Newsletter - December 2003


Burlington Historian

December  2003


 Our Internet website -- -- has received many accolades from around the country and around the world. Since our webmaster, Jeff Kiekenbush, activated the website in July 2002, the site has been visited more than 13,000 times.

With historical and genealogical information compiled by Don Vande Sand (utilizing earlier research by his parents, Al and Henrietta, and several others) and with hundreds of photographs scanned and prepared by Dennis Tully and researched by Roger Bieneman (with an occasional assist from Doug Lind and John Zwiebel), the website has attracted much attention from both current and former Burlington area residents and from others.

The website has received the "Genealogical Gleanings" award which is given to websites that feature free vital information for the online genealogical community. It recognizes the hard work performed by volunteers in bringing genealogical data to the web for the use of others.

Following are some of the many comments received from those who have found and enjoyed visiting ""

  Thanks for all the hours your volunteers have put in to make this site so helpful.
      Brenda Starkey

  CONGRATULATIONS on a GREAT site!! Your site is one of the best I've encountered in my two years of genealogy research!! The site is so easily navigated and a joy to use!! I had almost given up on researching my family surnames when I happened on your site by sheer accident. I knew my ancestors came from the Burlington area so I typed in the surnames and to my astonishment there before my eyes was page after page of information that had been elusive until now!! Thanks to your site I have been given new hope in my search for my ancestors!! Your site has jumped to the top of my favorites!! I look forward to returning time after time to see what new has been added!! Again... THANK YOU for a job well done!! Keep up the GREAT work!!
               Rita J. Holtzheimer‑Wymore

  This is one of the best sites I have found. I was easily able to find my great aunt and uncle, Isabel and Carl Backlin as well as my great great aunt, Tillie Backlin. Thank you so much for maintaining such an excellent resource for us all.
               Joy Burglind Hackl

  Incredible website! My husband's people settled in Rochester (Jackson, Wright); seemed also to have business in Burlington . I have the data, but your wonderful data bases have given more sources to add to the file and lots of new data. Great organization and information. Thank you !
               Sue Jackson

  Website the best I have found. All of my relations are there. The Hopkins, who came from Vt. and went to Wis. Thanks again.
               Kathleen Hopkins Smith at Lansing, Mich. 

  I was just referred to your website by a friend. In my search for family tree information, your site has proven a goldmine for me!! Many, many thanks from the Bieneman (n)s!! 
               Kathe Bienemann Cunningham

If you have a chance to visit our website, please do so. If you haven't visited it for some time, you may want to see what's been added and updated. We don't think you'll be disappointed.

The year 2003 had numerous accomplishments worthy of note. For the Burlington Historical Society, the standard bearer has always been the volunteer. From one project to the next, little would get done if our volunteers did not step forward and say, “let’s do it.” Some of the tasks are small and often pass unnoticed. Much of the work is tedious with hours upon hours of detail, such as entering data or poring over vintage photographs looking for that one little “gem” of interest that was captured in a moment more than a century ago. These tasks are the “nuts & bolts” of historic research, documentation, and preservation. This is not something we do for ourselves, rather it is a labor of love for those who will come after.

The Old Town Cemetery 
This project is ongoing and a classic example of an outpouring of help from Society members and the general public from all walks of life. The spring clean up was a sight to see with volunteers from children to seniors raking, hauling, and digging with enthusiasm. Society volunteers continued during the summer to check the growth periodically and keep the burying grounds orderly and visible. Plans call for removal of some of the trees this winter and another spring clean up. 
Pioneer Cabin 
During the 2003 season, May thru October, Pioneer Cabin was only open on Saturday due to reduced availability in the number of docents. We are glad to report that our newest board member, Jackie Pennefeather, was added to our cabin staff and already gained experience this season. We continue to seek additional volunteers to guide the public back to the middle 19th century if only for a “brief visit.” 

With being open only one day a week, we still saw somewhat more than 700 visitors enjoy Pioneer Cabin and take in some of the new acquisitions added to the interior, as well as to the tool shed. The cabin is in great shape, although some maintenance work is planned for 2004.

In the cabin’s garden this year, we grew a fine stand of sweet corn yielding about ten bushels in all. The sight of a small corn field in a downtown Burlington park may have seemed a bit out of character with its surroundings. However, a surviving photograph taken in 1868 shows abundant gardens downtown, many of which were corn. Next season, it’s back to beans, potatoes, and squash.

The Racine County Master Gardeners deserve our gratitude once again for their fine work in the Vintage Gardens . Their skill at dividing perennials and tending the wide variety of plant material is invaluable to the overall appear-ance of Pioneer Cabin. Free holly-hock seeds are available once more at the museum.

While on the subject of gardens, we can't fail to mention the consistently favorable comments we hear about the Legacy Garden next to the museum. The Burlington Area Garden Club always makes the garden an inviting and picturesque place to stop and visit.
Capital Improvements 
The board moved this year with a number of upgrades vital to the operation of the museum and the preservation of our collections. Air conditioning is being installed to lower the widely fluctuating levels of humidity we experience in the summer. Prior to that, how-ever, it was necessary to upgrade our electrical service to 200 amps. The increased electrical capacity will also provide for future improvements in display space, and technology requirements.
The museum’s three doors -- front, side and rear -- were replaced with insulated steel doors in a six panel pattern design that blends nicely with the building’s architecture. Finally, the museum’s fire alarm system is being upgraded to include a security alarm.
Next Year 
Whitman School will receive attention next year with some building upgrade and additions to displays anticipated. Tentative living history programs are being reformulated in response to continual inquiries to resume them.
My sincere thanks to all the board members for their dedication to our mission and to all the volunteers who come to our aid when called. We look forward to another year of accomplishments.

                      Doug Lind, President

Mike Itzin may live in Minnesota but he is one of Burlington 's staunchest supporters and best friends. Mike, who is the son of former Burlington residents Albert and Helen (Huse) Itzin and grandson of William and Gertrude (Ehlen) Itzin, has taken it upon himself to provide the Burlington Historical Society with paper copies of the records of many of the Catholic Churches in Burlington and the surrounding area.

 The Itzin family — first, John, and then William, with his sons, Charles and Martin (Mike's uncles) — operated Itzin's Harness Shop and then Itzin's Shoe Store in downtown Burlington for many years.

Mike copies the records from microfilms available through his local Family History Center in Minnesota and sends the copies to the Society, where Museum volunteer Alice Rosenberger has been putting them into binders, after which they are made available to those doing genealogical research. The records generally start with the establishment of the particular Church and run through 1920, the latest date for which the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has released Church records.

So far, the records of St. Mary's of Burlington (and its predecessors, St. Sebastian's and Immaculate Conception), St. Mary's of Dover, St. John the Baptist of Paris, and St. Mary's of Bristol (which has been succeeded by St. Scholastica) have been copied and put into binders. For St. Mary's of Burlington, Mike also donated a set to the parish office.

Several people researching their family histories have already benefited from Mike's generosity, finding information that some have been looking for over many years. We salute Mike Itzin for the great contribution he has made and is making to Burlington and other communities in the Burlington area.

While you're on our website, treat yourself to a couple of "tours" around Burlington — one in July 1868 (see above) and another in about 1895 — compliments of Dennis Tully.

Stitching together photographs of Burlington taken in July 1868 from the top of Muth's malt house (now the Haylofters' Theatre) on the east side of the Fox River, Dennis created a panoramic photo stretching from the area of Echo Park to out and beyond the Chandler Boulevard area. Visible are the wooden, lattice-like Jefferson Street bridge, the Woolen and Flour Mills, some still-familiar downtown buildings, Lincoln School , and the former St. Mary's Church, now known as the Annex.

Dennis liked the results of that panorama so well, that when he found three photos taken from the stone water tower about 1895, he stitched those together into a panorama showing the city almost 30 years later, but looking from west to east rather than from east to west like the 1868 panorama.

If you are interested in seeing the panoramas, go to our website - - and click on one or the other. It may take a few minutes to load, depending on the speed of your modem, but before long you'll be able to zoom in and out and "around" the city, picking out familiar landmarks and looking at some structures that have long since disappeared.

We think you'll enjoy "surfing" the panoramas as much as Dennis did putting them together.

Burlington 's Music Makers in 1940 
The newly formed Burlington Civic Chorus made its first appearance in a joint concert with the Civic Orchestra at the high school auditorium Wednesday evening, May 1, 1940 . The program that night also included Elsie Thompson Oberg, contralto; and a solo arrangement by Don Albright.

Members of the Civic Chorus, Jane Wagner, Director, were:

Soprano: Margaret Kerkman, Rita Kerkman, Mary Brennan, Charlotte Schilz, Lorraine Schilz, Eloise Trost, Angela Grebel, Esther Cronin, Bernice Hicks, Ellen Murray, Bernice Ganswindt.
Alto: Rosemary Beix, Mary Epping, Vivian Verick, Alice Jacobson, Esther Scherrer, Florence Hoffman, Margaret Reese, Alberta Pieters, Mable Melby.
Tenor: Harley Howe, Earl Bottomley, Warren Luebbers, Lloyd Schilz, Homer Fratt.
Bass: Arthur Kayser, Lester Bohnsack, Richard Furman, John Wiemer, Cecil Brenton, Gene Weiss.

Members of the Civic Orchestra, Harold J. Yonk, Conductor, were:

First Violin: Elmer Kitterer, Theo. W. Korn, Raymond Bienemann, Alberta Radtke, Margaret Kerkman, Wilmot Zerneke, Joan Szydlowski, Richard Furman.
Second Violin: Mary Foltz, Lucille Hanson, Alma Glueck, Ardith Zepp, Catherine Zwiebel, Robert Vohs, Gene Tenpenny, Louis Rohr.
Viola: Mrs. W. G. Rasch.
Cello: W. G. Rasch, Frank Novak, Mrs. Roy Webb.
Flute: William Leach, David Brehm.
Clarinet: Albert Schumann, Roy Baker.
Trumpet: Wendel Porter, Ellen Brehm.
Horn: Raymond Toelle, Adam Rome.
Trombone: Rita Kerkman, Duane Perry.
Bass: John Buss, Matthew Becker.
Tuba: John Zwiebel.
Percussion: Malcom Alby.
Accompanist: Arlene Korn, Mrs. Harold J. Yonk. 

-- From the Standard Democrat, April 26, 1940 
An Exciting Experience 
Harold Longmore had an exciting experience last Wednesday morning. He came to town on an errand, driving a single horse hitched to a light wagon. While doing an errand the horse started up and ran down the street to the Soo line crossing. The horse went under the gates, which were lowered, and took to the track in front of the 7:13 passenger south bound. The engineer managed to slow down the train enough so that when the engine struck the wagon it was with just enough force to throw the wagon and horse from the track.  The horse tore loose from the wagon and ran down the track to Washington street , where it was caught. The wagon was somewhat damaged, while the horse escaped with a few scratches.
-- Free Press, April 4, 1917 
Wasps Cause Buggy Wreck 
A swarm of wasps caused a peculiar accident on the east side of Fox river Monday. Mrs. Theo. Grueter had tied her driving horse to a hitching post there and on her return from a shopping trip found the animal rearing and plunging and a crowd of neighbors gathered wondering what was the matter. Investigation showed that the animal was being attacked by a swarm of yellow wasps. Before they could all be killed and the animal quieted, the buggy had been badly damaged. The animal is a very quiet one, but a swarm of wasps would start any horse rearing and plunging.
-- Standard Democrat, August 23, 1912 
An Obituary from 1903 
George Norton's parrot died last week of pneumonia. It was quite a familiar object to passers by on Mr. Norton's front porch on Lewis street .
                      Free Press, August 5, 1903