Stories of Metonga : Part 1

Good afternoon Crandon residents. Last week I presented at a History On-Tap Program at the Hotel Crandon to a crowd of about 85 people. Afterwards, I received a few different requests to share my power-point presentation and while I am willing to do that, I also am planning to post the material online in hopes that others will find their way to it. (Local history is much more fun and exciting if it is shared!) Publishing my research on this site will also allow people to post comments about the presentation and hopefully, we will continue to learn from each other about our county and its heritage.

What’s in a Name?

When Forest County officially became a county by an Act of the Legislature in 1885, the lake that we now know as Metonga, was called Sand Lake.  And in truth, the lake today is still called by that name.  The definition of Sand Lake is in fact the Indian name “Mitaawangaa”, or as the English spell it, Metonga.

In fact, only a few short months after the county was established, the editor of the Forest Leaves published a description of the lake known as Metonga.

Additional research from The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary defines the word “sandy” as “mitaawangaa”

Another source document that was beneficial in determining the origin of the Lake’s name was provided by the Forest County Potawatomi Library and Cultural Center. In September of 1941, Mrs. Wm. Tahwah of Wabeno provided the following list of names of Forest County Lakes and their meanings:

source: Forest County Potawatomi Library collection

Page 1 of Forest Leaves, published in Crandon, Wisconsin on Thursday, August 6th, 1885

Lake Cisco?

Lake Metonga residents might also be suprised to learn that they were at one time destined to live on a lake named after a the fish Cisco, also known as Lake Herring.  

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisco_(fish)#/media/File:Cisco.jpg

The Forest County Spy, published in Pelican Lake, Wisconsin on Tuesday, May 26th, 1885

The Forest Leaves, published in Crandon, Wisconsin on Thursday, August 27th, 1885

Calling the lake by its Indian name caught on, and very soon there was no doubt the lake would be called Metonga.

However, its possible that not everyone agreed to have the name returned to its proper Indian title. As you can see from this 1906 Crandon map that hangs in the Forest County Courthouse Treasurer’s office, the name Sand Lake stuck around for some time.

Next week we will begin our tour around Lake Metonga courtesy of a March 1887 newspaper article. Don’t forget to leave your comments and share some of your local history related to Lake Metonga.

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.


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!

Introducing TreeRings!

The Crandon Area Historical Society is excited to announce the release of the first episode of our local history podcast titled Tree Rings, produced and hosted by Isak Drangstveit and Bryce Marshall.

This premiere episode features the story of the 1918 Spanish flu and its impact on Forest county residents over a century ago. Hosts Isak and Bryce share with listeners the research they conducted on the Spanish Flu outbreak in Forest County and the key players involved in the prevention of the spread of the 1918 flu. As part of their research, they interview historical society member Jackie Aszman regarding some of the stories she uncovered while conducting her own research on the pandemic. Finally, Isak and Bryce interview current members of the Forest county Board of Health to gain insight into the similarities and differences of the two pandemics in Forest County.

Membership now available online

Its name may say “historical,” but the Crandon Area Historical Society is taking advantage of current trends to allow secure and convenient technology for its Membership Campaign. For the first time since the Society was established, individuals and businesses may now join the society or renew their memberships online.

To use the online payment feature from the Society’s website, www.crandonareahistory.org, go to the “Membership” page, scroll down and click on the appropriate “Membership” of “Donate” button. Individuals can renew memberships or become a new member using a major credit card or an existing PayPal account.

The Society’s Board of Directors thanks residents and businesses who have supported the historical society in the past.   Annual membership dues enable the Society to maintain its Historic Carter House Museum, present educational programs, and grow and maintain its archives, which contains well over 1,000 items pertaining to the history of Forest County. 

To stay current on the activities and programs of the historical society, please visit our website at www.crandonareahistory.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

New Display at the Crandon Public Library

       After a couple months of sitting empty, like so many things during COVID-19, the Historical Society case at the Crandon Public Library has a new display.  The theme, BOOKS BUILD BETTER BRAINS, encourages reading to children to bring knowledge, wonder and joy into their lives.  The books featured are mostly children’s books from the 1940’s but the Peter Rabbit book was printed in 1912.  The homemade blocks show the wear and tear of many childhood building projects. Looking at the books in the display may bring back memories of some of your childhood favorites.

      The Society is looking forward to next year, when hopefully we can again celebrate the Christmas season with vintage decorations in the museum at the Carter House Museum.  We wish all a Blessed and safe Christmas Season.


The Forest County Historical and Genealogical Society dba Crandon Area Historical  Society is inviting its members and anyone interested in becoming a member to attend their annual meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 19, 2020.

Due to current guidelines limiting gatherings, this meeting will be held virtually using the Zoom app. Simply download the app on your computer, tablet, or phone. Send us an email request by November 18 and we will send you the link before the meeting begins.  The email address to send your request is: forestctyhistory@gmail.com. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m.

The Forest County Historical and Genealogical Society is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973. Its purpose is to promote Forest County history and preserve archival materials.