organization, the mid-winter meeting of the State Historical Society was held here in 1917, marking Michigan's 80th birthday as a state.
Reminiscences of older residents and sketches of life in early Battle Creek were presented at the Society's meetings. Curator James H. Brown collected a series of lantern slides of "old time views" of Battle Creek for the Society archives and attempts were made to collect artifacts from pioneer days. Other activities included dinners, picnics and various fund raisers .
After the death of E.C. Hinman, industrialist E.C. Nichols was elected president. During the 1920s meeting of the Society were held "at irregular intervals" and many of the original members died. There was, however, a close relationship with the Three Quarter Century Club, founded by the Historical Society at the urging of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. The Club, open to residents 75 years old and up, claimed over 200 members in 1924, with a combined age of 23,000 years.
Dr. Kellogg became president of the Historical Society upon the death of E.C. Nichols in 1927. For the next few years the Society was active in planning for the city's week-long Centennial Celebration in 1931.
After this major activity, interest in the Society began to wane and the last meeting was held in 1935. There was not a formal Historical Society organization again until 1968. During this hiatus Edward Brigham, Sr. and his son Edward, Jr. sponsored occasional meeting of the Battle Creek Historical and Geological Society at the Kingman Museum.
Individual historians were still active, including Berenice Lowe who wrote her Tales of Battle Creek in the 1960s.
In 1966 the Kimball family donated their family home to the community. The Junior League undertook the responsibility of transforming the residence into a Victorian house museum. When the renovation was completed, the League was ready to move on to new projects. In 1968 the Kimball House Historical Society was created to manage the facility. The first Strawberry Festival fund raising event was held three years later.
Care of the Kimball House remained the primary focus of the organization until the1980s when the Society began expanding its interest in Battle Creek's history in general.
The Pioneer Cabin was donated to the Society and moved to Leila Arboretum in 1980. Three years later, to reflect the broadening of its mission, the name of the organization was changed to the "Historical Society of Battle Creek." Educational and outreach programs continued to increase during the 1980s. Finally in 1988 Diane Beckley was hired as the first full time director to coordinate activities and to expand the role of the Society in the community. Increasingly, the Society cooperated with other local groups in presenting historically related activities, including the Vintage Home Tour and Preservation Month events. The first Christmas Candlelight Stroll was held in 1989.
The historic Shepard House on Riverside Drive was acquired in 1990. Publication of Heritage Battle Creek journal of local history, co-sponsored by the Society, began in 1991. Two years later the publication merged with the Society.
By 1992 the administrative offices and archives had outgrown the space available in the Kimball House and were moved downtown to the Michigan National Bank building. When that structure was demolished in 1993, the offices and archives moved to their current location in the Fieldstone Center.