Forest County Historic School Communities

The Forest County Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc., our parent organization, is excited to have received a Wisconsin Humanities Recovery Grant. Our project, Developing a sense of place in Forest County school communities, supports Wisconsin Humanities’ mission to strengthen the roots of community life through educational and cultural programs that inspire civic participation and individual imagination.

The grant will allow us to hire THREE educators over the summer to scan and catalog historic photos and documents related to Forest County historic schools!

This is a great opportunity for history teachers but we are opening this opportunity up to any educator in Forest County and here’s why:

Local history is about using a ​place-based approach to education. It can be incorporated into almost any subject area. This opportunity is about using your community’s history to engage and inspire students to learn and connect to this place we call home.

If this sounds like something you are interested in participating in, please email michelle.gobert@wisc.edu.

Forest County connections to the Great Peshtigo Fire

Today, October 8, 2021, marks the 150th anniversary of the most devastating forest fire in American history, the Peshtigo Fire.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society at least 1,300 people died in the Peshtigo fire that left 7,500 people homeless. Many people were not aware of the catastrophic nature of the fire due to the great Chicago Fire that made headlines the same day.

150 years ago the land that we now call Forest County was in the same political jurisdiction, Oconto County as the ill-fated Town of Peshtigo. It was not until 1880 that the large county of Oconto was re-mapped and various counties were created.

Wisconsin counties in 1871. Source: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. Newberry Library.
Date accessed: October 8, 2021]

Forest county archives begin upon the creation of our County in 1885, fourteen years after the fire but numerous mentions of the fire highlight the impact the fire had on the lumber industry, the fear of wild fire and the collective memory of those alive during that time-period.

One of the most interesting stories to note is the recognition that Peshtigo Fire survivors Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Deau moved from Peshtigo to Laona in 1901 and are buried in the Laona Cemetery.

Alexander and Mary Deau were both teenagers when the fire occurred in 1871. According to details published on the Family History website Find-a-grave, Alex Deau recalled that during the fire his father lowered his children “into a well with only a small amount [of] water at the bottom”. His wife Mary Grandaw Deau told her grandchildren the story of the fire which included “how her dad got heavy winter coats and her mother got the other children. They all ran into the river, put the wet coats over their heads and [she told us] how hot the river water was. That’s all that kept them alive.”

Alex and Mary were married a few years after the fire and had eleven children. The family moved to Laona in 1901 where Alexander was employed as a carpenter for the Connor Land and Lumber Co. Alex passed in 1945 and Mary in 1950. Two of their children, daughters Anna Harris and Laura Martin lived in Laona after their parent’s death.

A few of Laona’s families today can trace their roots back to these two children. Anna Harris’ daughter Iola married John Novak and Laura Martin’s daughter Verna married former Town Chairman Edward Bowling.

While this anniversary may serve as a grim remembrance for those who did lose their lives in the fire, it is also an opportunity to reflect on those that survived and the stories they preserved. If you are aware of any additional stories connecting Forest County to the Peshtigo Fire, we’d love to hear them. Email us at forestctyhistory@gmail.com or comment here.

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Argonne Centennial Cemetery Tour Scripts

The Town of Argonne celebrated their Centennial this past weekend with great success! From the Cemetery Tour on Friday night that attracted 170+ people to the fantastic firework show on Saturday evening, each event was well attended and appreciated by all.

The Centennial Cemetery Tour was held at the Town of Argonne Cemetery located on Hwy 32. It was a beautiful evening for stories, families and neighbors. We have been asked to share our cemetery scripts and we will do so via this website. If you have any additional pictures, videos or stories to add to our sketches, please contact us at forestctyhistory@gmail.com

Script #1: Nelly Nelson Rasmussen

Kentucky Heritage is celebrated far and wide

“It seems no matter where a Kentuckian moves, the proud heritage of his state goes with him and is passed from generation to generation.” –Louie B. Nunn, Governor, State of Kentucky, to Red Ravens Color Guard, December 1970.

Tomorrow, July 24, 2021, marks an important day in Crandon history. It is the 50th anniversary of the celebration we call Kentuck Days.

Crandon Homemakers Club sets the bar high

The first Kentucky Day celebrated in Crandon would not have happened if not for the community minded women of the Crandon Homemakers Club. The intention of the original event was to “meet old friends and make new ones!” and was organized as a mid-winter event on March 11, 1971 at the V.F.W. Hall in Crandon.

The Crandon Homemakers Club, part of a larger organization of Homemakers clubs in the region, were organized by the Area Extension Home Economist program of Cooperative Extension of the University of Wisconsin. Homemaker clubs were meant to help improve the lives of women and families living in rural areas by fostering relationships, building community and offering creative educational opportunities.

By all accounts this first Kentucky Day celebration was a complete success. Recently uncovered scrapbooks discovered in a filing cabinet in the Forest County courthouse tell the story of a well-organized, well attended event. An undated article from the Forest Republican reported that “Kentucky Day at Crandon is the kind of event that should be continued as an annual observance”. Photos from the event focus on the crowds and the organizers of the event, as well as the biscuits, corn bread and beans served “Kentucky style”.

Celebrating Kentucky Heritage

The short-term and long-term results of this community event are many. Shortly after the first official Kentucky Day, Representative Joseph Jones of Milwaukee and a son of a Kentucky emigrant himself, adopted a resolution in the state legislature honoring Kentuckians and the cause of celebrating their heritage.

The Younger Generation of Kentucks

While the ladies of the Crandon Homemakers Club were successfully planning Kentucky Day, another group of younger residents were also celebrating their heritage as members of the Red Ravens Color Guard.

Thanks to a donation to the Crandon Area Historical Society by former Red Raven Christine Abney Kincaid, we know that in January of 1970 a group of young women and girls from the Crandon area joined together to form the Red Ravens Color Guard that traveled together and marched in various parades througout the area flying flags and their own Red Ravens banner. The Red Ravens were not affiliated with the Crandon school but rather were formed as an independent organization that raised funds for their own use. According to literature accompanying Kincaid’s donation, “the response to the organization was so great, the unit had to be split into two units.”

Red Ravens 1 called themselves the “Kentucks” due to many of the girls having Kentucky ancestry that included great-grandparents who were from or still were in Kentucky. To honor this heritage, members of the Red Ravens 1 chose to include the Kentucky state flag as part of their performances. In 1970, Tom Pieper, Director of the Red Ravens Color Guard wrote to the Kentucky Governor’s office asking permission to carry the state flag and to use the word “Kentucks” as their official nickname. Governor Louie B. Nunn replied in a letter dated December 1, 1970 that he would “consider it an honor for the girls in your color guard to carry the Kentucky State flag” and “It seems no matter where a Kentuckian moves, the proud heritage of his state goes with him and is passed from generation to generation.”

Kentucky Heritage Today

Fifty years later the celebration of Crandon’s Kentuck heritage continues. Many Crandon people can still trace their ancestry back to Kentucky with some still sharing their treasured recipes of biscuits, corn bread and beans with their own grandchildren. Dedicated members of the Crandon Area Historical Society will be front and center in the Courthouse square tomorrow celebrating this unique celebration of both heritage and history. We encourage all to stop by our booth to share your own Kentuck heritage story or to learn more about this place we call home.

Historical society 2021 summer intern Isak Drangstveit and his grandfather Pete Davison pose with the Red Raven Color Guard flag donated to the Historical Society in 2015 by Christine Abney Kincaid.

Were you a member of the Red Ravens Color Guard or have pictures and/or memorabilia of the organization? The Crandon Area Historical society would love to hear from you. Contact us at forestctyhistory@gmail.com or better yet join us in celebrating our history by becoming a member of our organization.

Crandon Area Historical Society to Host Digital Readiness Fair!

Join the Crandon Area Historical Society and other local history practitioners this summer at our virtual Digital Readiness Fair! This free, half-day event offers a mix of activities and learning opportunities, and showcases digitization work from around the state. Hear from local history practitioners and how they have tackled digitization projects, including challenges, successes, and lessons learned along the way. We’re excited for attendees to connect with each other and form their own communities of practice. Participants will also learn more about our ongoing participation in statewide digital readiness work, Recollection Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Local History Affiliates program.

Individuals are able to attend this digital readiness fair virtually or in-person on Friday, July 16, 2021 from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  The full schedule of events and registration information is available online at www.crandonareahistory.org  Registration is required for the free event.  Individuals wishing to attend the in-person event are invited to the Argonne Town Hall at 8:30 a.m. for coffee and conversation.  The virtual event will be broadcast live from 9:00 – Noon at the Argonne Town hall and will feature speakers from the Forest History Association, the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum.

The Crandon Area Historical Society is one of four digital fairs scheduled this summer.  Other digital events include the Appleton Public Library’s fair on June 29, Pioneer Village in Barron County on August 3rd and the Kenosha County Historical Society on August 18th.  Information about the four Digital Readiness Fairs can be found at https://recollectionwisconsin.org/cop/digital-readiness-fairs

About Building a Digital Readiness Community of Practice in Wisconsin

This NHPRC-funded project supports “digital readiness” in small and under-resourced local historical societies and historic preservation organizations across Wisconsin. Through workshops, presentations at statewide Digital Readiness Fairs, consultations, and development of learning resources, this community-driven initiative will create and grow a community of practice that provides the knowledge, tools and community support to digitize, manage, and provide online public access to local historical records. For more information, visit https://recollectionwisconsin.org/cop.

This event is funded through an Archives Collaboratives Implementation Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the granting arm of the National Archives.

History of Maple Syrup in Forest County : a Tree Rings Podcast

It’s Maple Syrup Time in Forest County. An annual tradition for many families going back several generations. Join hosts Isak D. and Bryce M. as they share a brief history of Maple Sugaring and interview two local residents with strong family ties to the Maple Syrup tradition in Forest county.

Click the tree rings logo to listen to the podcast via SoundCloud!