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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 5/26/2024
by Kristen Parrott, curator

If you lived in the Viroqua area 50+ years ago, you might remember the family name Vigdahl. A new exhibit at the historic Sherry-Butt House museum invites you to explore the artwork of Kristin (Odegaard) Vigdahl. The house is located at 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua, and opened for the summer season on Saturday, May 25.

Kristin Odegaard was born in Laerdal, western Norway, to Ivar and Andrea Odegaard in 1902. She taught art, literature, home economics, and civics at a girls’ school in Oslo for over two decades. In 1949, she came to study at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The following summer, she married Jens Vigdahl of Viroqua, whom she had previously met in Norway during one of his visits there. She moved to Viroqua permanently in 1952.

Her husband Jens Vigdahl was a prominent businessman in Viroqua. Born in Norway in 1890, he moved to Viroqua at age 17. He worked as a grocer for 30 years, and then switched to the insurance business. During his long life, he was very active in many civic organizations, including serving as president of the Viroqua Lions Club, the Viroqua Sons of Norway, the Vernon County Red Cross, and the national Sognalag (a Norwegian-American organization for people with ties to Sogn, Norway). With his first wife, Bergitte, he had twins, Hartwick and Eva. Several years after Bergitte died, he met and married Kristin.

In her new home in Vernon County, Kristin Vigdahl taught art and home economics for several local schools and organizations. She was active in many Norwegian cultural societies, and ran a small Norwegian giftshop out of their house. Jens died in 1974 and was buried in Viroqua. Kristin died in 1977 and was buried in Norway.

A collection of Kristin’s paintings, prints, ceramics, and painted wooden plates is on exhibit throughout the Sherry-Butt House this summer. The house features furnishings from both the Cyrus and Margaret Butt family, and the Orbec and Hilda Sherry family. The Vigdahls and the Sherrys probably knew each other because they were all active in the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Main Street in Viroqua, and because of their shared Norwegian heritage.

Kristin was a formally-trained artist with a folk-art style. Much of her artwork on display at the Sherry-Butt House was created in the late 1960’s. The collection includes landscape paintings, ceramic dishes, and wooden plates decorated with Norwegian figures and rosemaling.

Come tour the house on summer Saturdays and Sundays, 1–5 PM, now through Labor Day weekend. It will also be open on Independence Day and Labor Day.

vigdahl art

One of Kristin Vigdahl’s paintings on exhibit at the Sherry-Butt House this summer


For the week of 5/19/2024
by Kristen Parrott, curator

This is graduation season for many students. Yearbooks, graduation announcements, class photos – these are all a pleasant part of graduating and have been for many years. We have a large collection of these items from long ago here in the archives at the Vernon County Museum and History Center.

High school yearbooks are stored in the Alumni Room on the second floor of the museum. We have an almost complete collection of Viroqua High School yearbooks, The Pipe of Peace, from 1913 through 2010. We also have a large collection of Westby High School yearbooks, starting with the first one in 1914, which was called The Courier, and continuing on with The Ski of 1915 through 1996. The Westby collection is incomplete, and doesn’t include any from the 1970’s or 1980’s.

The rest of the yearbook collection is very limited. We have Viola High School’s Kickapoogian from 1930, and Readstown High School’s Vallegian from 1946. From Ontario High School, we have yearbooks for 1939-1946, and 1948. From La Farge High School, we have the 1952 yearbook. And for Hillsboro High School’s yearbook, The Echo, we have the years 1951-1955.

Other collections of high school memorabilia focus mainly on Viroqua, not surprisingly since the history center is located there. For instance, we have five volumes listing Viroqua High School graduates from 1882 to 1999. The graduates are listed alphabetically within graduating year, and there is an index in case you don’t know which year to look under. Also in the archives are files for all of the Viroqua High School graduating classes, 1882 to present, with class photos, graduation announcements, reunion articles, etc.

You can come look at any of these items during our regular public hours of Monday through Friday, 11AM to 4PM. Starting June 1, we will also add Saturdays, 10AM to 2PM, to the list of hours.

Memorial Day weekend will soon be here, and the Sherry-Butt House will open for the summer season. This gracious historic house museum is located at 795 N. Main St. in Viroqua. Built for the Cyrus and Margaret Butt family shortly after the Civil War, the home was later purchased by Orbec and Hilda Sherry in the 1940’s. It features furnishings from both families, plus Civil War memorabilia, and beautiful grounds. Come tour the house on Saturdays and Sundays, 1–5 PM, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The house is also open on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.


The previous two articles:

May 12, 2024

May 5, 2024