Newsletter - June 2004


Burlington Historian

June 2004

Descendants of Caroline Quarlls - the First Underground Railroad Passenger Through
Wisconsin - Make First Visit to Burlington Area Sites Where She Was Hidden in 1842

           Five direct descendants of Caroline Quarlls, the first fugitive slave to come through Wisconsin on the Underground Railroad on her way to Canada in 1842, visited the Burlington area April 17, 2004. It was their first visit to the sites near Burlington where Caroline was hidden, and to the State Street site where the home of one of her major benefactors, Dr. Edward Galusha Dyer, once stood.


              The descendants also visited the Burlington Historical Museum, and the Origen and Julia Dyer Perkins home, now owned by Margaret Hancock, which still stands next to where the Dr. Dyer home stood.

       The descendants, who live in Canada, were Charlotte Watkins, great-great granddaughter, who lives in the house where Caroline lived after her escape to Canada and her marriage to Allen Watkins; Charlotte's daughter, Heidi Walls; and Ms. Walls' three daughters. They were accompanied by Ms. Walls' husband, Jerry Walls, who is also descended from a slave who escaped to Canada - John Freeman Walls.
      The visitors were hosted by the Burlington Historical Society, which took them on a bus tour of the Quarlls sites and other Underground Railroad sites in this area. Also in the group were Jacqueline Tobin, author of the book, Hidden in Plain View, about the Underground Railroad quilt code; Kathi Wilson, curator of the Racine Underground Railroad quilt project; and Wayne and Virginia Travis, Underground Railroad researchers from Canada.
     One of the stops where the descendants spent some time was the former Josiah O. Puffer farm on what is now Highway 11, a short distance west of County Trunk DD. It was probably at this farm where Dr. Dyer of Burlington, an ardent abolitionist and Commander-in-Chief of the Underground Railroad in the Burlington area, met Caroline and her "conductor" Lyman Goodnow.
     Dr. Dyer provided the two travellers with a pillow-case full of cakes, pies and cheese to be used on their journey to Detroit, where Caroline crossed into Canada, and collected money from his friends and wrote a recommendation - which Goodnow called the best he every read - asking those along the way to assist Quarlls and Goodnow in any way they could.
     The tour also passed the former Solomon Dwinnell farm on Bowers Road, where Caroline was hidden before being brought to the Puffer farm; and the former Palmer Gardner house on County Trunk DD (now the home of Scott Wilson), where she was also reportedly hidden for one night.The tour was a moving and emotional experience for both the descendants and those accompanying them. One tour member called it a visit to "sacred space."
      Historical Society members on the tour included Doug and Carol Lind, Roger Bieneman, and Don Vande Sand.














 President's Message

 Forrest Hoganson

      The Society lost a great friend and active member in May when Forrest Hoganson passed away at age 84. Forrest, better known to many as "Hogie," was a long-time Society member and served as treasurer and president for many years. Among his many contributions, Forrest provided the impetus for refurbishing the Lincoln Statue in 1993 and led the fund-raising efforts for that project. Our condolences go to his wife, Arlene, and to the Hoganson family. We will miss him.

 Pioneer Cabin

      As Pioneer Cabin begins its fifth season of operation, the Historical Society extends its appreciation to our cabin docents - Jim Kubath, June Bobier, Joyce Becker Lee, Mary Lueder, Jackie Pennefeather, Marjory Peterson, and Connie Wilson - for the gift of their time while they bring the 19th Century to life for our many visitors.

The kitchen garden this season includes cabbage, parsnips, beans, squash, garlic, cucumbers, hops, rhubarb, and sunflowers. The Racine County Master Gardeners have renewed the adjacent herb garden and divided perennials again this spring. The gooseberries and currants are absolutely loaded with fruit, perhaps from our extra wet spring. The cabin=s "signature" hollyhocks are getting ready to amaze our visitors with the riot of color they enjoy each summer.

Located in Wehmhoff Square, Pioneer Cabin welcomes visitors on Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m., May through October. The gardens may be viewed any time.

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Thanks also to the volunteers who helped rake leaves, cut brush, and fell trees at the 2nd annual clean-up of the Old Burlington Cemetery. While some work remains, the Cemetery is looking much better than in former years.

              Doug Lind, President

Historical Society Activities

      For the first time in several years, the Society had a display table on the festival grounds during Burlington's annual ChocolateFest. The display included a continuously running slide show of historical Burlington photographs; several photograph albums of different themes - businesses, factories, houses, street scenes, etc. - which visitors could page through; various artifacts from the Society's collection; and several "for sale" publications and mementos.

The Society also participated in the ChocolateFest parade. Board member Nick King drove his restored 1932 Model A Ford in the parade, with Board member Dennis Tully riding "shotgun" and several Tully grandchildren riding both in the car and in the "rumbleseat."

On Wednesday morning of National Nursing Home Week in May, the Society provided a display of artifacts from the Museum for the residents and staff of the Mount Carmel Medical and Rehabilitation Center to enjoy and reminisce about. The Society's photograph albums of businesses, factories, etc., also brought back fond memories to many of the participants.

The end of the school year also brought the annual tours of the Museum and Pioneer Cabin by some of the school classes. Board members Nick King and Marjory Ann Peterson generally handled the Museum visits, while Doug Lind and Ms. Peterson handled the Cabin visits.

Several artifacts and other mementos have been donated to the Society during the past several months. While we don't have space to list them all, they include a set of tools from the Joseph A. Rueter family, donated by Charles Pihringer; a large ice saw and various sized ice tongs, donated by Bud Labutski, that were used at the ice house that once sat near the corner of Chestnut Street and Bieneman Road; programs, photographs, and other memorabilia from various air shows, donated by Nan Branen; photographs of Burlington, Waterford, Lyons, and other locales, donated by Ken Amon; and a book, donated by Robert Spitzer, of eulogies at the memorial service held in the U.S. House of Representatives in May 1932 for Henry Allen Cooper, who was born in Spring Prairie and grew up in Burlington before serving as Congressman from this district for over 30 years.

Early-Day Circuses Often Stopped in Burlington

For Americans in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the coming of a circus was an event that many looked forward to with eager anticipation. Burlington area residents were no exception.

When a circus was coming, the newspapers carried advertisements touting the show, showing illustrations of exotic animals and circus performers, and in some cases, including photographs of one or more of the star performers.

The earliest circus ad we've found in local newspapers was in the Burlington Gazette of May 15, 1860, which announced that George DeHaven's Great Union Circus would perform May 16.

Some other circuses that have appeared in Burlington include Yankee Robinson; Forepaugh's; Hough's, Zanfreta & Seigrist; Dan Costello; John Robinson; Burr Robbins; Great New York; Inter-Ocean; Miles Orton; VanAmburgh & Co.; Bailey's; Col. G. W. Hall; Holland & McMahon; Lewis & Co.; Ringling Bros. (1889 and 1891); McDonald's; Batcheler & Dorris' Great Western; Holland, McLaughlin & Co.; E. G. Holland & Co.; Reno's Oriental; Marion & Castello; Wintermute Bros.; and Burlington's own Stang Bros. - and those were just the ones that played Burlington before 1900.

Several others - including Gollmar Bros.; Seils-Sterling; Lewis Bros.; Mills Bros.; Kelly & Morris; Hagenbeck-Wallace; and Clyde Beatty - played in Burlington up through about 1950.

The following example of the "before-and-after" newspaper coverage of a circus comes from the August 25 and September 1, 1911, issues of the Standard Democrat.

Forepaugh and Sells Circus Near at Hand        (Aug. 25, 1911)

      The shrill voice of the calliope will in a few days toot forth the gladsome news that it is circus day. And it will be the biggest circus day in the history of Burlington. This is the first time that the Forepaugh and Sells Brothers' organization has pitched its tents in these parts. It has complete new equipment, a splendid menagerie, and a wonderfully strong company of European performers. There is also a merry army of clowns to keep visitors in good humor.

The railroads are preparing to bring thousands of strangers into town and there is no doubt that the streets will be packed by the biggest crowd that ever saw a circus in this city. There will be two performances. Those who expect to attend will do well to get their seats early in the day at the down-town office which will be located in Reinardy's drug store. Reserved seats and admissions will be sold there at the regular ticketwagon prices.

The day will begin in earnest at 10 o'clock, when the best and longest of all street parades will wind its majestic way through the main business streets. This pageant is going to be a rare treat. There are three miles of it, and not one old feature from its beginning to the very end. This part of the show alone cost the owners $1,000,000.

      The show will arrive in town on a train of four sections, bringing absolutely the same organization of performers and the brand-new equipment that has been amazing the big cities with its splendor. The metropolitan home of this circus is in the Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is looked upon there as the most popular and the largest organization of its kind in the world.

 Circus Draws Record Crowd to Burlington       (Sept. 1, 1911)

      Tuesday was circus day in Burlington. Thousands of people came early, stayed late, and enjoyed themselves in true American style.

The occasion was the visit of Forepaugh and Sells Bros. circus, the largest, and it proved to be the best, circus that has ever visited Burlington.

To many the unloading of the circus proved an attraction, and several hundred people assembled at the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul depot as early as four o'clock that morning to witness the feature of the work. But the early birds had a wait, as it was not until after six o'clock that the first train carrying the horses, tents, etc., pulled into Burlington. The first wagon to be unloaded was a heavy canvas wagon and it went into the soft ground in the freight yards up to the hubs. Eighteen huge draft horses were hitched to it to pull it out. The second train, carrying the menagerie animals, big tent equipment, and actors, arrived shortly before seven o'clock.

Some 300 head of horses were immediately put to work hauling the equipment to the Ball property on West Geneva street, where the circus was held. Here, as if by magic, a huge city of tents arose in practically no time. Civil engineers platted out the lot, set markers for stakes, a pile driver run by a gasoline engine drives the stakes, horses pull up the tents, and everywhere is "system." Each man knows just what part of the work he has to do and the numerous tents are put up in an amazingly short time.

People from far and near commenced congregating on the down town streets as early as eight o'clock and by ten the streets were crowded. It was nearly 10:30 when the first notes of the band announced the parade was coming. And it was a parade, the likes of which has never been seen in Burlington. Five bands furnished music; the clowns, the fun; the animals, the thrills, and the hundreds of handsome gray horses brought forth many words of praise.

Dinner proved a serious problem to many. The hotels and restaurants were crowded to capacity, and many were satisfied with a "hamburger" or "red hot" from the corner vendors.

At one o'clock the migration to the circus grounds started and by two o'clock it is estimated that over 5,000 people were in the tents. Practically every seat in the big tent was filled, the circus authorities expressing surprise at such a crowd from so small a town. And all were there to enjoy themselves.

The circus came up to every expectation, and as one of our farmer friends expressed it: "They came nearer doing everything than any circus I ever saw." Their acts were all good, from the comic antics of the clowns, through the stunts of the trained animals, the bareback riding, the acrobatic acts of Japs, etc., to the young lady turning the somersault in the automobile, flying trapeze acts, turning and tumbling, wire walking, barrel jumping and high backward dives furnished plenty of thrills.

The menagerie proved an interesting feature, there being many strange and odd animals on exhibition.

The crowd at the evening performance was estimated at 4,000 and it was the same kind of good natured crowd that attended in the afternoon. All went home satisfied with the circus and loud in their praise for the clean, orderly manner in which everything was conducted.