Newsletter - June 2014


Burlington Historian

June 2014


Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Burlington’s Lincoln Statue

On Sunday, May 18, one of the nicest days of the spring, the Historical Society and City of Burlington hosted about 140 people at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Burlington’s Lincoln Statue. The crowd included descendants of Mrs. Antoinette Meinhardt Fulton, whose brother, Dr. Francis W. Meinhardt, donated the statue to Burlington. The statue, sculpted by George Etienne Ganiere and depicting Lincoln at the time of his Second Inaugural Address, was first unveiled in an impressive ceremony in October 1913.

The program, with Society president Dennis Tully as master of ceremonies, opened with the posting of the colors by an honor guard comprised of members of several Burlington veterans’ groups and the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner led by Burlington High School student Micah Gebel

Mayor Robert Miller welcomed the attendees and provided a number of facts about Lincoln’s life, some of which many may not have known or did not remember.

The master of ceremonies then introduced another Burlington High School student, Karley Nadolski, who read excerpts from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Prior to the reading, Mr. Tully provided information on the setting in which Lincoln made his remarks.

Ms. Nadolski gave voice to one of Lincoln’s most powerfuland memorable speeches, second only, perhaps, to his Gettysburg Address. In the Second Inaugural, Lincoln said that he trusted that the progress of the war was reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. He expressed high hope for the future, but ventured no prediction on it.

Pointing to slavery as the basic reason for the war, Lincoln explained the situation in which the country found itself at the start of the war. He said that both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

With the end of the war in sight, Lincoln ended his address saying:  "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

Lincoln scholar Steven Rogstad, of Racine, then delivered the main address. He provided insight into President Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War, the reasons for the actions Lincoln took to preserve the Union, and Lincoln’s thinking on re-incorporating the rebellious States into the Union.

Mr. Rogstad also made the point that Burlington’s Lincoln Statue is one-of-a-kind, noting that the agreement with Ganiere stipulated that no copies ever be made.

Following Mr. Rogstad’s speech, Ms. Gebel led the audience in singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," after which the colors were retired. Refreshments were then served.

          (Photos by Ray Ziebell)

































President’s Message

Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November – but why wait till then? All of us have so much to be thankful for and don’t realize what is available. What a great day we had for our Lincoln statue anniversary celebration and the turnout was also something to be proud of. Patriotism, some think, is floundering these days. I don’t think so. If one looks around and sees what this country is made of, I think we all have great feelings for the past and present and for the gifts that America has over many other countries.

What a long wait we had to see our trees and flowers start popping out. It should get us the energy to go out and about our great State of Wisconsin and enjoy the many scenic and popular attractions that are in our "back yard." Do a little homework and you’ll find many activities and attractions that we have to pick from. It’s fun to see other communities’ ethnic and historic events and learn of the customs and talents they have to offer.

We invite all to plan an hour or so on some Sunday afternoon and visit our fine museum. The citizens of Burlington and those with (and sometimes without) ties to the Burlington area have been so generous over the years to donate many interesting and quality artifacts from the past that fill our museum to the walls. I know our treasures will bring back some fond memories of the days of past generations. Call some friends and neighbors and stop in between 1 and 4 any Sunday afternoon.

Have a great summer.

     Dennis Tully

An Early Pioneer of Burlington Writes of Some of His Experiences

           Joshua Spriggs, born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1834, came to Burlington in 1848 with his father and stepmother, five brothers, a sister, a halfsister, and a stepbrother and stepsister. The family lived in Burlington for a year before moving to Dover township. In January 1898, Mr. Spriggs wrote the following letter to the editor of the Standard Democrat.

In the year 1848 a family left the isle of Albion, bound for the new world. They took passage on a clipper ship at Liverpool, and after a long and stormy voyage landed in the city of New York. After a short stay in that city they came to Buffalo, by way of the Hudson river and Erie canal. From Buffalo they took passage on a lake steamer and came to the city of Racine.

The head of the family was undecided where to locate, but after a short stay in Racine he made the acquaintance of a member of the Perkins family, of Burlington, who advised him to locate in the vicinity of Burlington and offered to take him out there to see the country for himself. He took his advice and liked the country so well that he moved his family to Burlington.

We found ourselves in a new world, but among kind-hearted people, who done everything that lay in their power to make us comfortable and give us a start in the land of our choice. All honor to the early pioneers of Burlington! I wonder sometimes if the present generation ever think of them. I wonder if they ever think how they braved the dangers of the wilderness and made it possible for others to follow after. Many of them have gone over the Great Divide, but their good deeds will live forever.

We found a small but thriving village. The mill was there but not the present substantial building. There were several log houses along the river bank below the mill, and a wooden bridge crossed the Fox river, which went down with the floods the next spring. There were Indians in the village dressed in their native costume and the river bank was their favorite camping ground. But they, too, like the early pioneer, are gone.

When I visit your city at the present time I can scarcely realize the great change that has taken place. I walk through your streets and look for something that will remind me of the early days but I cannot find it. All is either gone or changed so that it is scarcely recognizable. The buildings of the old pioneers have been torn down and elegant structures now occupy their sites.

But I can still see the noble and honest faces of Grandfather Perkins and Meinhardt as they were in ’48, and many others who have passed away. I see all the push and energy of the people in the eastern cities, and I see the new man and the new woman. I see your new and elegant high school building, which would be a credit to any city in the union, and I see your beautiful and well kept suburban homes. And I also see your magnificent churches which are as a beacon light to guide the traveler from this world to that which is to come. It is always a pleasure for me to visit Burlington for your highways are always good.

Along in the fifties I met a half-breed Indian on the road near town going to the mill. He had a team of horses and four sacks of wheat in the wagon. He was sitting on one sack and had a sack of wheat on his shoulder. I asked him why he carried that sack on his shoulder. He said the road was so bad he thought he would make it easier for his horses. Such a sight would not be possible at the present time.

You have a beautiful city and a lovely country surrounding it. I have traveled through many states and I have never seen but one place that I could compare with the country surrounding Burlington and that was at Woodland, California. When I looked around me I was reminded of the heaven we had found in the so-called wild and wooly west.

Vive la Burlington; may you live long and prosper.


           In October 1900 the Standard Democrat printed another piece by Spriggs, who was then the paper’s Central Dover correspondent. Spriggs again reminisced about Burlington in 1848-49.

We visited our favorite city of Burlington the other day. Yes, it is a flourishing city now, but when we landed there direct from Albion’s fair isle 52 years ago it was only a hamlet. There were a few small frame houses, some cobble stone buildings and log cabins. Indians were walking in the streets and hundreds more were in camp on the banks of the Fox and White rivers.

How well I remember the spring of ’49. There was a big flood in the Fox and White rivers that year and one day myself and three brothers were on the wooden bridge that spanned the Fox river. The water was up to the floor of the bridge and huge cakes of ice were piled up against it.

We had never seen anything like it before and did not realize our danger, when a boy of my acquaintance told us to leave the bridge. He was an American and smart as a whip, while we were green as the grass that grows. We refused to obey him and finally he came on the bridge and drove us off telling us we would all be drowned if we did not leave. He saw that it could not stand the strain much longer and in ten minutes after we left, the bridge parted in the center and the whole structure went down stream.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that man and his family, for it was they who encouraged and helped us to make a home in the new world. He is at rest now, but his name stands high on the list of Burlington’s most honored citizens, and his good deeds live after him.

The "Ball" at Brass Ball Corners

From the Standard Democrat, February 14, 1936

Over 75 years ago Seth Huntoon hung a bright brass ball over the plank road in front of his wayside inn. Most of the time since then there has been a similar marker and Brass Ball corners is known to thousands of tourists.

The present ball was put up by George Huntoon, son of Seth, and is now cared for by Roger Huntoon, son of George. Roger lives in a big gray house at the road intersection.

"Seth Huntoon put up the first ball at least 75 years ago," Roger said. "He used to have a tavern on this spot, on the road from Kenosha to Lake Geneva and on a plank road running to Silver Lake.

"That first ball was wood painted gold and that’s how it came to be thought of as brass and his tavern was known as the Brass Ball tavern. There was a lot of travel even in those days before the railroads and the ball attracted a lot of people who were traveling by stage-coach.

"I don’t know just when the original ball disappeared, but for quite a few years there wasn’t any marker on the corner.

"My father put the present one up there. It used to be a buoy for a mine. It had worked ashore off the Florida coast and was found by Herman Molitor of Kenosha, and he gave it to my father. The buoy is made of aluminum, so my father had it gilded and put up in 1924. The electric company strung it up for us."

Huntoon's "brass ball" is a landmark for miles around. When anyone stops and asks for directions leading to the intersecting highways, he usually is told to watch for the brass ball.

"I hear scores of tourists going by in cars say, ‘There’s the ball,’ or something like that," Huntoon said, "and quite a few stop and ask for its history. They usually come right to our house, without knowing us, because we're right here on the corner."

Huntoon’s greatest trouble in maintaining the marker comes from young mischief makers.

"The kids come along and throw stones at it," he complained. "Sometimes we don’t see them in time and they knock the paint off or dent it. That’s the trouble – some people don’t care about such things. With us it’s a tradition."