Newsletter - March 2006


Burlington Historian

March 2006

Original Dyer Monument to be Re-Dedicated on May 21

        The Society is making plans for the re-dedication of one of Burlington's treasures on Sunday, May 21, 2006, at 2:00 p.m. In conjunction with the publication of our tour guide to Underground Railroad and abolitionist sites in the Burlington, Rochester, and Spring Prairie area, the board of directors decided to have the original monument, dedicated to the memory of Dr. Edward G. Dyer, refurbished and encased permanently in front of the Museum.

       An ardent abolitionist, Dr. Dyer was known as the "Commander in Chief" of the Underground Railroad in this part of Wisconsin. His home served as a hiding place for at least three freedom-seekers, and he met and helped 16-year-old Caroline Quarlls, the first fugitive to come through Wisconsin, in 1842, when she was being hidden just outside Burlington before being taken to Detroit, where she crossed into Canada.

        The monument, of Colorado Yule marble, was given to Burlington in 1935 by Katherine McKim Garrison Norton, the wife of Dr. Dyer's grandson, Charles Dyer Norton. It was designed by Thomas Hudson Jones, who designed the original Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.; and it was hewn from the same stone.  The original sketch of the monument is reproduced at right.

       Originally placed on the west side of Lincoln School, the monument became deteriorated and somewhat unsightly, and was replaced by a new one. It was then moved to a house basement where it was intended to use the marble for new sculptures. However, the marble proved too hard for the intended purpose and the plan was abandoned. The monument was returned to the Museum when the house changed hands, and it sat in the Museum garden for several years where it sustained some further deterioration.  The main portion of the original Dyer monument, minus the base, cap, and sundial, is shown (left) in the Museum Garden.

        As the Underground Railroad history of Burlington was being developed for the tour guide, it was decided to refurbish and display the monument in a lighted metal case so it would be available for viewing around-the-clock and throughout the year.

        Plans for the re-dedication ceremony and accompanying activities had not been finalized at the time of this writing. They will be announced in the local newspapers after they are developed.

80 Years Ago --

      Burlington's current City Hall opened in 1926, with the Library and Police Department on the ground floor, City offices on the second floor, and American Legion rooms in the basement.  The building is shown at right in August 1949.







      Replacing a building that had been destroyed by fire, the Carpenter building on Chestnut Street (now the site of the St. Vincent de Paul store) opened in 1926 with Dodge dealer, Runkel-Newell, Inc., as the tenant.  The "Carpenter Building" is shown at the left in March 1976, when Printz Firestone occupied the premises.






      Construction of St. Mary's High School was completed in 1926, with the school opening in September.  The photo at right shows the school about 1948.



Historical photos will be displayed at the Daily Brew coffee shop, 557 Milwaukee Avenue, during March.

President's Message

        Southeastern Wisconsin has experienced one of the mildest January’s with minimal snow cover on record. This has led to thoughts of spring, and renewal, as the earth warms up and the days grow longer. However, this is February and I am getting ahead of myself and must leave the garden tools in the shed for now.

        The Society’s Board of Directors is also dealing with renewal of another sort; specifically, the re-formulation of committees to assist the Directors in the planning and development of new programs, projects, and annual activities. It is our hope that a number of our members living locally will become more involved informally and contribute their talents to our mission’s success.

        One example of a committee that may interest someone is the Technology Committee. A person so inclined would have experience with Word and Word Perfect. The principal function of this committee is the operation of our excellent website and providing onsite research of data for our patrons. Interested persons should call me at the Museum at 262-767-2884 for more information.

        Time commitments are minimal so we welcome volunteers of all ages, working or retired. Thank you and we would enjoy hearing from you.
                                 Doug Lind

String Quartette's Christmas Program Well-Received

       The Museum was filled with the sweet sounds of Christmas and holiday music at our yearly December program as a talented string quartette -- composed of two violinists, a violist, and a cellist -- treated an appreciative crowd to traditional, as well as seldom-heard, carols, hymns, and seasonal pieces.

        The quartette members (shown at right) were (l to r):  Melissa Thomas, Dr. Cynthia Cernak, Anita Saunders, and Christopher Saunders.

        Door prizes were offered for those bringing food or hygiene items for donation to Love, Inc. Due to a good crowd and their generosity, the Society was able to provide Love, Inc., with a substantial number of goods.

Stars and Stripes Forever

                    Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

        We are rapidly approaching Spring and with it comes a whole flood of memories about what Spring is and means. Take a few minutes to sit and relax and let your mind drift back to your younger years.

        Remember what it was like to walk out of the house on that first nice morning in March or April? Remember what it felt like and smelled like? There is always one day when a kid just knows that winter is over and better days are coming. That one special day when the sun seems to shine more brightly, the sky seems to be a bluer blue and the air – the air is incredible. It has that special smell that is so hard to describe but is instantly recognizable to everyone. It smells of sunshine and damp earth and that elusive perfume called SPRING!

      As a kid you just knew that it wouldn’t be long and wearing coats to school would be a distant memory, playground games would change from building snow forts and sliding on the ice to Baseball, Tag, Red Rover, Red Rover, Hopscotch, Jump Rope and just plain enjoying the renewal of life.

        Remember the feeling you got when you saw Daffodils and Tulips blooming everywhere and what it was like to go to sleep at night with your window cracked just a little to let in that good fresh air which often carried the scent of Lilacs just beginning to bloom.

        Remember when mom and dad would declare that it was time to start the garden? Remember how good it smelled when dad turned over that first pitchfork full of soil to begin the process? Remember the sight of fresh laundry snapping in the breeze and what it smelled like when mom made up the bed with sheets dried in the sunshine?

        One of the biggest events in Spring is Memorial Day. Think back to what Memorial Day was like when you were a kid. Remember the excitement, the flags, the bands, the parades, the speeches? Now I know the speeches didn’t mean a whole lot to any of us when we were young but I find as I grow older that they mean a great deal. I will be the first to admit that I am a sentimentalist of the first order. The sight of our American Legion and VFW members who stand so proud and tall on this special day brings a lump to my throat. I watch my dad and think back to when he was a little younger and was able to stand a little straighter and a little taller than he does now.

        These members of the "Greatest Generation" are living history. The Memorial Day festivities have great personal meaning for these extraordinary men and women and I believe it is up to our generation to perpetuate respect for what they have accomplished and sacrificed in their lifetimes. One of the wonderful things about a small city like Burlington is that we still have the ability to have a "small town" atmosphere that fosters appreciation for the accomplishments of this great generation. I have watched the crowd in the park grow larger over the last couple of years and find this encouraging.

        If you want to learn something about history and the way things were take the time to talk to a veteran or to someone who grew up during those times. Listen to their stories, they have a lot to say, they only need someone to listen. History is more than what’s written in books -- it's people and their stories and their lives.  Take advantage of your opportunities to learn about how things were and create some more memories for yourself.

Burlington's 1926 Homecoming

        In March 1926, Burlington's two weekly newspapers -- the Standard Democrat and the Free Press -- started running advertisements announcing an "American Legion Gift Campaign." Over seventy local businesses (listed on either side) were represented in the campaign, which was intended to bring to the attention of people living within twenty-five miles of Burlington "the advantages of trading in our city."

        During the campaign, which was to end with a "Homecoming" on June 30 and July 1, merchants would give a coupon with each purchase of one dollar. The recipient was to fill in the stub of the coupon with name and address, and then deposit it in a large container at the Agner garage on Geneva Street (now the Milwaukee Avenue site of Closet 2 Closet). Coupons were to be drawn on July 1 for over 100 prizes, with first grand prize to be a Studebaker Coach and second grand prize, a Ford Roadster.

        The "Homecoming" evolved into one of the largest celebrations in Burlington history, with band concerts by the Elks Band of Milwaukee, the Racine Legion Drum Corps, and the Burlington Harmony Band; two baseball games, with parades to each; speeches by former Burlington notables, including Henry Allen Cooper, who had grown up on West Street (now N. Perkins Boulevard); an automobile tour, vaudeville attractions; luncheons; and a pavement dance. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 people attended the first day, with somewhat fewer on the second day, which was hampered by several rainstorms.

        When the drawing for the prizes, the number of which had grown to about 300, was held in the evening of the second day, Franklyn Cook of Burlington won the Studebaker Six Coach and Mrs. D. Gleason of Genoa City won the Ford Roadster.


Holiday Treats

                                Contributed by Carlyne Klein

        At this time of year, when thoughts yearn for Easter and Spring, we dream of the beautiful sweet breads which were a part of many European cultures.

        Harva Hatchen in THE FLAVOR OF WISCONSIN recalls these specialties. As she says, they were embellished with nuts, raisins, dried and candied fruits. "In Germany, this bread was called Stollen; in Switzerland, Pear Bread; in Czechoslovakia, Vanocka; and in Norway - where that favored spice, cardamon, was added - it was Julekaka." Yugoslavians made Potica, with a delicate sweet filling.

        The reminiscences of a descendant who grew up with Vanocka are quoted. This was a braided loaf and in this family, it was made by the grandfather who experienced baking while a member of the Austrian army. Almonds, dark and light raisins, candied citron, vanilla, and mace were added to the sweet dough. "Grandpa started with a five-strand of dough for the bottom layer, then a four, then three, and a two on top." The raised loaf was taken to a baker, to be baked in a large outdoor oven.

        If you grew up with these traditions, wouldn't it be nice to learn how-to, and pass the art on to the next generation. Perhaps you might even know one of the lucky people who has a European style outdoor oven in their very own back yard. What an authentic experience that would be. Yum, yum.

The Last Pew - A Dangerous Place or A Place to Aid Others?

        A peculiar accident happened in St. John's Lutheran church New Years morning. Mrs. William Runzler was occupying the rear pew in the church. Right back of the pew a zinc shield keeps the heat from the people occupying the pew. Mrs. Runzler leaned back in her seat and a celluloid comb she was wearing in her hair came in contact with the zinc. In a flash there was an explosion and the comb commenced to blaze, setting fire to her hair. Mrs. Runzler hastened from the seat and bystanders put out the fire, but not before her hair had been badly burned and the scalp scorched. It was fortunate that people were near when the accident happened, as had she been alone results might have been serious.
                                                                                                                                      -- Standard Democrat, January 4, 1908

Humanitarian Award
        Congratulations to Society president, Doug Lind, who was recently named winner of the Burlington Rotary Club's Humanitarian Award for 2006. His commitment and service to Burlington and to various community organizations, including the Historical Society, since he and his wife, Carol, moved here in 1966 was recognized by this well-deserved award.

Old Cemetery Clean-up on May 13
        Mark your calendars for the morning of Saturday, May 13, when Society members and other volunteers will get together to rake leaves and pick up fallen twigs and branches at the Old Burlington Cemetery. We're hoping for a good turnout to honor the pioneers buried there and to get the Cemetery in good shape for visitors. The Old Cemetery is on the hill in the northeast corner of Burlington Cemetery.

Pioneer Cabin to Open May 13
        Pioneer Cabin opens for the season on Saturday, May 13, at 1:00 p.m. The Cabin is scheduled to be open on Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. through about mid-October. Thanks to our volunteer docents, a visit to Pioneer Cabin is always a pleasant, as well as interesting and educational, experience.