Newsletter - June 2005


Burlington Historian

June 2005

Society to Publish an Underground Railroad Tour Guide

     The Society is preparing to publish and distribute a tour guide to The BuR SPUR of Wisconsin's Underground Railroad.  The Underground Railroad was the first "railroad" to reach the Wisconsin Territory.  And the Burlington, Rochester, and Spring Prairie area had several way-stations on the Wisconsin route.

    In addition, several pioneer residents of the area were active abolitionists, who participated directly or indirectly in what was then an illegal enterprise -- helping runaway slaves on their way to freedom.  Dr. Edward G. Dyer, of Burlington, was a leading abolitionist, sometimes called the Commander-in-Chief of this area's Underground Railroad.

     Piecing together the information that had been published or collected over the years about the Burlington, Rochester, and Spring Prairie area's role in the Underground Railroad, the Society published a booklet in 2002, entitled "The Underground Railroad in Burlington and Vicinity - A Collection of References at One Point in Time."

     The Underground Railroad is known to have operated in this area from 1842 until at least 1854.  The first "passenger" through Wisconsin was 16-year-old Caroline Quarlls, who ran away from her mistress in St. Louis in 1842 and made her way to Milwaukee where she was befriended and then betrayed by a former slave.  Warned of the betrayal, she hid for a day before being taken to the Pewaukee and Waukesha area.

     With bounty hunters closing in, Quarlls was brought to the Spring Prairie area where she was sheltered on farms near Burlington for several days before being taken by buggy to Detroit where she crossed into Canada.  It was at one of the nearby farms that Dr. Dyer met Quarlls; returned to Burlington to gather a pillowcase full of foodstuffs; and upon his return, collected money from those at the farm to help Quarlls and her "conductor," Lyman Goodnow, on their journey.

     The last known "passenger" in this area was Joshua Glover, also from St. Louis, who had escaped to Racine in 1852 and was living and working near there when, in 1854, he was arrested by a federal marshal and taken to the Milwaukee jail.  Hearing of his capture, a crowd used a battering ram to break him out of jail.  A passing buggy took him to Waukesha, where he was hidden for a short time.

     From there, Glover was taken to Racine by way of Rochester, where he had "a hot cup of tea and lunch" in the Richard Ela home, while a fresh team was being hitched to his "conductor's" wagon.  Because no safe ship was immediately available at Racine, Glover was brought to the Spring Prairie and Burlington area and hidden for several weeks before being taken back to Racine and put aboard a Great Lakes ship, which took him to Canada.

     In addition to Quarlls and Glover (who reportedly was hidden for a night at the Burlington home of Dr. Joel Henry Cooper, which still stands on Perkins Boulevard next to Lincoln School), other runaway slaves were sheltered in this area, but their names are not known.  These included at least three who were hidden at the Dyer house in Burlington and who came back individually in later years to personally thank Dr. Dyer; and others who were hidden at the Origen and Julia Perkins house, which still stands on State Street across from Lincoln School.

     The Society's 2002 booklet made the point that, because of the secretive nature of the enterprise, the lack of any official records, and the possibility that additional information could emerge from attics and archives as time went on, the booklet was not, and could never be, the complete story or final word on the role of Burlington and the nearby areas of Rochester and Spring Prairie in the Underground Railroad.

     The new BuR SPUR Trail tour guide, building on the earlier booklet (but still subject to additional information coming to light in the future), lays out a part walking and part driving tour of the places in Burlington, Rochester, and Spring Prairie where Underground Railroad and abolitionist activities took place.  Included are more than 25 places, both those identified in the 2002 booklet, as well as several places that have been added based on additional research.  The guide also points out a few additional historical sites along the trail.  Most of the sites associated with the Underground Railroad and abolitionist activities have not yet been marked as such with identifying plaques, signs, or other markers.

     With the help of several Society members and the graphic artistry of Burlington resident, Sherry Schenning Gordon, the full-color tour guide is nearing completion.  Some donations have been received or promised to help finance the finalization and printing of the guide, which will be in the format of a folding road map.  But additional financial help would be appreciated.

     Those providing such help in amounts of $50 or more will be listed in the guide as "Friends of 'The BuR SPUR' Underground Railroad Trail."  To the extent space is available, those giving lesser amounts will also be listed.  For donations of $150 or more, businesses, especially those that benefit from tourists visiting the area but also those wishing to help financially, will be provided expanded listings of up to 4 lines showing addresses, telephone numbers, websites, etc.  Churches or church members who wish to list their churches will also be provided expanded listings for donations of $150 or more.

     To ensure a listing, the donations must be received by June 10, 2005.  The donations should be made to the Burlington Historical Society, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (with donations deductible to the extent provided by law).  The Society's address is 232 N. Perkins Boulevard, Burlington, WI 53105.

     The tour guide will be widely distributed to local, area, state, and even national tourist points, such as the recently opened National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where tourists seek information on interesting and educational places to visit.

President's Message

      For those of you who live close by, you should by now have seen our large advertisements in the local papers featuring .  If you haven't had the opportunity to browse our great website, please do so soon, and you will discover a treasure at your fingertips.

      Your membership dues and donations help fund this exciting resource for all to visit and glean some fascinating history about our community.  Our photograph archives are extensive and continue to grow by the week.  Concerning that, I would remind readers that the Historical Society is interested in photographs of Burlington's past that you might be willing to add to our collection.  Of course, we would only copy your photos, returning them unharmed.

      Perhaps you might think your family albums are not of general interest?  You may have taken some snapshots of a parade that your children participated in for example.  Outdoor views often have background subjects that prove valuable to our researchers as they try to assemble a "puzzle" that is missing just a few parts.  The list of possibilities are endless but surely would include carnivals, firemen's picnics (water fights), baseball teams, events encompassing our lakes and rivers, buildings under construction or destruction, and so on.  Think about it the next time you are rummaging around the family photo box, and then think about your Historical Society.

      As I write this, the final week of grade school is upon us and with it numerous tours of the museum and log cabin are under way.  Third and fourth graders predominate but we welcome all to "feast their eyes" on our collection of artifacts that have been so generously donated over the years.  The Museum's regular hours of operation are Sundays from 1-4 p.m.  Pioneer Cabin is open on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.

      The cabin's "kitchen garden" has just been planted with pole beans, green and red cabbage, kohlrabi, pumpkins, sunflowers and gourds.  The perennial rhubarb has already had the first picking and the hops are thriving as well.  The Legacy Garden next to the Museum and the Vintage Garden that surrounds Pioneer Cabin are in great shape thanks to the Master Gardener members who contribute many hours each season to insure attractive displays.

      The Historical Society needs volunteers who might wish to become involved with the operation of the Museum, Pioneer Cabin, or Whitman School.

      To our members, I thank you again for your contributions, kind thoughts, and support that are necessary for the Historical Society to fulfill its mission.

      Have a nice summer and don't forget our Ice Cream Social on the last Saturday in July.

      Doug Lind

Little Wanderers

      Our March 2005 Newsletter included an article on the "Orphan Trains" that brought children west during the latter half of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries for placement and, in some cases, adoption by Midwest families.  Some of those brought to Burlington and the surrounding counties came from the Baldwin Place Home for Little Wanderers in Boston, Massachusetts.

      We sent an advanced copy of the article to the Home, which still exists.  In return, they sent the accompanying image, which was received too late to include in the printed copy of the March Newsletter, but which was posted with our website copy.

      We want to share the image with our readers and hope you like it as much as we did.

New Native American Display at Museum

      The artifact collection shown in the photo is from an archaeological dig in the Burlington area in 2001.  A shovel testing indicated that the site was relatively undisturbed and that it was probably a single archaeological component site dating to between AD 700 and 1000.

      The excavations produced 635 artifacts from the top 40 centimeters of the site, with the highest artifact density between 10 and 30 centimeters.  Bone preservation was excellent and several projectile points (primarily arrowheads) were recovered.  The projectile points and prehistoric ceramics indicated that the site was largely a single component Effigy Mound Culture site.

      The Effigy Mound Culture is named for the distinctive animal effigies marking the burial mounds constructed by communities across the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin.  Archaeologists believe that Effigy Mound communities were egalitarian, as no evidence has been found for long distance trade in exotic, valuable, or ritual items or for differential burial of possessions indicating rank or status.

      The Effigy Mound builders usually buried their dead in small pits or laid them carefully on prepared surfaces.  The effigy mounds were then built over them like grave markers.  During this time, community members also began to cooperate with each other to harvest corn, prepare fields, and process wild nuts, fish, and mussels for winter storage.

      These surpluses, and the ease with which individuals could hunt using bows and arrows tipped with triangular stone points, fueled a rise in population and reduced the need to move from place to place.  More permanent wigwam homes were built.  Pottery became thinner and more fragile but also more efficient.

      Settled communities also required new social, economic and religious systems to ensure labor and surplus were evenly distributed.  The Effigy Mound Culture gradually transformed beyond recognition as communities adapted to the challenges of their new social and economic environment.

      (Sources:  Archaeological Research, Inc., and Wisconsin Historical Society)

-- Contributed by Penny Donnelly

A Summer Evening in 1874
     (The Standard, August 13, 1874)

      There was "music in the air" last Tuesday evening.  It was one of those twilights, suggestive of pleasure and song.  The day had been one of extreme heat and as "old sol" buried himself behind a bank of crimson clouds in the western horizon and the cool shades of evening began to appear, all seemed to be happy.  Doors and windows were flung open and from every quarter came the rich notes of the piano, or organ accompanied by sweet voices, and we could but recall the words of Byron:

" 'Tis sweet to hear at twilight on the blue and moon lit deep
      The song and oar of Adria's Gondoliers,
           By distance mellowed o'er the waters sweet;
      'Tis  sweet to see the evening star appear."

      Although we heard not the song of the Gondoliers, neither did voices sweep across the waters, yet the melodious voices of many of Burlington's songsters swept over our quiet and peaceable town in such sweet cadence that it surely was "sweet to sit and listen."

A Question of Dancing
     (Standard Democrat, November 12, 1915)

      To fox-trot or not to fox-trot.  That is the question.  There are two sides to it and which side to bow to is now bothering Burlington dance promoters.  The trouble was brewing all last season when only the waltz and two-step were allowed, and it reached a climax last Friday evening when the dance given by the Teutonia society was stopped by the floor managers shortly after 12 o'clock, because the crowd present would persist in dancing the new dances.  The young people claim that it is impossible to draw a crowd where only the old fashioned dances are danced, while the promoters say they will go without a crowd rather than allow the dances to be danced.  To date no truce has been declared, but those interested are watching closely.

Old Burlington Cemetery Clean-Up

      Although the turn-out did not meet expectations, those who came did an outstanding job of clearing brush and the major accumulations of leaves.  Among the volunteers was a descendant of the Griebel family, whose farm once occupied the land where the cemetery is located.

      Our thanks to the dedicated helpers.

New Burlington Photograph Book Coming

      Society members, Dennis Tully and Don Vande Sand, have been putting together a book of Burlington photographs that will be published and made available for sale in the next few months.  The book will be part of the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing Co. of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.  The company has published hundreds of local history titles, covering a wide variety of communities and activities across the country.

      About 230 of the thousands of photographs in the Society's collection will be featured in the soft-cover book, together with captions describing the scenes and giving some history of the subjects shown in the photographs.  A short historical sketch of Burlington will introduce the images.

      The photographs will be grouped in seven categories:  cityscapes and street scenes; stores, shops, and business vehicles; manufacturing and processing plants; houses - from humble to grand; churches and schools; landmarks and municipal facilities; and the near by lakes.

      The book will make local history available to everyone.  A meander through the pages will bring revelation for the young folks and both recollection and reminiscence for the young at heart.

NOTE:  The book is expected to be released July 25, 2005.  If so, the book should be available for sale at the July 30 Ice Cream Social.  The cover price of the book is $19.99, to which the State sales tax (5.1 percent) will need to be added.  The Society will be selling the book for $21.00, including the tax (a slight "break").  For a mailed copy, a postage and handling fee of $2.50 will be added, making the cost $23.50 per book.

Did You Know?

●   In 1906, a student fire department was organized at the Conkey Street (later Cooper) School, with Louis Zimmermann as fire marshal.  At the first practice, the firemen ran out the house and had two streams going two minutes after the gong sounded.

●   For many years, Burlington had an annual July 4th celebration that included carnival rides and booths set up in the Echo Park or Athletic Park area.  The contest for naming the event was won by Mrs. John Sennott, Jr., who submitted "July Jamboree."

●   In 1936, 163 births were registered in Burlington.  The most popular names for the baby girls that year were Ann, Mary, Barbara, Marie, Delores, Rose, Shirley, Patricia, and Nancy.  For baby boys, the most popular were John, Donald, Edward, William, Francis, James, Philip, David, Charles, Richard, and Lee.