Newsletter - December 2006


Burlington Historian

December 2006


December 10 Christmas Program To Feature "The 2B's"

The Society's Christmas Program on Sunday, December 10, 2006, will feature "Musical Memories by The 2 B's" - Bill Stoffel and Betty Siehoff. The duo, which has played together about 8 years and with other groups before that, will perform many of the time-honored Christmas and holiday songs that have been favorites throughout the years. A Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments from the Society's collection, and a selection of vintage Christmas and New Year's cards also will be displayed. 

Stoffel and Siehoff are well-known in the Burlington area, having played at many senior and nursing homes, and at the fish fries held at St. Mary's. They both played with Burlington's Ukelele Band, and Stoffel was a member of the Bavarians, which played at the former White Oaks Restaurant in years past. 

The program will be held at the Museum at 232 N. Perkins Boulevard starting at 1:30 p.m. The public is invited; there is no charge; and refreshments will follow the program.

World War II Memories Shared at Annual Meeting

"When Is Daddy Coming Home?" is a poignant question being asked by many of today's youngsters who have parents serving in our armed forces. But it is not a new question; it's as old as war itself. Throughout time, how many youngsters have asked this question?

Professor Richard Haney of Whitewater University was the guest speaker at the Historical Society's annual meeting held on October 8, 2006. Professor Haney has written a book entitled "When Is Daddy Coming Home?" about his childhood memories of a father who was drafted to serve in the military during World War II and what it was like for him and his mother while his father was gone and how much more their lives changed after receiving word of his death in combat while serving overseas.

He talked of the many letters his parents wrote back and forth to each other and how his father managed to pass information to his mother as to his whereabouts without upsetting the censors. He spoke of a family friend whose daughter was a nurse who survived the Bataan Death March. He said his mother kept his father's memory alive for him by talking to him about his father and never letting him forget what kind of man his father was.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed Professor Haney's presentation, and many of them could relate in one way or another to his statements. In conjunction with Professor Haney's presentation, the Society had World War II memorabilia on display. At the conclusion of his presentation Professor Haney answered questions from the audience and held a book signing session.

The business portion of the meeting, conducted by out-going president, Doug Lind, included a special presentation by vice president Don Vande Sand to former secretary, Carlyne Klein, and Doug Lind for their countless hours of service and dedication to the Historical Society. Words cannot express the gratitude felt by the Historical Society for the vision and leadership shown by these two dedicated people.

The meeting also included the re-election of four members of the board of directors: Judy Stone, Ray Ziebell, Marilee Hoffman and Priscilla Crowley.
             -- Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

Dennis Tully Becomes New Society President As Doug Lind Steps Down

After a productive tenure as Historical Society president, Doug Lind has retired from the Board of Directors and turned the office of president over to Dennis Tully. Dennis introduces himself in the accompanying "President's Message."

Doug has provided outstanding leadership to the Society over the past several years, and has made many and varied contributions since joining the Society and the Board of Directors a couple of decades ago. His vision, which resulted in the Pioneer Log Cabin being re-located to Wehmhoff Square - which he designed for the City; his quiet way of attending to the many tasks that have kept the Cabin, the Museum, the Whitman School, and the Society functioning at a steady level; and his overall leadership in such activities as the annual clean-up of the Old Burlington Cemetery, the preservation of the original monument honoring Dr. Edward G. Dyer, and the school and Scout tours of the Museum and the Cabin have earned Doug the gratitude not only of the Society, but of Burlington's leaders and citizens - young and old.

Doug will continue to be involved in Society activities, and we look forward to his further contributions in those activities.

President’s Message

I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve as the new president of our great organization. 

I have had the pleasure to serve on the Board of Directors for about 5 years. For those who may not be familiar with me, I have been a resident of Racine County most of my life. After living in Racine for many years, our family moved to Burlington about 30 years ago. Being the owner of Fidelity Title, which my father James Tully founded 60 years ago, I have always had an interest in history and in the creation and formation of our Racine County communities.

To further my knowledge of the history of the Burlington area, I volunteered to help on documenting and computer scanning our vast photo collection. Thousands of photos have been archived, many more are in the works.

Our internet website,, has come a long way and has become a great source of information for research on local and family history and also a way to view Burlington as it was in the past with many online albums from our photo collections.

History is not only knowing where we have been, but knowing how to prepare for the future. 

We are always asking for input from our members. Our membership list consists of many current and past residents of the area and I am sure that some of you would like to share some memories of Burlington you have with other members. As always, you are urged to contact us with any comments, suggestions or items of interest that you have.

This will be a great experience for me and I look forward to continuing my involvement in our goals to preserve the great history of our community. 

I wish you all a great Wisconsin fall and winter and look forward for another joyous holiday season.

                       Dennis Tully 

Computer System Up-Graded
and E-Mail Address Changed

The Society recently replaced its several-years-old computer with one having a higher storage capacity and improved operating system. At the same time, our internet service has been changed from dial-up to a faster cable modem service.

With those changes, we have also changed our primary e-mail address to

Our website remains Other e- mail addresses, used for specific purposes, are included on various website pages.

Steve Wagner Becomes Board Member

The Board of Directors voted in November to have Steve Wagner replace Doug Lind as a member of the Board. Steve, who is a member of Stelling & Associates Architects, is also active in Haylofters and in St. Mary's Home and School Association. We welcome Steve to the Board.

The Winter Evening Spelling School

     Standard Democrat, January 14, 1899 -- From the Central Dover column by Joshua Spriggs

Do the young people in the country district enjoy themselves as much during the long winter evenings as the same class did in the early days? We think not. Let me take you back to the early fifties and I will tell you how the young people enjoyed themselves in those days. There was scarcely a night all through the long winter but what something was going on. There were dancing parties, singing schools, literary meetings, and the best and most instructive of all was the spelling school. That is where the young people of those days learned to spell.

There were many who could not attend the district school more than two months in the year and that was all the schooling they had. Many of them are still living and it would be hard to trip them up on a spelling lesson.

Sometimes there would be five different schools represented at the school house where the spelling school was held, and they were always accompanied by their teacher. It was known beforehand who would take a team and the driver would pick up all who desired to go. The bed of the sleigh was covered deep with hay and that was covered with buffalo robes; then all piled in and more robes kept them warm. There were no seats and no one cared whether their hat was on straight or not.

When they arrived at the school house, the load was dumped out and the team taken to the nearest farm house and cared for. The interior of the school house had already been arranged: the seats had been moved and placed around the outside to make more room. The school houses were always full and sometimes the crowd could not all get inside. The scholars were all seated around the outside of the room and the visitors occupied the center.

When the time came to open the school, order was called and the spelling began. One teacher would pronounce the words for probably thirty minutes then another teacher would relieve him or her as the case might be. The spelling continued for nearly two hours; then a recess was had.

After recess recitations were in order; then the spelling down began. Two prominent scholars from different schools were chosen and they called out the names of all who desired to spell until all were standing in two rows down the center of the house. They were in the position of two opposing armies and the question was which side would win. The spelling began at the head and when one missed a word it was carried to the next and the one who missed it went down. So it went until all were down.

There were two persons, a young lady and young gentleman, who attended all the spelling schools. They were the favorites of their own school and the terror of all the others. There was no word in the spelling book they could not spell, and the teachers were always prepared with other words that were not in the spelling book. These hard and twisted words were fired at them until they were put down. The gentleman is still living in this vicinity, but the lady has gone to her eternal rest.

Bucking the Snow Drifts

     Free Press, January 17, 1918 

H. J. Roesing and John Haas, of the undertaking firm of Roesing & Haas, were called last Saturday to the farm home of Aug. Neumann, near Slades Corners, by the death of Mrs. Neumann. They started out in the morning during the blizzard and after being on the road a couple of hours only managed to get as far as Jake Kramer's 3-1/2 miles south of this city, and being unable to go any further, had to return home. They made another start on Sunday morning and after four hours of hard traveling managed to reach there, a distance of seven miles from this city. On account of the roads being so badly drifted they were obliged to travel about twice that distance through the fields. Their return home took them about as long as going and it was a trip they will all remember for a long time.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

                  Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

The fall season will soon be a distant memory and the Holiday season will be a reality. The leaves have disappeared from the trees and most mornings the air has a definite snap to it. When we see gray clouds gathering on the horizon, we aren't thinking rain, we're beginning to think snow!

I have talked before about Christmas and the fun we had as kids and the fun I have remembering those long ago days.

Last week when I was grocery shopping in one of our local stores, I overheard a lady at the next counter lecturing the young girl who was checking her out. She was very upset about people who thought Christmas trees were a part of the Christian celebration of Christmas and how never once did anything about trees appear in the Bible and what was with this gift giving?

The poor girl had no idea how to answer this woman and I had to stop and think about how I would have answered this lady and her concern about Christmas trees and gift giving.

I believe that the Christmas tree is a symbol of so much more than "crass" Christmas commercialism. Put your feet up and think back to your younger years. Think back to what that Christmas tree meant to you and your family while you were growing up. Think about what that tree means to you now when you put it up each year and think about the memories it brings back. Yes, I know, it's a bother and there have been years when I've thought it wasn't worth the effort. But something always keeps tugging at my heart and nagging at me until once again I give in and come Christmas there is a decorated tree for all to see and enjoy.

Remember what that tree symbolized to you as a child? Remember the excitement that tree generated? I see us all now picking out a tree. My brother, sister and I running up first one row and then another, looking, searching for the "perfect" tree. We were so excited, we couldn't think straight. Dad would patiently hold up one tree after another while we all danced around first on one foot and then the other while mom passed judgment on the trees. This one was too skinny, too short, too tall, too fat, too many holes, the needles were falling off already.

Finally one was found that passed all the tests. Now all we had to do was get it home in one piece. When we got the tree home, we still had to wait because it was too early to put the tree up. Time crawled by, every day we would look longingly at that tree hoping that today was the day the tree would come into the house. Finally, after what seemed like years, the big day arrived.

It's funny how different that tree looked once you got it inside the house. What appeared small in an open area appeared much larger in a living room. We always had to move more furniture and make adjustments so the tree would fit. Then dad would put it in the tree stand and ask us if the tree was straight.

Remember what that was like? Poor dad! Dad it's leaning that way — not it's leaning right or left — just a finger pointing one direction or another. Of course dad was under the tree and couldn't see which way we were pointing and it certainly didn't help when two of us pointed right and one of us pointed left and mom said, "No, no, it's leaning forward." After many adjustments and much advice from the "peanut gallery," the tree stood there in majestic splendor - it was perfect, it was always perfect!

We had to wait a day before decorating so the branches would all fall into place. The next day at school was one of the longest ever — we could hardly wait to get home but even after we got home we had to wait until after supper was over with.

As the tree was slowly transformed from a lowly pine tree to a thing of exquisite beauty, I can't help but remember the warm and wonderful feelings this family project generated. Remembering how dad placed the lights and the exclamations of pleasure over the ornaments as they were hung carefully on the tree all bring back those wonderful feelings of family. The placement of the star on top of the tree was always a special event.

Finally after all of our hard work we could stand back and just stare in awe at what we had created. Remember how it felt to be all cozied down in the living room with just the tree lights on, how warm and safe you felt?

Now think back to when your children were young and think of the traditions you brought to your
own families. Remember their look of wonderment and joy as this same scene unfolded for your own little ones? Remember what it feels like to put those "special" ornaments on the tree? Maybe they are the little handmade ones from school or something special that has been passed down from grandma or a favorite aunt or a special ornament someone gave you.

The Christmas tree embodies the whole spirit of Christmas and why we celebrate. It stands for family, love, caring about our fellow man; it is a symbol for peace and understanding and new beginnings, of giving and receiving and brings back all those wonderful memories that make the Christmas Season so special. When you sit in your easy chairs this Christmas after all the excitement of the special day is done and the presents have been unwrapped and everyone has eaten everything in sight, just sit there quietly and really look at your tree and remember all the wonderful things this humble little tree represents and be glad and joyful during this most precious of seasons.
Enjoy this most joyous of seasons — Merry Christmas to you all!!

Short News Items

-- The Burlington Woman's Club recently donated a copy of Dr. Mary Jane Oestmann's December 2005 memoir entitled "This Is My Story" to the Society. Dr. Oestmann, a noted nuclear and environmental scientist who passed away in June 2006, was a resident of Brown's Lake and a long-time member of the Historical Society.

-- Dan Warren recently donated a large book of Sanborn Maps from the 1920s, updated to 1953, to the Society. The maps, used by fire insurance companies, government agencies, and other entities, show the location and physical characteristics of buildings and structures in a locality. The donated book includes maps of various areas in Burlington, as well as in the nearby cities and villages of Lake Geneva, Elkhorn, Delavan, Darien, and Walworth.

A Cool Job

Ice harvesting crew at McGinnis property on south shore of Brown's Lake around 1900.  Note the ice blocks and ice tools.  Photo was contributed by Mary Bohn, whose grandfather, Ben Ketterhagen, is seated 2nd from left.