The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

A Fort Howard Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

 

192 years ago a cheerful holiday feast was held just across the street from the museum near Leicht Park at Fort Howard. 

Once a fort officer, Col. McNeil (later commander of Fort Howard 1824-1825), found out how important it was to the French residents of the area to celebrate Christmas, he planned an elaborate party.  The officers invited the French, the Americans and native people living in the area.  The 4’ o’clock dinner is said to have fed a hundred people.  The evening included a feast of fish, bear, and porcupine along with a dance that lasted late into the night.  

A local land surveyor who attended the fort’s Christmas dinner/dance in 1823 describes the evening...   
    The hall was well filled… men and women, were attired in all the grades of dress, from the highest partisan down to the buck-skin coats, pants, petticoat, and moccasins of the aboriginals.  Yet as no one of the elite thought himself over-dressed, so, on the other hand, none of the citizens, French or half-breeds reproached themselves with least want or etiquette, or of intended disrespect of their host, on account of costume.
    -Albert G. Ellis

The fort hosted several gatherings like this one during its existence.  Maj. Zachary Taylor (Commander of Fort Howard 1816-1818 and later President of the United States) has been known for hosting social events but the truth is several officers enjoyed throwing hosting parties, including Col. McNeil.  

An Invitation addressed to Mrs. Lawe for a ball at Fort Howard in 1820 (NPM #1989.26.48) 

These gatherings led to some interesting stories including one murder and dangerous trip across the river during a violent storm.  These stories will be featured in our upcoming exhibit, Life and Death at Fort Howard opening in April 2016.  

Lisa Zimmerman, Curator

Our Next Local History Exhibit Is...

Monday, August 24, 2015

If you’ve been following the museum on Instagram you may have noticed we’ve been hinting at our next local history exhibit over the last few weeks.  We’ve posted these images (right) asking our followers; first what these things are; and second what they mean to Green Bay.   So what do a statue of Zachary Taylor, an iron shutter guard, a ledger from 1831 and the lines painted in the parking lot at Leicht Park have in common? The answer is Fort Howard. The fort was commissioned in 1816 to protect the western frontier in Wisconsin.  It stood on the ruins of the previous French post, Fort La Baye, just across the street from the museum around where Titletown Brewery stands today.  

(Zachary Taylor served as commander- the shutter guard once held the shutters open at the hospital on site, the ledger is the Quartermasters Ledger- the lines represent where researchers believe the corner of the stockade once stood)

Life and Death at Fort Howard (opening in April 2016) will explore the real stories of the military fort on the western shore of the Fox River.  These stories include tales of murder, grand balls, a love triangle, and relations between the fort and the citizens building a community across the river.   

Over the next seven months we will be sharing special behind-the-scenes pieces via this blog and Instagram.  Some great artifacts have surfaced during our research and we want to share them with you!  Stay tuned! 


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