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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 4/15/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

This is National Volunteer Week, and the Vernon County Historical Society thanks all of its volunteers for their wonderful service to our community. Each volunteer helps further the VCHS mission to preserve and promote Vernon County history.

Volunteering provides many benefits to a community, and with a history organization this is especially true. The Vernon County Historical Society is preserving local history for the sake of the community, not for itself. VCHS volunteers take care of our four historic buildings so that they will be an asset now and in the future. They lead museum tours for the young, the old, and everyone in-between.

Volunteers do original historical research on local people and places and events, and then share what they learn with others. They also help preserve the materials needed to do this kind of research, so the information is available for students and other visitors.

Each task that our volunteers do helps to keep Vernon County’s history alive and relevant. A few years ago, history professionals nationwide created a “History Relevance Campaign” to remind people of the value that history plays in our everyday lives.

History affects our identity, as “people discover their place in time through stories of their families, communities, and nation.” And it teaches the vital skill of critical thinking, as any of the genealogy class students could tell you when they weigh the value of different sources and learn to sort out fact from fiction.

The History Relevance Campaign says that for our communities, “History is a catalyst for economic growth. Communities with cultural heritage institutions and a strong sense of historical character attract talent, increase tourism revenues, enhance business development, and fortify local economies.” We see that all around Vernon County, as our round barns, cultural festivals, and Black Hawk Trail attract visitors.

And history give us a better future: “Weaving history into discussions about contemporary issues clarifies differing perspectives and misperceptions, reveals complexities, grounds competing views in evidence, and introduces new ideas; all can lead to greater understanding and viable community solutions.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers for helping to keep history relevant. If you would like to join the fun and contribute to the community by becoming a VCHS volunteer, contact Kristen or Carol at 637-7396 or


For the week of 4/8/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

We were sorry to have to cancel Harlan Flick’s program about growing up along the Mississippi River, but a snowstorm got in the way. We plan to reschedule this event to a date in May. Watch this space for more details.

The City of Viroqua has a new mayor, and for the first time ever, the mayor is a woman, Karen Mischel. Women in the U.S. have had full voting rights for almost 100 years, so it does seem strange that this is a “first”. Viroqua’s previous mayor, Larry Fanta, was the city’s longest-serving mayor, being in office for 20 years. Viroqua was originally a village, and as such it was served by a series of village presidents from 1866 to 1885. In 1885 the village became a city, and the office of village president became the office of mayor.

Other Vernon County communities have already been served by female mayors or village presidents. Maxine Shird became the first woman to serve as village president of La Farge in July of 1978, stepping in to fill the vacancy when the former president resigned. She was then re-elected to the position in 1980. A few years before Maxine became village president, she was elected as the first woman to serve on the La Farge Village Board.

As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, in 2019-2020, we are gathering stories like these. Let the museum know if you have any other stories of political firsts for women in Vernon County.

Next week, April 15-21, is National Volunteer Week. The Vernon County Historical Society is powered by volunteers, and we thank all of them for their efforts to preserve and promote our county’s history. History matters to contemporary life, and our volunteers make it possible for Vernon County history to be shared with others.

The History Relevance Campaign reminds us that, “History lays the groundwork for strong, resilient communities. No place really becomes a community until it is wrapped in human memory: family stories, tribal traditions, civic commemorations. No place is a community until it has awareness of its history. Our connections and commitment to one another are strengthened when we share stories and experiences.”

From the volunteers who keep the lights on and the floors cleaned to the volunteers who give museum tours and history presentations, all of the Vernon County Historical Society’s volunteers help strengthen our community by preserving and promoting our history.


The previous two articles:

April 1, 2018

March 25, 2018