Vernon County History logo

Weekly Column

Each week a small segment of Vernon County history is published in the county papers.

For the week of 8/18/2019
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Remember to attend the Vernon County Historical Society’s annual Pork Chop Dinner this Friday, August 23, beginning at 4PM. The dinner will be held on the lawn of the Sherry-Butt House at 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua. Tickets are $10 each, and carryouts are available. If it rains, the event will move next door to the Expo building at the Vernon County Fairgrounds.

Summer is coming to an end, and so are the museum’s summertime hours. Through the end of August, the museum will be open Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, and Saturday, 10AM to 2PM. Beginning September 1, the museum will switch to its fall hours, which are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM.

As we continue to prepare for the upcoming Vernon County Fair, today we’ll look again at a few of the history quiz questions that will be asked at our Fair booth. The Vernon County Historical Society’s booth always features a local history quiz, a free quiz with a candy prize, so it’s time to study up on local history.

One question for adults asks, Who was the famous abolitionist and women’s rights activist who spoke in Viroqua on July 4, 1856? The answer is Lucy Stone. A stone marker in Viroqua’s Pioneer Cemetery marks the approximate spot where she gave a speech on that Independence Day over 160 years ago. Lucy Stone, a well-known speaker across the U.S., was visiting Viroqua that summer while her husband worked on a land deal in the area.

About her speech, the local Western Times newspaper of July 19, 1856, noted that “She is a very excellent speaker – her anti-slavery and a portion of her women’s-rights opinions are all well enough, yes, very good; but women never will demand universal suffrage, and accept the responsibilities and unnatural hardships inseparably connected with the exercise of that natural attribute of man.” As we plan to celebrate the centennial of women’s right to vote in 2020, we now see how wrong that writer was.

Younger visitors are asked to name the occupation of another famous person, Jeremiah Rusk. The answer is that he was Wisconsin’s 15th governor. Rusk Avenue in Viroqua is named for him. Like Lucy Stone, Rusk also has a historical marker noting his presence here. The large marker created by the Wisconsin Historical Society is on North Main Street in Viroqua, near where the Rusk family’s home and farm were once located.

The Lucy Stone marker
The Lucy Stone marker created by C.V. Porter in 1930.


For the week of 8/11/2019
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Wild West Days is happening in Viroqua this weekend, August 17 and 18, and the Vernon County Historical Society will again have a space there. Stop by our little building to see Western-themed woodcarvings and old photos of De Soto, and to pick up information about Ho-Chunk history and culture.

The following weekend, on Friday, August 23, the VCHS is hosting its 3rd annual Pork Chop Dinner on the lawn of the Sherry-Butt House, 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua. Dinner will be served from 4 to 7PM (or until the food runs out). The menu includes pork chops, baked potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw, applesauce, rolls, and dessert, all for only $10. Carryouts will be available. In case of rain, the event will move next door to the Expo building at the fairgrounds.

Speaking of the fairgrounds, the Vernon County Fair is fast approaching. Of course the Vernon County Historical Society will be there, and we will be running our popular local history quiz game. Today we’ll go over a few more of the quiz questions so you’ll be ready for the Fair.

Did you know that Vernon County has a National Fish Hatchery? Well, it does, and one of the quiz questions asks for its location: just south of Genoa, on Highway 35. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates the hatchery.

Another quiz question asks, What type of park is Wild Cat Mountain – a national park, a state park, or a county park? The answer is, a state park. The park is located near Ontario and is operated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Here’s a more complicated quiz question: Several places in Vernon County have the word “Prairie” in their names. Can you list any of them? Our list includes eight names. Most of the names are associated with churches.

Coon Prairie is in the Westby area, and North Coon Prairie is around Newry, north of Westby. Both are home to Lutheran churches. Millard’s Prairie is north of Hillsboro, and was home to a United Brethren congregation.

Northwest and Southwest Prairies are both located roughly between Liberty Pole and Redmound, and are also names associated with Lutheran churches. Located in the same area is West Prairie, noted for its old general store.

The other two “Prairies” are associated with old country schools – Round Prairie, just north of Viroqua, and Hills Prairie, north of Hillsboro. Hills Prairie was also once the site of a Methodist church.

West Prairie Store
West Prairie Store.


The previous two articles:

August 4, 2019

July 28, 2019