Video Clips of McFarland Events in the 1960's

Thanks to Steve Cheramy for these video clips.


From Wisconsin Historical Society’s Columns magazine, 2012, March-April edition, page 6.

Collections Highlight

The Skare Collection at the McFarland Historical Society

I N 1 9 4 2 the Wisconsin Magazine of History wrote: “Museum curators and antique collectors have figuratively gone mad over the treasures that Albert Skare has housed in his ‘Hidden Farm’ log cabin museum near McFarland.” Born in McFarland in 1878 to Norwegian immigrant parents, Albert Skare began assembling a collection of Norwegian and Norwegian-American artifacts sometime in the early 20th century. In addition to bentwood boxes, hand-carved spoons, turned wooden bowls and other examples of folk art brought to Wisconsin by Norwegian immigrants, he collected farming equipment, tools, kitchen implements and other artifacts of daily life in rural Wisconsin used by his family members and other Norwegian-American families in the area.

Following Skare’s death in 1967, his niece Margaret Greene Kennedy donated the entire collection of more than 1,000 objects to the McFarland Historical Society. In 1973 McFarland Historical Society volunteers disassembled the log cabin that was once at the heart of Skare’s “Hidden Farm” museum and moved it to the Society’s property on McFarland’s Main Street.

Highlights from Skare’s extensive collection can now be viewed online thanks to a collaboration of the McFarland Historical Society, Wisconsin Heritage Online and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In summer 2011 the UW’s material culture program paired three undergraduate students with three local historical societies to help them build digital resources. History major Katie Dreps worked with McFarland Historical Society President Dale Marsden and other society volunteers to select, research and catalog examples of the household goods and folk art in the Skare collection. Katie’s own Norwegian heritage inspired her to learn more about these objects: “My grandmother grew up on a farm outside of Lodi, the granddaughter of Norwegian immigrants. ... This internship has been a great opportunity for me to connect with my Norwegian heritage in a direct way.”

View selections from the Skare collection online at


Lided box




By Meg Nielsen


Thank you so much for the excellent coverage you gave to the McFarland Historical Society’s first Chocolate Fest.  Your willingness to provide articles and photographs about our Featured Baker, the Silent Auction, and the event itself helped to insure its success.

We are happy to report that the Chocolate Fest brought in somewhere around $3,500 through ticket sales, the Silent Auction, and private donations towards the preservation of the Larson House. After our very few expenses have been paid and with the proposed matching funds from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and an anonymous donor, our total benefit could reach $7,000.

 The McFarland Historical Society and the Chocolate Fest organizers are extremely grateful to Featured Baker Jane Paulin for providing her amazing chocolate creations. They were professionally crafted and presented as well as being decadently delicious. 

 We also wish to thank everyone who baked and brought their best chocolate desserts to the event.  Who knew there could be so many ways to enjoy chocolate?

 We are grateful to the musicians who donated their time by performing easy-listening music for the enjoyment of all who attended the event. We are also grateful to the individuals and businesses of McFarland and southeast Madison for contributing items to our Silent Auction and to McFarland State Bank and the Associated Bank of McFarland for selling tickets. The support of these businesses speaks well of the meaningful investment our business people have made in the life of this community. Kudos to the McFarland House Café for donating Ancora coffee and Door Creek Orchard for donating the apple cider.  

We are thankful to all the volunteers who helped organize, set up, serve and clean up after the event, including the custodial staff of the McFarland Municipal Center who helped us out with the clean-up.

It has been a joy and a privilege to be a part of the planning and creation of McFarland’s very first Chocolate Fest. Special thanks to the McFarland Historical Society Board of Directors for their willingness to say “yes” to this project and to all who embrace the idea of a beautifully restored Larson House at the center of our beloved community.

I look forward to the next Chocolate Fest and encourage all of you to watch the Thistle for the announcement of when that might be. Mark your calendar and plan to be there.

Meg Nielsen, Organizer

Chocolate Fest


Some of the many folks who helped at the Chocolate Fest.  From L to R:  Sue Murphy, Signe Eversoll, Wes Licht, Jane Paulin, Sally Paulin.  Jane, who studied baking in France, was the featured baker and the other ladies assisted her.  Wes poured champagne.



By Jane Licht


       An evening of chocolate, candlelight and champagne will be held right here in beautiful downtown McFarland on Saturday, November 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, in the Community Center of the McFarland Municipal Building. This deliciously elegant affair, sponsored by the McFarland Historical Society, will benefit  efforts to preserve the historic Larson House, a McFarland fixture on the corner of Bashford and Exchange since 1898.

                 Meg and Glenn Nielsen are chairing the event and explained that it is patterned after a similar historical society celebration held in Galena, Illinois. “We are asking the great bakers of the McFarland area to contribute their very best specialties – all of which contain chocolate as a major ingredient,” Meg said. Donors may contribute from one to three different kinds of home-baked desserts. “Moist delicious chocolate cakes, dreamy chocolate pies, luscious bars, fancy cookies, decadent cupcakes, and tasty tortes spring immediately to mind,” she added.

“These wonderful chocolate desserts plus one complimentary glass of champagne will be included in the price of a $12 ticket. There will be live entertainment that changes every half hour and a special table at which the offerings of a featured baker can be sampled,” Meg said.

The special featured baker is Waubesa Intermediate School Special Education Teaching Assistant Jane Paulin. Jane learned her baking techniques in France and her fellow teachers attest to her considerable baking talents. She promises to provide an interesting and entertaining presentation of chocolate delights.

“Vicki Holten and MHS Board Member Linda Scheid have combined their considerable decorating talents and are working together to transform the Community Room of the McFarland Municipal Building into a place of serenity, ambience and charm. “No adult resident who appreciates exquisite desserts, bubbly champagne, fine music and good conversation will want to miss this event!” Glenn said.

A silent auction will also be part of the event. Anyone wishing to contribute either an item for the silent auction or a chocolate treat should contact Meg at 838-8274. The names of all chocolate contributors will be listed at the event. Tickets will be available early in October at McFarland State Bank and the Associated Bank of McFarland. For more information, contact Meg or call Dale Marsden at 838-3992.




By Jane Licht

A “Bowling for the Larson House” fund raiser will be held on Saturday, October 23rd from noon to midnight at the Spartan Bowl in McFarland.  General manager Brock Roder explained that Spartan Bowl is used for many civic fund-raisers but this one is different in that Brock is organizing it himself.

Brock noticed the large “thermometer” sign in front of the Larson House and later attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting where McFarland Historical Society president Dale Marsden was introduced.  After the meeting, he approached Dale and proposed his idea for a bowling fund raiser.  Dale ran it by the board of directors and everyone thought the idea sounded great. 

The event schedule calls for open bowling from noon to 4 PM where a portion of all proceeds goes to the McFarland Historical Society for the purchase of the Larson House.  From 5 to 8 PM there will be raffles for donated items from area McFarland businesses.  At 8 PM is DJ Entertainment sponsored by the McFarland State Bank.  From 9 PM to midnight is Glow in the Dark Jack Pot Bowling Sponsored by the Thistle newspaper.  A portion of bowling proceeds will again be donated for the Larson House.

Brock Roder is a lifetime resident of McFarland, graduating from McFarland High School in 1999.  He received a degree in physical education from the UW-Whitewater and began substitute teaching.  Six months later, he was offered the bar manager position at Spartan Bowl.  A steady pay-check was mighty appealing since he and wife Krista (Cheramy) were expecting their first child.  Brock immediately noticed the laid back atmosphere so different from teaching where detail and structure are paramount.  Brock’s teaching background and work ethic soon landed him the general manager position at Spartan Bowl.

 “Our pace depends on the customers.  After high school sporting events, it’s very busy.  Now with the bowling league season and football season, business will pick up because we are also a full sports bar with a restaurant menu,” he explained.

When asked why he was motivated to do a fund raiser for the Larson House, Brock said, “The Firemen have done a bowling fund raiser here for years.  We actually look for good causes.  I saw the big sign at the Larson House and thought it would be good to have a day of bowling where a big portion of the proceeds goes to the purchase of that historic home.”

“It’s a good fund raiser because it is fun and can attract lots of people.  Bowling is for people of all ages and abilities.  My three-year old can play with bumpers (gutter guards) as can other children or even adults who are new to the sport.  They nearly always get pins this way and it keeps enjoyment in their game.  We can raise and lower the bumpers for every request.”

Brock said that donations for the Larson House Raffle will be gratefully accepted by him (bus. 838-8014 or cell 219-9439) or Ken Brost at 838-7142 , or by any other member of the McFarland Historical Society Board of Directors.




By Jane Licht

Meg Nielsen recently donated proceeds from a book she co-authored for the purchase and restoration of the historic Larson House in McFarland.  Back in 1975, Meg Nielsen, Barbara Houghton and Jane Licht poured over old records and interviewed over a hundred residents to write and publish City of the Second Lake, a History of McFarland, Wisconsin.  Meg explained, “As a relative newcomer to this community, I wanted to know more about the history of the place where we were putting down roots.  In whose footsteps did we follow?  I was very curious.”  As a bicentennial project, the first edition of the book sold out in 3 months.  Several years later, the second edition also sold out.

Then in 1998, Meg thought it would be good to create a revised and updated version so she called upon her friends Barbara and Jane to work again on this interesting project.   A different set of old photos were used, maps were added, and a chapter on the Town of Dunn history was written. 

Now, in 2010, Meg had the idea that the proceeds from this book that were sitting in the McFarland State Bank could be best used as a contribution to the McFarland Historical Society for the Larson House.  She checked with Barbara and Jane who were very enthusiastic about her idea, and so, she presented the Board of Directors with a check for $3000.  Meg also gave the Board the remaining copies of the book for the Society to sell and reap the profits from.

Meg remembers interviewing the elderly sisters Bertha and Tonetta Larson in their lovely Victorian style home on the corner of Exchange and Farwell back in 1975.  Meg wrote the chapter on Lake Waubesa that included information about John Larson who was father to Bertha and Tonetta.  The entire family enjoyed a prominent place in the community in the early 1900’s.  But in 1988, Bertha died and was the last person to live in the house. “To see the house vacant and crumbling from neglect broke my heart,” said Meg.

“What really motivated me to make this donation was when Crystal Lokken died.  Crystal had been such a passionate supporter of the project to purchase and restore the Larson House.  When she died, I wanted to help carry on where she left off.” 

Meg was glad to discover that the gift from herself and the other two authors was being doubled, matched by an anonymous donor who will continue to do so up to $10,000.  Therefore, the gifts given in September and possibly October will likely be doubled as well.

To purchase the City of the Second Lake, A History of McFarland, Wisconsin for $25, contact McFarland Historical Society president Dale Marsden (838-3992), or any member of the board.  Contributions to the Larson House may be sent to the McFarland Historical Society, PO BOX 94, McFarland WI 53558.  If you would be willing to receive recognition for your gift, please contact Jane Licht at 838-8178.




By Jane Licht

 Roald, Anne and Mary Lokken gave a very generous gift for the purchase and restoration of the Larson House in memory of their mother, Crystal Lokken.  Their reasons for this gift to the McFarland Historical Society are straightforward.  Their mother was an active board member of the society, a driving force behind the effort to preserve the Larson house and they felt that she had intended to make a large donation before her untimely death.  But there is more to this story.  It begins in the tiny Village of McFarland many years ago and involves another early house on the main street of McFarland.

Back in 1900, Ole and Mary Nelson bought a simple, two-story frame house that had been built in 1861.  It was just a stone’s throw from William McFarland’s home, built by the community founder in 1858, and a little farther to the South was a lovely Victorian- style home built in 1898 for E.N. Edwards.  That structure must have seemed very modern to Ole and Mary as they moved into their home that was nearly 40 years old.

 The Nelsons had three children.  One died in infancy, a son died in World War I, and only daughter Dorothy survived to marry (Chester Helmke).  In 1943, Dorothy found it necessary to divorce her husband and she moved into her parent’s home on Main Street where she raised her four daughters mainly on her own.  As adults, those daughters all became highly educated, traveled extensively, and raised families of their own.  One of the twin daughters was Crystal Helmke Lokken. 

Some of our mature readers will remember Dorothy Helmke’s column in the McFarland Community Life, predecessor to the Thistle.  Some of our mature readers will also remember attending McFarland Schools with the Helmke twins, Crystal (then called “Carol”) and Corrine, and their older sister, Delores, and Audrey, the youngest.

Roald explained that his grandmother Dorothy and mother Crystal always thought of the “Larson House” (purchased by John Larson in 1911) as the height of elegance whereas their own home was like a simple farm house in comparison.  The Larsons were well-respected and affluent members of the community.

Crystal married a Lutheran minister, Sigurd Lokken, and they moved to Berkeley, California, where he was campus pastor of the University of California at Berkeley.  After their three children were older, Crystal earned an MA in art education and started teaching in the public schools about 1964.  The year after Sigurd died in 1991, she retired and devoted more time to her many interests, such as Norwegian folk dancing, painting, traveling, researching Viking history, family genealogy, gardening, and church activities. But always, she dreamed of moving back to her home, her real home in McFarland.

 When Dorothy Helmke died, the family decided not to sell her home and rented it out for many years.  In 2006, Crystal bought out the rest of the family and came to live again in the home of her childhood.  The house was in rough shape by then, and Crystal set to work in restoring, remodeling and updating the home.  She made sure that the majority of the home was preserved and had her contractor add a bedroom, bath, garage and new insulation and siding.  Crystal became an active member of the McFarland Lutheran Church and a board member of the McFarland Historical Society. 

Perhaps it was Crystal’s memory of the lovely Larson House in its prime that motivated her to urge her fellow board members to purchase and restore this landmark in the center of the Village.  After Crystal’s death on March 15, 2010, her children found all sorts of information, articles and posters about the Larson House that Crystal had been working on.  She had even written members of the family to solicit funds for a large donation in memory of their mother and grandmother Dorothy.

Roald, Anne and Mary were in complete agreement that their mother’s home should not be sold since the family history and ties to this property were much too deep with six generations of family members living in the house from time to time.  They also agreed that a generous donation to the Larson House was in order.  Roald, an engineer living in Texas, Anne, a symphonic viola musician living in Italy, and Mary, a translator also living in Italy, made a pilgrimage to the family home this month to attend to estate matters.  Crystal and Sigurd had encouraged their children to learn and explore, which they all did, and yet, they all yearn for their “real” home, which continues to be the simple farm-style house on Main Street in McFarland.  Over the years it had always been their anchor and their source of pleasant memories.  The house itself was abused for years but lovingly restored and now proudly displays the plaque from the McFarland Historical Society proclaiming it one of the earliest homes in the Village.

In contrast, the Larson House that for most of its history was lovingly maintained, became vacant after Bertha Larson died in 1988 and has suffered greatly.  The exterior of the once pristine Victorian home has fallen into disrepair.  What was once a beauty to behold is now an eyesore.  No wonder so many in this community want to see thatchange.  Thanks to Crystal’s children for their $10,000 donation towards this worthy project.




By Jane Licht

 Jim Hartman recently handed a check for $1000 to Ken Brost towards the purchase of the Larson House by the McFarland Historical Society.  In addition to this thousand dollar gift, the Jim Hartman State Farm Insurance Agency will pledge $500 next year and another $500 the year thereafter to be used towards the restoration of the century-old Victorian home located at the intersection of Farwell and Exchange Street. 

 “I believe in this project and I am excited that the home will be restored and become an asset to the community.  It goes along with the rejuvenation of the downtown center of the village,” he said.  Jim noted that we have the E.D. Locke Library, the new coffee shop in the McFarland House, the McFarland Historical Museum, and with community support the Larson House will be a house museum – all within an easy walking distance.

 “The Larson House can be part of a walking field trip for McFarland school kids as they study local history.  It’s really a great opportunity for the next generation of kids to step back in time,” said Jim enthusiastically.

Citizen of the Year in 1998, Jim has organized the Village Halloween Parade every year for the past 20 years.  Jim moved his State Farm office from Monona to McFarland in 1983 and his family here in 1987.  Jim explained that he feels it has been a real privilege to work with so many great people in McFarland and he likes the idea of giving back to the community that has supported his business for many years.

 Ken Brost heads the fund-raising effort for the McFarland Historical Society’s project to purchase the Larson House.  He spoke to the Chamber of Commerce about the project and stressed the need for pledging.  “We did this with the Library.  The desire to help was there and we made it affordable by asking for pledges over a number of years,” said Ken. Ken noted that Jim was one of the first persons to fill out a Historical Society pledge card for the Larson House.

 For more information about the Larson House Project, contact Ken Brost at 838-7142or Dale Marsden at 838-3992     It you have or wish to donate to the project and would be willing to have Jane Licht interview you, please contact her 838-8178 or



Thanks to those who gave donations for the Larson House in memory of Crystal Lokken. 

We are sure that you made Crystal smile!


Board Member Crystal Lokken passed away Sunday evening, March 14, 2010.  A memorial service was held by the family on March 20, at the McFarland Lutheran Church.  Crystal was very active in the McFarland Historical Society as well as other community organizations.  Her energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and the countless contributions to all her endeavors will be greatly missed.  Crystal was the inspiration and guiding light behind the idea to purchase and restore the Larson House as a house museum for our time and for future generations.