Newsletter - December 2007


Burlington Historian

December 2007

Museum Building to Gain a Second Floor;
First-Floor Restroom Will Also Be Added

The Society's Museum is closed for several months to allow for remodeling of the building's interior. With more and more artifacts and archival materials being donated to the Society, the available space in the building has become increasingly crowded.

The Society plans to add a second floor to the historic former church building for storage, archives, and work space and to install a first-floor handicapped-accessible restroom to conform to the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The remodeling is also expected to increase the space available for displaying more of the Society's collection of artifacts from Burlington and the surrounding area. It is not known at this time how long the project will take and when the Museum will re-open to the public.

Top photo shows boxes of artifacts  ready for storage as other items remain to be prepared for storage.  Bottom photo shows portion of same general area before artifacts were packed for storage; it also shows the overcrowded conditions that the remodeling is intended to correct.

Volunteers have been packing and moving the artifacts, books, records, and various other items in preparation for the remodeling. Many of the display cases, books, and other paper and cloth items will be stored off-site during the remodeling. Many of the artifacts which have been on display will be stored in temporary "pods" which will be built inside the Museum in such a way as to not interfere with the work to be done.

The building, which the Society acquired in 1964, opened as a museum in 1965. It was originally built in 1883 as the Holy Cross Lutheran church. When the congregation grew too large for the building, it moved in 1940 to the church building on the corner of Jefferson and Kane Streets, which now houses the Church of the Nazarene. What is now the Museum building then became Luther Hall; a kitchen and basement were added; and the building was used for Sunday school and church and recreation activities.

After the Cross Lutheran congregation moved to its new church building on Chapel Terrace in 1963, Mrs. Antoinette Meinhardt Fulton, the Society's first president, bought the Luther Hall building and donated it to the Society. Volunteers spent countless hours refurbishing the interior to turn it into a museum. The Park Department and the Wisconsin Electric Company furnished men and trucks to move artifacts and display cases into the building.

The Historical Society, which will be celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2008, is seeking financial donations from individuals, businesses, and groups to help defray the cost of the remodeling. Donations to the Society, which is organized under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, are tax-deductible. Checks can be made payable to the Burlington Historical Society, and mailed to the Society at 232 N. Perkins Boulevard, Burlington, WI 53105.

President’s Message

The seasons move along very fast and we find ourselves at the end of another eventful year for our Society. The renovation of our Museum building sits atop the list of activities for the coming year. There remain many hours of planning and decisions ahead for us, but the progress to date has been exciting and very rewarding.

This time of the year gives us a chance to look back at and appreciate the blessings we all have, but also gives us a chance to plan ahead for the next chapter. Happy holidays to all members of our Society and may the New Year that is approaching be one of the best for all.

            Dennis Tully

Underground Railroad Author Featured at Annual Meeting

The Society's annual meeting, held October 21, 2007, included a short review of the Society's activities during the year, the election of four members to the Board of Directors, and a presentation by Dr. Walter T. McDonald, co-author of "Finding Freedom - The Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave." Dr. McDonald's co-author, Ruby West Jackson, was unable to be present because of illness.

Dr. McDonald explained how he and Ms. Jackson decided to write the book; how they traced Glover's path from Missouri, through Wisconsin, to Canada on the Underground Railroad; and Glover's life in Canada after his escape from slavery until the time of his death. Dr. McDonald fielded questions from the audience and held a book signing session afterwards.

In the Board of Directors election, the four members whose 3-year terms were expiring – Steve Wagner, Nick King, Jackie Heiligenthal, and Don Vande Sand – were all re-elected.


Top photo shows Dr. Walter T. McDonald at the Society's annual meeting discussing the Joshua Glover book he co-authored.  Bottom photo shows Dr. McDonald signing a book for Rhonda Sullivan as others, including her son (left) and Roger and Joy Bieneman (facing camera) look on.


College and Community Volunteers Giving Mount Hope Cemetery a Facelift

One of the Burlington area's oldest burial grounds started to get a facelift on Saturday, November 3, 2007, when faculty members and students of Wisconsin Lutheran College, of Milwaukee, in cooperation with the Burlington Historical Society and other community volunteers, began the clean-up and mapping of graves in Mount Hope Cemetery, which is located about 3 miles northwest of Burlington.

The 77-square-yard cemetery, on top of a hill a short distance north of Spring Prairie Road, is about a half mile west of County Trunk DD. The cemetery contains over 20 known graves.

The cemetery plot is part of the 160-acre quarter section that Charles Dyer, the father of Burlington's Dr. Edward Galusha Dyer, bought from the federal government in 1839. In August 1841 Charles and his wife, Mary Galusha Dyer, deeded the quarter section to another of their sons, William, in consideration of the "love, affection, and good will they have and owe to their son." William sold the south half of the quarter section, containing 80 acres (which included the cemetery portion), to his brother, Norman, in July 1847.

In February 1851 Norman and his wife, Mary, for $25, sold the cemetery plot and an 11-yard-wide by 286-yard-long access corridor to the Trustees of the Mount Hope Cemetery Association – Silas Patten, John Bell, and Rufus Billings. According to a cemetery list prepared for the Burlington Historical Society in 1961, the plot had been used as a burial ground as early as January 1846, when 1-year, 9-month-old Mary Pool was interred there. By the time the Trustees acquired the plot, at least five additional people had been buried there, including 29-year-old William Dyer, who had previously owned the land, and his sister, 25-year-old Mary Dyer Bunnell. The others were 38-year-old Mrs. Rhoda Craker, 7-month-old Francellia Patten, and 43-year-old Isaac West.

In July 1929, members of the Burlington Historical Society visited Mount Hope Cemetery, which had been abandoned for many years. They found underbrush had grown over the headstones, almost obliterating all marks. Only 12 graves were found, although the members believed that a more careful inspection would reveal a larger number. Another visit in May 1930 and additional research over the years has revealed the names of additional persons believed or known to be buried in the cemetery.

In addition to those already named, the persons buried at Mount Hope include the original landowner, Charles Dyer, and his wife, Mary Galusha Dyer; Palmer Gardner, the first settler in Walworth County, together with his first wife, Margaret Williams Gardner, and their daughter, Lucretia May Gardner; Fanny B. Raleigh; Frank Billings; David, Betsy, Frank, and Burt Patten; Mrs. Catherine Voss Quackenbush; Mrs. Ann Genett Dame; and three VanHorn children – George, William, and an unnamed infant.

Over the years, the cemetery, although officially known as Mount Hope Cemetery, has also been referred to as the Billings or Bell cemetery. The last known burial occurred in 1888.

The Wisconsin Lutheran College faculty members heading the project are Glen Thompson, history professor, and Ned Farley, anthropology instructor. The student volunteers are members of the College's student history association led by president Sarah Eastman. They plan to return to Mount Hope in spring 2008 to "map" the cemetery, record gravestone information, and identify further gravesites. Application would also be made to list the cemetery on a national historic register. In summer 2008, the students would be offered independent study projects, including the creation of displays; and in fall 2008, any unfinished work would be completed.

The Society is grateful to the faculty members and students who have undertaken this unique project to preserve one of the Burlington area's historical treasures.










Left - Mount Hope Cemetery as seen from a distance before the clean-up efforts on November 3. Right - The Gardner obelisk (center) is barely visible and other gravestones are obscured by the brush and small trees growing in Mount Hope Cemetery before the clean-up efforts.









Left - Professor Glen Thompson (center) and students of Wisconsin Lutheran College stand near the Gardner obelisk after much of the underbrush has been cleared away. Right - Many of the volunteers who helped clean-up Mount Hope Cemetery on November 3 gather for a photo midway through the effort.

Remember When?

                Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

Remember when the winter winds would howl across the playground and suddenly out of nowhere big fat snowflakes would begin to drift to the ground? They always started out falling one here, one there, big lazy fat flakes and then they would start to fall faster and faster and thicker and thicker, piling one on top of the other until the playground would be covered in a soft mantle of white. Remember gazing skyward in amazement and trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue? All afternoon every kid in the school would keep one eye on the teacher and the other eye on the window watching as the snow continued to fall like a thick white curtain, covering everything. You could just feel the excitement building, every kid in the class was thinking the same thing – "If it just keeps snowing, maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a snow day tomorrow."

Every kid wants a snow day. It’s a gift – an unexpected day off, no school, no homework, nothing to do but enjoy – NO SCHOOL! The excitement just kept building and building – you could just feel it growing by leaps and bounds. By 3:00 there was no containing it, it spilled over into the hallway, as everyone got ready to go home for the night. The nuns tried valiantly to contain the excited chatter of the students and cautioned that we needed to complete our homework because they were expecting everyone to be in their places for class in the morning. They had no faith in the idea of no school on the coming day – they were sure we would all be there as usual and they would accept no excuses for incomplete assignments. But we knew, in typical kid fashion, in our heart of hearts that fate would not deal us such a cruel blow as to build up our hopes only to crush them in the early morning hours.

All evening long kids would keep anxious watch at the window and scan the sky, watching the thick curtain of snowflakes fall in swirling masses to the ground. We even watched or listened to the evening news for the weather report trying to figure out if it meant massive amounts of snow for the overnight forecast. Finally the parents would send us off to bed but we were too restless to really settle down. All the while we lay there, excitement bubbled just under the surface, snow day, snow day, snow day – it was a chant we repeated over and over again. Remember how you felt, laying there in the dark with that excitement at a low simmer, feeling like you were on the brink of something special with that eternal flame of hope burning brightly in your heart that is so much a part of being a kid? Think back – you remember - it’s something you don’t ever really forget.

Snow Day!!! brought dreams of snowball fights, building forts, and making snow angels.
                               (Photo from Free Press, Nov. 13, 1951)









Crossing guard Harvey Uhen stops traffic on the Hillside at corner of McHenry and Jefferson Streets in January 1966 so children from St. Mary's school can safely cross.

                                                            (Emmett Raettig photo)



Finally you would be lulled to sleep by the sound of the wind and dream the special dreams only kids have. Dreams of playing in the snow, snowball fights, building forts, snow angels, Duck, Duck Goose, all those wonderful and imaginative games kids play in the snow. Slowly you would wake to a soft gray light, morning had come, what had happened? Did it snow all night? Did it stop? You were almost afraid to look – but you couldn’t resist, you had to know. It was still snowing! Wow, there was snow everywhere. It was perfect – we couldn’t possibly have school today – no one could go anywhere in this!

Mom still insisted we had to get dressed and ready for school. Town kids always had to go, no matter what. So after breakfast we gathered our schoolbooks and Mom got us all dressed for the long trek through the wilderness to school. Getting dressed for the great outdoors took an enormous amount of time and effort. First came the extra socks, snow pants, scarf, hat, heavy coat, mittens (attached to the sleeves so we wouldn’t lose them) and boots. By the time we got on all of the extra clothes we looked like little mummies – there wasn’t an exposed piece of flesh visible anywhere and walking without waddling was a physical impossibility. All of this, for a journey that was an enormous distance of a block and a half. No one left our house in the winter with a coat that wasn’t properly buttoned or zipped and you didn’t even think about going out without your hat, mittens and boots.

Finally, off we went slogging through the snowdrifts to school. Parents didn’t have to worry about whether anyone would be at school to let us in – the nuns lived in a house that was attached to the school so they were always there.

If the snow day thing was going to work, the country kids couldn’t show up. If they did it was all over and it was school as usual. Now the chant became a little different, stay home, stay home, stay home! It was a requirement that we attend Mass every school morning so the nuns gathered their depleted little flock and marched us all over to the church. Needless to say attendance at Mass was a little slim. Every time the door opened every kid froze, afraid to turn around and look to see if another student had shown up. Finally the Mass was over, now would come the big decision, the nuns cautioned us to sit still and be quiet while they conferred with our parish priest for a final decision on what to do. There we sat – all 10 of us with our fingers and toes crossed praying harder than we ever had in our whole lives. While we sat there in silence, trying not to look at each other, we heard the door of the church creak open and close with a muffled bang, and then quick, hurried footsteps approaching the front of the church. We looked at each other in horror – those weren’t adult footsteps, those were kid footsteps and there was more than one or two of them. Slowly our heads swiveled around - there they stood – four kids – all from the same family. We sent up a collective groan – once the nuns saw four more kids the snow day thing would never work. One of the boys whispered frantically, "What are you doing here? Go home; if you stay we’ll all have to stay." Of course the poor kids couldn’t go home, they were farm kids, someone had dropped them off and had already left, they were stuck, they had no place else to go. Silently we sat waiting for the ax to fall – Sister Superior was coming – we were just sure it would be school as usual.

Imagine our surprise when she informed us that school would be cancelled for the day and that all of the older children would be responsible for making sure that the younger children were escorted safely home. We looked at each other in disbelief, could we be hearing her right? Of course she brought us down to earth pretty quickly with an admonition to remember that even though school was not in session we were expected to complete all homework assignments and there would be no excuses accepted for incomplete assignments and that we were all expected to be in school on time the next day. We looked cautiously at each other and decided to "get" while the getting was good. I wouldn’t say that we ran out of church; let’s just say that we exited with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Just think back to those days, can you remember how special it was when a snow day was called? There’s nothing like it – the special feeling of freedom, the sheer joy of being a kid in the wonderful white wilderness created by the snow. The air never smelled sweeter, the snow never looked more beautiful, and the memories created on these days are like beautiful paintings forever etched in our memories, ours to be recalled anytime we choose. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back to those carefree days when snow didn’t mean shoveling and cold but meant a golden opportunity to celebrate life and enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer? Keep those happy memories alive, remember the good times, they are so precious and help to keep us young at heart. Make sure to remember what it was like to look at life in wide-eyed wonder – knowing it was something to be enjoyed and celebrated. It is so important not to forget that child that lives within us all. Keep that child alive and well, pull those memories out and enjoy!