Newsletter - March 2007


Burlington Historian

March 2007

Dyer Monument Case Vandalized and Historic Sundial Stolen

Some time during the night of February 21-22, 2007, the plexiglass on the display case in front of the Museum was kicked in and the historic brass sundial that sat on top of the Dyer Monument was taken.

The sundial, an integral part of the monument, which also includes the engraved marble base, was donated to Burlington in 1935 by Katherine McKim Garrison Norton, wife of Dr. Dyer's grandson, Charles Dyer Norton. Mrs. Norton was the granddaughter of well-known Boston abolitionist publisher, William Lloyd Garrison, and of Philadelphia abolitionist James Miller McKim, who with his wife had accompanied Mrs. John Brown to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in December 1859 for Mrs. Brown's last meeting with her husband before he was hanged for treason.

The sundial is a truly significant Burlington treasure, whose historic value cannot be measured and which cannot be replaced. Its return, while probably unlikely, would be sincerely welcomed by Society members, by other historians, and by present and future generations of Burlington citizens.

President's Message

Now that our Wisconsin winter is winding down, I am sure we are looking forward to a great year. Our Society is getting geared up again for the Old Burlington Cemetery Clean‑Up, scheduled for Saturday morning, May 12th. We ask all who are able to spend an hour or more with your rake at the old cemetery grounds which are located behind the newer cemetery on Browns Lake Drive ( Hwy. W) just north of Highway 11.  Join us between 8 and noon.

Your Board of Directors will be presented with drawings and plans for a proposed addition of a second floor to the museum. We have been short of needed space for years and are anxious to make some adjustments to our building for managing our display and research areas. More information to follow.

A sad day at the museum occurred in February when it was discovered that the Dyer Monument display in front of the building was vandalized and the sundial portion of the monument was stolen. It would be great if someone would find it abandoned somewhere and return it to its rightful place.

We are always grateful to have items of historical interest from Burlington and the surrounding area donated to the museum. Spread the word to family and friends that we are always looking for older photos of the area and other memorabilia.

Enjoy the spring season.

                        Dennis Tully

Pioneer Cabin to Open May 5

Pioneer Cabin in Wehmhoff Square is scheduled to open for the 2007 season on Saturday, May 5. The cabin, furnished to resemble a post-Civil War family's home, will be open on Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. until mid-to-late October, weather permitting. Society member Connie Wilson is the docent coordinator this year, taking over from Doug Lind. Anyone interested in serving as a docent can leave your name on the Museum answering machine (262-767-2884) and Connie will get back to you.

The cabin, dating from about 1850, was moved to the Meinhardt estate in Burlington in the early 1900s from a farm somewhere south of Burlington. In 1960, Robert Fulton, a Meinhardt descendant, donated the cabin to the City to be used as an example of pioneer architecture. The building was then moved to Echo Park, where it was opened for tours and visits for several years.

In 1997, it was decided to move the cabin to Wehmhoff Square in downtown Burlington and restore it. The Historical Society, in cooperation with the City and with the help of numerous volunteers and financial and other contributions, disassembled the cabin, cleaned and treated the logs, rebuilt the structure as near as possible to its mid-19th century appearance, and re-opened the cabin in July 1999.

A tool shed, built by a Boy Scout troop to house the electrical control system for fixtures in and around the cabin and throughout Wehmhoff Square, was added to the site. The tool shed also serves as a display case for agricultural and other tools in the Society's collection.

Members of the Burlington Area Garden Club, who researched, planned, and planted the "Vintage Garden" which surrounds Pioneer Cabin, have maintained the Garden over the years.

Christmas Program Featured "The 2 B's"

The 2 B's — Bill Stoffel and Betty Siehoff — provided music at the Society's December 10, 2006, Christmas program. The duo played several Christmas favorites as well as some "oldies" from their repertoire. A Christmas tree, donated by Nick King, was decorated with ornaments from the Society's collection, and some of the Society's vintage Christmas and New Year's cards were displayed
The Underground Railroad stories of Caroline Quarlls (1842) and Joshua Glover (1854) are now on our website -- Read about their pre-Civil War journeys to freedom through our area.
Old Burlington Cemetery Clean-Up

The Society will hold its annual clean-up of the Old Burlington Cemetery on Saturday, May 12, 2007, from 8 a.m. until noon. About 100 graves are located in the Old Cemetery, including those of several pioneer families, such as Perkins, Hockings, Bushnell, Gadd, Appleyard, Boub, Brown, Heald, Mathews, White, Keuper, Kendall, Thompson, Sawyer, Fairbanks, Acken, and Toombs.

Members of the Burlington Historical Society and other volunteers, including students needing community service credit, are needed to rake leaves and pick up fallen twigs and branches to get the Cemetery in good shape for visitors. The Old Cemetery is on the hill in the northeast corner of Burlington Cemetery, which is located on Highway W, a short distance north of Highway 11.

While Society volunteers have also mowed and trimmed the Old Cemetery during several past summers, the Burlington Cemetery Association is going to be taking over that chore this year.

Addition of Second Floor Being Explored

The Society's Board of Directors is in the process of deciding whether to add a second floor to the Museum building. The need for additional storage and office space has been evident for several years, as donations and additions to the Society's collections have filled (and over-filled) the building. As anyone who has been in the Museum can attest, space is at a premium, with filing cabinets, boxes of artifacts, documents, folders, and binders in every accessible spot C and even in some nearly inaccessible spots.

The Society's collections of paper documents, photographs, and negatives are spread throughout the building, including under the display cases and in the basement. There are also fabric items that should be moved out of the basement to a more "fabric-friendly" environment. The "computer corner" has been sandwiched into existing space that takes away from available display space.

Additionally, the existing restroom facilities are located in the basement and are not handicapped-accessible. The project would also include installation of a restroom on the main floor that would meet the requirements of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Board has engaged Stelling & Associates Architects, Ltd., of Burlington, to assess the existing structure, to review the accessibility and structural detail requirements of both the City and State, to define options for a structural system to support a second floor, and to generate a preliminary scope drawing for review by contractors.

To help finance the project, the Board is considering a fund drive, which would be undertaken when more information is available on the project and its estimated costs.

Website Databases Updated

During the latter part of January and the first part of February 2007, the four searchable databases on the Society's website -- -- were updated based on research through November 2006.  It had been a little over 2 years since the previous update, which was based on research through September 2004.

The databases, which are in draft form and subject to change, contain information obtained during research of newspapers, books, cemetery lists, and other sources at the Society's Museum, at the Burlington Public Library, on the internet, and at other libraries and museums in the Burlington area.  The information, in summary form, is intended as a "finding aid" rather than a "primary source" in terms of historical and genealogical research.  The research is on‑going and will not be finished for several years.

The "People of Burlington and Vicinity" database contains upwards of 80,000 names, with married women listed under both their married and maiden names, if found in the source documents.  The companion database, "Marriages of People of Burlington and Vicinity," contains marriage information on over 18,800 couples.

The "People" and "Marriages" databases include references to the records (some starting in the 1840s and going through 1920) of several area Catholic Churches, including St. Mary's and St. Charles of Burlington, St. Mary's of Kansasville / Dover, St. Joseph's of Lyons, St. Kilian's of Bloomfield, St. Alphonsus of New Munster, St. John's of Paris, and St. Francis Xavier of Brighton.  These databases also include information from various censuses.

The "Events in Burlington and Vicinity: 1835 - 2006" database includes over 48,000 entries containing references to events that occurred in, or articles that mentioned, Burlington, as well as nearby towns and villages, such as Rochester, Lyons, Waterford, Brighton, Dover, Spring Prairie, Springfield, Kansasville, and other places.

The fourth database, "Burlington Homes & Farms," includes over 14,000 references to newspaper reports of people in the City and Town of Burlington buying, renting, or leasing homes or farms; building homes and barns; buying, renting, or leasing land; moving to or from residences or farms; making improvements; etc.

The items in the latter two databases were collected at random, and therefore do not include every such event that happened in Burlington or every such event that was reported in the newspapers.  The items are generally presented in summary or capsule form.  For the full newspaper articles, the user needs to consult the source documents, most of which are on microfilm at the Burlington Public Library.

Never People, Always Characters . . . .

                                   Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

 "Never people, always characters . . . ."  Have you ever heard that statement?  Growing up in our small village we were exposed to a variety of people and thinking back -- they weren't just people, they were characters.  While it's a given that your family greatly influences who and what you become, the people you meet and interact with greatly contribute to your experiences and as a result they also influence who you are and what kind of person you become.

Thinking back, I can't help but be amazed at the many diverse personalities who lived in our small village.  There was Art the Barber.  When you went to Art for a haircut, it was like going to Las Vegas.  You never knew what kind of haircut you would get.  It all depended on how many customers had been there ahead of you and how lucky you were.  Since the Barber Shop was conveniently located next door to one of the local taverns, many of the customers bought a beer for the barber.  If the barber had a large number of customers and you were one of the last ones, you got a haircut that was certainly original in design and one of a kind.  Sometimes the only consolation you had was that hair always grows back.  Art's haircuts were the cheapest around so he had tons of customers who thought it was worth the gamble.  Friday and Saturday were his biggest nights; all the farmers came to town for their haircuts.  Sometimes they would really get brave and ask him to trim their bushy eyebrows.  There was many a farmer who showed up in church on Sunday with an "original haircut" and eyebrows that defied description.

Miss Lizzie was a maiden lady who lived very quietly in our village.  You hardly knew she was there.  She went to church every single day and always sat in the same pew near the front of the church.  She carried herself with elegance and grace, and had snow‑white hair.  She always wore the same black coat and black hat to church.  Her hat had a long black feather and she always wore a silver brooch on her coat and always wore sensible black shoes. She lived with her bachelor brother in a small, unpainted house less than a block from the church.  She would go to the store and buy two slices of bread, maybe an apple, a stick of butter, a pint of milk, or maybe a couple of slices of lunchmeat if she really felt like spending.  She took her purchases home in the black bag she always carried.

After we moved to Lyons it didn't take long for people to find out that my dad was always willing to help people out with whatever he could.  One day Miss Lizzie came knocking on our door looking for Mr. Al.  She had a furnace problem; it wasn't working and she needed help.  Of course dad packed up his tools and went to her house.  He was gone most of the day and when he came home he told mom that he had finally fixed her furnace but that he had felt sorry for her because from the looks of the inside of the house she didn't have much.  He was sure she had to live very frugally just to get by.  He couldn't bring himself to charge her for all of his time so he only charged her 50 cents for all of his work.  This happened several times, she would appear at the door looking for Mr. Al because she had a problem with the furnace or her plumbing or something, and dad would go over there and straighten out whatever was wrong and charge her 50 cents.

Then one day the lady from the grocery store was talking to dad and asked him if he had been doing work for Miss Lizzie and of course he said he had.  She then informed dad that when Miss Lizzie came in to buy her supplies she would often times bring several dividend checks to be cashed.  It seems that Miss Lizzie and her brother didn't really have to live that frugally, they just did.  Dad was shocked and more than a little dismayed to find this out.  He told mom next time he was going to charge her more.  Well the next time came and he just couldn't bring himself to do it.  He raised his price to 75 cents.  But Miss Lizzie's heart was in the right place -- at Christmas time she would show up at our house with homemade jelly or some other baked goods.  Mom used to tease dad about his lady friends, because there was a regular parade of little old ladies who would come knocking on our door or call the house looking for Mr. Al.  Miss Lizzie was not the only one to show up with homemade things at Christmas time; we never knew who would be standing at the door with jelly, jam, cookies, and once we were given homemade rag rugs.

One of dad's little old ladies was Miss Sarah.  Miss Sarah actually lived outside of the village in a ramshackle old house that had seen better days years ago.  The house is gone now but in its day it looked like the perfect place for ghosts and goblins to inhabit.  She lived alone with her sheep and chickens and probably a few dogs and cats. To say that she was a true eccentric is an understatement.  She would show up at our house with her hair in its usual style -- wild and unkempt looking.  It always looked like she had started out pinning it up in a bun but the bun never stayed put.  Sometimes she wore an old housedress or a pair of men's blue jeans with big old rubber boots and a denim barn coat.  She was quite a sight.  Her glasses were always falling down off the bridge of her nose and she had to constantly push them up so she could see out of them.  Miss Sarah was a special case; she wasn't like anyone else dad dealt with.  She always had problems with her old cook stove and she didn't have a regular furnace -- she had one of those old space heaters and it was temperamental and probably as old as she was.  It seemed like her problems always occurred when it was pouring rain or snowing or so cold you couldn't stand to be outside.  One night dad got a call from her, she couldn't get her cook stove to work; she couldn't figure out what was wrong; could Mr. Al come?  Poor dad, with a deep sigh, he looked out the window at the swirling snow, put on his boots and his heavy coat and headed out the door.  Several hours later when he came back he was chuckling to himself and told mom that this visit was definitely the most interesting one he had so far.  She had sheep in the house to keep them warm so they were sort of milling around the kitchen along with a variety of cats and at least two dogs.  When he went to check out the cook stove, he opened the oven door and a live chicken came flying out of the oven flapping and squawking.  She had sort of been nesting in there.  Needless to say dad and the chicken were both a little startled.  Miss Sarah on the other hand only commented, "Hmm, I wonder how that got in there?"  He told mom it was the darnedest thing he had ever seen and that it was a good thing he had his flashlight with him because Miss Sarah only used oil lamps and candles.   He was just covered in soot and ashes; he said the stovepipe had been plugged solid; it was no wonder the stove wouldn't work.

The nuns who inhabited the convent at St. Joseph's also knew who dad was.  One night he got a call from the Mother Superior; their furnace was not working; could Mr. Al come and take a look at it?  Dad packed up his tool kit, grabbed his flashlight and off he went.  He came home and told us that Sister Everista had told him that she had tried her method first -- she whacked the furnace really hard with a hammer not once but several times and prayed that it would start.  He told her that the praying part was fine but that whacking it really hard with a hammer probably wouldn't help.  The nuns didn't only call on dad for repairs; very often they would call to find out if he was available to give them rides.   Once when they found out we were going to Milwaukee to visit Grandma, they asked if Mr. Al could drop them off at their Mother House on Lakeshore Drive and then pick them up when we were ready to go home.  Can't you just see all of us crammed into our old Buick -- mom, dad, three kids and two nuns in full black and white habits?  One of the twins got to sit up front with mom and dad, the other twin and I got to sit in the back with the nuns.  Oh happy day!  You didn't dare fidget or poke anyone or whine or call anybody names and what kind of a conversation do you carry on with a nun when you are only 12 years old and your brother and sister are 8?  It was a really long trip; it seemed like it went on for hours and hours and then there was the long ride home to be faced.  Riding home you just knew that an explosion was coming; mom's only hope was that it would wait until after we dropped the nuns off.

I have come to the conclusion that everyone you meet is a "character" -- there is no such thing as "just plain people."  How boring it would be if everyone were the same without anything to distinguish him or her from their neighbors.  These people all have a place in the fabric of our lives. They help to make our lives colorful and full of enthusiasm and the zest for living.  Memories are so precious and these people are all a part of the lives we have created for ourselves.  Miss Lizzie, Miss Sarah, Art the Barber, and all the rest are long gone but they still live on and have left an invaluable legacy to all of us.  Wherever there are memories, a part of you lives on and how wonderful it is to think about that.  Don't let your memories die out with you.  Share the wealth.  Pass it on.  It's too important not to.