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.



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.

Wisconsin author Jennifer Rude Klett will talked about her book, Alamo Doughboy, a true story about a private (Jennifer’s grandfather) who served with the 90th  “Alamo” Division in the First World War.  His two brothers and two cousins, who all grew up in the same Midwestern town also went off to war.  Told from the perspective of an infantry soldier, this account details life in the trenches to life back on the home front.  While the book is a solid military history, it’s also about a boy and his dog, faith, love, courage and duty.  Several society members brought WWI memorabilia.  Wes Licht explained that these items would be on loan as part of the World War I lobby display in the Museum.
















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.



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.

Jim Hickey, Scott Brown, Don Sabatke, Hazel Zieman, Homer Vick, Jr., George Fuller, Pat Kennedy, Jerry Adrian.

Tura Olson Graber received the plaque that will go in the room in the Larson House that she named after her father, Hartman Olson and her great grandfather, Tollef Olson.  More photos of the 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. 

Wes Licht was master of ceremonies at the Society's Annual Meeting.

Dale Marsden presented Attorney Pharis Horton with a Life Time Membership in recognition of his pro-bono work for the Society.

Time for conversation and refreshments.

Speaker Bob Kann.

Sale of history books was brisk. 

Wisconsin's Iron Brigade fought bravely in the Civil War.

Link to more photos of the 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.  Gini Nichols pointed out the table honoring Crystal Looken 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 presention on the cooperage started by their grandfather, Frank J. Hess.

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




























The Board of Directors and speakers for the 2011 Annual Meeting.

Standing from the left:  speakers Gary and Jim Hess, Wes Licht, Brenda Zier,

Dick Kohl and Jackie Utter

Seated from the left:  Earl Anderson, Gini Nichols, Ginny Dodson, Dale Marsden.







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.




Frank Hess is working on the right and his four sons are working along side him in one of the factory buildings behind his home on Atwood Avenue.  A daughter (not pictured) served as bookkeeper for the business. 

For more photos of the Annual Meeting and the presentation, click on photos.











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.

Link to more photos of the 2010 Annual Meeting.