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September 2010 Odd Wisconsin

A Unique Treasure

Last week a scholar in Vermont called with questions about a peculiar pamphlet in the Society rare book collection. Its title page opens with the bizarre phrase, "Iontri8aiestak8a ionskaneks…" and continues with equally strange typography. The little book is a religious primer in the Mohawk language printed at Montreal in 1777, and investigation revealed that the Society's is the only...
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Posted in Curiosities on September 29, 2010

Don't Mess with the Cook

During the summer of 1930, papers in northeast Wisconsin ran several memoirs by a writer named B.A. Claflin. Two of these concerned a woman named Mary Ann who ran a boarding house in Peshtigo and worked in logging camps upriver. A big woman, standing six feet tall and weighing near 200 pounds, she was especially imposing when angry. In one...
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Posted in Bizarre Events on September 22, 2010

The Town That Wouldn't Give Up

This weekend marks the anniversary of one of the most dramatic floods in living memory -- the deluge that nearly swept away the village of Spring Valley. The 973 residents of the little Pierce Co. town were used to floods. Their village, strung out lazily along the Eau Galle River in a deep valley, had witnessed major inundations in 1894,...
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Posted in Bizarre Events on September 16, 2010

Fake Inventors Swindled Investors

Long before unsolicited emails offered shares in fictitious Nigerian fortunes, equally brazen scams were perpetrated on the Wisconsin frontier. Con men known as "patent right sharpers" would demonstrate useful products, sell shares to naive investors, and then hightail it out of town before the victims discovered the fraud. One such swindle happened in 19th-c. Fond du Lac and involved a...
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Posted in Curiosities on September 9, 2010

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