Newsletter - December 2008




Burlington Historian

December 2008

Society's Annual Meeting to Celebrate 150th Anniversary 
of Lincoln School Building and Lincoln's 200th Birthday

Program to Feature Civil War Historian Lance Herdegen

The Burlington Historical Society will hold its annual meeting on Sunday, February 8, 2009, at the 150-year-old Lincoln School building which sits on State Street between N. Kane Street and N. Perkins Boulevard. The featured speaker will be Lance Herdegen, a resident of Honey Creek and the retired director of the Institute for Civil War Studies at Carroll University in Waukesha.

Herdegen, an award-winning journalist who worked for the United Press International news service, is the historical consultant for the new Civil War Museum of the Middle West in Kenosha. Regarded as the authority on the Iron Brigade, he is the author of many articles and several books on that famed Civil War unit, including the recently published book, "Those Damn Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign." Herdegen will speak on "Lincoln and the Badger Boys," focusing on President Abraham Lincoln's contacts with Wisconsin soldiers during the Civil War.

The program will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln School building, which opened in 1859, and the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth in 1809. Details on the program, which is expected to include the participation of some Burlington school children and teachers, are being developed. Artifacts and photos related to the building and to Lincoln will be displayed. A short business meeting to elect four members to the Society's Board of Directors will also be held. The four members whose terms are expiring are Roger Bieneman, Rose Buse, John Smith, and Dennis Tully.

The program will start at 1:30 p.m. at the Lincoln School building. Refreshments will be served following the program.

President’s Message

I would like to wish all members of the Burlington Historical Society and their friends and family members a Merry Christmas and a great New Year.

We have a lot to be thankful for in our Burlington community and our great State of Wisconsin.

As we look back at the many holiday traditions passed down from earlier generations, we can appre-ciate the freedoms and blessings we have yet today.

Because of family and work commitments, Steve Wagner has found it necessary to resign from the Board of Directors. We appreciate Steve's involvement on the Board and his several contributions to the mission of the Society.

Also, thanks to Ken Amon for contributing various supplies for Society activities.

We hope that 2009 will be an exciting and rewarding year for our museum and for the completion of our remodeling and expansion project.

Happy holidays to all.
   Dennis Tully

Wisconsin Lutheran College Volunteers Do Additional Work at Mt. Hope Cemetery

Ned Farley, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, brought five enthusiastic student volunteers to Mt. Hope Cemetery on Spring Prairie Road during the last week of October for a third session in the clean-up and mapping of the pioneer cemetery. Burlington-area residents, Bernard Walli, Roger Bieneman, and Don Vande Sand, helped with the clean-up portion.

Professor Farley and fellow professor, Glen Thompson, started the project in November 2007 with an earlier group of students, as well as Historical Society members and volunteers from the Burlington area. The second session was carried out in April 2008. A fourth session is planned for spring 2009.




















Status of the Remodeling Project

By the time this newsletter is in the mail, the carpentry, electrical, and plumbing portion of our remodeling project should be under way. Once those tasks are completed, there will still be a lot of work to do, including painting and clean-up as well as creating displays of our artifacts and telling the story of Burlington's history. We hope that volunteers will step forward to help with all of these tasks.

The Society is still accepting financial donations from individuals, businesses, and groups to help defray remodeling costs. Because the Society is organized under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the donations 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. Thank you.

The Play's The Thing!

                               Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

Remember all the Christmas programs you took part in when you were in grade school? Think back – remember how the excitement just built and built until you could hardly stand it? Around Thanksgiving the practices would start – noon hours, recess, music class, anytime it could be squeezed in – practice, practice, practice. The closer it came to the big day, the more nervous everyone became and the more nervous you became the more you practiced. Not only were visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads but the lines and lyrics for the songs were dancing there as well. The tension and excitement just continued to build, anxiety set in – what if you forgot the words? What if you sang off key? What if you forgot your lines or where you were supposed to move? What if everyone laughed when it wasn't supposed to be funny? What did you do then? The nuns were perfectionists – practice makes perfect – they wouldn't tolerate anything but your very best effort – they wanted to showcase the students and their accomplishment for the parents – everything must go according to plan. Nuns always had a plan. What a wonderful feeling it was when everything went perfectly and how much more fun it was when everything didn't! More often than not nothing went perfectly but that's what made these little performances so memorable and special.

My most memorable performance in a Christmas program took place when I was in 7th grade. Sister Marita was the teacher for the primary grades and one year she decided on a very ambitious project for the little ones. They would put on a play entitled, "Old Mother Shoe." For this project she needed some volunteers from among the older children. I say volunteers but you know that when a nun says, "I need a volunteer, and would you be willing?" what she really means is, "I need a volunteer and I know you are willing." Sister approached me and two other older students with her request. She needed "volunteers" to play Old Mother Shoe, Mother Goose and Santa Claus. Of course not one of us refused her – she was very persuasive. Every noon hour we would all troop over to the church hall and practice on the stage. There were children everywhere – all of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders were taking part. Rehearsals were organized confusion – just when you thought everyone had their parts figured out, someone would ad lib lines that no one had ever heard before or they would move at the wrong time or they would simply stand there and look at you with a blank look on their faces because they had no idea what they were supposed to say or do next. It was an organized riot and as the day for the performance came closer and things got more and more hectic you could see Sister start to unravel. Nuns are known for their perseverance and Sister was determined that this was going to work and there would be no excuses for failure. There was no rhyme or reason to how rehearsals went – how things went was as changeable as the weather. Every day was an adventure. I was chosen to play Old Mother Shoe who had so many children she didn't know what to do. Alan was picked to play Santa Claus and Dorothy was Old Mother Goose. We three had more lines to memorize than the little ones did which meant we had more chances to screw things up.

Finally it was the day before the big performance – it was dress rehearsal day. Everyone was in his or her costumes and Sister was beside herself. We spent the noon hour and part of the afternoon in rehearsal – finally by mid-afternoon Sister was satisfied that we all knew what we were doing. It was going to be a great performance!

Seems to me I've read somewhere about an old superstition that states if you have a good dress rehearsal it does not necessarily follow that you will have a great performance and that something, if not everything, could or will go wrong. Well, it was certainly a memorable performance and everyone had a good time but I really think that it didn't quite turn out the way Sister thought it would. Things started off normally enough – everyone remembered their lines, they entered and left the stage when they were supposed to, there wasn't any pushing and shoving, none of the scenery fell over, but . . . just when you think something is too good to be true . . .

There was a part when Old Mother Shoe is talking to Santa – it started off ok but part way through Santa suddenly got that blank look, he couldn't remember what to say next – his lips were moving but nothing was coming out. Mother Goose and I were frantically trying to whisper his next line to him – he just kept staring at me with that blank look – now what? Finally he managed to mumble his line and the play moved on. No so bad – only a minor glitch – only enough to give heart palpitations, not a major attack.

Soon we came to the part where Jack and Jill were supposed to go up the hill to fetch a pail of vegetables (they decided the twins couldn't be trusted with a pail of water). Well remember what happened to Jack and Jill after they went up the hill? You know, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after? Well it sort of went that way – Jack and Jill did fall down but when they took their fall they also spilled their pail of vegetables. The fall and the spilling of the vegetables took place with a great deal of enthusiasm and as a result of all this enthusiasm the vegetables didn't just roll around on the stage, they rolled off the stage and went everywhere – under chairs, down the aisles, under the Christmas tree – just everywhere.

That's when the whole thing fell apart – vegetables were going here there and everywhere and so were all the kids on stage. Kids were jumping off the stage and into the audience crawling under chairs, wriggling in and amongst the audience, running up and down the aisles, crawling under the Christmas tree, shouting to one another, frantically trying to round up the wayward veggies. It was absolute bedlam!! The nuns were wringing their hands and frantically trying to bring order out of chaos, the parents were laughing hysterically and the kids were everywhere but where they were supposed to be. You could hear the kids yelling at each other, "There's one over there – get it - hurry up." Finally the vegetables were all back in the pail, the kids were back on stage and the play continued on in a more or less orderly fashion. Poor Sister, she was a shell of her former self. What she had envisioned wasn't what she got.

Even though things didn't go quite the way they were supposed to, everyone left there with a lighter heart and a big smile. What else could you ask for? Isn't that what it's all about? Now this was certainly not Broadway and it was only a small wrinkle in time but what a wonderful wrinkle! Over 40 years later this memory still makes me smile. This play didn't change the world, but it made everyone happy and gave them a great memory to carry in their hearts for the rest of their lives. How perfect!

The Civil War Starts at Home

A Copperhead Confronts a Girl of Spirit

The Burlington Standard of November 25, 1863, carried the following article by a Rochester correspondent on the heartless remarks of a Confederate sympathizer to a young girl who had just lost her brother in the battle of Chickamauga. The confrontation took place at the Dover railroad station, about 5 miles east of Burlington.

Civil war has at last commenced at home. One of the copperheads that votes "not one man nor one dollar" to carry on the war to put down the rebellion was the cause of commencing hostilities in this neighborhood, under the following circumstances. Miss Isabella Crawford of Dover was with others at the Dover Station on Monday, the 16th, taking leave of some cousins who had volunteered from Rochester and were leaving to join their regiment.

Among other persons there present was John Russell of Dover, who after some previous talk about other matters, asked Miss Crawford why she wore mourning clothes.

The reply was, out of respect to the memory of her brother (Nathan Crawford), who died from the effects of wounds received at the battle of Chickamauga. Heartless thing (for he is not worthy to be called a man that could so outrage the courtesies of life) replied "Served him right; he had no business there."
Miss Crawford felt the insult so deeply that, forgetting everything but the base wrong done to the memory of her brave, departed brother – forgetting everything but that there was a base, cowardly, sneaking copperhead before her, and thinking of nothing but protecting the memory of her beloved brother, – she struck right at him – the thing – with such hearty good will that his equilibrium was essentially disturbed – he was placed hors de combat.
The writer of this notice glories in the spirit of the girl that rose indignant and beyond the control of the common bounds of society – that brooked no delay, but dealt out speedy justice to the false hearted scoundrel that lives and is protected in his home and property by the soldiers who have so bravely fought and died in driving back the rebels who are striving to rend our country to atoms.

This said Mr. Russell has got his reward. Let him henceforth be known as the thing, that had the chivalry to tell a woman – a younggirl – that he rejoiced that her brother was killed! He is a fit coadjutor, a full-blooded representative of his Southern brethren who murder defenseless men and actually starve their prisoners to death. Such miserable and heartless things ought to have their property confiscated and appropriated to putting down the rebellion, and be with others of like mind sent south to join the enemies of our country. But he like many other sneakish things likes a safe hole to hide in.

The same paper also carried a short notice that a collection was being taken up to buy Miss Crawford a new dress. Spearheading that effort was John Hockings, one of Burlington's leading abolitionists and head of the Hockings family which later established the Antlers resort on Brown’s Lake.

A Testimonial – John Hockings is circulating a petition to raise money to purchase a silk dress for Miss Isabella Crawford, who so spiritedly resented the insult done the memory of her brother by one John Russell of Dover. She "served him right," and now let the public serve her right. We admire the pluck of the woman. If there were more like her, there would be less like him.

The next issue of the Burlington Standard, published December 2, continued the story.

The silk dress we spoke of last week has been purchased and presented to Miss Isabella Crawford for the good service she rendered her country by knocking over John Russell of Dover. It was a very handsome black silk purchased at a reduction at the store of J. S. Crane, and was accompanied by the following note:

Burlington, Wis., Nov. 26, 1863.

Miss Isabella Crawford – You will please accept the enclosed silk dress as a testimonial of respect for you in your valorous conduct in nobly resenting the insult given to the memory of your brave brother, who so nobly gave his life as a nation’s sacrifice on the bloody field of Chickamauga.

Yours for the cause of liberty,
For Fifty-Five Names

Miss Crawford was very much affected on the receipt of the dress, and returned the following note thanking the donors:

Dover, Nov. 28th, 1863.

Messrs. Hockings, Crane, Thompson and Others: – How can I sufficiently thank you who have sympathised with me – and not only that, but given a proof of it in the presentation of a silk dress to me? Or what can I say to you to recompense you in the least? I will say this, and I know your loyal hearts will feel (for none but such hearts can feel rightly) some joy; you sustain and strengthen me, a grief-stricken girl; and not only me but all the family who feel keenly the loss of a brave and noble son and brother. I thought I would only get reproach and scorn. But what am I – more than the braves who have suffered the scorn of our enemies, and the privations of the camp and the dangers of the field for us? I can only thank you again, and say I shall keep this dress while life and reason are spared me; and then no disloyal form shall ever wear it.

I accept it from loyal-hearted men and women, through the hands of John Hockings, Esq.

Yours with much respect,
Isabella Crawford.


Isabella and Nathan Crawford were just two of the ten children of John and Charlotte, nee Saunders, Crawford. Another brother, Henry, died of typhoid fever in August 1864 at Memphis, Tennessee, while serving with the 39th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry; and a third brother, William, served with both the 39th Wisconsin Home Guards and the 17th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry before returning to Dover. He married Jane McKercher and moved to Iowa, where he died in 1907.

Isabella married Thomas M. Barrett, of Brighton, who served in the 1st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. While stationed in Washington, D.C., in April 1865, Thomas witnessed the hanging of the conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination.




A Burlington Soldier's Encounters With Lincoln

Edwin Ruthven Smith (right), who was born just outside Burlington and was later principal of the Burlington Union School, met President Abraham Lincoln twice while stationed near Washington, D. C.

The first encounter was when Edwin visited the White House in August 1863. He wrote his parents:

I took the steamboat at Alexandria and rode up and back. This gave me a good deal more time to see the city, than if I had walked. I first went to the Presidents House, and met Old Abe just as I stepped into the door. He looked very anxious and care worn, and is full as beautiful as his pictures.

Edwin's second encounter occurred about a year later when his artillery unit was assigned to Fort DeRussy during Confederate General Jubal A. Early's July 1864 assault on Washington. Edwin wrote:

Monday The President and Secretary Seward paid us a visit at Ft. DeRussy and I had the honor of giving them both a drink of water from my canteen.

The President looks poorer than when I saw him last summer. Seward is not a very smart looking man. He looks like a great many farmers that I have seen. Lincoln was dressed very shabbily, his coat being split quite badly at the elbow. He evidently does not intend to put on much style especially among soldiers. He would not allow any fuss to be made over him, no guard turned out, no salutes, nor demonstrations of any kind.