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Weekly Column

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

For the week of 5/15/2022
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Summer hours will soon begin at the Vernon County Museum. Starting June 1, the museum’s public hours will be Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, and Saturday, 10AM to 2PM. Be sure to take advantage of the weekend hours, which only happen in the summer.

Until June 1, the museum will continue to be on spring hours, which are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM. Note that the museum will be closed on Monday, May 30, for the Memorial Day holiday.

The Wisconsin Historical Society’s travelling exhibit, "Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin", continues on display at the museum for just two more weeks, through Friday, May 27. Maps and photographs supplement the histories of Wisconsin’s waterways, drinking water, water conservation projects, and more.

Our own Vernon County water exhibit, “Drops of Water”, complements the travelling exhibit with local water-related objects. An old bamboo fishing pole of the type used by many local people years ago is on display, as is a wooden fish carved by Roger Hatlem and painted by Miriam Hatlem of Viroqua.

In a glass case is Swan Neperud’s account book for the Coon Valley Mill, covering the years 1881-1887, as an example of water as a power source. The Coon Valley Mill was built on Coon Creek, and the flowing water powered the mill’s equipment. The mill was used to saw lumber, grind flour and feed and barley, and card wool.

Activity sheets for kids of all ages are available to take home on your way out of the exhibit, including a brook trout coloring page, instructions on how to make a toy boat, and a word search of Mississippi River terms. All exhibits are open during regular museum hours, or at other times by appointment – call 637-7396 to schedule an appointment.

The Sherry-Butt House, the historic home at 795 N. Main Street in Viroqua, is gearing up for the summer season. The House is open for tours from 1 to 5PM on Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day weekend in May through Labor Day weekend in September.

We are always looking for new volunteers to serve as “hosts” at the House during summer weekends. If you would like to learn more about this volunteer opportunity, be sure to attend the Sherry-Butt House host orientation on Saturday, May 21, at 10AM. Orientation will last about one hour.


For the week of 5/8/2022
by Kristen Parrott, curator

May is Historic Preservation Month and Archaeology Month in Wisconsin, when we celebrate the preservation of historic and prehistoric places that help us better understand our past. Historic places include old buildings and cemeteries. Prehistoric places include burial mounds and caves with rock art.

Vernon County has an abundance of historic preservation projects and archaeological sites. 24 places in the county are listed on the State and/or National Register of Historic Places, including Coon Prairie Church and Cemetery south of Westby, the Harris round barn in the Town of Forest, and downtown Viroqua’s Masonic Temple building, which will celebrate its centennial this August.

The Wisconsin Historical Society tells us that, “The National Register is the official national list of historic properties in America worthy of preservation. It is maintained by the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The State Register is Wisconsin's official listing of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin's heritage and is maintained by the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Both the National Register and State Register include sites, buildings, structures, objects and districts that are significant in national, state or local history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.”

Of special note is the fact that Vernon County has more recorded archaeological sites than any other county in Wisconsin. Most of them are in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, and it was during the creation of the reserve that the sites were recorded. Hundreds of archaeological sites there are listed as one “district”, and it is that district that is on the National Register.

May also brings the celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17, Syttende Mai. Watch for the Vernon County Historical Society’s booth in the craft fair area at Westby’s celebration on Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15.

The Wisconsin Historical Society’s travelling exhibit about water, “Great Lakes Small Streams”, continues to be on display at the Vernon County Museum now through May 27. You can visit during regular public hours of Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, or by appointment.

Charles Lord House

The Charles Lord House in Ontario is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.


The previous two articles:

May 1, 2022

April 24, 2022