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Sawyer County Historical Museum: A House and Home for a Past Still Living

Four Seasons Story by John Adler

Long before history was relegated to life as an hour long classroom subject, it lived in the timeless present of stories told in lasting word and relic. The Sawyer County Historical Museum and its all-volunteer staff have amassed both in demonstrating the import of maintaining tangible, living ties to the past.

Both the relics and the dedicated staff are steeped in the stories of this area’s pioneer past. Conveniently located just a stone’s throw from the lumberjack bowl at 15715 Hwy B here in Hayward, the museum is aptly housed within two historic buildings that help preserve the heritage of this area.

Stop on in and step into yesteryear to find out some surprising events and learn about people of the area. Some stand more tragic or more widely known than others. Find out of the hunt for Ray Olson, who was labeled Wisconsin’s own Tarzan. Learn why an armed posse went after him and his fate, complete with pictures.

Did you know that one of the U.S. Army’s most enduring mascots, dating from the Civil War, came from this area? Find out where it came from, how many battles it participated in, and in what form it still exists today.

There are also some locals of national and international renown whose stories are documented here. Clayton Slack won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in WWI, while Mike Mueller rose to prominence as a Yale Scholar and also won international renown through his art.

A literal pillar of the community, one area preacher stood over 7 feet tall. Another local parson demonstrated that one didn’t need to see in order to see the light. Some of his sermons in Braille are on display in the Church Room where you can also learn their identities.

The Service Room captures some of the effects of FDR’s legislation, including Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) memorabilia and artifacts from the Armed Forces, including uniforms, flags and photos.

Get the feel of yesteryear’s classroom in the School Room. Along with an old desk and other fascinating artifacts is a collection of Hayward school yearbooks. For better or worse, we don’t dress much like that anymore.

The Eldon Marple Room is dedicated to county social and political history while the Martin Lee Room highlights logging and other local history with photos, tools, maps and even a scale model of downtown Hayward in the 1950s.

See an 1880s setting room via the Victorian Parlor, which includes a spinning wheel, a gramophone and a host of other donated materials that complete an exquisite and detailed picture of life then.

The lower level continues with historical resort memorabilia and LCO tribal lore, both documented in pictures and story. The old bunkhouse of Historyland includes a vintage dugout canoe of well over 30 feet in length, as well as displays of some of the first chainsaws, including the first one used in Sawyer County. There’s also a bench from the old railroad depot, a blacksmith’s forge and a host of other artifacts, each with their own story.

An expanding database of audio and video interviews with local residents is also available to watch and hear. It’s just another way the dedicated staff keeps the local history alive.

Stopping in is one way to help out the museum. Admission is free though a visit is incredibly rewarding and enriching. And donations are accepted.

Another way to help out is to join the Sawyer County Historical Society. They have business, family, individual, senior and student memberships.

As conscientious caretakers of our past, the volunteer staff takes good care of all displays and welcomes additions. For those with historical artifacts in their possession, the society can photocopy documents and pics as well as display memorabilia to better complete the picture of this area’s past.

For the Sawyer County Historical Museum knows the richness of history left forgotten only impoverishes a community’s present. Their mission is to record, preserve, and protect Sawyer County cultural heritage.

A Board of Directors keeps the museum on this path. They include: President Jim Ferguson, Vice President Barbara Williamson, Secretary Donna Yackel, Treasurer Chris Rugowski, and Directors Darrell Thompson, Carol LaBarre, Tom Heinrich, Kay Sieh, and Andy McNamer.

Able researchers, they can help with area historical projects, and even conduct research for a fee.

The stories of how people lived and what they believed are the same stories that serve as the mortar strengthening cultural foundations. The retelling of them through word and relic keeps them living in the present. We can’t afford the poverty of forgetting. After all, where we come from largely defines where we are.

Winter hours are Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while summer hours, from June 1 through August 31 are Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For additional information, The Sawyer County Historical Museum can be reached online at www.sawyercountyhist.org and followed on Facebook, or can be reached by phone at (715) 634-8053 or email us.


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