The Legacy of Names

written by Alison Breuner, Museum Assistant

Having grown up in Port Edwards, I have always heard the names of Edwards, Alexander, Witter and Mead. Though time has passed and names have changed, their legacies still surround the people of this region and give us opportunities.

It is through the Edwards and Alexander families I received my primary education. Across from what once was the Nekoosa Edwards Paper Co. and under the ever watchful gaze of the Statue of John Edwards Jr., I went to preschool in the South Wood County YMCA. My primary education was completed all through the Port Edwards school district. I walked the same terrazzo floor that stretches the length of the main hall of the John Edwards High School that 79 graduating classes had walked before me. The history of the town and the names associated seemed to be everywhere I looked and would even follow me further.

I attended Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, linked to Wisconsin Rapids by several members of the Mead family. George W. Mead served on the board of trustees for the college from 1958-1961; today the all-girls dormitory is named after him. His daughter Emily Baldwin Bell served as a trustee from 1960-1978 and donated nearly $700,000 through her lifetime. The dining hall, the Baldwin Commons, is named after her and her husband’s connections with the school. Ruth Barker, Emily’s daughter and George W. Mead’s granddaughter, gave money to build the geoscience wing in the Larson-Juhl Center for Science and the Environment;  more money to help renovate Wheeler Hall (where most of my time was spent);  left $1 million in her estate; and was a former director for the Mead Witter Foundation Scholarship which I received. It is something special to have had these names be there for every step of my education from pre-school through my Bachelor of Arts degree in History.

Before I could obtain that degree, however, I first needed to complete a semester-long internship. I have long dreamed of working in a museum. For a small town girl, museums were extraordinary in their abundance of primary sources. The internship enabled me to work in the archives, see beyond the exhibits, and communicate information to the public.  The summer before my senior year, I returned home and earned my credits by being the intern for the South Wood County Historical Museum that once was Isaac Witter’s family home. I was able to experience firsthand the archival experience. I am fortunate enough to go beyond daily operations at the museum by writing for the local history publication, Artifacts.

Today, a year after graduation, I am fortunate to work at the Museum as an assistant. I’m still learning things every day, from how to preserve archives, working on new exhibits and the keeping records of local history. It just seems right that after being given the opportunities I have through the pioneer names of this community that I can still learn, and in return give back to the community and help to continue to keep records of the history of this community.

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A Flurry of Activity at the Museum

written by SWCHC President, Phil Brown

Thanks to the efforts of our new Website Coordinator, Angelica Engel, the South Wood County Historical Corp. (SWCHC) has finally arrived in the 21st century.

I was once told that if it wasn’t available online, it didn’t exist. That was one of the reasons we began digitizing our extensive collection of photographs and documents in 2008.  Now with the help of Angelica, we are will soon be able to offer you many of these historic photos and documents illustrating the history of the South Wood County area.

Over the winter, we have seen a flurry of activity at the South Wood County Historical Museum.  One of the exhibit rooms on the second needed work done on the ceiling. While we were at it, we decided to paint the whole room. That meant moving everything out of the room and then putting it back together after the paint dried. This newly-updated exhibit features a “Remember When” theme, which includes grocery stores, meat markets, banks, drug stores, department stores, dairy delivery service, restaurants, service stations and our local brewery.  Thanks to Dave Engel, Lori Brost and a new volunteer, Faye Collier, for hard work and dedication to this project.

I am also pleased to announce that the Museum is open for its 35th year.  Since 1972, the former home of Isaac and Charlotte Witter and later the T.B. Scott Public Library, has offered our visitors a glimpse into the past.

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Summer Hours & Ice Cream Social Announcement

We open for the season this Sunday, May 28! Our hours that day are 1 pm to 4 pm.

Until Labor Day, we will be open to the public each week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm. The only exception to this is Tuesday, July 4, when we will be closed for the holiday.

We will also be open during Cranberry Blossom Festival for the following event:
Ice Cream Social and Cranberry Exhibit
June 17 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Stop by the South Wood County Historical Museum for a free scoop of ice cream while enjoying the blossoming grounds and exhibits, including the history of cranberries in our area.


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