Author: Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society

Morgan House Inventory Project

The Morgan House is filled with the treasures of yesteryear. The furniture, fine china, and gadgets from the 19th century are all part of the setting that takes the visitor back in time to Oshkosh at the turn of the century. When people generously donate items to the society, steps are taken to document all of the artifacts.

It’s a monumental but important job the society does of cataloging and documenting all of the items it has. The society’s goal is to take the fragmented paper catalog and make it a comprehensive electronic one and update all of the information in the process. This takes time, patience, and help from our dedicated volunteers.

Each item needs to be thoroughly examined, documented, photographed, and then added to our PastPerfect catalog program on the computer. It sounds daunting, but a group of dedicated, history-loving volunteers enjoys the work they do. The WCHAS would like to recruit YOU to help! Pick how YOU would like to help. Help by entering data into the computer. If you don’t know how to use PastPerfect, No problem! Project leaders can show you step-by-step how to use it and enter the data. If technology is not one of your strengths, volunteers who can provide detailed information and value of the artifacts are vital to this project. There are plenty of other ways for you to help, too.

Getting involved in local history is fun! Why not get involved with the WCHAS today!? If you are interested in helping with the Morgan House inventory project and want to learn more you can email us or call us.

German Oshkosh & the Turners

 

By Thomas J. Rowland


A German gymnastic movement, spawned by Napoleon’s occupation of most of the German States in the early 19th century, the Turners (Turnverein) made their arrival in America in the wake of the failed liberal revolutions of 1848. This underscores the reality that the Turner movement was rooted in as much political, social, cultural and philosophical underpinnings as it was in its physical expression. To borrow the somewhat hackneyed phrase, the Turners vowed the holistic approach of a “sound mind in a sound body.”

Some of the earliest Turners to arrive in Wisconsin were liberal refugees from the failed revolutions in Prussia. Labeled the “Forty-Eighters” by other Germans, they sunk roots primarily in the city of Milwaukee and along a due westerly route out to Watertown, the place in which one of the most famous émigrés of 1848, Carl Schurz, called home. The lack of radical credentials did not preclude other German immigrants from gravitating to the Turner movement.

 The iconic symbol of the Turnverein was its creation of Turner Halls, sprinkled throughout Wisconsin and a handful of other states (Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Pennsylvania to name but a few). In order to attend to its holistic mission the halls served as gymnasiums, lecture centers, theaters, music halls, and as a source of political mobilization.  In the late 19th century the Turners played a conspicuous role in American public education and the nascent labor movements. Second generation Turners in Wisconsin would figure prominently in the ranks of both the progressive and socialist movements of the early 20th century.

Winnebago County in the mid-19th century was populated primarily by the so-called “Yankees” who had migrated into the state from points along the eastern coast in the decades leading up to 1850. They would soon be joined by numerous German immigrants from that point onward.  By the close of the 19th century Winnebago County was overwhelmingly German in both ethnicity and character.

One of the earliest expressions of German solidarity occurred in Menasha. There in 1856 Germans created the Concordia Society which would eventually merge with the Menasha Turner Society in 1888. Turner activities were conducted in an edifice named Germania Hall built sometime during the 1860s on 320 Chute Street. In 1927 the organization adopted its final name, the German Benevolent Society. With its fundamental purpose no longer relevant, the hall was razed in 1963. A banquet facility, named Germania Hall, was build upon the same spot, serving the local population for nearly three decades until it ceased operation.

Oshkosh became the home of not just one but two Turner Halls, one on the North Side and the other on the South Side. Recent research has revealed that a commodious wooden structure was built by the Turners in the downtown section (North Side) of Oshkosh in 1874.  The best recreation of the hall reveals that it was not particularly ornate but very utilitarian in character, resembling a common warehouse in many ways. An attempt to turn it into an opera house in 1883 proved less than successful and in 1890 the Turners turned to William Waters to design an imposing brick structure at the old site on the northeastern corner of Merritt Avenue and Jefferson Street.  Much larger than the 1874 structure the new hall was capable of providing the full range of Turner activities much like the hall in downtown Milwaukee. With the general “de-Germanization” of so much in Wisconsin following the Great War the Turners were able to sell the building with its crenellated facade to the Wisconsin National Guard as its Company B armory. It served that purpose until the mid-1960s when the building was razed to make way for an auto repair shop. Today Jackson’s Glass Shop occupies the site.

Four years before he submitted the blueprints for the North Side Turner Hall, William Waters had drafted plans for another hall on the South Side of town. Located on the southeast corner of South Main Street and Tenth Avenue, it was an immense and grandiose wooden structure in the then popular Queen Anne style, sporting a soaring corner tower. It is said that an organization known as the Badger Club assumed ownership of the building in 1902 but before long the edifice was transformed into a warehouse for storing paper products. A fire destroyed it in 1920.

2017 Mini-Grant Award

The Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Council for Local History are pleased to announce that 25 affiliated local historical societies received a total of $12,506 through the 2017 mini-grant program. The Wisconsin Council for Local History administers the mini-grant program, which is funded by an endowment managed by the Wisconsin Historical Foundation.

The Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society has received a mini-grant to support the purchase of archival storage.

This year’s affiliate mini-grant program focused on projects and activities that strengthen a local organization’s ability to preserve historical collections and manage those collections and other resources. The projects supported in part by the mini-grant program are an important part of the work done by local organizations to help collect and preserve our state’s history at the community level.

The Wisconsin Historical Society’s Field Services Program provides support and educational opportunities to local history groups throughout the state. The Wisconsin Historical Society also partners with the Wisconsin Council for Local History, a non-profit organization consisting of all historical organizations affiliated with the State Society that promotes communication and cooperation among local history groups.

For more information about the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Council for Local History, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org.

For more information about the mini-grant program, contact Southern Field Services Representative Rick Bernstein at (608) 264-6583, rick.bernstein@wisconsinhistory.org or Northern Field Services Representative Janet Seymour at (715) 836-2250, janet.seymour@wisconsinhistory.org

2017 Museum Season Begins

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Mark your calendars! The Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society‘s summer schedule begins this Saturday, June 3. The historic John R. Morgan residence at 234 Church Avenue in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, will be open from 10am to 1pm every Saturday until the end of September. You can also stop by our Pie on the Porch bistro at the Oshkosh Saturday Farmer’s Market on Main Street in Oshkosh to buy a delicious slice of pie. All proceeds go to the society’s operating fund. Your support is appreciated!

If you haven’t been to the Morgan House you are missing out! This beautiful home was owned by one of Oshkosh’s pioneer lumber families. The Morgan family owned a sawmill along the Fox River for over a century. The house was acquired by the WCHAS in 1987 from Miss Constance Misky, who once lived in the home and ran a cosmetology school on the first floor. Since 1987 the society has beautifully maintained the property and furnished the home to reflect the living standards of the Morgan’s stature. When it was built in 1884, the Morgan’s had the most “modern” conveniences a homeowner could have in the city at that time. There was running water, both hot and cold, to several of the rooms in the house. The home was heated by steam heat, and electric bells were installed to summon servants and butlers to the Morgans’ every need.

While none of the furnishings on display are original to the Morgan family, you will see the original handcrafted wood decorations and original wallpapers that have adorned this beautiful Queen Anne style home since the day it was built. It is truly a treasure from Oshkosh’s lumbering heyday.

Tours of the house are always free to the public, but the society welcomes and appreciates donations which help to preserve this beautiful treasure. If you are unable to come see the home during open hours on Saturday, please call or send an email to set up an appointment to get a tour on a day that works for you.

Have you visited the Morgan House before?! Comment below to share your experience!