Newsletter - March 2005


Burlington Historian

March, 2005

Good-Sized Crowd Enjoys Christmas Program

     The Museum was nearly full on December 12, 2004, for the Historical Society's annual Christmas program, which featured musician Kerry Hart (right).

     Ms. Hart, a voice performance student at Northwestern University and music director at Peace Lutheran church in Burlington, sang and played many of the seasonal favorites in a program that also included song requests from the audience.

     A variety of food products brought by those attending the program were donated to Love, Inc.

Thanks to those who donated the food products and those who provided the refreshments.




Student Intern Helping at Museum

     Penny Donnelly, of Burlington, a history major at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, has been helping as a student intern at the Museum since mid-January.

     Ms. Donnelly, who tells us about herself below, has been mainly writing captions for our collection of Burlington Free Press photographs, but will also be performing other tasks. For example, an article she wrote on Burlington's experience with the Orphan Trains of the mid-to-late 1800s appears in this newsletter.

     Ms. Donnelly's time as a student intern will end in May, but she intends to continue to volunteer at the Museum.

Our Intern

     Hello, I am Penny Donnelly the new intern at the Burlington Historical Society. I am a senior at UW-Parkside majoring in History. I was hoping to intern close to home and feel very fortunate to be working at the Historical Society where so many interesting ideas are coming to fruition.

     I didn't know what to expect when I began but in the short time I have been here, I have gained a wealth of information about our community and the significant leaders of our town.

     I moved here three years ago from New Mexico with my husband Billy and our two kids, Haley and Zachary. We are pleased to call Burlington home and find the sense of community and charm welcoming.

Mark Your Calendars

Our first ever "Cemetery Walk" event is being planned for June 26, 2005, in the afternoon at the Burlington Cemetery.

The annual Ice Cream Social will be Saturday, July 30, 2005, at the Pioneer Cabin in Wehmhoff Square from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

President's Message

     Recently, while conducting a tour of our museum, I had a particularly enjoyable and uplifting experience that I want to share with our readers. The visitors were not the typical ones fascinated with the artifacts of 19th century life. Nor did they seem to care much about our collection of photographs and postcards. Our interesting collection of bottles and brewery memorabilia hardly turned a single head.

     Actually this came as no surprise to me because our visitors were none other than Tiger Cubs! Yes folks, if you're not familiar with the name, think of them as little Cub Scouts. The first thing one needs to accept is the fact that Tiger Cubs do all the talking and none of the listening. My own value as a tour guide dwindled to a peep. However, that did not discourage me, as I've been down that path a few times before. I was more of a spectator as they magically disappeared and re-appeared somewhere else in the museum shouting gleefully as they discovered something "cool." Mercifully, their parents were along and nothing really got out of hand.

     The experience illustrates the need for small museums that try to display everything including the kitchen sink to have something that appeals to the very young. The Tiger Cubs were attracted like magnets to our scale model "dollhouse" (one inch equals one foot) of an old general store complete with miniature electric lighting, to a display of vintage toys, and to some model train equipment that held their attention at least for awhile.

     Finally, I was surprised as the Tiger Cubs were getting ready to depart. Two of the boys had brought along collections of their own to show me. One opened a shoebox and carefully removed a large number of seashells he had collected while on vacation by the ocean. Well practiced at this, he neatly lined them up in rows on a table as the rest of us became the "visitors." Afterwards, the other boy proudly opened a box to reveal a large collection of Poke-E-Mon trading cards. It is possible that I learned more of a lesson that evening than the Tiger Cubs and I am confident that they will be back. Our future patronage depends on it and so a few additional pint-sized attractions can surely be squeezed in somewhere.

     The groundhog's forecast was correct, although I've heard some robins have been seen so spring will soon be upon us. Projects, openings, clean-ups and such that were put on ice for the winter will need renewed enthusiasm. Thanks to all for your continued interest and support.

          Doug Lind

Some Travelers on the "Orphan Trains" Found Homes in Burlington and Vicinity

     Dressed in their Sunday best, numerous children from eastern cities boarded trains and headed west. They were full of anticipation and fear of the unknown. They were going to a land of strangers.

     The children were orphans living in poverty and hopelessness. Many had migrated from other countries to the United States. Disease and despair separated them from their families. They had no one to turn to and nowhere to go.
     Charles L. Brace, a pastor in New York City, was disturbed by the plight of the street children and thought what they needed were loving, Christian homes. He felt they would flourish if they were taken out of their appalling surroundings.
     To give the children a fresh start, they were placed on trains and sent to rural America. This is how the idea of "placing out" was created.
     The children traveled to a pre-planned town where they were expected. Then they were taken from the train to be displayed. Families were urged to take the children into their homes and treat them as their own and the kids were expected to work and contribute as a member of the family.
     Follow-up visits by charity aid workers found a majority of the children were living satisfactory lives.
     Many other aid societies imitated and embraced the program. Between the years 1853 and 1929, approximately 300,000 children were taken west on the "orphan trains."
     Some of the trains made stops in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth Counties, as the following article from the Burlington Standard of December 16, 1869, illustrates.
The Little Wanderers
     Mr. R. B. Graham, General Agent of the Baldwin Place Home for Little Wanderers, Boston, with a wide awake company of children made a visit to our village on Friday last. They had come direct from Boston, landing at Kenosha with twenty-six children--where homes were found for six of the number. Homes were found for eight more at Racine, and at Union Grove for one, so that eleven remained on reaching Burlington, of whom five were girls and six were boys.

     The children were at once made welcome in the families of our people, which we are glad to say accords with the habitual generous hospitality of which our citizens pride themselves, and it was not a whit lacking when bestowed on the poor.

     The children were present at the Christian Conference at Plymouth Church on Friday evening, when the very gentlemanly and efficient agent made a forcible address.

     Saturday was a busy day at the hotel, and disclosed the fact that we have here and about us a consider-able number of families who are agitating the question of duty or expediency of "taking" or "adopting" children. Those brought here were as a class bright, good looking, well behaved children, and it is sad to see such children in want from lack of friends to give them food and clothing and shelter. And beyond this, how do they need care, and culture, and Christian training, and what are more the affection and endearments of a Christian home. Right glad are we to say that eight of the number found homes among us. A girl with Mr. Joseph Wackerman, one with Mr. J. L. Taylor of Lyons, a brother and sister with Mr. John McDonald of Brighton, a boy with Mr. E. C. Benson, one with Mr. G. W. Bushnell, and one with Mr. H. J. Hawks of Lyons.

     At Elkhorn Mr. Jeremiah Russell took a boy and Mr. George Cameron of Lafayette took the remaining boy--thus all were located with the exception of a young lady whom Mr. Graham took to Racine with him where he expected to find a home for her.

     Mr. Graham goes immediately back to Boston and will return with a larger number of children in a few weeks. In the mean time any parties desiring children may leave their names and addresses with the Rev. R. G. Toles, Superintendent Baldwin Place Home, Boston, Mass.

                                                                                            -- Contributed by Penny Donnelly

Second Group of Little Wanderers Also Found Homes in This Area

      According to the Burlington Standard of June 23, 1870, another company of 40 homeless children were brought to this area in 1870. Of those, 8 were located in this vicinity: a boy and a girl with Mr. Sawyer and a boy with Mr. Codman of Rochester; a boy with Mr. Carpenter of Honey Creek; a boy with Mr. Hawkes (Hawks) and a girl with Mr. F. Taylor of Lyons; and a girl each with Mr. G. W. Bushnell and Mr. William Rooker of Burlington.

The History of One of the Adoptees

     Alice, the girl adopted by Joseph and Mary Wackerman, was born in Athol, Massachusetts, April 14, 1863. After finding a home with the Wackermans in 1869, she was adopted by them.

     In March 1889 at the Wackerman home in Burlington, Alice married Charles J. Rooker, of Madison, South Dakota.

     Alice died there June 28, 1899, leaving her husband, two sons, and a baby daughter.

"Elmers" Instead of "Oscars"
Thirty-one Hollywood "Personalities" Meet For Party at Hotel Burlington

                                                            (Standard Democrat, Oct. 3, 1952)

     Thirty-one famous Hollywood stars, directors and script writers came to Burlington by proxy last Thursday night. With all the fan-fare given any celebrity, the 31 were interviewed by special recording in the lobby of the Hotel Burlington, with a spotlight illuminating the scene outside.

     These by-proxy "stars" were the Haylofters, Inc., and friends enjoying an annual banquet at the Hotel Burlington. This year, it was decided to come dressed as a Hollywood personality.

     Early in the evening, "Mendy" Mendenhall began interviewing all present over his wire recorder. The program was replayed when the "celebrities" dined.

     An "Elmer" was given to the two outstanding "stars." First went to Robert Wilke, as Monty Wooley, and Peggy Vogelsang, as Mary Martin, took second.

     Other clever costumes were worn by Mrs. Elsie Hagen (Charlie Chaplin); Mrs. Aurora Samuels (Carmen Miranda); Robert Bayer (Groucho Marx); Elsie Kneubuhler (Ethel Barrymore); Peter Weiler (Frank Sinatra); Pat Tobin (Dale Evans); and Rev. Malcolm P. Brunner (Mickey Rooney).

     After the dinner the group saw old Charlie Chaplin and W. C. Fields movies. The room was specially decorated for the evening with flowers, Hollywood pictures along the walls, and balloons.

An Unusual Look at Burlington in 1922

     It was not until September 4, 1918, that Burlington citizens who were out of doors shortly before 7 o'clock on a Wednesday evening had the new sensation of seeing an aeroplane flying over their heads.

     And it was not until almost 10 years later that Hubert "Pink" Schenning and Art Rein would be the first ones in Burlington to own an airplane.

     So it was a relatively rare experience to fly in an airplane in September 1922 when Bill Leach wrote the following account for the Free Press.

Enjoys Labor Day Flight

A Burlington Resident Makes the Trip from Elkhorn to Brighton in 20 Minutes

     The writer arranged on the afternoon of Labor Day to make a flight from Elkhorn to a landing field on Leach Bros. Farm in the town of Brighton, the distance being about 20 miles and over Burlington.

     The pilot was Lieut. J. Mason and the plane and engine of Curtiss make. The start was made from Elkhorn at 5:35 p.m. and after circling over some corn fields and the fair grounds we headed straight for Burlington at a speed of about one mile per minute at a height of 3,000 feet.
     The country was all new to Lieut. Mason so I had to be the guide. Bowers and Spring Prairie soon appeared just over the left wing and just a little later Lyons appeared over the right wing with its tiny mill pond. The pilot slowed down and asked if it was my town and I informed him that Burlington was one town further. The corn fields looked like little garden plots and the roads looked the size of cement sidewalks as we passed over them.
      A few minutes later Burlington came in sight with its pond and rivers. White river having shown all the way from Lyons like a little ditch. Brown's and Norton's Lake came sight to the left and Bohner's Lake to the right. Some buildings with peculiar roofs I decided were those of Burlington Brass Works and the water tower. Churches and both depots appeared very plainly. Brown's lake looked beautiful with its peninsula and tiny island and we flew just to the south of Norton's lake. I checked our position by the large sheep sheds, the steel roof on Stipe's barn, Muegler's stone barn, Elderbrook's silo and about three minutes after leaving the farm and landing field came into view. I pointed out the landing spot and told the pilot to land on the green alfalfa field. We circled over Mt. Tom and a corner of the Oberg farm and came down in a graceful glide at 5:55 p.m., 20 minutes after leaving Elkhorn. I thanked Lieut. Mason and he took off the field for Elkhorn at 6:00 p.m.
     W. J. Leach
Some '50s Memories



       Bicycle parades at the ball park








                                  The turning pole at Lincoln School






      Taking the bus to Brown's Lake on a hot summer day