Newsletter - March 2009


Burlington Historian

March 2009

Museum's Second Floor Nearing Completion; Remodeling of First Floor and Restroom Progressing

The Museum's second floor has been plastered and painted, the track lighting has been installed, and, except for the choir loft, the floor has been carpeted. At the time this is being written, we are in the midst of moving the contents of the first-floor storage "pod" to the new second floor so the finishing work on the first floor, as well as the new first-floor restroom, can be completed.

Once the first floor is finished, we can start moving some of the offsite-stored display cases back in, reinstall some of the previous displays, and create new displays and display areas. We also intend to paint the basement walls and reinstall much of the basement shelving that had to be dismantled to provide space to dig the footings for the posts that are supporting the second floor.

The Board of Directors has not yet determined when the Museum will be officially reopened, but is considering the possibility of opening the Museum to visitors in stages as groups of displays are finished.




















     Top left -- New second floor
   Top right -- Remodeling in progress on first floor

     Bottom left -- Portion of original church decoration uncovered during renovation; the decoration was covered again by wallboard
        Bottom right -- New stairs, looking down from second floor.

Lincoln School Building's 150th Anniversary and Lincoln's 200th Birthday Celebrated at Annual Meeting

The ringing of a hand bell calling the "class" to order opened the Society's annual meeting on February 8, 2009, at the 150-year-old Lincoln School building. After a short business meeting, which saw the re-election of Roger Bieneman, John Smith, and Dennis Tully to the Board of Directors, and the election of Dennis Boyle to succeed Rose Buse whose term had expired, Civil War historian Lance Herdegen (above right) entertained the audience with stories of Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln's interaction with Wisconsin soldiers during the Civil War.

Artifacts and photos related to Lincoln School and to Lincoln were also displayed. The photos of Lincoln School, the playground, and some of the past classes especially sparked the interest and stirred the memories of many in the audience who had attended the school.

Attendees at the Society's annual meeting (left) listen to Lance Herdegen (right) during presentation.

President’s Message

The renovation of our museum is well underway. The second floor is almost finished and the main floor is now being completed. Our plans include a "research - library" area on the second floor for easy access to some of the extensive records pertaining to genealogy and Burlington-area history and our huge inventory of historic photos of our area. We are now in the design mode as to how our artifacts and various treasures will be displayed. There are a lot of decisions to be made yet, but we hope be open again by this fall.

The program that was presented at our annual meeting at Lincoln School was well attended. We all learned a lot about our great President Lincoln and the rapport that he had with some of the Civil War soldiers from our Wisconsin units that was mentioned in correspondence with family members during the war.

I hope we have an early spring this year that enables us to get outdoors and enjoy our great Wisconsin communities.

             Dennis Tully

Mt. Hope Cemetery

Ned Farley, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, is planning a fourth session in the clean-up and mapping of the pioneer Mt. Hope Cemetery sometime this spring. The plans include searching for additional graves using a ground radar device.

Pioneer Cabin to Open May 2; Docents Needed

We are planning to open Pioneer Log Cabin for the 2009 season on Saturday, May 2. Jackie Heiligenthal and her group of dedicated docents will again host visitors to one of Burlington's treasures. The Cabin, which is located in Wehmhoff Square just a block north of the Museum, will be open Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 until about mid-October. We also plan to have it open again some evenings in conjunction with Burlington's Farmers' Market.

Additional volunteers to handle the docent duties are needed and would be appreciated. Anyone wishing to join this dedicated group can contact Jackie at 262-661-4272 (home) or 763-4943 (work).

Soft Soap

The December 2008 newsletter included the story of a confrontation in November 1863 between two Dover residents: Isabella Crawford, whose brother Nathan had been killed at Chickamauga, and John Russell, a Civil War opponent whom Isabella had "bumped" to the ground after Russell had insulted her brother's memory. The following story from the Burlington Standard of July 20, 1864, recounts a subsequent incident in which Mr. Russell received another dose of "comeuppance."

A few days ago a fracas occurred in the town of Dover that led to a somewhat singular result. A good union soldier, John Schofield, passing by the house of Mr. Russell (the same respectable gentleman who insulted Miss Crawford some time ago, and that wishes that every Union Soldier may be killed that goes to fight against the rebels), asked Mr. Russell for a drink of water, which Russell refused to let him have. John told him he wanted a drink of water, and more than that, he meant to have it; and forthwith proceeded to the well to draw a pailful.

Mr. Russell drew out a pocket knife, but on second thought he darted into the house. Whether he was afraid of his own cold steel, or wished to avail himself of something more effective, or on more mature consideration came to the conclusion that discretion was the better part of valor, as John having faced the bayonets of his (Russell's) brother rebels, which being a little longer than his jackknife and consequently more dangerous, it would not be prudent to use the knife – very wisely he did not use the glittering steel.

In the meantime, John having coolly had his cooling drink, very coolly proceeded to use a pail that stood close by, and dipped it twice into a soft soap barrel that was unfortunately in the way, and after filling his pail he found it necessary to empty it before again filling it, and the well being convenient, and there being room enough, he very thoughtlessly emptied the pailful of soap into the well. A very foolish thing, for although a little soft soap will do wonders with people, and it is presumable that Mr. Russell would form no exception, yet it is very questionable, whether if Mr. Russell had been consulted (although he might not have objected to be soft soaped himself) that he would have liked to have his well treated to the same delicacy.

John having mixed the liquor departed on his way, and is now on the road to rebeldom to help to give the rebels something a little worse than mixed liquor. May God speed him and his comrades.

At the time of the "soft soap incident," Schofield, shown sitting right in the photo, was back in Wisconsin after having been captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and, with the others shown in the photo, escaping from Danville prison in Virginia.




These five soldiers, all from western Racine County, were captured in September 1863 at the Battle of Chickamauga and imprisoned at Danville, Virginia. They escaped from Danville and made their way back to the Union lines. After a furlough in Wisconsin (during which the "soft soap incident" occurred), the five men returned to their units and served out their terms of enlistment.


The Well-Equipped Dental Office in 1873

Dr. George A. Sherwood, a Civil War veteran, was a dentist in Burlington in the 1860s and 1870s. He had his office in several different locations during that time, including the second floor of the building on the corner of Pine and Chestnut Streets now occupied by the Chase Bank, on the second floor of what is now John’s Main Event at 556 N. Pine Street, and in the triangular storefront now occupied by The Electric Chair at 136 E. Chestnut Street. At the time Dr. Sherwood was located in what is now the Chase Bank building. Henry L. Devereux, editor and publisher of the Burlington Standard, described his visit there in an article titled "Multum in Parvo" (i.e., much in little) in the January 16, 1873, issue of the Standard.

As you read Devereux’s article, recall that, at that time, dentists devoted themselves primarily to removing diseased teeth and inserting artificial dentures. They extracted teeth with forceps or a tooth key (a primitive tool like a ratchet wrench), cleaned teeth with scrapers, and removed cavities with hand instruments. They filled cavities with tin, silver, gold foil, or lead. Dentures were carved from ivory or fashioned from cattle teeth. Recall, too, that there were no electric drills – Burlington did not have electricity until the late 1880s – and that X-rays were not discovered until 1895.

"Multum in Parvo" – Something Worth Seeing

During a call the other day at the Dental Rooms of Dr. George A. Sherwood, our attention was arrested by a Case of Dental Instruments which it was impossible for one to see and not admire – although a painful idea is associated with their use. But nevertheless if we must submit to have our teeth operated upon, it is certainly a pleasure, if not an agreeable one, to have the best instruments that can be made for this purpose.

On enquiry the Doctor informed us that the Case and Instruments were made in Philadelphia; and purchased by him at a great expense.

The Case is made of rosewood; the corners bound and ornamented with brass, making it strong and durable. There are five drawers and two trays, all furnished with locks and keys. The whole is lined with silk velvet and the instruments nicely fitted into their respective places.

In the Instrument line there seemed to be everything the mind could conceive. We counted 24 beautiful 5-8 inch pearl handled Pluggers, with solid gold ferrules. (Pluggers were used for packing and condensing filling material for caries.) A pearl handled hand Mirror of exquisite workmanship, and pearl handled mouth Glass. A pearl handled Gum Lance, 27 ivory handled instruments for special use, with many other instruments all adapted to the profession.

We had well nigh forgot to mention those 17 pairs of ugly looking forceps, as they lay snugly packed away on their silk velvet bed. They were of the finest construction and looked very peaceable indeed resting in their rich case – but an involuntary shudder made us feel that we would not like to have them thrust into our mouth very often. However, if teeth must come out these are the Instruments to do it with as little pain as the case will admit of.

In addition to this elegant set of instruments the Dr. has plenty more to perform all Dental Surgery in the best and most scientific manner. He will hold himself in readiness to answer all calls – and to relieve pain as quickly as possible.

Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here!

                                  Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

I just love it when there is a chance to gather all the family members for a big old-fashioned picnic. There is just something so heart warming about seeing cousins and kids and more kids and grandparents and aunts and uncles all gathered in the same place. Just knowing that you all share memories of days gone by and that you share that special bond of being family -- there's nothing like it. I don't care how far apart your family drifts, when they all get together it's like rolling back the clock, the years disappear and you don't see anyone as getting older, you see them all as they were. When you see their children and grandchildren you are looking into your family's future.

Recently a branch of the family had their annual family reunion and Dad and I were invited to attend. These are cousins we saw quite a bit of when I was a little girl. They lived on a farm right outside of Burlington and Dad used to help out during haying season and once in a while with whatever else needed doing. It was one of my favorite places to visit. Even though we lived in Lyons -- which was more of a village than a town; we were still not farm kids -- we were town kids, but not city kids. We at least knew what the business end of a cow was for and where milk came from. I had cousins who lived in the city who had no idea that milk wasn't manufactured in the grocery store. The farm was a fascinating place -- there was always something going on. To us it was a great place to visit but to our cousins it was a whole lot of work that never really ended and pretty much went 7 days a week year round.

My first memories of the farm take me back to when farms still raised their own chickens and pigs for meat. They would have huge vegetable gardens for canning food and it seemed that the whole day revolved around getting meals ready for the family. They would no sooner clean up after breakfast when it was time to think about lunch and after lunch it was time to think ahead to supper. I don't think the frying pan ever had a chance to really cool off. My aunt and uncle had 5 children and my Dad's two younger brothers also lived with them. That meant that my aunt and the girls were cooking for a minimum of nine people for each meal. That didn't include people like us who just happened to be there -- that added another five people to the mix. That's a lot of cooking! My aunt had this huge kitchen table and it seemed like there was always room for more people at the table -- everyone fit around it somehow. My memories of meals eaten around that table are some of the nicest ones I have. There was always laughter and tons of conversation, always more than enough food and that special feeling of family and belonging.

Believe it or not I was pretty quiet as a child so when I would be in the midst of my cousins I was more of an observer than someone who took part in the conversations and the teasing that took place. They absolutely fascinated me. They were an outgoing bunch and lots of fun to be around. No matter what time of the day you arrived, there was always something to do. They weren't at all shy about letting visitors "help" with their numerous chores. But to us it wasn't work -- it was just exciting stuff. I had my first up close and personal introduction to chickens on that farm. I can remember carrying the egg basket so my cousin could fill it with eggs. I thought chickens were scary things -- always flapping their wings and clucking and raising a fuss. Handling the baby chicks was a whole lot more fun than dealing with their grown-up counter-parts. I also found that feeding the pigs was an interesting job. They had absolutely no manners, they smelled bad and made a lot of noise. They were interesting to watch but smelly to be around. It certainly gave me a different view of the pork chops Mom served for supper. I loved being out at the farm during the haying season. It was hard, dirty, sweaty work for the guys but we kids only had to worry about hanging on tight while riding around on the hay wagons. You don't see much of that anymore but back then they thought nothing of tossing us up on top of the hay bales and letting us ride back to the barn. How ever did we survive - no seat belts, no helmets, and no safety nets of any kind?

How different it was to visit the farm after all the children were grown and gone and my aunt and uncle had retired from farming. The buildings were all still there but everything was silent and had that closed up look. No hustle, no bustle, no roosters crowing, no noisy farm machinery, no cows mooing in the distance, none of the noises I came to associate with visiting the farm. My aunt and uncle are both gone now but the house and the buildings are still there. Someone different lives there and it is no longer a working farm. When I drive by I still see the house as it was with constant activity, populated with my cousins and relatives and friends coming and going. If I close my eyes I can still catch a faint whiff of fresh mown hay as it lay in the fields and I can still see all of us sitting around that huge kitchen table, hear the laughter and the buzz of conversation, the good natured teasing, the discussions that revolved around the weather, planting, the price of milk, what needed doing and who was going to do it. I can see the jars of peanut butter and jelly that were always present, the worn oil cloth table covering, the gray flooring and the red figured wall paper that covered the walls. To be a part of this vibrant, active family for even a short time gave me a wonderful feeling of belonging.

All of us are grown now and our children now have children of their own but when we all get together, the memories come flooding back and suddenly we aren't grown up men and women, we are still the same kids who laughed and played and worked together years ago. Those memories of times past keep us young and help the younger generation to understand what came before them. I love to hear my Dad and his sisters talk about what went on when they were kids. Dad also came from a large family and I know money was not very plentiful for them. He talks of selling fresh vegetables to "rich folks" for his mother to help support the family. They moved around quite a bit and I don't believe he attended the same school for more than 1 year. Tough to make friends and get an education that way. The point is what we experienced as youngsters and what our parents experienced are part of why we turned out as we did. Would I be a different person if I never had the opportunity to visit my cousins on the farm? Fundamentally, probably not. But I like to think that those experiences added a richness to my life that would have been missing had I not been presented with those opportunities. Share the stories, both the funny and the sad; they are part of you and make someone else's life richer for hearing about the way things were.