The public is invited to attend the Washington Historical Society’s annual January Fund-Raising Dinner to be held Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Vineyard at Riverbend Chapel.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a social hour, open bar and silent auction. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. and is followed by a program featuring a local person from the past.

The cost is $50 per person with reservations required. People may mail a check with seating preferences to: Washington Historical Society, Fourth and Market, Washington, MO 63090. Reservations are requested by Jan. 14.

The Society will kick off its sixth annual $10,000 raffle. Tickets are $100 each and can be purchased at the dinner or in advance by sending a check to the Society.

If sending a check, be sure to indicate if you are paying for the dinner or the raffle ticket. If 50 tickets are sold in advance and/or at the dinner, there will be two $250 early bird drawings held at the dinner.

This year’s program will feature Carol Buescher portraying the infamous Mrs. Bertha Gifford. Gifford was brought to justice in Franklin County in 1928 after being charged with the murders by arsenic poisoning of three persons.

However, neighbors and family members suspected her of having killed as many as 20 people over a 22-year period. If true, this would mean she was one of the most prolific serial killers in history.

Her victims were selected from among family and friends, many of them closely related to her second husband. Gifford died in 1951 of natural causes after spending 23 years in a Missouri mental institution.

The Discovery Channel recently visited Museum Director Marc Houseman to research Gifford for a new series about female killers.

Gifford’s story has gained national attention in recent years and has been represented on two ghost-story based television programs. A book, “Tainted Legacy,” written by Mrs. Gifford’s great-granddaughter, S. Kay Murphy, has been widely distributed and is available for purchase online.

The Washington Historical Society and Museum are supported by funds received from memberships, sponsorships, and fund-raising activities such as the January dinner.

The Society sponsors many activities for members and the public in general. Most of these activities are free to the public Activities include open air tram tours of Washington, ghost tours, cemetery tours, Evening at the Museum educational programs, and various activities for school-aged children.

The Historical Society Museum is open six days a week from March through December and is free to the public. Exhibits are on two levels of the building and include hundreds of items representing Washington’s past and reflecting the area’s human culture.

In addition, the Society houses the Four Rivers Genealogical Society, dedicated to promoting genealogical research as well as assisting members and others in researching and documenting family histories.

Since the Historical Society and Museum do not receive any public monies, these fund-raising activities are extremely important in its continued success. People who cannot attend and would like to make a donation should call 636-239-0280 or mail a donation to Washington Historical Society, P. O. Box 146, Washington, MO 63090.