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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 4/14/2019
by Carol Krogan, assistant curator

The Vernon County Museum is housed in the former Vernon County Normal School at the corner of S. Main and E. South Streets, Viroqua. This year we are celebrating the building’s centennial year. The Normal School was built in 1918 and 1919 and the first class began their studies in the fall of 1919. Three new exhibits have been created about the Normal School and are currently on display.

A history of the Normal School is on exhibit in the Alumni Room on the second floor, and a display of objects has been placed in a case on the first floor. Also on display in the first floor meeting room are a few items related to the Model School. Parents had the option of sending their children to the Normal School’s Model School to be taught in a country school type atmosphere by a certified teacher and students doing their practice teaching.

Also known as the Laboratory School, it was open to elementary students from 1919 until 1965. Did you attend the Model School? If so, we are always interested in collecting objects, photos, or other memorabilia related to it. You may just stop in or call us at 608-637-7396. If you aren’t interested in donating at this time, we have the capability of scanning your photos and documents to make copies for our archives.

Another new exhibit features the history of the Viroqua Harmonettes, a chapter of the Sweet Adelines International. This all-female singing group formed in the fall of 1965 and performed locally and at area Sweet Adeline competitions until 1998. The Sweet Adelines sing in unaccompanied barbershop style produced by four voices: lead, tenor, baritone and bass. A costume donated by founding member Irene Fortney has also been put on display. In addition, the museum has many photos and two scrapbooks in its archives for viewing by the public.

We have also just recently completed an exhibit about the history of Viroqua school buildings. At one time, three large school buildings sat side by side along E. Jefferson Street. As the volume of students increased, two more buildings were erected in the same area: a two-story brick school in 1924 and an elementary school in 1953. In the museum archives there are many great photos of these old school buildings including a photo of a school that was built in 1883 and burned in January, 1884.

The school exhibit also features some great sports-related artifacts and a banner celebrating the Viroqua High School Girls’ Basketball team of 1999, when they were runners-up at the State Tournament. Have you ever seen a girl’s gym suit from 1906? We currently have Mary Baker’s suit on exhibit as well as two others from the 50’s and 70’s.

In April and May, the Museum is open Monday- Friday, noon to four. The genealogy room and the exhibit halls are all handicapped accessible. For more information, check out our website, vernoncountyhistory.org. Here you can also get a link to our Facebook page.


First brick and stone schools
These two Viroqua schools, photographed in 1883, were located on E. Jefferson Street on the grounds of today’s Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School. The brick school on the right was destroyed by fire a few months after it was built. The stone school on the left stood for many years.


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For the week of 4/7/2019
by Kristen Parrott, curator

This is National Volunteer Week, and a good time to thank all of our volunteers for the great work that they do. The Vernon County Historical Society is powered by volunteers, who do a little (and sometimes a lot!) of everything.

If you take a guided museum tour, or attend a genealogy class, or come to a monthly program, then you are benefiting from the work of our volunteer guides, teachers, and speakers. If you look at obituaries or family files in the research room, then you are using the work of the office volunteers. If you enjoy refreshments at one of our events, then you are eating food prepared and served by volunteers.

Maybe you know a child who has spent a day at the Foreaker School, or taken a tour of the Sherry-Butt House – these programs are run by volunteers. Or maybe you have enjoyed the music at our annual 4th of July social – the musicians all volunteer their time. Or maybe you have attended our annual Cemetery Walk – all the actors are volunteers. Thank you to all of the many volunteers who make the Vernon County Historical Society possible.

You too can be a part of the meaningful work of preserving and promoting our shared history by volunteering for the Historical Society. We are always looking for willing volunteers who can research historical topics, organize files, clean floors, serve on committees, help with special events, staff the booth at the County Fair, or any number of other opportunities. If you are interested in helping to connect the past and the present, contact Kristen or Carol at the museum at 637-7396, or email museum@vernoncountyhistory.org.

The flooding of last August and September is still fresh in the minds of everyone who lives in Vernon County. Those who were most directly affected all have stories to tell, and the Driftless Writing Center is now collecting those stories, plus stories from other recent floods. The Center has created a project called “Stories From the Flood”, which has its own website: wisconsinfloodstories.org. You can write down your flood story on paper, or you can tell your story to an interviewer, who will record you talking.

These stories will be collected at “Story Collection Sessions” held at local public libraries. Sessions will be held at the Coon Valley library on Thursday, April 11, 6-8PM, and Saturday, April 13, 10AM-noon. Sessions will be held at the Viroqua library on Friday, April 12, 2-4PM, and Tuesday, April 16, 6-8PM. And sessions will be held at the La Farge library on Monday, April 22, 10:30-12:30, and Tuesday, April 23, 6-8PM. Additional sessions will be scheduled in the future.

Your stories matter. Help make them a part of the recorded history of our region, so that people today and in the future can learn from them.


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The previous two articles:

March 31, 2019

March 24, 2019