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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 12/2/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

The genealogy class is currently on winter break – it does not meet in December or January. Classes will start up again in February, 2019.

Time is running out to participate in this year’s Vernon County Historical Society raffle. Tickets are $5 each, or five for $20. Prizes this year are all cash, with a top prize of $300. The winning tickets will be drawn at noon on Wednesday, December 19.

Here at the museum we continue to commemorate the centennial of World War I, shifting gears now to focus on the demobilization of the troops and the world’s attempt to return to normality. After the armistice of November 11 ended the fighting, you might think that everyone was happy for weeks, months even. But I haven’t found that to be true. This was due in part to the fact that soldiers continued to die far from home, often from illness or accident.

One of these soldiers was Leonard John Zogg. Born in Iowa in 1895, he moved at age 13 with his parents and siblings to a farm near Genoa in Vernon County. Leonard’s father was a German-speaking immigrant from Switzerland, and his mother was an immigrant from Germany.

The Zogg family attended St. John’s Evangelical German Lutheran Church in the Town of Genoa. Worship services there were conducted in German until sometime during WWI, when anti-German sentiment was strong and it was no longer safe to speak the language in public.

In February, 1918, Leonard married Geneva Bobst. She was a native of Genoa and also came from a German-speaking Swiss-American family. Many families with ties to Switzerland lived in and around Genoa, most of them Swiss-Italian but some Swiss-German. Geneva was no doubt named for the city of Geneva in Switzerland.

The young couple enjoyed five months of married life together, but then Leonard entered military service in July, 1918. He trained at Camp Grant, Illinois, until mid-August. Then he left for overseas duty.

In France, Leonard was transferred to Company I of the 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Division. His unit marched to the front lines and engaged in battle from late October until the day of the armistice. After peace was declared, Leonard left with his unit to march to Paris, but he became ill along the way. He was sent to the hospital at St.-Dizier, where he died on November 28 or 29 of spinal meningitis, probably related to the flu. He was 24 years old.

Like so many other American soldiers who died in France, Leonard Zogg was first buried in a temporary cemetery there. Then in July of 1921, his body was returned to Wisconsin and re-buried in its final resting place, Walnut Mound Cemetery in Retreat.

And what happened to his wife, Geneva? She gave birth to a baby boy on March 25, 1919, four months after her husband died. Geneva named their son Leonard Wayne Zogg. She herself lived a long life, to the age of 103, but never married again.

Immigrants from Switzerland settled in Vernon County near Genoa, where the bluffs along the Mississippi River reminded them of their homeland.


For the week of 11/25/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

The Vernon County Historical Society’s annual Candy Cane Tour of Homes will be held this coming Sunday, December 2, from 1 to 5PM. The tour begins at the museum, where you can purchase tickets ($10 each), pick up a map of the tour route, and enjoy holiday treats and decorations. Then follow the map to visit two houses in the country, two houses in the city, and Creamery Creek Senior Living. Each stop on the tour will be marked by a large wooden candy cane, and each house or building will be decorated for Christmas.

The oldest house on this year’s tour will be 305 E. Jefferson St. in Viroqua. In 1907, Harlan Page Proctor designed and built the house for himself and his wife. The interior has Craftsman details such as dark woodwork and leaded-glass windows, and the exterior has Spanish Revival details, including a red tile roof, prominent arches, and stucco walls.

This was and still is one of the grandest homes in Viroqua. Who was the man who built such a magnificent house? H.P. Proctor was born in Vermont in 1843, and moved to Newton Valley in Vernon County with his parents and siblings during the Civil War. He served in the war and afterward settled in Viroqua and became a lawyer.

And a banker. And a district attorney. And the president of the Board of Education, the president of the public library, the treasurer of the Viroqua Cemetery Association, the president of the Village of Viroqua, a city alderman, the city attorney, and a Vernon County Board supervisor. He also founded Viroqua’s first telephone service. And built the First National Bank on Main St. That’s the kind of person who built this kind of home more than a century ago.

In 1872, H.P. married Augusta Allen, and they moved into a house on the 300 block of E. Jefferson St. in Viroqua. They spent all their married life in that home until they moved across the street into a new house, the house at #305 that will be featured on this year’s Tour. H.P. and Augusta enjoyed the rest of their long lives together in this new house. In 1922 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by throwing a party at their home with about 200 guests. Augusta died in 1930, and Harlan in 1931.

Join us at the Tour of Homes on Sunday to see this house and several others, and to get yourself in the holiday spirit!

305 Jefferson St.
The house at 305 E. Jefferson St. in Viroqua looks much the same today as it did many years ago when this photo was taken.


The previous two articles:

November 18, 2018

November 11, 2018