The Neville Public Museum
The Neville Blog
Our Brown County is a celebration of 200 years of history focusing on the stories that make Brown County the place we choose to live, work, and play. Explore these stories through 50 artifacts, 50 photographs, 50 people, and 50 places that demonstrate the complex, diverse, and rich history of Brown County. Our Brown County opens May 29, 2018!
Vietnam Flight Suit, 1965-1973
The man who wore this flight suit flew high above the terrain of Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines between 1965 and 1973. John Evans volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and served as a combat aerial photographer. During the war, Evans was frequently shot at, but luckily was never shot down. After leaving the Air Force he became a lawyer and worked for Brown County and Oconto County. In 2016, Evans lost his battle with lung and brain cancer believed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
Vietnam Flight Suit, 1965-1973
The man who wore this flight suit flew high above the terrain of Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines between 1965 and 1973. John Evans volunteered for the U.S. Airforce and served as a combat aerial photographer. During the war, Evans was frequently shot at, but luckily was never shot down. After leaving the Air Force he became a lawyer and worked for Brown County and Oconto County. In 2016, Evans lost his battle with lung and brain cancer believed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
Hotel Northland Switchboard, 1930s-1950s
The Hotel Northland was at the center of a booming downtown Green Bay, hosting celebrities, Green Bay Packers players and staff, and a wealth of other people during its time as a hotel. This piece of communication technology from the mid-twentieth century connected calls from the outside to hotel guests during their stay in Green Bay.
The land surrounding the Fox River was highly desired for it controlled trade through the waterway. Three hundred years ago in 1717 the French were first stationed in Green Bay. The French fort, Fort La Baye, like Fort Howard was built on the opening of the Fox River. The French fort stood until 1760; for 43 years the French were a major influence in North Eastern Wisconsin. We can see the impact of the French in Wisconsin, especially in our area, when we think of Charles De Langlade, also known as the “Father” of Wisconsin, who was a French military officer. De Langlade and his family were one of the first inhabitants of Green Bay.
After the French had abandoned their location during the Fox Wars the English relocated to where Fort La Baye had stood and built Fort Edward Augustus. The English also saw the potential of the Fox River. Fort Edward Augustus was abandoned in 1763 during the Pontiac Uprising, yet the inhabitants of Green Bay remained dedicated to the English.
After the War of 1812 the British no longer had claim to the area and plans were being made for American forces to be moved into the area to control the Fox River. This wasn't the only reason the 3rd Regiment of the United States Army Infantry was placed in Green Bay. The larger goal of placing American soldiers here was to "Americanize" this newly attained land and to acclimate the people of the area with a new spirit of patriotism.
Fort Howard was vital for America's grasp on the Northwestern frontier. Our very own Fox River was hugely important in America's expansion to the West. Through the control of trade on the waterway that was so sought after by the other nations America now had another key to prosperity. Looking back I never fully realized how truly important our own little area was to the growth of this part of the nation. Over the last couple weeks I have been able to explore artifacts from the Neville's collection that were used in the Life and Death at Fort Howard exhibit which ran from April 2016 through April 2017. From maps to muskets the story that is told through the artifacts of Fort Howard speak volumes on how influential the fort was in creating the place we call home today.
If you want to learn more about America's beginnings and the men who forged the way don't miss our upcoming event America! on June 21st. You can get more information and tickets here.
This past July museum staff came across an interesting post on Facebook. Karl Vieau, a former H.C. Prange Co. employee shared this photo of what looked like a circus mirror.
Karl asked "Does anyone remember the circus mirror on 2nd floor mezzanine, kids department at the H.C. Prange store downtown Green Bay?"
If you know anything about the museum’s holiday displays, you know we are home to more than 50 figurines that once graced the Washington St. windows at H.C. Prange Co. in downtown Green Bay. Each year the museum puts together holiday displays with these figurines. The connection to the museum was obvious to us and to Facebook commenters. Museum Director, Beth Lemke commented herself inviting Karl to contact her about moving it to the museum.
After meeting with Karl it was clear how special this piece was to him and his memories of H.C. Prange. He graciously donated it to the museum for our holiday display. Now you can see the mirror for yourself right outside the Children Only Shop at the museum.
Holiday Memories is open November 18th through January 15th!
Working in a museum, I get to see plenty of interesting artifacts. Some are more widely recognizable and well researched and others are much more mysterious. One of our mysterious artifacts is this object- the wooden monowheel. While there are other monowheels in collections across the country, this is the only known one made of wood rather than metal.What is a monowheel?
This rare artifact is a self-propelled mode of transportation, much like a unicycle. The big difference is the rider sits on the wooden seat inside the big wheel. The rider uses the hand cranks to move the inner smaller wheel which transfers motion to the larger outer wheel with the stars.What do we know about the monowheel?
This monowheel was collected by Frank Duchateau in the early 1900s. He donated it to the museum in 1943. According to a letter received by Duchateau in 1922, the monowheel was made by a Mr. Rowe in the 1860s. It was first exhibited at the old museum on the corner of Jefferson and Doty Streets and was kept on display when the museum moved here. In 2014, the monowheel was conserved and traveled to Madison and Appleton to be included in the exhibit Shifting Gears: A Cyclical History of Badger Bicycling.What don’t we know about the monowheel?
We know a little about the monowheel but we are still missing some key pieces of information. Why did Mr. Rowe create the monowheel? What was it used for? Are there other pieces like the monowheel in other collections?
The answer to all of these questions is – we don’t know. We can speculate what the piece was used for but without more information we can never be sure. However, just because we cannot be sure does not mean the monowheel is not important. This one-of-a-kind artifact is an excellent example of how the museum has collected, displayed and cared for artifacts throughout the last century.The monowheel is now back at the museum and on exhibit in On the Edge of the Inland Sea. Check it out for yourself!
One of the unfortunate truths about working on exhibits like Life and Death at Fort Howard is that, eventually, you have to stop researching and start actually building the exhibit. Our team had moved on to researching other aspects of the Fort Howard story when our Research Technician, James, made an unexpected discovery about Childs.
This discovery was a letter written by Childs which was sent to Morgan L. Martin, his attorney. (Read the letter here) In the letter we learned that Childs had married into the prominent Grignon family and that his wife had recently given birth; however, Childs alleges that he is not the father of his wife Margaret’s child. He names a man who he believes to be the father, and reveals that “one thing is certain… I can never live with my wife anymore.” This revelation was shocking, as Childs had never mentioned a family in his memoirs. We later found a reference to the Childs’ wedding in another source, but otherwise this letter was the sole indication that Childs had ever been married.
Recently we had a chance continue researching more about Childs and his life after Green Bay. We utilized the Area Research Center at UW-Green Bay and were able to find marriage and birth certificates that back up the contents of this letter, along with a Childs v. Childs divorce file. During the divorce Margaret Childs wrote a scathing and lengthy statement alleging that her husband was often intoxicated and “neglectful”.
This letter may explain why we know so little of Childs; we can only assume that the divorce was an embarrassment to all involved, and after Childs left Green Bay it is reasonable to assume that it was not a topic of polite conversation. Perhaps the residents of Green Bay avoided speaking of Childs, and that is why his name has not made it into the history books until now. It is also quite possible that he was intentionally omitted from the record, essentially “erasing” him from history.The thing that attracted me to Childs in the beginning was the sheer outrageousness of his claims mixed with an element of mystery. As we continued to uncover his story, however, I began to think; Is it really my place to expose this incident in the life of a man who lived 150 years ago that he himself would have preferred to stay secret? As a historian I try to use the stories of the past to make sense of the present. Ebenezer Childs was truly a “founding father” of Green Bay, and he deserves to be remembered as such. Understanding this chapter of his life not only explains why he hasn’t been viewed in this light until now, but explains the decisions he made after his time in Green Bay. It also reminds us that there are always two sides to every story and that as historians all we have to work with is what has been left behind.
*Within two years of his divorce Ebenezer had left Green Bay, served as a state legislator, and spent his final days in La Crosse. Further research will need to be done regarding Margaret and Louis, but it appears Margaret never remarried and lived near Kaukauna for the rest of her life. We have not yet found any records of Louis.
Segment aired on WBAY in September 1963, Neville Public Museum Collection
I had the opportunity of working with the film held in the museum’s collection. Here I was able to see just how unknown the moon was and NASA's thoughts on their ten year plan and budget for sending a man to the moon.
NASA spent billions of dollars making and launching rockets, satellites, space probes and space crafts into space in order to gather information. Every one of their programs was essential to the United States’ goal of a landing a man on the moon. Each program was made to teach the scientists something new about space and the moon.
Project Mercury was for sending a man into the Earth’s orbit. This would help scientists learn how the Earth’s atmosphere works and how to send a man into space and return him safely. Alan Shepard was the first American man to be launched into space and John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.
The Echo project was used for improving communication knowledge.
The Gemini Project was intended to learn space travel techniques that would help with the actual moon landings.
Lunar Orbiter: 1966-1967
The Lunar Orbiter Program was a handful of unmanned space crafts sent to the moon to take pictures and help narrow down landing spaces for the future Apollo missions.
The Surveyor Program’s mission was to send satellites to land on the moon. This would help determine the kind of surface there was on the moon so then when the time came to send astronauts there, they would know they could land safely on the surface.
The Apollo Program’s purpose was to use all of the information gathered from the previous programs to send a man to the moon, walk on the moon and then return safely home. On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts landed and walked on the moon. In 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts were able to drive on the moon.
It is hard to think that the moon was once an unknown, scary place to not only the public but to scientists as well. Years and years of intense research went in to determining if space travel was even possible and if a moon landing could be on the long list of future goals. Fortunately, with dedicated scientists constantly researching, the United States was able to remove the fear of the moon and send astronauts to walk on it. Since then, NASA has been developing new technology to further their knowledge of space. This technology is how we are able to learn information about the planets, stars and galaxies and how we are able to view amazing pictures of the incredible Space.
Visit Eyes on the Sky: July 16-November 6, 2016
UW-Green Bay Intern
Over a year ago, when we began our initial research for our exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard, we naturally looked to our collections from the prominent “founding fathers” of Green Bay. Men like Morgan L Martin, Henry Baird, and many members of the Grignon family were all connected with the first settlers in Green Bay. However, we kept coming across a man named Ebenezer Childs, who was mentioned throughout many official records and personal correspondences, but who he was and what he did was never really explained. Using books and articles that researchers before us had written we finally identified this character, and even found that he had written a very short autobiography.
Childs’ memoirs were the piece of the puzzle we needed…or so we thought. He writes of his many exploits; some as simple as building the first framed home in Green Bay, building the first ox yolk here, partnering with John Arndt to build the first sawmill in the area, and even claiming to have brought the first piece of lead to Green Bay. Other tales, such as how he eluded the authorities of the fort to illegally sell alcohol to the soldiers, survived harrowing journeys to St Louis and Madison, and outran tax collectors as a young man in his home state of Massachusetts are more fanciful. However, in a letter to his lawyer, Morgan L Martin, we discovered a whole side of Childs’ life that he did not share in his remembrances.
As historians, the case of Ebenezer Childs reminds us of two things. First, the process of doing history is messy and murky. Researchers in the present day can only use the sources that have not been destroyed or lost. Who knows how many stories, people, and events have been forgotten simply because no record of them survives? The second lesson is that you can’t always believe everything you read. Childs makes many claims in his own autobiography, but we can also prove he left many things out. Neither a modern day Facebook profile nor a 150 year old autobiography can tell us the complete story of a person’s life, and it’s easy for the writer to embellish, omit, or simply misremember the facts.
Stay tuned for Part II of this blog, where we reveal the scandals that may have caused Ebenezer Childs to have been “erased” from history. Or, even better, visit Life and Death at Fort Howard to discover what we know about Childs’ life. And even better than that, visit us on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:00 p.m. for our Exhibits Exposed program, where we will share new information about Childs that has been discovered even after the exhibit opened along with additional artifacts and stories about the people of early Green Bay.
Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions will be bringing the vivacious character to life this weekend only at the museum. For more information and tickets visit Ticket Star.
On May 20th and 21st I had the pleasure of leading a public archaeological survey at the site of the historic military site, Fort Howard, in downtown Green Bay. Thanks to special permission from Brent Weycker, owner of Titletown Brewery, we were allowed to set up a survey area behind the brewery along the railroad tracks. Based on historic maps and previous research, this area is thought to be the location of the southeast section of the former fort.
More than one hundred people came out both days to learn about the fort’s history and the technology being used to locate it. Although we know the approximate location of the fort we do not know exactly where the stockade or any of the buildings stood. The main technology used in the survey was the museums’ Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR).
GPR is a technology that uses radio waves to “look” into the earth without digging. The radio waves bounce off of buried objects and are captured on a computer chip. After the survey area is mapped the data can be sliced in layers using special computer software. This can reveal patterns that might give clues to the size and shape of buried features and how deep these features are located.
Over the course of the 2 days, 3 survey grids were collected with a total area of 5,433 cubic feet. The depth that the GPR was looking was just over 6 feet deep. After processing the data, it was clear that there is large amount of disturbance in the first 2 feet or so, likely from the past hundred years of railroad activity. However below 2 feet things got interesting.
Around 3 feet below the surface, a series of anomalies appeared in all of the survey grids we collected. Once the grids were stitched together at the same depth, a pattern emerged that strongly points to these anomalies as being human-made and possibly associated with the historic Fort Howard. At this time we cannot confirm that what the GPR is showing us is the fort but if there was to be a controlled archaeological excavation, we can recommend an exact location to dig. Known as “ground truthing,” an excavation would prove if what we’re seeing are the remains of wall foundations or something else.
In the meantime, we hope to continue surveying the area behind Titletown Brewery, and hopefully beyond, in order to piece together a much larger understanding of Fort Howard. If the patterns in the data below one meter continue, then it will make for a compelling case that we have located the foundations of the fort that made Green Bay American.
I will be presenting the findings of our GPR survey at a special Hardcore History event on August 9th at 6pm. If you want to learn more about the history of the site and Fort Howard’s influence on Green Bay visit our current exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard open through April 2017!
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