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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 8/12/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Here it is the middle of August already, so summer is coming to an end. Through August 31, the museum’s hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, and Saturday, 10AM to 2PM. Beginning September 1, we will switch to fall hours, which are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM. So, if you are planning to visit on a Saturday to do research or tour the exhibits, your time is running out, for this year at least. Of course, the museum is also open by appointment, even on weekends – call 637-7396 to make arrangements.

The Sherry-Butt House Museum is also winding down its 2018 season. The house is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 5PM, through Labor Day weekend and including Labor Day itself. After that it will be open by appointment only until the cold weather arrives and the house is closed for the winter. If you would like to schedule a fall tour of the house, call 637-7396.

Well, the end of summer means it’s time to start thinking about the Vernon County Fair. As always, the Vernon County Historical Society will have a booth there with Vernon County history quiz questions. If you need to brush up a little on your county history, below are a few of the questions (plus their answers).

Adults are asked the hardest questions: Which Vernon County village once had a pearl button factory? Answer: Genoa. “Pearl” buttons were made from the shells of freshwater mussels harvested from the Mississippi River. Genoa was home to more than one button factory around the year 1900. Buttons like these are on exhibit at the museum.

Here’s a question we ask teenagers: True or false? Most teenagers in Vernon County in the late 1800s attended high school. Answer: false – most students left school after 8th grade. The museum has many of the poster-sized Common School diplomas that were awarded to students who graduated from 8th grade in the 19th century. A high school education was rare, and you were lucky to make it to grade 8.

In the early 1880s, both Viroqua and Hillsboro built high schools. But if you lived in the country and wanted to attend high school, you would have to arrange for room and board in the city during the week. A few students were able to hop on a train to get to the nearest high school each day.

And here’s a question for children: Name a river in Vernon County. Answers include the Bad Axe, Kickapoo, Mississippi, Baraboo, and Pine Rivers. Sometimes a child can’t remember, but we always provide hints. More questions next week!


For the week of 8/5/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

The Vernon County Historical Society’s 2nd annual Pork Chop Dinner will be held on Friday, August 10, beginning at 4PM, on the lawn of the Sherry-Butt House. This historic home is located at 795 N. Main Street in Viroqua. Tables and chairs will be set up on the lawn for diners, or you can carry out. Dinner will be served until 7PM or until the food runs out, whichever comes first.

The meal includes pork chop, baked potato, baked beans, cole slaw, fruit salad, rolls, and dessert, plus a beverage, for $10. Last year we had good weather, but if it rains, the event will be held next door at the Vernon County Fairgrounds.

Local people have been eating out on the green, gracious lawn of this old house for decades. The home was built by Cyrus M. Butt in 1870, just a few years after he returned from the Civil War. Cyrus and wife Margaret and their five children lived in and no doubt entertained from the home and grounds for many years.

In 1947, daughter Jane Butt sold the house to Orbec and Hilda Sherry. Hilda was a well-known hostess, entertaining family and friends and her husband’s business associates (Orbec was an international cattle trader). The Sherrys are even said to have hosted the Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista in their home.

As you can see in the photo, even a class reunion was held at the house, out on the lawn. In 1961, the Viroqua High School Class of 1911 enjoyed its 50th reunion there, with refreshments at picnic tables just outside the kitchen. It was the first time that the class had met together since their graduation day of June 1, 1911. The graduation ceremony had been held at the Methodist Episcopal Tabernacle, a large open-sided building located where the main park shelter is today at Eckhart Park.

Hilda Caroline Loverud, later Sherry, graduated with the class of 1911. She was one of two students in the Modern Classical Course, and another eight students were in the English Course. Interestingly, the majority of the class of 1911, eighteen other students, was in the German Course. This course was probably discontinued a few years later during World War I, when the U.S. was fighting against Germany.

The house looks much the same today, more than 50 years later, as it does in the photo. Come join us for dinner on the lawn on August 10.

Class of 1911
VHS Class of 1911's 50th reunion.


The previous two articles:

July 29, 2018

July 22, 2018