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May 2006 Odd Wisconsin

Hiking Across Wisconsin

"I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking," wrote Henry Thoreau in the fall of 1854. One of them could have been the anonymous Milwaukee resident who set out in July of 1858 to walk across the entire state, from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, just for...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 28, 2006

Wisconsin At War

Memorial Day began as a day to decorate the graves of all soldiers who had fought in American wars. In 2005 we traced here the origins of the holiday. This year we open the doors to original documents about Wisconsin's role in America's wars. Perhaps the only unusual thing about today's Odd Wisconsin is the length of time that Wisconsin...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 24, 2006

Chief Dandy and the White Settlers

Last week we mentioned the Ho-Chunk chief Dandy, who appealed to the Bible in an argument with Gov. Henry Dodge about 1837. A few years earlier, he had called on Juliette Kinzie in Portage along with a relative (and another chief) named Four-Legs, while the white family was observing their Sabbath day of rest. "We were all seated quietly," remembered...
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Posted in Odd Lives on May 24, 2006

Official English Again

Last Thursday, while debating its immigration reform bill, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to it that would declare English the "national language" of the United States (it was watered down a little while later to "common and unifying language"). The House is considering a similar proposal advocating an amendment to the Constitution that would establish English as the "official...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 20, 2006

Ho-Chunk Persistence

This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of the settlement of the long treaty rights case between the U.S. and the Ojibwe, which reaffirmed tribal rights to off-reservation hunting and fishing. Under treaties from the 1840s and 1850s, the Ojibwe managed to hold onto rights that other Wisconsin tribes had been forced to give up in earlier decades. The Ho-Chunk, for...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 19, 2006

What's the Michissipi, and Where Does It Go?

333 years ago this week, two unlikely explorers set out on a four-month voyage through the heart of America. They were Father Jacques Marquette, a studious Jesuit priest two weeks shy of his 36th birthday, and Louis Joliet, a 27-year-old former philosophy student who had taken up fur trading. They were the first Europeans to cross Wisconsin, to descend the...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 17, 2006

Pride Before the Fall

One summer evening many years ago, hundreds of new recruits to a local militia sat around campfires swapping tall tales and making brave claims. For 21 cents a day, these young men from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois had agreed to leave their farms and mines to pursue a band of Sauk and Fox Indians. Their orders were to find...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 12, 2006

The End of the Confederacy

On May 10, 1865, the Civil War ended when Wisconsin soldiers captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis. When Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9th, Davis fled south with his family. Madison lawyer Henry Harnden, commanding the Wisconsin First Cavalry at Macon, Ga., was ordered to scour the countryside for him. Thirty-six hours into the search ("24 of them in the...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 9, 2006

Concrete Cattle

A century ago the Price Co. town of Phillips was best-known for a devastating forest fire, but today it's remarkable for folk art. Its "Wisconsin Concrete Park" is an outdoor museum with more than 200 embellished concrete and mixed media sculptures. These fantastic creatures were built between 1948 and 1964 by Fred Smith, a retired lumberjack and self-taught artist. Gigantic...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 8, 2006

English Tudor Logging Camp

Most of our northwoods villages began life as crude log structures that rose out of the primeval forest to house lumberjacks and the businesses loggers needed. Where two rail lines came to a junction or a waterfall made possible a lumber mill, a tiny hamlet might spring up. In the early 20th century the log cabins often gave way to...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 5, 2006

Janesville Boy Memorialized At Honolulu

When Tom Ruger was growing up in Rock Co., he could never have imagined that his name would be enshrined atop Hawaii's most famous peak. Ruger (1833-1907) arrived in Wisconsin from New York in 1854, and as a teenager went back to West Point for schooling. After a year he resigned his commision, studied law back in Janesville, and opened...
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Posted in Curiosities on May 1, 2006

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