Newsletter - September 2007


Burlington Historian

September 2007

Authors of Joshua Glover Book to Present Program
at Annual Meeting on October 21

    Ruby West Jackson and Walter T. McDonald, authors of "Finding Freedom - The Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave," will talk about their book and hold a book signing at the Society's annual meeting on Sunday, October 21, 2007. The program will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Ebbers Room in the Racine County Building at 209 N. Main Street in Burlington.

     Ms. Jackson, the great-granddaughter of slaves, has worked as a teacher and lecturer, community activist, and costumed interpreter of pioneer black women in Wisconsin. A recipient of the National Park Service's Network to Freedom award, she has served as the African American History Coordinator for the Wisconsin Historical Society and has written and consulted on black history and slave stories.

     Dr. McDonald spent 50 years as a forensic psychologist. During his 30-year collaboration with Ms. Jackson, he has mapped Underground Railroad routes into and out of Wisconsin and served as a script consultant for Rope of Sand, a play about Joshua Glover and the Fugitive Slave Act commissioned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for its sesquicentennial.

     Glover's Underground Railroad journey, following his capture in Racine and being broken out of the Milwaukee jail, included a stop in Rochester and stays of one to several days at a Dover farm, a Burlington house, and several farms in and near Spring Prairie township, after which he was put aboard a ship at Racine and taken to Canada. In the book, the authors chronicle, for the first time, Glover's life as a slave in Missouri before he escaped to Wisconsin; and the 34 years of his life that he spent as a free man in rural Canada.

     The authors will have copies of their book available for purchase and signing.

     A short business meeting, including the election of four members to the Society's board of directors, will be held prior to the program. Refreshments will be available following the program, which is open to all Society members as well as to the general public.

Society Loses One of Its Most Productive Members

      Doug Lind, former president of the Society, passed away in July 2007. Doug was one of the most productive members of not only the Society, but also of the Burlington community. More on Doug and his many contributions to the Society can be found below.

President’s Message

             This summer has moved along very fast. With the passing of Doug Lind, our past president, we have felt a great loss. Doug was an active member in all areas of our Society and on the Board of Directors for many years. He will be missed by all. Our condolences to his family.

            Our annual ice cream social, which was held in conjunction with Burlington's downtown Maxwell Street Days in July, was again very successful. We also had a large number of visitors to the Society's Pioneer Log Cabin during the social, as well as during the street dance in Wehmhoff Square in August.

            The building and renovation committee has been hard at work reviewing proposals for our museum addition. We have a lot of work ahead but are looking forward to the day work can get underway.

            Enjoy the days leading up to our usual Wisconsin autumn season.

                   Dennis Tully   

 Calling All Docents

           We are looking for volunteers to share the history of our Pioneer Cabin located in Burlington's Wehmhoff Square on Saturday afternoons. Come and observe the current docents now through October to become comfortable with your duties for the 2008 season, which runs from May through October. Commitment would be two to three Saturday afternoons during the season. What a wonderful gift to give our Burlington visitors!

          To volunteer or for more information or questions, please contact Jackie Heiligenthal, 262‑661‑4272.

Best Friends

          Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

           Remember when you were a kid how important your "best friend" was to you? The memory of the good times you had together stays with you down through the years. They were always there ready to listen, offer advice, sympathize and give us a boot in the rear when we needed it. Your best friend can be your sister, your brother, a neighbor, someone from your high school days or someone you just met. If you make that special connection with someone it doesn't matter if you've known the person all of your life or if it's a new acquaintance.

          I believe that friends entering and leaving our lives serve different purposes. They make our lives richer and fuller; they broaden our horizons and make us better persons for having known them. Doug Lind was such a friend – he made us all the richer for having known him. The Burlington Historical Society and the City of Burlington have lost a best friend in Doug Lind. Doug contributed much to Burlington and its citizens. His dedication, loyalty and hard work on behalf of all of us will be remembered for many years to come.

          I was privileged to have known Doug for just a short time but he impressed me so much with his knowledge and dedication to the things he loved. He made us all better persons for having known him and guided the Historical Society for many years in its efforts to make the citizens of this city proud of their heritage and aware of the importance of its history and the people who have gone before us. If you are very lucky, you meet someone like Doug Lind once in a lifetime. His influence on all of us will be felt for generations to come. It just proves that one life affects not just your immediate family but anyone you come in contact with. Whenever you think you don't count, think about Doug and look at how his life has affected all of us and made us better persons for having known him. With the passing of Doug Lind it feels like a piece of our puzzle is missing. I know with time we will find another piece to fill the hole he has left but it probably won't fit quite the same way Doug's piece did. Doug was a special person and his shoes will be hard to fill but we are all so lucky to have had the privilege of knowing him while he was here. Goodbye Doug, we'll miss you! 

A Community Treasure

             Although he always smilingly described himself as a "flatlander" from Illinois, Doug Lind's move to Burlington in the 1960s with his family was a blessing to Burlington and to several local organizations, especially the Burlington Historical Society. While always placing God and family first, Doug's participation and interest in their activities benefited many Burlington organizations, including the Police Department, the Arts Council, American Legion Post 79, several church groups, the early ChocolateFest committees, and the Burlington school district, as well as city officials, his fellow city employees, and many of his fellow citizens. But no organization benefited more than the Historical Society.

            Although he wasn't a Burlington native, Doug was intensely interested in preserving and sharing Burlington's history; and as a board member, vice president, and several-term Society president, he handled many aspects of the Society's functions and activities.

      While he will be remembered for several significant accomplishments, the one project Doug almost singlehandedly willed – and worked – into existence was the moving and preservation of Pioneer Log Cabin in Wehmhoff Square. Despite strong opposition from some quarters, Doug convinced the Park Board and city officials that the Square was "the place" for the cabin. He designed the site; raised the funds; spearheaded the dismantling, cleaning, and reassembly of the logs; designed the roof and upper portion of the cabin; and designed the interior, doing most of the decoration, furnishing, and upkeep of the cabin, and often buying, donating, and even making the furnishings that he could not find in the Society's collection. He also scheduled the cabin docents and served as a docent himself. His research into pioneer life and his ability to explain the pioneers' activities to all age groups was impressive.

      To complement the cabin, Doug designed and supervised the construction of a tool shed, which not only serves as a display of Burlington's agricultural history and pioneer farm families, but also provides electrical service to the entire Wehmhoff Square park. With Nick King, Doug removed the siding donated from an old barn and used it in constructing the tool shed. He also designed the Vintage Garden surrounding the cabin grounds, helped the Burlington Area Garden Club plant and maintain the Garden, and planted and tended the kitchen garden near the cabin.

      While Pioneer Cabin is Doug's number one legacy to the community, it is not the only legacy he left. Another of his strong interests was honoring many of Burlington's pioneers by making Old Burlington Cemetery, which had been neglected for many years, an attractive and visitor-friendly place again. He started and led annual efforts to clean up the old cemetery and remove unsightly brush and dying and down trees; and he mowed the cemetery as needed.

      He scheduled, coordinated, and helped conduct the majority of tours of Society buildings, including the Museum, the cabin, and Whitman School, by school children and other groups. Doug also conducted classes at Whitman School and headed various upkeep projects at the school building.

      As the Burlington area's Underground Railroad and abolition history emerged from archives and libraries, Doug took an active interest in making it accessible to the community and to tourists. He designed the lighted display case that now sits outside the Museum to house the original Dyer monument, one of Burlington's historic treasures; and he helped plan and was the master of ceremonies at the re-dedication of the monument.

     Doug's many other contributions to the Society included:

--     Coordinating and taking a lead role in conducting the Society's Ice Cream Socials, and the Christmas and other programs that the Society hosted.

--     Arranging for and coordinating the cleaning of the brick Museum building.

--     Collecting and cleaning artifacts from various buildings and sites purchased by the city for construction or redevelopment projects.

--      Keeping an eye out for historically important or interesting artifacts, documents, and photos that were no longer needed by the city and would otherwise have been discarded.

--     Buying and donating books, handicraft articles, and other items for the Society's collections and displays.

--     Serving as the Society's first representative on the city's Historic Preservation Committee, which developed guidelines and procedures for the historic preservation district, including the facade grant program.

--    Doug was an integral and self-giving member of the Society and his interest, enthusiasm, and expertise in Burlington's history will not soon, if ever, be replaced. Doug was and will always remain a community treasure. 

 Welcome to the Great Outdoors!

               Contributed by Priscilla Crowley

      One of the first things you learn when moving to a small town is that once you are not considered to be one of "those new people," you are completely absorbed into the fabric of small town life. If you look the least bit willing to volunteer your services, you are considered a definite asset to the community. Soon everybody knows your name, your spouse's name, the names of all your children, how they do in school and the names of most of your relatives and where they all come from.

      One of Lyon's big social events of the summer was the annual Fireman's Picnic and, of course, every male resident belonged to the Fire Department. It was just something that was expected of the male members of the community. Getting ready for this annual picnic took many nights of work out at the picnic grounds – they wired for electricity, set up tents, and of course they practiced for the water fights that would take place with other fire departments and they also set up the course for the annual tractor pulling contest. Sometimes we kids would get to go along – there really wasn't much for us to do but run through the woods chasing each other and just generally be a nuisance to everyone in general but it was great fun! The picnic grounds were really a cow pasture that a generous farmer turned over to the fire department each year. The cows were not impressed with the increased activity; they were more in favor of a quiet, laid back sort of existence.

    When the big tents were delivered, they would blow the fire whistle and every available man in town would rush out to the grounds to help set them up. Finally the night before the big event arrived, everything was ready – the food tent, the beer tent, the tractor pulling course, all the games, the pony ride ring, everything. Only one other thing was needed – someone to stay overnight at the grounds and make sure that everything was kept safe until the next day. Whoever did it would have to camp overnight in a tent, with a campfire and everything.

    This is the one and only time we ever went camping as a family. I'm still not sure how Dad got talked into it and I'm really not sure how Mom got talked into staying out there with him; and I sure don't know how all of us kids became part of this pioneer spirit but we did. It goes without saying that "Little House on the Prairie" we weren't. Our adventure that night did not lead to a lifelong love of camping for any of us. My Dad firmly believed that he had "camped enough" when he was in the army – he certainly had no desire to carry on this tradition. We three kids were dizzy with excitement! This was really going to be a 1st class adventure! Of course we didn't have any of the usual stuff you need for camping – no air mattresses, no sleeping bags; just our blankets and pillows and warm clothes. How bad could it be? Well we found out! The campfire part was fun, we got to toast marshmallows and tell stories and play games in the woods around our camping area. Chasing each other all around the picnic grounds after dark and scaring the daylights out of each other was the best. Nothing beats a good scare. By the time we got done, we were all looking over our shoulders waiting for someone or something to jump out and grab us. It was great! Then it was time for bed. Of course using the bathroom wasn't like at home – it was a tree, outdoor toilets or nothing. Our sleeping accommodations were not quite up to our usual standards either. Trying to find a comfortable spot to lie that didn't have a stone or a stick poking you somewhere was almost impossible. This led to a lot of whining, squirming, poking each other and general fooling around. Finally we started to quiet down only to hear all those strange sounds, you know, "things that go bump in the night." This led to more whining and complaining. Who knew owls made so much noise? And what was that rustling noise – maybe it was a bear or a coyote? No one ever said we were short on imagination.

    It was also colder than an August night had any right to be. So on top of no indoor toilets, no comfortable place to lie and all the noise, now we were cold; it was just one more thing. The glamour was definitely wearing off, the earlier enthusiasm was on the decline, and the pioneer spirit was gone. One look at Mom's face told the story – she was definitely not a happy camper. At this point it was probably only 10:00 at night – a long way to go before morning.

            I don't believe Mom and Dad slept all night. Mom probably thought there were critters in every shadow and she wasn't taking any chances; and Dad probably stayed awake because Mom was. Finally came the dawn and we were a sad sight. There we were – bedraggled, rumpled, hungry, none too clean and just a little on the ornery side, but we had made it through the night. We couldn't wait to go home and go to bed and just whose idea was this anyway? I know I never asked to go camping again. The only camping Mom ever wanted to do was in a motel or the comfort of her own home – forget the great outdoors! Looking back, it wasn't so bad – but isn't it amazing how your memories don't quite match up to what actually happened? I have retained enough common sense to know that I love the great outdoors but from a distance.

      The memories we share with our families about things we did together are just part of the tapestry of life. All these common, ordinary things are woven together to present a spectacular picture of everyday events that helped to shape our lives and our futures. It's what a large part of history is made up of – common ordinary events that leave a definite impression on future generations. While our little camping trip by itself didn't mean much, it didn't change the course of human events or influence any major changes in society; it nevertheless had an impact. Now 30+ years later others are enjoying the tale of this little camping trip and the younger generation of our family has been offered a glimpse of what life was like for their parents and grandparents. Share some of your stories with those you care about – it's like an individual history lesson. Don't keep these things to yourself; spread your knowledge around – it's too important not to.

Burlington's Cannons

             With Racine's cannon controversy in the news recently, it may be of interest to know that Burlington also had cannons at one time. In 1908 the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic received a cannon that had seen service in the Civil War. It came from an arsenal in Georgia and was set up at Burlington Cemetery. In 1920 the American Legion post received a 4.7 howitzer, 3,988 pound, 1913 type cannon, mounted on a carriage. That cannon was first set up on the Post Office (now Library) corner before being moved to the traffic circle at the intersection of Chandler and Perkins Boulevards, and then to the Memorial Hospital grounds.

            But neither cannon any longer exists. In October 1942 they were donated to a scrap drive that Burlington was having to support our country in World War II.