Annual Meeting

Each year in March, members, guests and the general public are invited to attend the Annual Meeting of the McFarland Historical Society.  The meeting features a guest speaker on a topic of historical interest, the annual business meeting, desserts and beverages, and lively conversation.  The annual meetings are held in McFarland, Wisconsin.

2020 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

The year 2020 is important because of the presidential elections this year and also because it is the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving half the population (women) the right to vote.  Historian Simone Munson will speak at the McFarland Historical Society’s annual meeting on “The Woman’s Hour Has Struck: Wisconsin’s Role in the Women’s Suffrage Movement.”

The annual meeting will be held at the McFarland Municipal Building, 59l5 Milwaukee Street, on March 1, 2020, from 1 to 3 pm.  The meeting is open to the public and features a special video presentation about Ginny Dodson, our Volunteer of the Year for 2019.

Speaker Simone Munson is based at the State Historical Society’s headquarters in Madison and serves as their Collections Development Coordinator.  She will explain that Wisconsin suffragettes were very active in the movement to gain the right to vote.  Their efforts were hampered because many of these women also supported the temperance movement – something strongly opposed by the beer and liquor lobby.  Partly because of Wisconsin’s German heritage and beer brewing, efforts to allow women the suffrage were voted down by the all-male legislature for many years.  Finally, in 1919, the Wisconsin Legislature ratified the 19thAmendment and the race was on to get the ratification document to Washington, D.C.  Illinois had a head start but there was a technical error in their document so Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the amendment.

The following year, women across the nation were allowed to vote in the United States.  The Suffragettes formed the League of Women Voters to encourage the ladies (and gentlemen) to get out and vote!

As a nod to the stubbornness of the brewing industry, local wine and beers will be served as well as other treats and beverages.  Guests may see a few suffragettes in the audience.  Be watching!

2019 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

Author and radio and television personality Jerry Apps was our guest speaker at the McFarland Historical Society Annual meeting on Sunday, March 3rd. This year the meeting was held at the McFarland Municipal building to accommodate the crowd of about 90 people. Jerry began by talking about the importance of “telling your story” and he even wrote a book about capturing the memories – your own and those of other family members. He told stories from his latest book, “Simple Things” – objects such as an old barn lantern that bring back a flood of memories. A few guests brought their own simple things from their childhood days or items past down by their ancestors and put them on display.

The Volunteer of the Year was the very deserving Ken Brost who organized Society volunteers for the past 25 years and served on the Larson House Planning Committee.  The many volunteers who make possible the “Very Victorian Christmas” at the Larson House Museum were recognized in a power point presentation using many photos taken by professional photographer Sue Vick Finley.  And the gentlemen who mow the lawns at the museum and at the Larson House were recognized.  Reports concerning society activities were given.  Much of the museum is being reorganized and the new addition displays are being completed.  A new lobby display will feature “Notable McFarland Women.”  We will have our Memorial Day Open House at the Museum, the Strawberry Shortcake Social in June and a Picnic in August featuring John and Julia Larson at the Larson House.

2018 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

We are very pleased that Michael Edmonds will be our guest speaker at the annual meeting.  He will present “Warriors, Saints and Scoundrels: Brief Portraits of Real People Who Shaped Wisconsin,” on Sunday, March 4 from 1 to 3:30pm at the McFarland Municipal Building.

Michael Edmonds is the Director of Programs and Outreach at the Wisconsin Historical Society and has written several books on various aspects of Wisconsin history.  He is a 1976 graduate of Harvard and has taught part time at the UW-Madison since 1986.  In this talk at our meeting, he will tell us about some of the strange and colorful people who helped shape our state, and why the Wisconsin Historical Society wanted to publish a book full of short sketches of obscure eccentrics.

We invite you to attend the McFarland Historical Society annual meeting to experience Michael Edmond’s fascinating presentation.  You will also learn the name of our “Volunteer of the Year,” and about progress on the log cabin and row boat restorations.

This year we will play a special video about the history and restoration of the Larson House that you will not want to miss because you may be in it!  There will also be special treats including Wisconsin wines to sample.

Be sure to come to the McFarland Municipal Building on Sunday, March 4 at 1 pm to be enlightened, entertained and nourished!

2017 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

Thanks to a new batch of Ole and Lena jokes from Dick Kohl, master of ceremonies Wes Licht was at it again, involving those giving reports as part of the jokes.

Reports were given by the board officers and Clair Utter gave Jackie Utter’s treasurer’s report since she was ill.  Kathy Krusiec gave a report on the Larson House Museum’s Victorian Christmas event the month of December where over 300 guests visited the house.

Speaker Ron Larson gave a facinating  presentation on the Wisconsin State Historical Society’s massive newspaper collection that is on paper, microfilm and is being scanned.  Lee and Cheryl Ackley were honored with a life-time membership for their volunteer work at the Larson House Museum.

A video was played showing Lee’s many projects throughout the Larson House Museum.

Wes Licht gave a power point presentation on the proposed new addition to the Museum on Main Street.  Eighteen feet will be added to the back of the museum to provide a new records center-meeting room and also a larger area for restoring an ancient row boat like the ones used at Larson’s Beach Resort and Edward’s Park a hundred years ago.  After the restoration, the space will used to display the boat and other lake-related artifacts.  The project will also free up the lobby to make it more presentable for visitors.

2016 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

The McFarland Historical Society’s Annual meetings are always lively with good speakers and interesting reports.  This year, local historian Lorraine Hawkinson presented the story of a Norwegian immigrant who came to Dane County and created an invention that became very popular in our area.  His name was Ole Evinrude and his ideas would make Wisconsin famous for outboard motors.  Reports were given on the progress of the “Float the Boat” project (new addition to the museum), Memorial Day activities, the Strawberry Shortcake Social, the Chocolate Fest, and the work of our Mowing Brigade.   Plaques that recognize donors who contributed to the new addition at various levels  were displayed.  This year, the name of our “Volunteer of the Year” was a closely guarded secret  and our president, Dale Marsden was very surprised to find out that he was the one being honored for all his work on the Larson House, in the Museum, leading board meetings, editing the newsletter, organizing our Memorial Day Open House and more.  Our exciting news is that the addition is done and now comes the hard work of restoring our hundred-year-old double pointed row boat that pre-dates Ole’s Evinrude motor.  Contributions are now encouraged to complete the boat restoration and prepare displays for the new room.

2015 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

The master of ceremonies Wes Licht brushed up on his repitrore of Nowegian jokes and no one was safe from being included in one of his Ole, Lena, or Sven jokes.

Reports were given by the board officers.  Meg Nielsen gave a report on the very successful Chocolate Fest Committee that raised over $10,000 in 2014.  The Committee will take a well-desered break in 2015 and hold another fest in November of 2016.

Kathy Krusiec reported on the Ladies Afternoon Tea fundraiser held on the lawn at the Larson House.  This elegant event will be held again on July 11, 2015, with a rain date of July 18.

Ginny Dodson recognized eagle scouts Sean Kohl and Tyler Bexson for their work at the Larson House and showed them the plaques that will be hung next to their projects, an herb garden and pergola, respectively.

Jane Licht praised the Larson House Museum Mowing Crew of Bill Mitchel, Joe Marking Jr., Tim Mitchel, Larry Nygaard and Jim Harried.  Bill, Tim, Jim and Larry’s widow Deb received gas cards in recognition of the fact that they use their own equipment and gasoline to keep the grounds neat and tidy.  President Dale Marsden presented a plaque to Ron Larson who purchased naming rights to the front porch at the Larson House Museum.

He also presented a McFarland Historical Society life time membership to Meg Nielsen for chairing the Chocolate Fest Committee.

2014 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

The annual meeting held at the E.D. Locke Library celebrated the Society’s 50th anniversary.  Representative Robb Kahl presented president Dale Marsden with a State Assembly citation from himself and Senator Mark Miller who both represent the Village of McFarland and Town of Dunn in the Wisconsin Legislature.  The citation mentioned various milestones in the history of the McFarland Historical Society.  1964 – received its state charter and articles of incorporation.  1972 – constructed the museum building.  1974 – rebuilt an historic “Hidden Farm” log cabin behind the museum.  1994 – received the Rueben Thwaites Trophy for excellence in research and displays of artifacts, programs and projects benefitting the local community by a local historical society.  2012 – purchased the Queen Anne style Victorian “Larson House” and began restoration.

A short business meeting was conducted and prior to a break, member John Wendling played “Happy Anniversary” on the piano.  A cake with a photo of the museum was donated for the event and it proved to be exceedingly tastey.

Jane Licht reported that the Larson House restoration is nearing completion and the grand opening is scheduled for May 24 and 25 with the ribbon cutting on May 24.

Antiques appraiser Shirley Bauman gave her presentation, “Rocking Through History” on the history of the rocking chair, an American invention.  Several members brought in their antique rocking chairs or photos for her to evaluate. Photos.

2013 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting held at the Municipal Building featured McFarland Schools Superintendant Scott Brown speaking about the 50th anniversary of McFarland High School.  Also featured was an update on the Larson House restoration, and a special recognition of contributors and volunteers.

The meeting was well attended by historical society members, current and former administrators, support staff, students, and teachers including Don Sabatke who was one of the original teachers, Homer Vick, Jr., who served on the original school board, and Jackie Utter who was in the first graduating class.

Hazel Zieman received an ovation for her work as school secretary for many years.  Scott Brown and Jim Hicke gave an overview of the planning, community support and courtroom battles that finally resulted in McFarland obtaining its own high school district.

Jane Licht presented certificates to the contractors who donated materials and labor for the restoration of the Larson House and she acknowledged the many citizen volunteers who helped with fund raisers, bought boards, named rooms, and worked on projects.

2012 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

The McFarland Historical Society’s Annual Meeting was held at the E.D. Locke Library on Sunday, March 11, at 1:00 PM.

Guest speaker Bob Kann, author of “Cordelia Harvey: Civil War Angel,” said that Cordelia Harvey was known as ‘The Wisconsin Angel” and “The Florence Nightingale of Wisconsin” for her compassionate and competent care for Wisconsin soldiers during the Civil War.  The wife of Wisconsin governor Louis Harvey, she advocated for better care for hospitalized soldiers, took care of the wounded, gave hope to the sick, and comfort to the dying.  Cordelia convinced President Lincoln to open a military hospital in Madison (“The Harvey Hospital”) and engineered its subsequent conversion to an orphanage (“Soldiers’ Orphans Home for the State of Wisconsin”) in which Cordelia served as its superintendent when the war ended.  Located in former Governor Farwell’s mansion, both the hospital and orphanage provided care for hundreds of needy Wisconsin soldiers and children.

The meeting also featured a remarkable display of Civil War memorabilia loaned by Eric Opsal.  Wes Licht explained that the theme for the Museum Lobby display will be Wisconsin’s part in the Civil War since this year marks the 150th anniversary of that conflict.  Reports were given by McFarland Historical Society officers, including  reports on the Chocolate Fest and the Larson House.

2011 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

Wes Licht served as master of ceremonies and introduced the board members and also Brian Utter who is McFarland’s Citizen of the Year.  Brenda Zier distributed the minutes, Jackie Utter read her Treasurer’s report, and Dale Marsden gave his President’s report.

Dale explained that there were a number of fund raisers for the purchase and preservation of the Larson House and the Chocolate Fest was especially successful with 250 people attending and about $7000 being raised.

Display honoring Crystal Lokken who served on the McFarland Historical Society Board from 2006 until her death in 2010.

Gini Nichols pointed out the table honoring Crystal Lokken and she mentioned some of the many contributions Crystal made to the Society.

Ginny Dodson explained that it is still not too late to contribute favorite family recipes for the recipe book that will be done in time for the 2011 Chocolate Fest.

Dale conducted the election of board members.  All the current board members were re-elected plus one new board member, Dick Kohl.  After a brief break for desserts and visiting, Dale introduced Gary Hess who with his cousin Jim gave a very interesting presentation on the cooperage started by their grandfather, Frank J. Hess.

Barrel-making was an important industry that supported the many breweries and wineries in Wisconsin and across the country.   Frank J. Hess, was a cooper (barrel-maker) who immigrated to the United States from Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) and made Madison, Wisconsin, a major center for barrel-making.  The Frank J. Hess and Sons Cooperage became Wisconsin’s largest independent family-owned cooperage, manufacturing quarter-sawn white oak beer, wine, and whiskey barrels.  The two factory buildings located near the railroad tracks were behind the family home, which stood at 1952 Atwood Avenue.  At its peak, the Hess Cooperage could manufacture 40 barrels a day.  When it closed in 1966, it was the last factory in America that manufactured white oak beer kegs.

2010 McFarland Historical Society Annual Meeting

On March 14, 2010, Jim Leary, professor of Folklore and Scandinavian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was the guest speaker.  He talked about Norwegian Folk Music in Wisconsin and played examples of recordings from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  His selections included tunes on a Hardanger fiddle, an Old World cow call, an immigrant ballad, and McFarland’s own Psalmodikon Quartet.  He also talked about the Goose Island Ramblers, a local group performing folk music around Dane County for many years.  Some members of the audience remembered listening to this group’s music.

Members were enthusiastic about Dr. Leary’s presentation and were especially interested in the Psalmodikon Quartet of women in the community that performed together for many years and even traveled to Washington, D.C. to play their music.  According to Dr. Leary, the Psalmodikon was used quite often to accompany hymn singing in church when the congregation could not afford an organ, since the instrument was relatively easy to build and learn to use.

Open House

The McFarland Historical Society’s Museum, Norwegian Log Cabin and Farm Display at 5814 Main Street, and the Larson House Museum at 6003 Exchange Street are open to the public on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 4 pm from Memorial Day through September.  Admittance is free and donations are encouraged.  For tours by special appointment, contact Dale Marsden at 608-838-3992 for tours at the Main Street Museum  or Jane Licht at 608-234-2504 for Larson House tours.