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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 9/13/2017
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Hope to see you at our Vernon County Fair booth this week! The Vernon County Historical Society’s booth is located inside the Expo building. Stop by to pick up brochures (including the new Viroqua walking tours), look through sample pages of our forthcoming country schools book, and purchase raffle tickets. And of course, play our Vernon County history quiz to win a piece of candy.

How hard is the history quiz? you are asking. Well, we have questions for all ages. Questions for adults include this one: Who was the Civil War soldier from De Soto who captured a confederate flag at Gettysburg – (a) Francis Wallar, (b) Jeremiah Rusk, or (c) Cyrus Butt? The answer is (a) Francis Wallar. Jeremiah Rusk and Cyrus Butt both served in the Civil War, but neither was from De Soto and neither captured a rebel flag.

We also have questions for teenagers, such as naming three rivers found in Vernon County. The answers include Bad Axe, Kickapoo, Mississippi, Baraboo, and Pine. And we have questions for children: The Horse and Colt Show is held in which village in Vernon County? Viola. We give hints, and somehow everyone ends up with a prize.

The date for this month’s genealogy class has been moved to Thursday, September 28. The class will start at 10AM in the museum’s conference room. Guest teacher Liv Marit Haakenstad will present a program about Norwegian genealogy. She is a genealogist, historian, and author from Hamar, Norway, who will be visiting the U.S. for a few weeks. New students are welcome to attend the class. More details next week.

The museum is now on its autumn hours. During September and October, the museum will be open Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM.


For the week of 9/7/2017
by Carol Krogan, assistant curator

The first ever Vernon County Historical Society Pork Chop Dinner is history! We appreciate all the volunteers who made the dinner such a success and we especially appreciate those who came to support our organization by purchasing a meal. It was a beautiful evening and we are pleased that some people stayed to visit with one another. We hope to make this a yearly event.

Recently we have been extracting interesting news articles and those articles that may be of interest to genealogists from issues of the Vernon County Censor of 1939. One story that caught my eye told of a visit to Viroqua by the world’s tallest man, Robert Wadlow, who visited Woodward’s Clothing Store, located on West Court Street. 2,500-3,000 people came to see the 8 foot, 8.25 inch Wadlow, who was on a promotional tour for Peters Shoes, who provided the size 37 shoes he wore. The article states that traffic was tied up for a radius of two blocks surrounding the store and the store had the assistance of the local police, the city council and Mueller Implement Company, who provided the use of their truck. Wadlow is shown in a photograph with Viroqua’s tallest man, Slim Olson, who was 6 feet, 7 inches tall. A dollar was offered to anyone who could touch the crown of Wadlow’s head but even Slim Olson could not do so. Wadlow was on a regional tour with his father, receiving $50 from businesses that sponsored the promotion. He had previously visited West Salem, La Crosse and Westby.

Wadlow was born in Alton, IL on February 22, 1918. At age 5 he was 5 feet, 6.5 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds, the size of an average 15 year old. At the time of his high school graduation at age 17, he was 8 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed 382 pounds. Wadlow began touring with the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1936 and in 1938 he represented the International Shoe Company. During a promotional appearance in Michigan, on July 4, 1940, a leg brace worn by Wadlow created a blister and a subsequent infection which turned into an autoimmune disorder. Just 10 days later he passed away in his sleep at age 22. At the time of his death he was 8 feet, 11.5 inches tall. He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Upper Alton, Illinois.

It’s Fair Time! We hope that you will attend the Vernon County Fair to take in all the great exhibits, shows and animal judging. And of course there is the food! The Vernon County Historical Society will be setting up a booth again this year so come and spin the wheel to answer a trivia question about Vernon County. We will also be holding our yearly raffle so please support us by buying a ticket or two.

Volunteers are always needed in every capacity at the Vernon County Museum and Sherry Butt House. Opportunities include serving as tour guides, executive board members or cookie bakers. We also need volunteers for yearly cleaning, special events, or to be on the schedule once or twice a month to help us with daily tasks. Contact the Museum at 608-637-7396 or stop in to see us anytime between noon and 4, Monday through Friday. We are located next to Gundersen Lutheran Viroqua Clinic with our entrance under the big green awning.

Pork Chop Dinner
Joanne Olson and Richard Hansen wait to greet guests to the Vernon County Historical Society’s first ever Pork Chop Dinner held August 25, 2017 at the Sherry Butt House.

The previous two articles:

August 30, 2017

August 23, 2017