Words from the President
By: Linda Sealey
Spring is finally springing, slowly but surely. Old Man Winter just wants to hang around a bit longer. This is the time of the year when everything is fresh and new and that includes the Door County Historical Society. We are embarking on a bright and enlightening journey with our new Executive Director! The Village is getting its spring cleaning and preparing to open for the season along with the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. We are about to embark on our season of new and interesting programs, both at the Village and the Historical Society – hopefully you will enjoy all of them with us! We look forward to seeing all of you at both of our locations throughout the coming season – they are both great places to take family and friends visiting Door County. We have so much history here and want to share it with everyone! Please stop by either location during the upcoming season and see why we love living here so much.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Dan Olson. For personal reasons he has stepped down as the Curator/Manager/Mr. Greene at Heritage Village. Dan has dedicated pretty much the past five years to serving in many capacities at the Village and the Board of Directors, past and present, would like to give him our heartfelt THANKS for all the time he has devoted to the Village during this time! If you see him out and about, please give him a big thank you for his years of dedication and service to our organization!
What’s New at Eagle Bluff Lighthouse?
By: Patti Podgers, Curator/Manager
As a young couple with a one-year-old, my husband and I knew little of what to expect on our first visit to Door County in 1972. We were on a very tight budget and welcomed the wealth of outdoors activities, all for free or at the very least the price of a state park sticker. It was not until years later that we discovered the true value of the peninsula: its history, its land, and its people.
Sadly, our Door County history is too often overlooked. Visitors to our towns and villages hurry to the beach or shop until they drop. Certainly a day in the sun is a grand treat and our retail friends have much to offer, but the story of our early settlers, pioneers, and immigrants is where Door County’s heart beats.
Earlier this month, Trudy Herbst and I made an appearance on Eddy Allen’s monthly WDOR program featuring the Door County Historical Society. Chatting about our upcoming seasons at the Heritage Village at Big Creek and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, I grew more and more excited. Opening the door of the lighthouse each May is like opening a present; a wonderful surprise beneath the wrapping. New faces to greet, fresh merchandise to display, new historical facts to share with staff…
But most importantly, our historical sites are treasure chests of wonderful stories and adventures. Reflecting the same period of time, roughly the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Village and the Lighthouse breathe life into our historical legacy, the story of real people. In 1856, Hans and Bertha Hanson, immigrants from Norway, choose the banks of Big Creek to build their log home. They raised a family and worked the land.
Twelve years later, Henry Stanley and his wife Katherine moved into Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. The first keeper assigned to the lighthouse on the bluff, Henry served 15 years before being transferred to Sherwood Point Lighthouse in Sturgeon Bay. Interestingly, Henry was also a Norwegian immigrant.
Through guided tours and special events, the Village and the Lighthouse offer an up close and personal experience, one that visitors of all ages will not soon forget. Encourage your family and friends to visit both of our DCHS sites this season. They will be historical treats that will be remembered long after the ice cream melts or the sweatshirt is outgrown!
Happenings at Heritage Village at Big Creek
As we head into spring, we’re bustling over at the Village. The blacksmiths have already started practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays so stop by if you’re interested in watching them work.
On Saturday, April 4, the Easter bunny craftily hid eggs near artifacts in the Warren and Schopf houses so, in collaboration with Crossroads’ Eggstravaganza event, the children helped to identify the artifacts that the sneaky bunny hid. There were at least 40 children and 66 adults who attended with each child getting a coloring book of the village at the end of the hunt.
Our Village Program Committee has come up with some new, interesting programs. We will be preparing a schedule for you and will have ready in May. A couple of things we have planned that you should mark your calendars now for:
Building cleaning is scheduled for May 11th and 12th between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Please call Mary Williams, our volunteer coordinator, at 920-818-0290, if you are able to help for an hour or two.
On May 11th, 12th and June 4th we will also be accepting donations for the rummage sale so please clean out your closets and basements. Household items (no clothing or shoes unless from 1910 or before) can be dropped off on any of those days. If you have an item that you need us to pick up, please call Trudy at 920-421-2332 to arrange.
On June 5th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and June 6th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. we will be having the rummage sale in the Vignes School. In addition, on Saturday, June 6th, the Sustainability Living Fair will be on the grounds of the Heritage Village and Crossroads so be sure to stop by and check it out. There will be demonstrations by the blacksmiths, Maddens will be working on the Hand Tool Museum and doing a logging demonstration, knitters with handmade items, other vendors and food for sale on the grounds so plan to be there for a little while. Limited reserved parking will be located near the Vignes School if you want to just attend the rummage sale and overflow parking is available across the road at Whitetails.
Have you ever considered becoming a docent at the Village? A docent is an esteemed title for a volunteer tour guide in a Museum setting. Our Heritage Village could not be open seven days a week without dedicated volunteers who serve as docents, blacksmiths or Mr. or Mrs. Greene. Training will be provided during May for all volunteer staff. Call Mary Williams at 920-818-0290 if you are able to dedicate a few hours each week to help in this special way.
Hope to see you at the Village!
Thoughts from our Executive Director – Trudy Herbst
Thank you very much for your congratulations and words of encouragement. From thoughtful notes, telephone calls, warm greetings on the street, face book posts and likes, and even an ovation at the Rotary Club of Sturgeon Bay, I am humbled by your warm welcome and expressions of trust. I look forward to guiding the organization to strengthen its mission and encouraging you in your quest to become history keepers.
As of now, much of our history is packed away in boxes…no more! In our monthly member newsletters you will find one of our stories. I encourage you to read these stories to your children, grandchildren, and neighbors. What better way to be a history keeper! If you have an original story to share, consider writing it down so that we may add it to our knowledge base for all to enjoy.
This month’s story, “Lilacs Are a Useful Weather Tool,” was written by George Evenson and published in the annual publication, Peninsula. I heard about this story from an email inquiry that was responded to by Mary Gilbert. In my family, blooming lilacs are not only an indicator of the white bass run, but that spring is truly here. While sighting robins around the county the past week, I’ve always felt that a robin’s appearance is a false harbinger of spring since so many mornings are frost-covered. While some choose lilies, robins or other signs of new beginnings, mine is a lilac. For me, the Society is a new beginning.
Then, when I read George’s article, I was certain to include it this month. George quotes a writer at that time describing a lilac as, “…the symbol of the hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State.” The lilac now reminds me of the hardy character of the men and women that constitute the volunteers of the Door County Historical Society. I am continually impressed by their dedication and their hardy character necessary to carry this organization forward 89 years after its establishment.
This first quarter, until the lilac blooms, will be a time of transition for all of us. My mode of late is to be “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” absorbing all the organizational history you have to offer. I look forward to greeting you and helping you achieve your goals as a historical society and as the keeper of your history.
Lilacs Are a Useful Weather Tool
By George Evenson
Can you remember a song that when you hear it, it reminds you of a time of your life, a certain incident that is instantly recalled when the song is played or comes to mind? I’m sure we all have had that experience. The same is true for an odor or fragrance. In my case it’s the fragrance of purple lilac that brings an experience to mind. Whenever I catch the fragrance of lilacs, I think of the Shiloh Cemetery south of Sturgeon Bay on Shiloh Road.
Years ago before there was such a thing as perpetual care, relatives of people buried at the cemetery were expected to maintain the lots of their buried relatives. This meant each spring families would go to the cemetery to clean up the lots, mow the grass and plant new flowers, usually geraniums. Since Memorial Day was the traditional day for remembering, it was very important to have the work done by that day. All of my grandparents are buried there, so naturally we spent a good part of a day out at the Shiloh Cemetery.
So where do the lilacs come in? Along the east side of the church yard, a hedge of purple lilacs grew, and like clockwork, the bushes would either be coming into bloom or in full bloom shortly before Memorial Day. Memorial Day at that time was celebrated on the 30th of May. So, all day while working at the cemetery, the heavy, sweet fragrance of purple lilac filled the air and burned an impression on my mind.
The lilac was no stranger to anyone living on a farm. Every farmstead had purple lilacs somewhere around the buildings. I guess we all took the bush for granted. But in 1991, I read an article in the Old Farmers’ Almanac. The article explained the lilac was not native to North America, and was a member of the Olive family. It was native to southwestern Europe and found in the highlands of Southeast Asia where it grows wild. The common purple lilac (Syringa vulgaris) soon won favor with gardeners and by the 16th century was found in peasant gardens and royal landscapes because of its fragrant blooms and lush foliage.
That article pricked my curiosity. The question – how did the lilac get to North America and why did it become so popular with the early pioneers? That required more research and, with the help of the internet, the answer became clear. The first lilacs came to America in 1750 brought from England and planted at the home of Governor Benning Wordworth at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1919 it became the State flower, because as a writer at that time recorded, “it is the symbol of the hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State.”
If we came from a distant country and needed to grow crops in order to survive, certain information would be vital. For example, if we lived in a temperate region, we would need to know when it is safe to plant crops that are susceptible to frost. Plant too early and the young plants freeze. Plant too late and they would not mature. There were no weather bureaus or almanacs and very few people with weather experience and perhaps even no calendar. The Indians grew corn and squash. They developed a method of determining proper ground temperature. They believed that if a naked person could sit on the ground comfortably, it was time to plant – an idea that didn’t impress the early Quakers and Puritans. They also observed tree leaves. If the oak leaves were the size of a squirrel’s ear or if of the elm was the size of a mouse ear, then was time to plant frost sensitive crops.
But careful observations over the centuries gave the common purple lilac a distinct advantage. Lilac bore no fruit; it couldn’t be eaten, so why was it so important to the early farmers and gardeners? The lilac became well known as a biological weather instrument.
Observers of plant development found that the lilac does not respond to length of daylight; it is day-neutral: the photoperiod does not affect its timing of growth. It is solely dependent on what are now called growing degree-days: an accumulation of degrees above a mean, at which plant growth occurs, usually 52 degrees. Although other plants require a combination of day length and heat units, their growth can be misleading. Early farmers learned how to read the lilac and began activities when certain development occurred.
A carefully kept diary and common purple lilac were important tools as agriculture moved westward across the new lands where no agriculture had existed. Since its usefulness was known by the farmers in New England, the Yankee farmers brought lilacs with them as they left for the richer lands of the Midwest. Thus there is a good chance that the first owners of the new land were Yankees. It had proved to them a standard measure for accumulated heat needed to plant and usually beat the last frost. Other newcomers caught on to the idea of having a lilac growing on their own land as an important farm tool.
Today modern researchers are finding new value in the predictability of the lilac. Phenology (the science of appearances) of lilac blooms is discovering something the pioneers learned long ago. In Montana, alfalfa growers are told to cut hay 10 days after the lilacs start to flower, because it is the best time to control weevil. Southern Alberta farmers learn that the proper time to cut alfalfa is 40 days after the lilac flowers. When lilacs reach full bloom is the best time to treat birch trees for birch leaf miner, gypsy moth larvae on deciduous trees, and lilac borer on lilac. The lilac is not useful in warm climates as a climate indicator because the plant needs to be chilled or the buds will delay spring growth and flowering.
As you drive through the countryside, notice the large growth of lilac bushes often standing alone in a field or hiding old, no longer used buildings. If you can explore the area where the bushes grow, I’ll bet you will find an old foundation or an old weather-beaten building not surviving nearly as well as the lilac. Depending on how you prune it, there is a bush or tree on our farm that is well over one hundred years old; the last reminder of an agriculture that no longer needs them.
But the dark purple blooms and that rich fragrance, tell us it’s time to plant, and reminds me of a warm spring day a long time ago at Shiloh Cemetery mowing the grass and helping my mother and dad plant geraniums.
Board President Linda Sealey and Executive Director Trudy Herbst hope that you will help to serve on various committees as well as during the season at the Heritage Village at Big Creek. Some committees are administrative, standing committees while others are short term “ad hoc” to accomplish a specific goal. Administrative Committee work is a great way to share skills you have. Help is needed at the Village from June through the end of September to serve as docents (honored tour guides) and to work in the Greene Store during busy times, programs, and special events. You do not need experience to volunteer at the Village; training sessions for various aspects of the Village will be held during May. If you are able to help in any way, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator (who is also a volunteer) Mary Williams at (920) 818-0290.
Standing Committee Expansion
Fundraising – Implement plans to achieve capital (Hanson House & Hand Tool Museum), operating, specific projects such as the Heritage Trail, and endowment goals.
Marketing and Publicity – Website, Facebook, Newsletter Design, Advertising,
Membership – Develop and implement plans to grow our membership base.
Collection – Grow, Record, Photograph, Digitize and Care of our Collection
Ad Hoc Committees
Spring Cleaning – Your volunteer help is needed for spring cleaning at the Historical Village from 9-4 each day: May 11, May 12. If you are able to spare a few hours, please call Mary Williams at (920) 493-0620.
Rummage Sale – help collect, price, tag, and organize sale items; work a shift during the sale on Friday and Saturday June 5 & 6
Victorian Tea – a fun way to learn history, enjoy good foods, and support the Heritage Village financially. On Saturday, Aug. 29, the aim is to serve a Victorian Tea, by advance reservation. We need your volunteer help to plan, and carry out the project. Help with ticket sales, advertising, preparation of food, serving food in costume, setup and cleanup are all needed. Please phone Jerry or Nan Krause, (920) 746-0628.
When Spring Cleaning, Think Society Rummage Sale
While you are spring cleaning at home, please save gently-used household items, tools, sports equipment, games, puzzles, books, antiques, furniture, etc. for the Village Rummage Sale (no clothing or shoes). Items may be dropped off at the Village during spring cleaning on May 11-12 or June 4, from 9-4:00 each day. Contact Jerry or Nan Krause 746-0628 if you are unsure if your items are appropriate for the sale. If you have larger items that require a pickup, please call the Village number (920) 421-2332.
Heritage Village Wish List
Bed pillows: if possible, like-new, feather filled or down
Patterns for 1900 clothing
Straw or feather tick mattress Volunteers to sew costumes
Cotton sheets to cover ironing board Square nails
Church offering bag on a stick Red rubber rings for canning jars
Wall hanging cross, about 18” 1900 period child’s high chair
Large anvil, for blacksmith use Tin lard pails
Globe from about 1880-1910 Straw Hats
Iron Plastic Folding Tables
Please contact Trudy Herbst 421-2332, Jerry & Nan Krause 746-0628 or
Mary Gilbert 495-1109 if you have any of these items.
MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015 – 6:00 PM (New Time!)
PRINCE OF PEACE CHURCH, 1756 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay
(Large Parking Lot Entrance is located on 18th Avenue.)
PROGRAM: Ahnapee & Western Railroad Revisited, presented by Andy Laurent
DINNER-Catered by Scaturo’s: Lasagna roll ups, Chicken Scaturo over Wild Rice (Chicken breast stuffed with ham, provolone, and spinach in a mushroom Marsala sauce), salad, bread, butter, cookies, bars, ice tea, water & coffee.
RESERVATIONS DUE BY MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015
Mail to Door County Historical Society, PO Box 71, Sturgeon Bay WI 54235
NO REFUNDS OR PHONE RESERVATIONS, PLEASE
PHONE __________________ Email:
MEMBERS & THEIR GUESTS – Number Attending _____ X $20.00 =
NON-MEMBERS _____ X $24.00 = __________
2015 MEMBERSHIP FORM (if you have not already submitted, please)
INDIVIDUAL MEMBERSHIP: $ 25.00
HUSBAND/WIFE MEMBERSHIP: $ 40.00
I (we) would like to make an additional donation to the DCHS: TOTAL ENCLOSED:
MEMBERSHIP DUES DUE BY END OF APRIL, PLEASE & THANK YOU!!!
MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO: DOOR COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Mail to PO Box 71 Sturgeon Bay WI 54235-0071