Frame with photographs of Ellen Sweet Donald Jones and her brother George Clark Sweet, Madison or Town of Springdale, Dane County. Photographs date to 1871 and 1867, respectively; frame may be early twentieth century.
The Mount Horeb Area Historical Society was one of the first sites I worked with when I began this project over two and a half years ago. Over the course of many months, I made several visits to the Society’s museum and archives in downtown Mt. Horeb. With a great deal of help from their dedicated staff and volunteers–board president Brian Bigler, museum director Laurie Boyden, textiles curator Marietta Gribb, and volunteer Donna Reid–I documented dozens of fascinating artifacts. At the time, I was still figuring out the ropes of object photography, and they were very patient and helpful as I made minute adjustments in lighting and moved large pieces of furniture in order to get the best possible views.
This winter, I’ve taken the time to research these objects and the families they came from in greater detail, and I’ve written improved and expanded histories for each of the 73 catalog entries now online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. One of the highlights of the Mt. Horeb Area Historical Society’s collection is a large group of artifacts from the estate of Delma Donald Woodburn, who carefully documented and preserved the material heritage of several generations of her family in the rural Mount Horeb area. Her ancestors, Reverend James Donald and Margaret Strong Donald and William Sweet and Sally Clark Sweet, were “Yankees” from New York State who were some of the earliest settlers in the region. The artifacts Woodburn preserved and passed on to the Society tell a rich story stretching from the early days of Wisconsin farm life to Madison’s Progressive-era politics.
Other intriguing groups of objects from the Mt. Horeb collections include:
–Several examples of furniture made by Aslak Olsen Lie, a well-documented Norwegian immigrant craftsman
—China painting by artist Hazel Miller Hanneman and her students
–Ornate calligraphy by E.E.N. Lee
—Coverlets and blankets woven by Mollie Nace Nees from wool raised and processed by the Sweet family
Finally, an unusual artifact from the Society’s collection is highlighted this week in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s “Odd Wisconsin” feature: a leather and steel cane made by Charles Agrelius, a notorious Wisconsin horse thief who was arrested five times between 1877 and 1904–the last when he was over 70 years old.
Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.