Newsletter - June 2011


Burlington Historian

June 2011

Another Pioneer Cemetery of Interest to Society

After getting involved in the clean-up and preservation of two early cemeteries in the Burlington area – Old Burlington Cemetery and Mt. Hope Cemetery – the Burlington Historical Society is considering the possibility of becoming the "owner" of another.

The Rooker Cemetery, located east of Bieneman Road just past the bridge over Honey Creek on the south side of Spring Prairie Road, is being considered for acquisition by the Society. The cemetery contains 10 known graves, with an 11th person probably buried there based on obituary information. All the persons known to be buried there are from the Rooker and Lewis families.

The original owner of the land on which the cemetery is located was Joseph C. Rooker, who purchased the land from the government in 1837. He and his wife, Sabrina Turner Rooker, are both buried there; she died in 1856 and he in 1864.

Society members, Roger Bieneman (left) and Dennis Tully (right), look over some  of the broken tombstones at the Rooker Cemetery south of Spring Prairie Road.

Burials in the cemetery, according to tombstone readings done by former Society members in 1929 and 1961, started in 1847 when Josephine Lewis, daughter of Dr. William Lewis and his wife, Olive Rooker Lewis, died at age 8. In 1852, Sopronia Rooker, age 35, daughter of Joseph and Sabrina Rooker, was buried there. Henry Lewis, 9-month-old son of William and Olive Lewis, was buried there in 1855, and Dr. William Lewis, age 36, followed in 1856. Another Lewis son, Arthur Lewis, for whom an age and death date have not been found, is also buried there.

Nineteen-month-old Alice Rooker was buried in the cemetery in 1854, and 70-year-old Sabrina Rooker, daughter of Joseph and Sabrina, was buried there in 1895. The 1894 obituary of Daniel Rooker, son of Joseph and Sabrina, said he was buried in the family cemetery. Olive Rooker Lewis, who married J. F. Grassie after her husband, Dr. William Lewis, died in 1856, was the last known burial in the cemetery when she died in 1899 at age 72.

In a recent visit to the cemetery, Society members noticed several pieces of tombstones, but only two that had lettering that could be associated with persons buried there.

The only tombstone remnants that had lettering that could be associated with burials at Rooker Cemetery were those of Dr. William Lewis (left) and Mrs. Sabrina Rooker (right), who died August 25, 1856, at age 64.

A title search of the parcel involved shows that the main parcel of about 130 acres was transferred from the Rooker family to John and Anthony Dahlman about 1868. That deed excepted from the legal description a parcel described as: "One acre used as burial ground." Since then, the cemetery parcel has not been mentioned in the chain of title. Since there would be no one living from the Rooker family to "sign off" and no probate proceeding subsequently transferred the cemetery parcel, it appears that it is now part of the current owner’s property.

At the request of some Rooker descendants, the Society is exploring with the current owner the possibility of the owner’s deeding the cemetery parcel to the Society to ensure that the cemetery will not "fade away" in the future.








     View from Rooker Cemetery west toward Honey Creek and
intersection of Bieneman Road and Spring Prairie Road (far right).


President’s Message

With the return of the Farmers’ Market on Thursdays in Wehmhoff Square in Downtown Burlington, that gives us an opportunity to show off our Pioneer Log Cabin in the Park. We invite all members to spread the word of what our Society has to offer to not only members of the community, but to visitors to the Burlington area as well.

With the new displays in our museum and the addition of extra storage space for our collections, we encourage all our members to stop in on any Sunday after 1:00 p.m. and look at some of the new items that have been added. We hope to change displays more often to show off items that have been donated recently.

Like our Burlington Historical Society, the Wisconsin Historical Society has a great website covering many areas and research aids. It has loads of helpful information to assist in genealogical and local history research. I find it amazing how the use of the Internet has changed the methods of compiling and accessing information over the past twenty years or so. Once you find your way around the various websites available, it seems like such an easy task.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer and may the sun always be shining on your side of the street.

             Dennis Tully

Large Crock Needed for Pioneer Cabin

The Society is in need of a large stoneware crock (or a replica) that settlers in the 1800s would have used for making (i.e., fermenting) sauerkraut. Our previous one, which was on display for several years in Pioneer Log Cabin, was on loan and had to be returned to the owner.

Anyone wanting to donate such a crock or knowing of such a crock that might be available is asked to contact Jackie Heiligenthal (262-661-4272) or leave a message at the Museum at 262-767-2884.


Museum Hosted Filming of Segment of Documentary on Burlington

On Thursday, May 26, the Museum was opened to a film crew from Milwaukee Public Television making a documentary on Burlington. The documentary, produced and directed by MPTV’s Lois Maurer, will feature Milwaukee-based actor-comedian-storyteller John McGivern (below left) and Wisconsin historian John Gurda (below right).

The Burlington segment is one of a series of 13 installments, planned to air for 13 consecutive weeks in early 2012, that will focus on that number of Wisconsin communities. The working title of the series, which will attempt to peel back the layers of the fabric that make each of the communities a great place to live, is "Around the Corner with John McGivern."

Other Burlington venues where filming was planned included ChocolateFest and an Aquaducks water ski show at Brown’s Lake as well as visits with local officials and personalities.

Memories Abound on the Shore of Echo

The following column, by the late reporter and Historical Society president, Don Reed, appeared in the Standard Press on June 19, 1985, in Reed’s column "A view from the past." Reed, who was born in January 1918, grew up in a house on the north shore of Echo Lake, then known as the millpond. The area now known as Echo Park was not created by the city until 1928, when it bought up several pieces of privately owned land on which there were several houses.

Echo Lake and Echo Park were both named after Echo Brand flour which was milled in Burlington in its early days.

Of course, I can’t remember the days of the flour mills but I can remember the early days of Echo Park, even before it became a city park.

What is now a park was just a wilderness. On the property where the Veterans Memorial Building (now Veterans Terrace) stands was an electric company power plant. A mill race from the lake to the White River turned the generators that furnished electricity for Burlington.






Right:  Area that later became Echo Park and Echo Lake - from 1896 Lithograph. The Veterans Terrace is now about where the Electric plant was in 1896; and Rice's Liquor and Bruiser's restaurant are now on corner where the Brick and Tile Co. was in 1896.


There were three or four houses standing where the entrance to the parking lot now stands; one was owned by Sherman Gillespie, and another by Theodore Micklish, one of Burlington’s early policemen. About where the bandstand is now, was a house owned by a Sam Roper. Then down where the east end of the lake and Milwaukee Avenue run together, there was a house owned by Henry DeGrave.

Part of the DeGrave house is still standing, having been moved to Grove Street and remodeled by Jake Kramer.

What is now the point of Echo Park was overgrown with brush. The boys of Burlington used to make their way out to the point and go skinny-dipping. No one from town could see them because of the underbrush.

I was one of the boys but I didn’t come from town. I lived on the north side of Echo Lake and when I would see a bunch of fellows on the point swimming, I would swim across the lake to join them.

It might sound like quite a swim from one side of the lake to the other, but it wasn’t that bad. The middle of the lake was only about 3 feet deep and if I got tired, all I had to do was stand up. I would sink in the muddy bottom about a foot, but I could still keep my head above water.

But the last 100 feet or so toward the point I had to swim, as the river bed had cut a deep channel around the point. In fact, we used to dive off the shore into 8 or 10 feet of water, the bottom fell away so fast.

Finally when the area became a city park, our skinny-dipping days were over, but not our swimming days. Ed Tess was the park custodian and he built a pier with a diving board and a wooden high dive stand out in the deeper water. We sure had fun over there.

There were a couple of submerged stumps off the point that we had to be careful of.

I imagine the stumps are still there and I have marveled that some of those high-powered speed boats that race there each year have not hit any of them.

Also in the middle of the lake are piles of cement, about a foot under water.

The cement came from cement abutments that used to hold two electric poles with wires that ran from the city to the north side of the lake. A high wind tipped the poles over and finally the electric company ran wire around the lake and disconnected the across-the-lake wires. The abutments were dynamited but the rubble remains.

Enough about Echo Lake now; maybe more later.

Remembering . . .

                 Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

I have an uncle who sends out a family calendar. On this calendar he lists things like birthdays (with ages listed), wedding anniversaries, anniversaries of deaths and the length of time the individual has been gone. He sent out the calendar for March and I was amazed when I saw he had my Mom listed as having been gone 22 years. It seems like a whole other life. Twenty-two years – where did all the time go?

Moms are all pretty special when you think about it. When we were children I doubt that it ever occurred to us that moms and dads were individuals who had gone through a lot of the same things we were going through – they laughed, cried, loved, and had a life before kids. It takes until you are an adult before you really understand that.

Let’s face it – moms and dads shape who and what we are, how we look at life, and what traits we will eventually pass on to our children. I know Mom and Dad had pretty tough sledding for a large share of their lives. Mom was born into a family of 7 and Dad into a family of 8. Mom was raised in the city and Dad in the country. Neither of their families had a lot of money to work with and a lot of children to feed and clothe. Dad told of loading fresh vegetables into his wagon during the summer and making the rounds of the "rich" people’s homes to sell vegetables for extra money for the family. Mom talked about money being tight and everyone having to make do with what was available and wearing only hand-me-downs from older brothers and sisters or other relatives. They lived through the war years and emerged stronger and better people because of that, part of the "Greatest Generation" you hear so much about.

Mom was a special individual, one who loved her husband and her family and tried her best to make things good for all of us. I remember the day we moved from Burlington to Lyons. That was a hard day for Mom. Times were really tough then for Mom and Dad, they had both had to have surgery and both of them had lost a parent in the space of 2 years. Because Dad was the breadwinner in the family, when he had surgery, there was very little money to deal with and the debt piled up. Mom and Dad being who they were decided they needed to re-trench and work towards eliminating their debt. One way to do that was to rent a cheaper house in Lyons. We went from indoor plumbing and having a decent home in Burlington, fairly close to shopping, the library, and anything else you might need, to an old, mostly worn out house in Lyons with no indoor plumbing and no central heating. This was quite a difference for a city gal like Mom who had never lived this way before in her life. I can remember seeing Mom standing in the kitchen looking at the sink which had no running water, cracked linoleum on the floor, few kitchen cabinets, and peeling paint on the wall and seeing her just stand there with tears running down her cheeks. The great thing about Mom and Dad was that they weren’t afraid to make do with what they had. They went to work and cleaned and painted and made that old, run-down house a home for us. It wasn’t a palace by any means but it was home.

I can remember winters when it was so cold outside we couldn’t sleep upstairs; we had to bring our mattresses downstairs and camp out in the dining room until it warmed up. I remember Dad putting in an old wood burning stove in the kitchen to help augment our oil burner in the dining room for heat. I remember having to go through the shed at the back of the house to use the toilet. I also remember pumping water, gallons and gallons of water, for everything – drinking water, water for cooking, water for laundry, water for doing dishes, water for taking a bath (once a week), water for cleaning. You needed water for everything. I don’t remember feeling under-privileged or different – it was just the way things were – it was home.

Mom was a complex character; there was no doubt that her family was everything. She wasn’t a "June Cleaver" type of mom. She didn’t always wear a dress and pearls, the house wasn’t always perfect, and she wasn’t always the "wise and loving" mom of sitcoms. She was a real life flesh and blood person with her good days and bad, her own take on life, doing the best she could. I know that the move to Lyons added a lot of stress to her life and when a young nephew and my Grandfather moved in with us, it only made things more complicated. The nephew was very young, probably no more that 2, and Grandpa was Grandpa. Not always the easiest of persons to get along with.

When I was around 9 or 10 years old, Mom had what was known then as a "nervous breakdown." The doctor wanted to send her away to a rest home but she clung to her family and insisted she would get better faster if she had us – that if she was sent away that would be worse. The doctor relented and she did stay at home with us; it took her three long years to become more like the person she was. I don’t think she ever really fully recovered – in some ways it made her stronger and in other ways, it changed her forever.

The one constant for her was her love for her family. That never wavered. To me, a good mom isn’t always the one with the cleanest house, or the most orderly kitchen, or someone who is the most organized – she is the one who truly loves you no matter what. It doesn’t matter if the house is cluttered, or the dishes are still sitting in the sink and maybe we didn’t get around to cleaning that closet or we chose to sit and read today – it only matters that her love is unconditional – that she believes in you and the person you are becoming, that she sees in you your potential and loves you not for what she hopes you will become but for who and what you are.

Moms come in all shapes and sizes and they are all as different as each snowflake. Each one is an individual and it doesn’t matter if she is the type of mom who cleans up constantly behind you, is organized beyond anything you thought possible, or is the type who says, "Life is too short, let’s play today, the house will wait, let’s read, or go for a walk, or let’s just dream today away – soon the babies will be grown and have children of their own and these days will be gone but I will have the memories."

Mother’s Day has come and gone and Father’s Day is coming – remember to take some time and remember both mom and dad for their greatest accomplishments – US!!