Connected to One Another with History

written by Alison Bruener, Museum Assistant

As I prepare to welcome 2018, I begin to wonder what items will find their way to 540 3rd St. S. in the coming year. It’s been a busy year for museum staff. We’ve seen items unearthed from the attic and placed into exhibits for the public to see. New visitors ventured in throughout the summer, some with childhood memories of when the building was the T.B. Scott library. I’ve learned names of individuals who make up the history of our county, listened to stories from those born and raised here to those who moved here at some later point in their lives. I never know when someone I meet will have an event or time in their life when they  touched a historic part, not only their community, but the country as a whole.

I’ve countless times walked past a small lap desk on display under the Witter history in the back sun room of the Museum. It was only when SWCHC Director Emeritus Dave Engel gave me a brief history and assignment to find information of the original owner that I realized how interconnected everyone is.

Professor Chittenden, who came to the area in the 19th century, was a man of many interests. He was principal at Howe high school, worked on water quality in the area and discoursed at the Congregational Church.

But it was perhaps his life before Central Wisconsin that gained attention and took some further digging. Before moving to this area, Thomas W. Chittenden was a teacher in New York and possibly taught a young boy who would one day become a great figure in American history.

But, to learn that name you will have to wait for the next issue of Artifacts, where the story can be given in greater detail!

The past couple weekends, the Museum was open for the Christmas Tree Walk.  I am gladdened to see we had even more people walking through than we did for this event last year! Our Museum housed numerous trees in different rooms decorated by individuals, groups and organizations who are making history in South Wood County.

Here are some photos from this year’s event:

Upside-down tree from the 2017 Christmas Tree Walk


Billy Parker, military re-enactor, poses in the Buehler gallery


The Sun Room


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Slip Sliding into the Future

written by Angelica Engel, Website Coordinator

Recently, I have been editing, proofreading, and posting the class of 1965’s “Lincoln High Newsletter,” curated by Kent Vasby, whose wife is a member of that class. Vasby himself graduated from Fort Atkinson High School in 1958.

I graduated from Rapids Lincoln in 2008, so these folks graduated over 40 years before me. And, yes, I am aware that the Lincoln of 1965 was housed in what I knew as “East Junior High,” and that my high school building came into existence in the 1970s, after these individuals were well into their adult lives.

My father, Dave Engel, was a member of the class of 1963. As I was growing up, he interviewed truly elderly people. Now, he has instructed me to preserve historical documents from a graduating class two years younger than him. That would be like me getting old enough to think the class of 2010 has something interesting to say!

But what strikes me most, as someone hurtling toward her 30s, is that my high school years, too, will be considered of historical value someday. In fact, my elementary school (Rudolph Elementary School) is already history, as the building now houses a charter school called “Think Academy.” And, my middle school, West Junior High, is also home to another entity, Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School.

It’s beginning to dawn on me, a decade out from senior year, that it is actually possible for me to one day have graduated from high school 55 years previous.

I got to thinking about the WRPS schools I attended because Kent Vasby asked about what contributors remembered of their school buildings. Here is an example from Roger Fritz, April 27, 2017:

“Mead school was under construction when I started kindergarten. I had to walk past it on the way to Edison School. (Now the [site of] west side fire station).  We stopped to watch the workers building it [Mead]. I remember talking to one guy who told us he was a stock car racer and only did building for fun (I don’t think it was Dick Trickle).  Also recall the whole Edison crowd marching in line to the new shiny Mead. The Edison was very tall and dark. The Mead was very short and light colored. Both only had two floors. Bet they saved a lot on the cost of bricks and stair treads.”

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Lincoln High Newsletter Available to Read

We are happy to have added to both our Museum collection and our website the Lincoln High Newsletter circulated by Kent Vasby. Vasby’s wife is a member of the class of 1965, as are many of the contributors. In the Newsletter, Vasby suggests topics and often contributors reply based on those topics, or they supply other news.

We are working on posting a couple more of the extensive collection each day. You can read what we have posted so far here. If you would like to see complete print copies, please contact Lori to set up a time to come in to the Museum.

As an example of the stories the Newsletter contains, here is John Hesterman’s response to “What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done?”

In 1974, my wife and I had started our family and were getting settled into our first house. I was working for a large engineering company at the time and they asked if I would be interested in going to Iran to work on a project. Although we had some reservations, given our family situation, we agreed to pack up three children, ages 2 to 6, and move to Tehran for a year. Fortunately, it was a period of relative calm in Iran. The Shah was still in power and the United States was a strong ally. I could look out my office window and see the American flag at the US Embassy. The Embassy was also a great place to eat lunch, because it was the only place in the city with real American food. Little did I know that the Embassy would be overthrown just a couple of years later. We returned to the US before the revolution got started. Over all, it was quite an exciting experience for a young couple in their 20s.

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