Newsletter - September 2005


Burlington Historian

September 2005

"Burlington" Available Now; "The BuR SPUR" Coming Soon

    One Society publication - a book of Burlington photographs - is now available. Another - an Underground Railroad tour guide - is being printed. It should be available in mid-September.
The photograph book, titled simply "Burlington," is a part of the Images of America series published by Arcadia Publishing Co. of South Carolina.  It was put together by Dennis Tully and Don Vande Sand, using about 230 of the thousands of photographs in the Society's collection.  The 128-page soft-cover book includes captions describing the scenes and giving some history of the subjects shown in the photographs.  A short historical sketch of Burlington introduces the images.

     The photographs are grouped in seven categories:  cityscapes and street scenes; stores, shops, and business vehicles; manufacturing and processing plants; houses - from humble to grand; churches and schools; landmarks and municipal facilities; and the near by lakes.

     The Society is selling the book, including state sales tax, for $21.00.  Mailed copies cost $23.50.

    "The BuR SPUR Trail" tour guide, in the form of a folding road map, will take tourists on a part walking and part driving tour of about 25 places in the Burlington, Rochester, and Spring Prairie area where Underground Railroad and abolitionist activities took place in the years before the Civil War.

     Included are places where Caroline Quarlls was sheltered during her 1842 overland journey to Detroit, from which she crossed into Canada; and where Joshua Glover was hidden before being taken to Racine in 1854 and put aboard a Great Lakes ship bound for Canada.

     The guide was put together by Don Vande Sand from material gathered over the years by the Society, and with several current Society members helping to identify the sites.  Sherry Schenning Gordon, of Gordon Graphics, contributed her graphic artistry skills, while Hi-Liter Graphics, LLC, the Burlington Historical Society, and the Burlington Rotary Club provided major financial support.

     Additional financial and other support was provided by many "Friends of 'The BuR SPUR' Underground Railroad Trail" whose names are listed below.

     Other support activities were contributed by Dr. William Stone, Dennis Boyle, and Doug Lind.

     The tour guide will be distributed, free of charge, to local, area, state, and even national tourist points, where those seeking information on interesting and educational places to visit, will be provided the opportunity to learn about the rich Underground Railroad and abolitionist history of the Burlington, Rochester, and Spring Prairie area in southeastern Wisconsin.


Henry W. and Nancy M. Cook
Robert and Susan Crane
Sherry Schenning Gordon
Mark and Mary Griffin
Jeffrey Kiekenbush
Ed Hill and Barb Kopack-Hill
William F. and Jeanne M. LaBelle
Doug and Carol Lind
Mark Lovrine
Dennis and Dian Lynch
The Mangold Family
Billy and Karin Kettelhut Mills
Ann Navera
Thomas and Doreen Ahler Ramsey
Gary and Terry Schildt
Ronald Kolman & Melanie Smith-Kolman
Robert and Delores Spitzer
Bill and Judy Stone
David Torgler
Dennis P. and Betty J. Tully
Robin Vos
Douglas O. and Heidi B. Webb
Al and Henrietta Vande Sand Family
John and Dorothy Zwiebel
Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce
Rochester Area Historical Society
Burlington Lumber Co.
First Banking Center
May's Insurance Agency
Grace Church
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church

President's Message

      This column in the newsletter is my opportunity to highlight the achievements, progress, and plans, both completed, or nearly so, and those we envision for the future.

      The Ice Cream Social on the last Saturday in July was a decided success. Our thanks to the members of the Burlington Area Garden Club who joined the Society volunteers to help "dish up" the goodies.

      The final details for the encasement of the Dyer monument in front of the Museum have been worked out.

     "The BuR SPUR" Underground Railroad tour guide is complete and has been sent to the printer.

      The new Burlington history book in pictures was recently introduced to the public with great response.

      We are indeed proud of these accomplishments and those volunteers who have unselfishly devoted themselves to their respective tasks. Our volunteers come from all walks of life but have a common thread among them of sincere enthusiasm for history, and the conviction to act upon it.

      Recently, a member of the Racine County Master Gardeners organization, Terrell Marchetti, came forth with the offer to produce a graphic "time‑line" of Pioneer Cabin. The purpose was to illustrate -- with pictures and text -- the somewhat nomadic history of a 150-year-old log cabin that is now in its fourth location. The accompanying photograph shows the results of her very colorful sign.

     That effort was enhanced further as Terrell then proceeded to re‑design and reprint the Pioneer Cabin's Vintage Garden brochure, which describes the plantings with detail.  Many thanks, Terrell !!

      I am also glad to report that there is a growing interest in revitalizing the living history program at Whitman School.  The program was entirely designed by Alice Petracchi (shown at right) after extensive research, and was a model of historical accuracy.  The experience, however, was sadly brief as her illness and eventual death closed the living history program without someone of similar expertise to carry on.

     Today we have in our membership, several certified teachers who are up the challenge and are eager to get started. Whitman School, built in 1840 and restored by the Burlington Historical Society in the mid‑1980s has been closed except for appointed tours, and will need some minor repairs  prior to welcoming classes again. We look forward to hearing that school bell ring!

     Now I look forward to our annual meeting in October and hope you will join us.

                Doug Lind

St. Mary's Cemetery

     While St. Mary's (then called St. Sebastian's) interment records start with the burial of 7-month-old Joseph Henry Schwerer on January 2, 1846, the earliest dated tombstone noted in a 1988 "reading" of St. Mary's Cemetery was that of 9-month-old Anthony Grass who died in 1844. The Grass tombstone is on the western edge of the cemetery about 200 feet from State Street.

     The cemetery's western edge was for many years part of the Village and City of Burlington's western boundary. The iron crosses (some shown at right) in the older sections near State Street were made in Burlington by the Wagner & Klein (later Wagner Brothers) foundry on what is now Commerce Street.

      The cemetery chapel (shown at left) was dedicated in 1894 in memory of Father Michael Wisbauer, who was the Catholic pastor in Burlington from 1847 until his death in 1889. The chapel is built over Father Wisbauer's burial site. The mason work was done by Frank Rueter and the carpentry work by Joseph A. Rueter. The altar in the chapel (shown below) is from Burlington's first Catholic Church, St. Sebastian's, which stood on the corner of McHenry and State (formerly Liberty) Streets, where the St. Mary's Church parking lot is now located.


Rebel Soldier at St. Mary's Cemetery?

     One of the Burlington Historical Society's "unsolved mysteries" is the location in St. Mary's Cemetery of a Confederate soldier's grave. Articles on Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) activities in 1875, 1876, 1880, and 1881 referred to the decorating of the graves of Civil War veterans, including Confederate soldier Joseph A. Kies. According to Confederate records, Joseph A. Kies, a member of a Louisiana unit, was imprisoned at Chicago and asked to be sent to Burlington when he was paroled.

     St. Mary's interment records do not show a burial of anyone named Joseph Kies, and his name is not on any tombstone listing. However, Henry J. Kies, a Burlington resident who spent winters in Louisiana for his health in the 1850s and who died in March 1864, is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery. It is possible that  Joseph and Henry were relatives.  If so, that may account for Joseph's asking to be paroled to Burlington and for his being buried here - if that is the case.
Grandpa's Letters: A Legacy

     by Helen Mollinger

      In the 'Memory Box' I've saved since I was a little girl are letters from my grandpa, a gentle man whom I respected, admired and dearly loved. He wrote in beautiful German script and signed each letter with his name drawn into a dove. Now when I take time to peruse these thoughts from grandpa, each letter kindles a special memory.

      Grandma and grandpa lived in a stately house high on a hill in the small southeastern Wisconsin town of Burlington. Weekend family trips from Milwaukee in our Jordan automobile were frequent, and each Sunday dinner seemed a celebration.

     After grace, grandpa -- a tall, handsome man with a commanding appearance -- raised his wineglass in a toast, and in robust voice led us in singing THE MARSEILLES, the national anthem of his beloved homeland. This was the signal for tiny bespectacled grandma, wearing a flowered percale housedress and rickracked apron, to served her feast, usually roast chicken, mashed potatoes, frenched green beans (which she'd stored in a kitchen crock), homemade bread, black currant relish (the Vitamin C of that era), apple kuchens and always baked beans that had been simmering in the woodstove oven since the night before.

      Their spacious yard was a child's paradise where we children played hide 'n seek, raced up and down the steep driveway or sledded downhill in winter. In spring, we delighted in picking dandelion love bouquets and weaving their long juicy stems into golden necklaces, or sending fuzzy blowball wishes to the wind. The young rosette-shaped dandelion plants were saved for grandma's hot bacon salads or her hot tonic tea.

      I cherished long summer vacations when I was alone with grandma and grandpa at this birthplace of my mother. Father would buy a fifty-cent ticket at the Public Service building for one passage to Burlington on the Rapid Transit Line, hand it (along with a Dutch Master cigar) to the mustached motorman and tell him I would be met at the Interurban station in Burlington.

      During those summers, in grandma's kitchen I learned how to measure flour from the fifty-pound bin, knead dough for bread and cinnamony kuchens, waterglass eggs and put up jars of fruits and vegetables -- I even carried them to the cold cellar. 

      And I recall many magical moments with grandpa, especially listening to stories of his childhood in Lorraine, France. He skillfully recreated scenes of the dark night when he escaped to avoid serving in the Prussian War, of his mother waving until she could no longer see him and, later, of the hope he felt when he caught sight of "the lady in the harbor."

      A master of many trades that included cabinet making, barbering and selling real estate, grandpa loved taking me to his downtown office where I could sit in his big swivel chair and write letters home. He was always interested in our family happenings and in my school work, and was proud when I studied French in school.

      As years passed and my visits became less frequent, grandpa and I kept in touch through letters. He kept me informed about goings-on in Burlington, and about his grapevines growing over the summerhouse. He also congratulated me on my school achievements. And when I became engaged to my Navy Lieutenant in World War II, 90-year-old grandpa sent me best wishes for a blissful union.

      Grandpa's letters! For me, they are renewed gifts of "words to live by" -- a legacy from a caring grandpa who accomplished much in 97 years of living. Symbols of strength, courage and love, grandpa's letters are time preserved.

Frank A. Schwaller

      Frank A. Schwaller, Helen Mollinger's grandpa, was born in France in December 1853 and emigrated to the United States in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War. After working in Michigan as a lumber camp laborer and barber, he came to Burlington in 1876.

      He established a barber shop on Geneva Street (now Milwaukee Avenue) at the site later occupied by the McCarthy Rueter Furniture store, Antique Alley, Rich's Tropical Fish & Pet Supply, and other businesses. Schwaller also sold gents' furnishings at his barber shop and, according to an 1879 newspaper article, had on draught lemon beer, a drink of his own manufacture.

      In 1881 he moved his barber shop to a building on the west side of Pine Street about where the Bank One drive-thru is now located.

      In 1888 Schwaller bought a building on the opposite side of Pine Street, which he occupied until his death in November 1950. He used the building, now being renovated, first as a barber shop and then as a music store. Later he began a real estate and insurance business, which he moved to the second floor, while he rented out the first floor to various businesses.

      Occupants of the Schwaller building over the years included Jacob Black's dry goods store; Al Reuschlein's shoe store; Cunningham's Five & Ten Cent store; Al Giannini & Narciso Andreotti's Elite Candy & Sweet Shop (Giannini subsequently sold his share in the Elite to Julio Marsili, who later also bought out Andreotti); the Cokes Me Inn; Elsie Kneubuhler's Elsie's Women's Wear; the Armed Forces Recruiting Station; Barb Bedessem's Buttonwillow - Country Art & Collectibles; and Classy Lady Resales.

Take These Along on Touring Trip
                                                    (Free Press, July 5, 1923) 

     Before going out on a tour of any considerable distance, be sure you have these extras with you:

         Spare innertube with a box of valves insides.
         Two extra spark plugs.
         Few extra bulbs.
         Pound of cup grease.
         Can of hand soap.
         Can of lubricating oil.
         Wiping cloths.
         Extra fan belt.
         Oil and grease gun.
         Extension luggage carrier.
         Roll of tire tape.
         Blue book.

     Besides, if baby is going along, a small hammock made especially for automobiles will relieve mother from holding him all the way.

Slipping of the Smile

         (Free Press, October 11, 1923)

     The annual slipping of the smile from the face of the ice man
 to the face of the coal man is now taking place.