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Each week a small segment of Vernon County history is published in the county papers.

by Kristen Parrott, curator
for the week of 4/19/2017

What does it take to run a small historical society? Volunteers. Lots of them.

This year, National Volunteer Week will be celebrated from Sunday, April 23 through Saturday, April 29. Let's look at a typical week in the life of the Vernon County Historical Society's volunteer program.

Monday: Inventory volunteer arrives at 10:15 and works until 4, continuing the multi-year project of inventorying every single item in the museum's collection. Daily volunteer (each comes in once or twice a month) works from noon to 4, filing obituaries. Volunteer bookkeeper arrives at 1 and works for a couple hours, recording financial transactions and preparing reports. "Pages of the Past" volunteer works from 2 to 4 doing research and writing.

Tuesday: Inventory volunteer arrives at 10:15 and works until 4. Daily volunteer arrives at noon and works until 4, reading through extra copies of old local newspapers and cutting out pertinent articles. Volunteer cookie bakers drop off cookies for evening program. Volunteer program coordinator arrives in the afternoon to help set up for the program, and comes back that evening to help run it.

Wednesday: Volunteer treasurer arrives at 8 and works for an hour paying bills and preparing a bank deposit. Inventory volunteer works from 10:15 to 4. Daily volunteer arrives at noon and works until 4, preparing a large mailing. Capital Campaign volunteers stop in to check their mailboxes for new work. Volunteer webmaster works at home, updating our website.

Thursday: Volunteer genealogy class instructor arrives at 9:30 to prepare for and then teach the monthly one-hour class. Inventory volunteer arrives at 10:15 and works until 4. Daily volunteer works from noon to 4, indexing a scrapbook. Maintenance volunteer works on landscaping for half an hour, and then helps staff with indoor maintenance projects for another hour. Volunteer board members work at home, preparing for the next week's board meeting and writing articles for the quarterly newsletter.

Friday: Inventory volunteer arrives at 10:15 and works until 4. Daily volunteer works from noon to 4, researching the histories of local people and places. "Pages of the Past" volunteer works from 1 to 4 at research and writing. Volunteer newsletter editor works at home on next newsletter.

This is really just scratching the surface, as many more volunteers are involved with projects and events and the general operation of the organization. If you would like to join this busy crew, call Kristen or Carol at 637-7396.

Thank you, volunteers!


by Kristen Parrott, curator
for the week of 4/12/2017

"War Declared!" announced a small headline on the front page of the Vernon County Censor on April 11, 1917. No giant type across the top of the page, no photographs of a nation preparing to enter the Great War - just one column of information in amongst stories of the spring election and other news. The article noted that President Wilson "solemnly warns all subjects of Germany within our country to keep within bounds in action and speech," a pointed remark for a state with a very large German immigrant population.

The museum is preparing new exhibits to mark this 100th anniversary of World War I. The first exhibit is already up, featuring colorful "souvenirs" that soldiers purchased as gifts for their loved ones. These weren't so much souvenirs of the war as souvenirs of the places where the soldiers were sent. Most of the items on display are from France, where the majority of those sent overseas spent time during and after the war.

Handkerchiefs embroidered with flowers, flags of the Allies, and the words "Souvenir de France" were very popular, and we have several on exhibit. A handkerchief was pretty and lightweight, a good gift to mail home to mother or to carry home to your sweetheart. Also on display are pillow covers with the same type of design. Making and selling souvenirs to British and American soldiers was an entire industry for the French during and after the war. This exhibit and other military exhibits are found on the 3rd floor of the museum.

If you are looking for an interesting spring drive, remember that Vernon County boasts its own Black Hawk Trail driving tour. The trail follows, more or less, the path that the Sac warrior Black Hawk and his band travelled in July and August of 1832 as they fled across southern Wisconsin toward the Mississippi River, pursued by U.S. soldiers and state militia.

Nearly 100 years later, local historian C.V. Porter erected markers at several key points along the trail in Vernon County, etching stories about the end of the Black Hawk War into stone. 25 years ago, the Vernon County Historical Society worked to preserve these markers and created a driving tour that stops at each one.

The research, writing, and initial printing of the Black Hawk Trail brochure was sponsored in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Council is funded almost entirely by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Copies of the trail brochure are available at the museum and also in small brochure holders at each of the markers. The brochure is now also available for download at our website, vernoncountyhistory.org.

Black Haek Trail MArker

Black Hawk Trail Marker No.3


To read the previous two articles click on the following links:

April 5, 2017

March 29, 2017

*You can find the original newspaper copy in the museum. Ask one of the staff for assistance.