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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 1/14/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

The World War I centennial ends in November of this year. The war was a cataclysmic event that affected the lives of everyone in Vernon County. We have a lot of interesting local stories to bring to you throughout this year, starting today with “A” for “aviation”.

News about soldiers was commonly printed in local newspapers across the country during and immediately after the war. The following brief article, printed in the Vernon County Censor in March of 1919, caught my attention:

“Very picturesque indeed in the striking French uniform, Lawrence Lindemann is at the old home circulating among friends. Lawrence tried in every way to enter the American aviation corps. Being debarred because of physical reasons, he enlisted in the Red Cross, going to France, then on that memorable trip to Italy to the fighting front. Later he transferred to the French army, receiving instruction in artillery school. He had just transferred to the aviation corps and was preparing to try for flying when the armistice was signed. Lawrence has the distinction of being the only Viroqua boy to serve under a foreign flag.”

Well, that’s quite a story. Since he didn’t serve with the U.S. armed forces, Lawrence is not listed in the Vernon County War History book, always the first stop for our WWI research. But his brother Albon is there, and details about Albon give us some important clues about Lawrence.

Lawrence Osgood Lindemann was born in Viroqua in 1898, so he was too young for the first draft on June 5, 1917, which was for men ages 21 through 30. His older brother Albon, however, was old enough and registered that day. His draft registration card can be seen on ancestry.com, and from it we learn that he was already in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. The War History book tells us that Albon became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 52nd Aero Squadron in the U.S. Army Air Service. He was stationed at Kelly Field in San Antonio, TX, during the war.

Airplanes! No wonder Lawrence was desperate to be in the aviation corps – his big brother was learning all about flying. The Wright brothers had developed the first successful airplane just a few years earlier, in 1903. Although too young for the draft, Lawrence was old enough to volunteer, but as the newspaper article above tells us, he did not pass the physical exam for the U.S. Army Air Service.

Lawrence’s passport applications are also available on ancestry.com, so we can see that he applied for a passport in May of 1918 in order to go to Italy to do ambulance work for the Red Cross. He arrived in Bordeaux, France, in June, and later joined the French Army. The war ended in November and Lawrence was discharged from the French Army by February of 1919. Then he sailed to New York, and arrived back in Viroqua by March.

I haven’t yet found more information about Lawrence’s time overseas, but I’ll keep looking. The newspaper article said he was the only one from Viroqua to “serve under a foreign flag” – were there other Vernon County natives who did so? Contact the museum if you have one of these stories.


ouges barracks
A picture postcard of the barracks at a military airfield in Ouges, France.


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For the week of 1/7/2018
by Carol Krogan, assistant curator

The book History of Vernon County, Wisconsin, published in 1884, contains a wealth of information about our county and the city of Viroqua. We will continue this week with more of that history.

New settlers with children required education so in September, 1851, Margaret C. Terhune, wife of William F. Terhune, became the first to teach 16 students in the log courthouse building, built in 1850. The Terhune family came to Vernon County on August 5, 1851, first landing at Victory and then Viroqua. Terhune, a lawyer, was soon appointed deputy clerk of the court and deputy clerk of the board of supervisors. He held several other county offices including register of deeds, district attorney and county judge. Terhune was also instrumental along with Jeremiah Rusk, to change the name of our county from Bad Axe to Vernon in 1861.

The courthouse building was used for a school until 1856 when a new two story, two room frame building was erected. It was later moved and used as a dwelling. In 1868, a large stone building was erected. It was located on E. Jefferson Street across from the Church of Christ, now known as The ARK. It was torn down in 1971. In 1876, the Viroqua High School was organized. A brick school for those students was built next to the stone school which then was able to house the lower grades. It was torn down in 1953 and a new elementary school was built. The elementary school is currently the home of Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School.

Prior to 1884, nine different school districts were formed in the town of Viroqua. According to the 1878 plat map of Vernon County, the schools existed at that time were: Smith, Round Prairie, Seas Branch, Cherry Grove, Asbury, Cook, Bishop Branch, Pleasant Ridge, White and Brookville. For more information on all the country schools in Vernon County, visit the museum to see what is in our school archives.

The first post office established in the town of Viroqua in was in 1848 at Springville when Vernon County was still part of Crawford County. In 1852, Judge William F. Terhune petitioned for the establishment of a post office in Viroqua and it was granted in November, 1852. Sylvester C. Lincoln was appointed the first postmaster.

On May 25, 1852 a vote determined that the county seat would be located in Viroqua. Springville was a strong contender but Viroqua was chosen due to its more central location and because 40 acres of land was promised to the city on the condition that Viroqua would be named the county seat. Four years later, Viroqua grew from just three log buildings to approximately 60 homes and 350 people. The town of Viroqua was not incorporated until June, 1866. Carson Graham was elected council president; W.S.S. White, Ingalls K. Buck and Cyrus M. Butt were elected trustees; John R. Casson, clerk; Anson K. Burrell was elected constable; Jerome S. Tinker, street commissioner and John Dawson, treasurer.

A future installment will discuss the evolvement of the many religions that were established in our county. As always, more information can be obtained at the Vernon County Museum. Our winter hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon to four or by appointment.


Viroqua Stone School
This image of the old stone school was taken sometime before 1890 by professional photographer George W. Morgan. It was built in 1868 and razed in 1971.


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The previous two articles:

January 1, 2017

December 27, 2017