September 2011 Newsletter

September, 2011                                                                                        Volume 9, No. 1


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

7:00 p.m.

Lakefront Community Building

Note the building location:  the Lakefront Community Building is in Lakefront. Park, just go under the arch and to the left.



Ed Janus, author of the newly released book:

Creating Dairyland:  How Caring for Cows Saved Our Soil, Created Our Landscape, Brought Prosperity to Our State, and Still Shapes Our Way of Life in Wisconsin


Janus will be speaking and signing his book, a fascinating and very readable account of how Wisconsin became the “Dairy State.” Janus’ book, published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, takes a new and refreshing look at how dairying became the number one type of agriculture in the state, then follows up with stories of real people behind this type of agriculture.  Instead of looking only at the economics and politics of dairying, Janus’ book explains how dairying affected local, social, and landscape history in Wisconsin.  He brings the story up to date by looking at the new face of dairy farming, including the development of modern herds and the organic dairy movement. 

This is a book any history lover will want in their library and our program offers you an opportunity to not only get the book, but to meet the author and hear him speak.  Dairying was, and is, important in the Whitewater area and its history can tell us a lot about why our rural towns look the way they do and how this type of agriculture created good times for rural families in the twentieth century. 

Historical Society Plans for the Year

Welcome to a new year for the Whitewater Historical Society.   During the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2012, the society will have a full agenda of programs and activities.  Here are some of the highlights.

  • The bids for the restoration of the depot museum are being read as this newsletter is publishing.  As soon as a contractor is selected, a work schedule will begin.  That means that finally we will be looking at a start in the actual work at the depot building. 
  • Programs have been set for our meetings for the year. 
    • This month’s program is shown on the front page of the newsletter. 
    • In November our program will be at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s AreaResearchCenter in the Archives of the UWW Library. 
    • In January, we will have Marcia Carmichael of Old World Wisconsin who will be speaking about her book “Putting Down Roots,” a fascinating look at historic gardening.
    • In March, we will be showcasing Whitewater collectibles; historic items related to Whitewater that have been collected by local people.
    • May will, of course, be our annual meeting.
  • Installing our first exhibit in the depot museum after restoration.  This exhibit will be on the depot, itself, the railroad, and will include historic railroad items. 
  • Starting the installation of our permanent displays and moving back into the depot.   
  • Establishing a permanent, weekly, schedule for hours the depot museum will be open.  This will involve recruiting year-round volunteers.
  • Working on special events—including next month’s Super Natural Whitewater event with the Arts Alliance. 


Notes from our President, Ellen Penwell

The Esterly Seeder Comes Home!!

Over 50 years ago, the Whitewater Historical Society acquired a horse-drawn seeder manufactured in the 1870s by Whitewater’s famous Esterly Harvesting Machine Company.  Having no space for its display or storage, the seeder was placed on loan to StonefieldVillage in Cassville, Wisconsin in 1960 and almost forgotten.  In early September, this magnificent piece of Whitewater history was brought back home!  [Thanks to much work by President Ellen Penwell, who put together a report showing our original ownership and convinced Historic Sites curators that it should be returned to us.—ed.] 


But, how to get it back to Whitewater?  Enter recently retired City of Whitewater employee Bruce Parker.  Bruce has been instrumental in getting large items moved from the depot museum to our storage facility and he volunteered to use his large truck to move the seeder from Stonefield to Whitewater.  What a relief and many thanks to Bruce!!  We plan to highlight the seeder at the DepotMuseum’s grand re-opening next spring.


Julius Birge Speaks

In July of this year, Barbara Birge of Charlotte, North Carolina contacted the society in search of information on her great-grandfather, Julius Birge (1839-1923).  She also mentioned that she had a transcription of his diaries, which were written from 1861-1866—an amazing discovery!  She provided the Society with PDF files of the diaries, which we have since printed and shared with the Whitewater Public Library and the UWW-Archives.  When the library’s copy is ready for patron use, we will jointly issue a press release. 


Following the death of her father in 1860, Julius Birge inherited the operation of the Stone Mill.  His daily entries document the running of the mill, the local economy, the effect of the Civil War on the community and much more.  Julius Birge left Whitewater in 1867, became a very successful businessman, and returned in 1903 to present the city with the spectacular Birge Fountain that is located in front of the CulturalArtsCenter, the old White Memorial Library building. 


Depot Restoration on Track

Finally, and with confidence, we can announce that the long-awaited restoration of the depot building will begin this fall!  There will be lots of activity down at the depot once the work gets underway.  Behind the scenes, members of the Society are preparing for a grand-re-opening of the renovated space, which will take place some time next spring.  For those of you who purchased commemorative bricks, the order has been placed and will arrive later this year.  The plan is to install the bricks in spring and include a dedication of the walkway with the re-opening celebration.  Also in place for a spring or early summer re-opening event will be the return of overflow collections to the renovated basement storage space and curatorial workroom, return of the photographs and archival collections to the upper floor, and installation of our first temporary exhibit.  A new chapter in the history of the Whitewater Historical Society begins now!  The society thanks everyone in the community who supported the fund-raising campaign for your generous contributions and your infinite patience. 


Editor’s note: Yes, I know I have “cried wolf” in many newsletters about the impending work on the depot building.  But—this time its really true!!  As stated on page 2, bids for the work were sent out and as soon as a contractor is selected, the project will get going. 


­Supernatural Whitewater

The Whitewater Historical Society, the Whitewater Arts Alliance and others present Super Natural Whitewater during October.  The society has three big events they are sponsoring.  Here is a look at the month’s activities.  A news release with more details is also attached.

Sunday, October 2

            Opening of Super Natural Gallery Exhibits.  The Whitewater Arts Alliance gallery at the Cultural Arts Center is having a month-long exhibit related to the theme. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays. Noon-5:00.

Sunday, October 2**

            Spiritualism and Whitewater’s Pratt Institute:  The Real Story of Whitewater’s Supernatural Past

            Cultural ArtsCenter.   Whitewater Historical Society member and historian Carol Cartwright will give a presentation on the Morris Pratt Institute and the study of spiritualism.  Come and find out the true story of “spirits” in Whitewater. 1:00-3:00

Sunday, October 9**

            Oak Grove Cemetery Tour (self-guided).  The Whitewater Historical Society will offer a   self-guided tour of Oak Grove Cemetery, Whitewater’s oldest cemetery.  Information about important pioneers buried in the cemetery will be available. 1:00-4:00

Saturday, October 15

            Author Chris Welch. Cultural Arts Center. Chris Welch, local author, will read from his book Blood Lite II and sign copies. 1:00-3:00 

Saturday, October 22**

            Victorian Funeral.  Cultural ArtsCenter.  The Whitewater Historical Society is sponsoring a re-enactment of the funeral of Lt. James Mead, who died of disease during the Civil War. Debra Angers of Eagle will portray Mrs. Mead, in authentic mid-19th century mourning dress and will share her vast knowledge of Victorian mourning customs. 1:30-3:00

Friday, October 28

            Goulish Make-Up.  Cultural ArtsCenter.  UWW theater students will demonstrate Zombie make-up on middle-school and older children just in time for Halloween.  4:30-5:30.

Saturday, October 29

            Cinderella! Cinderella!  Barnett Theater, GreenhillCenter of the Arts.  Face-painting before 2:00 p.m. show is free to the public. Tickets are needed for the show.

Sunday, October 30

            Pumpkin carving/painting.  Cultural ArtsCenter.  Have fun and show your creativity with pumpkins!  They will be displayed at 253 Fremont St. for Halloween.  1:00-3:00

**Whitewater Historical Society Activity.  The society is looking for volunteers to assist with the self-guided cemetery tour and the Victorian Funeral.  Please contact Carol Cartwright, 262-473-6820 to help—or she will be calling you!!


Whitewater Historical Society

Carol Cartwright

W7646 Hackett Rd.

Whitewater, WI  53190