Past Events

Below are short teasers from past meetings, along with Youtube links to watch many of them.

*Sunday 3/17/24, 1pm:  "The Miller's Mural"  At the Verona Senior Center, 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI. 

See it on YouTube.
How does an inconspicuous brick wall become a portal into another time?  At our meeting this month we will learn the story behind the wonderful mural that appeared on the north side of Miller’s last summer, which features scenes from Verona’s past along with the meaningfully-chosen inscription “Community”.  It is no coincidence that this happened to materialize on a canvas made from this century-old Verona family business!

Our guest will be Amber Roach from Miller and Sons, and artist Chad Caso.  They will share how the idea came about to do something fun and meaningful with this otherwise ordinary exterior wall, and how the project and design evolved long before the painting started.  Chad, who you may have seen measuring out and painting the mural on a lift last summer, will describe the challenges of taking a vision and transforming it into this massive work of art.

*Sunday 1/21/24, 1pm:  "The Westwing Artists"  At the Verona Senior Center, 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI. 

See it on YouTube.

In 1983 as the former Dane County Asylum building in Verona turned 100, something new and unique would be launched from the rooms beneath its iconic southern facade.  The year before, local artist Marge Berlow noticed that the rooms beneath that recognizable Verona structure appeared to be empty. While the surrounding structures were still used by the county for administrative purposes and long term patient care, this abandoned area presented an opportunity that perhaps only an artist could see!  Marge combined the need she and other local artists had for studio space with the benefits that she believed learning and making art could give to the mentally and physically challenged patients living there, and she created a proposal:  If the county would let a half dozen artists renovate and use this empty space as studios, instead of paying rent they would in turn visit the residents of the facility throughout the week and help them create art!  The deal was accepted, and the Westwing artist studios were born.

Our guest this month will be Linda Koenig, who joined Marge and the Westwing artists in 1989.  Linda will share photographs and stories of her early days at Westwing, describing what it was like to create art in the inspiring yet challenging surroundings of a former 1880s asylum basement.  She will also describe the joy and rewards that she and other artists found in forming relationships with patients, some of whom faced great personal challenges, while helping them discover their inner artists.

*Sunday 11/26/23, 1pm:  "The Thompson Family Farm of Verona."  At the Verona Senior Center, 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI. 

For the majority of the 1900s, generations of the Thompson Family ran farms on the west side of Verona.  If you have seen a show or taken a swim at our new high school campus, you've been on Thompson land!  The barns, silos, and farmhouses may be gone, but the memories remain of this farm family and the countless others whose work ethic and civic contributions cultivated Verona's community since our beginning.

Our guests this month will be Dale and Julie Thompson, who will share with us stories, photos, and artifacts from their family's history.  Their story wonderfully illustrates rural life in Verona for much of the last century.  The items they will show also comprise the largest and most well documented collection of farm-related artifacts that our historical society has in our archives, and will help future generations better appreciate how farms grew Verona.

(Painting of the Nine Mound Road Thompson Farm by John Scharer)

*Sunday 9/17/23, 1pm:  "The Story of The Caring Center."  At the Verona Senior Center, 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI. 

See it on YouTube.

For 51 years, The Caring Center has watched after and taught Verona's children.  Some families (including mine!) have even had multiple generations attend this wonderful organization.  You might not guess from their well-established presence on West Verona Avenue that it actually all started in a single rented classroom at Saint Andrew's!

Our guests this month will be Diane Peters, who started the business with her mother-in-law Thelma back in 1972, and Regina Kane, who has worked there since 1987 and has been the Administrator for almost 30 years.  They will recount stories of the early days, how the center evolved and grew with Verona, and their favorite memories from a half century of caring for our kiddos.

*Sunday 8/27/23, 1pm:  Volunteer Work Day - Davidson House yard cleanup.  At the Davidson House at the end of Oak Grove Road in Verona.

Verona's historic Davidson House has sat on the banks of the Sugar River for over 150 years.  The home is believed to have been built by early Verona settler Patrick Davidson around 1860.  Mr. Davidson brought Verona its first horse drawn threshing machine, as well as a love for performing Scottish music with neighboring farmers at early community gatherings.  The house and surrounding property was acquired by Dane County Parks in 2018, and the Verona Area Historical Society is a partner in helping take care of this unique house, it being one of the last of its kind in Verona.

Please join us on Sunday 8/27 at 1pm to help cut back weeds, rake leaves, and do other general yard maintenance tasks.  Please bring work gloves and any general yard work / gardening tools you have handy.  Long sleeves and pants are recommended, along with outdoor shoes.  If you don't feel like getting dirty, feel free to drop by just to see the house up close and ask questions.

Parking is available on site.  The house is located at the end of a long driveway officially known on some maps as "Oak Grove Road", which comes off of highway 69 heading South out of Verona.  This road is immediately south of Riverside drive and north of Locust Drive, on the west side of highway 69.

There are many different tasks needing to be done on this day - feel free to pick one that matches your interests:

Please bring the following if you have them:

Sunday 7/30/23, 1:00pm: “How Did Verona Become Hometown USA?”  At the Verona Senior Center (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI).

See it on Youtube.

The phrase “Hometown” is proudly displayed in storefronts, posters, and street signs throughout Verona.  As trolls are to Mount Horeb and alphorns to New Glarus, “Hometown USA” has become part of our identity.  A half century has passed since this nickname was gifted to us, and remembering the context from which it came helps us appreciate what it truly represents.

Perhaps no one takes the comforts of home less for granted than a soldier half a world away.  In 1966, over 100,000 U.S. service members were involved in the Vietnam War.  Those who were drafted or enlisted into the conflict found themselves 15,000 miles away with few threads connecting them back to their prewar lives.  One such thread was “Operation Hometown Paper”, a program by the American Legion Auxiliary that sent local papers to troops in service.  As Army Specialist Donald Schmidt, a Verona area native, said in a June 20, 1966 letter to the Verona Press,

“There are not too many things a person has to look forward to when he is in the Boon Docks like we are.  Mail is the biggest morale builder there is over here…and a home town newspaper is a great thing.”

At our meeting this month we will all travel back to 1966 to see was happening in Verona - through the lens of the same Verona Press articles that Donald and his fellow soldiers were reading in Vietnam that year.  To help us get to know Donald (who passed in 2020), his wife Noreen will join us to talk about who he was and how much those papers meant to him and his friends.  We will also review the contents of the letter written to the Verona Press by their Sergeant, expressing gratitude and granting Verona its proud nickname.

Sunday 5/21/23, 1:00pm: “When Disney Came to Verona for an Adventure in Dairyland.”  At the Verona Senior Center (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI).

See it on Youtube.

It was Verona’s true moment in the spotlight – one that shined here all the way from Walt Disney Productions in California!  It was the summer of 1956, and children across the country were tuning in to see the second season of the “The Mickey Mouse Club” featuring young stars like the recently-discovered Annette Funicello.  If you know someone who was young at that time, they can probably still name their favorite Mouseketeer!

That same year behind the scenes, Disney was entering an agreement with the American Dairy Association to create a dramatic series that would illustrate life on a dairy farm in a way that would interest children.  In the story, kids from the Mickey Mouse Club take a trip to a farm in Wisconsin to live and work with a farm family.

As fate would have it, the picturesque Sisk farm on Sugar River Road here in Verona was selected as the site of this adventure.  For the month of June of 1956, cast and crew descended upon our town – including Annette and her co-star Sammy Ogg.  Scenes were shot on the farm and in surrounding fields, rural roads, and even at the agriculture department of UW Madison.  The Sisk barn was transformed into a sound stage in which a grand final barn dance scene would be filmed with members of the Verona area community performing square dances, yodeling, and playing Alpenhorns.  The series was titled “Adventure in Dairyland” and was shown in segments later that year during The Mickey Mouse Club episodes.

This event is definitely one worth remembering!  Even 67 years later, folks who lived here at the time can remember the excitement of seeing stars from the film around town, and either being an extra in the show or knowing someone who was.  

Our guest this month will be two local 4-H members who square danced with Annette and Sammy in that final scene!  Rita (Richardson) Little and Jim Winkelman grew up in the area and were among the middle and high school kids whose club performed at the dance.  We will hear their memories, review newspaper clippings from that summer, and watch scenes from the movie - stopping to pick out familiar Verona faces!

Sunday 3/19/23, 1:00pm: "Memories of a Small-Town Railroad Depot Agent.”

See it on YouTube.

At the Verona Senior Center.

The train depot was the heart of many small Wisconsin towns for generations.  At the center of the depot was its depot agent, the person responsible for all operations including the important task of manually relaying telegraph messages from town to town.

Our guest speaker is Don Mahoney, who in 1943 at the age of 16 in Kongsberg, North Dakota was asked to replace his town’s depot agent when they were drafted into WWII.  Don will share his memories of learning morse code on-the-fly, and how a well-functioning depot kept a small town running.

Sunday, 1/22/23 and 1/29/23:  Four tours of the Seven Acre Dairy Company, housed in the old Paoli Cheese Factory / Creamery.  Address: 6858 Paoli Road in Paoli, Wisconsin (Note that the GPS and mailing addresses say Belleville.)

See it on YouTube.

Join us for a talk and tour at the newly-renovated Seven Acre Dairy Company in Paoli. Our host is Nic Mink, who along with his wife Danika Laine is leading a renovation of the old dairy / creamery / cheese factory that ran on the banks of the Sugar River from 1888 to 1980. Many Verona farmers, including several of our historical society families, sent their milk to this plant for generations.

Nic and Danika have listed the building on the National Register of Historic Places and are launching the building's new life as a restaurant, café, meeting space, hotel, and perhaps most appropriately - a micro-dairy plant. We are grateful that they have provided the Verona area with another example of how local historic preservation and modern development can complement each other.

Our tour will start in the facility's newly-opened conference room, as Nic will describe how this project unfolded. We will then take an indoor walk of the building and learn how its former iterations evolved over time. As a side note, this meeting also counts as our historical society's 2023 "annual meeting" (required for all nonprofits) and a very quick officer vote will precede the meeting at 1pm.

Please note that there are elevation changes during the tour, and an elevator is available. The tour is open to the public.

Sunday, 11/20/22, 1pm:  Railroads of Verona and Southwestern Wisconsin.  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

The first railroad train pulled into Verona in 1881.  The last train left in 1981.  For a hundred years Chicago & North Western freight and passenger trains transported people, mail, coal, lumber, livestock, hardware, household goods, and just about everything else needed or wanted by residents in and around the Verona area.  For years the daily trains were the lifeline of Verona and neighboring communities.  Highways finally did the railroad in.

Phil Borleske is a railroad historian, writer, photographer and guy who really likes trains.  (He runs trolley cars and a team train in Iowa for fun, and was a conductor on Union Pacific Railroad's "Big Boy 150th Anniversary Golden Spike" special train!)   Phil offers a look back at railroads in Southwestern Wisconsin - including C&NW's "Ridge Runner" line through Verona.

Take a railroad trip back in time!

Sunday 9/25/22, 1pm:  "The Bongey Family and Their Verona Pharmacy."  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

If you've had a prescription filled in Verona since 1958, there's a good chance you've come across a member of the Bongey Family.  WWII veteran Don Bongey and his wife Ruth started their family pharmacy that year in the old Kunstman building that formerly stood in the current Walgreen's parking lot.  Together they would serve Verona for over 40 years, and in that time their children Pam and Gary would grow up to follow in their footsteps.

Generations of Verona kids may recall something memorable just inside the door of that original store (that their parents might not have been thrilled about :-)  Other memories include how members of the Verona community and beyond pulled together when the building burned in 1997, and the series of changes that led to the current Verona Hometown Pharmacy we still know today.

Our guest this month will be Gary Bongey, and possibly other members of the family.  We will hear their memories of growing up in Verona, their family business, what it's been like to be an integral part of our community for over a half century.

(Illustration by Lori, 1997.)

Saturday 5/7/22, 10am:  "Bob and Irene's Town Pump".  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

Our guest this month will be Irene Kaehr, who in 1968 with her husband Bob bought the Town Pump at 300 South Main Street (in the building most recently occupied by Tuvalu).  Together they would run the Pump for several decades until Bob's passing in 1994, at which point Irene continued to run it until 2000.

Irene will tell stories of the unique ideas that she and Bob implemented over the years including live music from Nashville, various culinary experiments like "frog legs", and even occasional go-go dancers.  Join us in reminiscing about the interesting characters who visited and other small town happenings that took place at "The Pump"!

Saturday 3/5/22, 10am:  "Safe!  How 'Dingbat' Saved Our Last Blacksmith Shop".  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

Our guest this month will be Verona native John Dingle and his business partner Brad D'Orazio, proprietors of "Dingbat" baseball bat shop on 103 North Franklin Street.  They will describe how a lifelong friendship and love of baseball - combined with generational knowledge of woodworking - led to one of Verona's most interesting new businesses...and the saving of a historic Verona building!  For their workshop the pair purchased and renovated the metal hut formerly used by Verona's last blacksmith, George Batker, after he moved there from South Main Street in the 1940s.  John and Brad will show photos and tell stories of the renovation.

Saturday 1/29/22, 10am: "History in Your Hand: Ten Artifacts that Tell Us About Verona".  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

Our guest speaker this month can't speak, but will still tell many stories about Verona's past.  Please join us for our official "Annual Meeting" to kick off 2022, and get a chance to get up close and learn about ten of the most interesting artifacts from the archives of the Verona Area Historical Society.  These items represent a sampling of the hundreds of objects, photos, and stories we've preserved over the years in our attempt to save and show physical links to disappearing chapters of our town's story.

You will get to see and learn about the stories of:

Saturday 11/20/21, 10am: "The Story of Atkins Verona Bicycle Shoppe".  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

Just like a good bike path, the story of how Dan Atkins' Verona bicycle shop came to be a longtime fixture in Verona has many twists and turns!  While its Verona leg started in 1983 on Bruce Street, Dan's lifelong journey of selling and fixing bicycles started decades earlier, and included two additional generations of Atkins.

Dan will be our guest at this November's meeting.  He will reflect on over 50 years of working in the biking industry, starting with him and his brother Doug working as kids at their father and grandfather's Madison bicycle shop on Monroe Street in 1965.  Dan's recently-expanded Verona shop has been located on West Verona Avenue since the mid 1980s, and he will share stories of the many changes of that side of town, his business, and the bicycle industry overall in the decades since.  Please join us and enjoy this interesting and unique story of a beloved Verona business!

Sunday 9/26/21, 3pm: "Bill's Farm Toys".  At the Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

Come take a time traveling adventure with us back to early 1900s farming in Wisconsin - in miniature!   Our friend Bill Rettenmund will be showing off his collection of handmade miniature farm equipment models and explaining for each one both the intricate process of how they were created and also how the life size versions actually worked.  Some of our members who grew up around farms might recognize, and might have even used some of these tools!

Bill has displayed his creations at multiple shows around Wisconsin.  He also maintains a rotating display at the Black Earth Historical Society each Summer.  You might recognize Bill from our August 2018 meeting where he shared with us his experiences as a Vietnam helicopter crew chief.

*Sunday 8/8/21, 1pm:  Volunteer Work Day - White School yard cleanup -  At the White School on the corner of Timber Lane and Highway PD, Verona.

Small, rural school districts once dotted the countryside throughout early Verona up until the 1960s.  One of the earliest, the White School District was formed in 1850 - just ten years after the first U.S. settlers arrived in Verona.  Land for the school was donated by the Mr. and Mrs. Solomon White family, who settled on 200 acres after arriving via covered wagon in 1846.  Some White family descendants are members of our historical society today!  In 1850, the White School board approved $160 to build a schoolhouse, and we think it might be the same building that still stands on the northeast corner of Timber Lane and Highway PD.  In addition to it's age, this schoolhouse's connection to generations of rural families and its witness to both the beginning and end of the rural school era make it a real treasure to Verona history!    (Special thanks to Alice Kunstman for compiling this history.)

The building currently stands on land owned by the Goodman Jewish Center.  The Goodman staff have cared for the grounds around this building for many years, and we are thankful they value keeping this building around.  We have requested and been granted permission from the Center to have a volunteer day to do some close-up weeding and trimming around the building.  We might also do some mulching to help keep weeds and vines away.

Please join us on 8/8 at 1pm to help cut back weeds, rake leaves, and do other general yard maintenance tasks.  Please bring work gloves and any general yard work / gardening tools you have handy.  Long sleeves and pants are recommended, along with outdoor shoes.

Parking is tight, consider carpooling and parking *carefully* on the east side of Timber Lane, near Highway PD.

Please bring the following if you have them:

*Sunday 6/27/21, 1pm:  Volunteer Work Day - Davidson House yard cleanup -  At the Davidson House at the end of Oak Grove Road in Verona.

Verona's historic Davidson House has sat on the banks of the Sugar River for over 150 years.  The home is believed to have been built by early Verona settler Patrick Davidson around 1860.  Mr. Davidson brought Verona its first horse drawn threshing machine, as well as a love for performing Scottish music with neighboring farmers at early community gatherings.  The house and surrounding property was acquired by Dane County Parks in 2018, and the Verona Area Historical Society is a partner in helping take care of this unique house, it being one of the last of its kind in Verona.

Please join us on 6/27 at 1pm to help cut back weeds, rake leaves, and do other general yard maintenance tasks.  Please bring work gloves and any general yard work / gardening tools you have handy.  Long sleeves and pants are recommended, along with outdoor shoes.  If you don't feel like getting dirty, feel free to drop by just to see the house up close and ask questions.

Parking is available on site.  The house is located at the end of a long driveway officially known on some maps as "Oak Grove Road", which comes off of highway 69 heading South out of Verona.  This road is immediately south of Riverside drive and north of Locust Drive, on the west side of highway 69.

There are many different tasks needing to be done on this day - feel free to pick one that matches your interests:

Please bring the following if you have them:

*Saturday 6/5/21, 10am:  Volunteer Day - Historic Cemetery Restoration in Verona - In the Field next to Gus's Diner.

This is a continuation of our “Bringing Their Stones Home” project we started back in 2018, to return 81 original headstones to their proper locations in the Dane County Asylum and Poor House cemetery (next to Gus's Diner in Verona).  So far we have returned 66 headstone above their proper burials!  Of the 15 remaining, 11 of them are ready to be installed during this volunteer day.  The last four recovered headstones will be installed later after additional surveying can be done.

There are many different tasks needing to be done on this day - feel free to pick one that matches your interests and ability:

Please bring the following if you have them:

*Saturday 2/13/21, 10am: "Verona's Top Five Historical Sites".  A Virtual Meeting via Zoom.

See it on Youtube.

What makes something "historically relevant"?  Does it just have to be old...or is there more to it?  It's a fun question to ponder - and also the topic of our February virtual meeting!  In lieu of a guest speaker this month, our president Jesse Charles will be presenting a "Top Five" list of Verona's most important historical sites.  Over the last five years, Jesse has researched Verona's old schools, houses, cemeteries, and other sites while preparing for various tours and presentations.  He would love to hear YOUR opinion on the topic!  Will these top five sites make your list as well?  It will be a fun chance to deep dive on some of the hidden gems around Verona.The presentation will run from 10:00am-10:40am.  Afterwards, we will hold our official "Annual Meeting" to discuss other historical society matters and elect officers for 2021.

*Saturday 2/8/20, 10am: FIELD TRIP! The Transformation of Quivey's Grove.  A free presentation and tour at Quivey's Grove, 6261 Nesbitt Road, Fitchburg.

See it on Youtube.

Field trip!  Our February meeting will be an onsite presentation and tour of Quivey's Grove in Fitchburg.  This wonderful historic home has had many identities over its 160 years - the most recent being Quivey's Grove restaurant since 1980.  This meeting will focus on the large restoration and renovation project of that year, which balanced maintaining historic relevancy with the needs of a modern business.  Our guest is Arlan Kay, the architect who designed and guided this transformation and preservation.  You might recognize Arlan's name as the person who is helping the Verona Area Historical Society with our current museum project at the Lillesand House!

The schedule will be as follows:

The following information is from the 1982 application (by Leonard T. Garfield) which lead to the Quivey's Grove farmhouse being listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

Built in 1856 with sandstone from a neighboring quarry, the John Mann farmhouse (now Quivey's Grove Restaurant) is architecturally significant both as a representative of the Italianate domestic style adapted to a rural setting and as a fine example of native sandstone architecture in Dane County. Graced with quiet dignity as well as substantial construction, the house is distinguished by the warm color and careful craftsmanship of its thick sandstone block walls, by the classical Italianate proportions and detailing of its architectural features (including the tall windows, stone lintels, and bracketed cornice) and by the attractive setting amid a grove of walnut trees. Converted to a restaurant in a sensitive renovation by architect Arlan Kay of Oregon, Wisconsin, in 1980, the house retains almost complete exterior integrity and much of the original interior including stone walls, hemlock floors, and a maple bannister and newel post.  John Mann, a native of New York State, arrived in Wisconsin in 1850 and operated a  livery service in Madison for several years before he bought this farm. Exchanging timber on his property for sandstone from a neighbor's quarry, Mann built the house and barn as the centerpiece for what became a 130 acre farm. John Mann's son, Edward, eventually sold the property in 1876, after which it passed through several hands until it was sold to J. P. Comstock in 1886. The Comstock family retained ownership until 1935, and shortly thereafter it became the home of Dr. and Mrs. William Waskow who lived in it until its conversion to Quivey's Grove Restaurant in 1980. Today, it is one of the finest sandstone farmhouses still in good condition in Dane County, and its three-acre, tree-studded lot helps preserve a sense of its historic context despite the nearby encroachments of spreading urbanization.

*Saturday 11/9/19, 10am:  Group Discussion:  Planning a Verona history center.  At the Verona Senior Center.

Over the years, we've dove deep into many Verona history topics. These have ranged from our early settlers, lost rural schools, the history of our churches and businesses, our original Native America residents, and even a leper colony.  We have gathered photos, stories, interviews, and a handful of artifacts along the way.  While Verona has a rich history, one thing it doesn't have is a place dedicated to showing it off!

In September our officers and members began seriously investigating and planning what it would take to renovate a small historic downtown Verona home into a history center.  We've enlisted the help of several contractors, an architect, and other local experts for guidance and advice.

We'd like to present the current status of this project to our membership and anyone else interested in the topic.  The goals of this meeting would be:

1.  Talk about the home being looked at and give a status update on the work being done to evaluate its potential.

2.  Hear feedback on what functions a Verona history center should serve.

3.  Get ideas for fundraising strategies, and volunteers to help with that effort.

We would love to hear your ideas on what a Verona history center might look like!

*Saturday 10/12/19, 10am:  Cemetery restoration volunteer day cancelled due to wind and cold weather.

*Saturday 9/14/19, 10am:  "Demolition of the Dane County Asylum" - The Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Sandy will discuss her effort to save this important history, and show off many dozens of pictures she took of the asylum demolition from ground zero.

Most of us who grew up in Verona remember the front facade of the former Dane County Asylum as being the first major landmark you'd come across when approaching town from the East.  In 2004, the oldest part of this iconic building was demolished, having long been known to be beyond repair.  What was NOT known at the time was a treasure trove of genealogical information in the basement, which was nearly lost in the rubble!

Our September guest will be Sandy Everson, who worked at the Badger Prairie Healthcare center during this time period.  Sandy visited the abandoned halls of the old structure in the weeks before demolition, and discovered a forgotten basement records room still containing files representing old admissions and patient records from the asylum dating back to the 1800s.  She took on saving and organizing these files, which in the years since have proven valuable to genealogists as well as to our asylum cemetery restoration project.

*Saturday 8/17/19, 10am:  "Outdoor Classrooms - From the School Forest to Whalen Pond" - The Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Our guest this month is Matt Tiller, a Verona High School science teacher who manages the school forest and has coordinated the restoring of small patches of native prairie near various Verona parks and retention ponds.  And we really mean "native" prairie - some combinations of plants he's put in these areas were inspired by notes taken by a Jesuit priest on a missionary trip through this area back in the late 1600s!

Matt started teaching in Verona in 1995 - around the time longtime science teacher Jerry Dahlen was retiring.  Jerry and others (including our member Randy Marks) had started the current high school forest back in the 1960s as a sort of outdoor biology lab and recreational space, and he asked Matt if he'd like to take over managing it.  Matt will tell the story of how this unique school property came to include 15 acres of wetlands, forest, and native prairie ecosystems - and discuss plans currently forming to create a similar area at the new high school being constructed.

*Saturday 7/13/19, 10am:  Volunteer Day - Historic Cemetery Restoration in Verona - In the field next to Gus’s Diner in Verona.

The Verona Area Historical Society’s “Bringing Their Stones Home” project is bringing back names and identities to the nearly-forgotten asylum and poor house cemetery in Verona, next to Gus’ Diner.  From the 1880s to the 1940s, this plot of land became the final resting place for over 400 residents of the then Dane County Asylum and “Poor House”.  For unknown reasons, all headstones were removed and discarded in the 1950s.  70 of them have recovered, and we’re putting them back where they belong, based on a historic cemetery map.

Bring work gloves and a shovel or wheelbarrow if you have one.  There will be opportunities to dig the small holes for the stones, shovel and move gravel or mulch, and generally help clean up the site.  This project is entirely volunteer-driven, and we could really use your help.  Thank you!

*Saturday 6/15/19, 10am:  Remembering the 2014 Tornado.  At Country View Elementary School, 710 Lone Pine Way.

Our June meeting will reflect on the five year anniversary of the tornado of June 17, 2014.  History is happening every day, and that morning created one of those "remember where you were when" moments for those living on the northwest side of Verona.  Shortly after midnight, an EF-3 level twister touched down on Epic's Farm Campus and skipped north before heading east through the Cross County Road neighborhoods, ending at Country View elementary school.

Our guest will be Verona Schools Superintendent Dean Gorrell.  Dean toured the school that morning and will show his "morning of" video walk through of the destruction of several classrooms - and discuss the remarkable effort to rebuild and be open in time for fall classes a few short months later!  He will then take us on a tour of the rebuilt classrooms.

We also invite any members of the community who experienced the storm to come and share their memories or photographs of the event, the community's response, and the months or years of rebuilding that followed.  If you have photographs or short written memories you'd like to have included in our archives (to show at the event, or just to save for future generations), please send them to  Thank you!

*Saturday 5/18/19, 10am:  Volunteer Work Day - Davidson House yard cleanup.  At the Davidson House at the end of Oak Grove Road in Verona.

Verona's historic Davidson House has sat on the banks of the Sugar River for over 150 years.  The home is believed to have been built by early Verona settler Patrick Davidson around 1860.  Mr. Davidson brought Verona its first horse drawn threshing machine, as well as a love for performing Scottish music with neighboring farmers at early community gatherings.  The house and surrounding property was acquired by Dane County Parks in 2018, and the Verona Area Historical Society is a partner in helping take care of this unique house, it being one of the last of its kind in Verona.

Please join us on 5/18 at 10am to help cut back weeds, rake leaves, and do other general yard maintenance tasks.  Please bring work gloves and any general yard work / gardening tools you have handy.  Long sleeves and pants are recommended, along with outdoor shoes.  If you don't feel like getting dirty, feel free to drop by just to see the house up close and ask questions.

Parking is available on site.  The house is located at the end of a long driveway officially known on some maps as "Oak Grove Road", which comes off of highway 69 heading South out of Verona.  This road is immediately south of Riverside drive and north of Locust Drive, on the west side of highway 69.

Map Credit:  Google Maps (2019).

*Saturday 4/13/19, 10am:  "The Maple Drive Dairy", with guests Lorlene Pulver and Lynn Elver.  The Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

On the corner of Nine Mound Road and Aspen Avenue sits a little farm house that today is enveloped by a typical Verona neighborhood.  One might not realize that just a generation ago that house, now surrounded closely by neighboring homes, stood alone on that spot surrounded by nothing but farm fields, trees, and a few farm buildings.  This was the farm house of the "Maple Drive Dairy"!

Our guests will be Lorlene (Kahl) Pulver and Lynn (Kahl) Elver, who both grew up in that house and helped with the operations of their father Vernon's farm and dairy, bottling milk as children.  The farm was originally bought by their grandfather Chris Kahl around 1900 and was renamed to the "Maple Drive Dairy" by Vernon in the 1940s.  Cows were milked, and that milk was delivered by truck to homes in Verona.  Lorlene and Lynn will talk about their experiences growing up on the farm, and what the milk business meant for their family and Verona.

Image Credits:  Google Maps (2018) and Wisconsin Historic Aerial Imagery Finder (1937).

*Saturday 3/9/19, 10am:  "Verona's First High School Hockey Team", with guest Mary Feldt.  The Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Our topic for March will be a look at the origin of Verona High School hockey.  Looking at their impressive record of nine conference and seven sectional championships, along with a state title from 2014, it's amazing to think that hockey at the high school level in Verona all started with one sophomore in the 1980s asking his mom and dad why Verona didn't have a team...

Our guest will be Mary Feldt, who along with her husband Gary played an instrumental role in organizing, managing, and coaching Verona's first high school hockey teams in the 1980s.  After initially receiving resistance from the school against adding another official sport, they brought it to the school board where after debate it passed by one vote.  Mary and Gary then took it on themselves to get the team going and find other volunteers to help - and kids who wanted to play! They discovered a level of interest in hockey in Verona which started with an original crew of eleven kids that first year, but quickly grew to encompass separate varsity and junior varsity teams in just a few short years.  The bonds that the Feldts have formed with those early players can be witnessed at Verona High School hockey games even today - as Mary cheers on many of those players' children - who now also play for Verona High!

*Saturday 2/9/19, 10am:  "Meet Curtis Jones", with guests Will Schmid and Philip Roethlisberger.  The Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

The topic of our meeting this month will be Curtis Jones, a Verona native whose contributions to Verona are still felt by generations of our school children - even over fifty years after his passing.  Anyone around Verona in the 1950s will remember him well. But his name will also sound familiar to those who have played in or attended a home Wildcat football game - on Curtis Jones field!

We will learn about Curtis from two of his friends - Verona class of 1950 classmates Will Schmid and Philip Roethlisberger.  Together they will introduce us to Curtis as a young man - valedictorian, athlete, friend, and son of longtime Verona High School principal A.C. Jones.  We will also learn about how as an adult he championed a cause for future generations of Verona students that caused great controversy and in the end was won by his perseverance.  It will be an inspiring hometown story worth remembering!

*Saturday 1/12/19, 10am:  "Lost in the Grass - the Hobby of Metal Detecting", with guests from the Four Lakes Metal Detecting Club.  The Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

For example, FLMDC members worked with the Wisconsin DNR in an effort to locate and recover two military cannons lost during the Blackhawk War.  They also assisted State Archaeologists in searching for artifacts at the “Battle of Wisconsin Heights” skirmish site.  Various law enforcement agencies have at times enlisted their help in looking for evidence of crimes and accidents, and in one case they were asked to comb over a prison courtyard looking for buried weapons (in which case one FLMDC member told me "it lit up like a Christmas Tree!")

Our guests will also show off some of their favorite finds.  While they most often find more modern objects like pull tabs, trash, coins, sometimes dropped jewelry and the occasional class ring - they have also come across older objects of interest such as early American coinage, square nails, a copper spear tip, and even a cannonball and a Civil War "GAR" pin (given to Civil War veterans after the war's end).  It is sure to be a meeting that will engage your imagination!

Think of all the little items we carry around each day.  Keys, coins, buttons, jewelry, maybe a class ring or a medallion.  They might not feel like artifacts, but each of these little personal items gives a hint about who we are and what life is like today.  The same was true for past generations.  And even with the most cherished items, one thing is as true for us as it was for people a century ago:  We drop stuff!  

Our topic this month is a fun hands-on way to learn about our surroundings - and sometimes also a bit of local history - by looking just under the grass.  The Four Lakes Metal Detecting Club (FLMDC) was formed in 1982 as the hobby increased in popularity with the advent of smaller, more portable equipment in the 70s and 80s.  Several of their members will join us to talk about their passion for this hobby, their most interesting finds, and other aspects of detecting that might surprise you.

*Saturday 11/10/18, 10am:  "Saving the Old House; a 'Moving' Story", with guest Mike Hankard.  The Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

You've probably noticed the cute "foursquare" style house happily sitting on the corner of East Verona Avenue and Jefferson Street, currently home to "Fiscal Fitness", "Branded Image", and "Hankard Environmental".  Newer residents might assume it's been there quite some time, given this style of home was most popular from 1890 to the 1930s.

But to older residents who have lived on Shuman Street it might look a little...familiar.  You might not otherwise realize, but it has had two lives!  Our guest this November will be Mike Hankard, who saved this house from demolition back in 2003 by doing what could be considered the ultimate "home project".

Mike will describe how he was bitten by the "house moving bug" back in Boulder, Colorado.  After being inspired by seeing other old houses moved, he decided to take a swing at it.  His first project was a late 1800s brick house that needed a new foundation (and everything else for that matter, as Mike puts it).  The project was a success that motivated him to try again when he moved to Verona in 2003 and just so happened to notice a house was about to be demolished on Shuman Street.

The following months saw Mike leading a massive project that included designing a foundation at the new location, working with city approvals, doing the actual moving, painting, repairing, and addressing countless aspects of saving this old house.  It will be an inspiring talk about the value of keeping and reinvigorating "old" things in creative new ways.

*Saturday 10/20/18, 10am:  "History of the Verona Public Library", a joint event with the Friends of the Verona Public Library.

See it on Youtube.

This event will be held at the library and will feature stories, photos, and memories detailing its long journey from a cart of donated books in a bank vault on Main Street to the wonderful facility we know today - and the people who made that happen.

*Saturday 9/29/18, 10am:  Volunteer Day - Historic Cemetery Restoration in Verona - In the field next to Gus’s Diner in Verona.

The Verona Area Historical Society’s “Bringing Their Stones Home” project is bringing back names and identities to the nearly-forgotten asylum and poor house cemetery in Verona, next to Gus’ Diner.  From the 1880s to the 1940s, this plot of land became the final resting place for over 400 residents of the then Dane County Asylum and “Poor House”.  For unknown reasons, all headstones were removed and discarded, probably in the 1960s.  70 of them have recovered, and we’re putting them back where they belong, based on a historic cemetery map.

Bring work gloves and a shovel or wheelbarrow if you have one.  There will be opportunities to dig the small holes for the stones, shovel and move gravel or mulch, and generally help clean up the site.  This project is entirely volunteer-driven, and we could really use your help.  Thank you!

*Saturday 8/11/18, 10am:  "One Vulture's War", with guest Bill Rettenmund.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

The idea of being drafted into war seems foreign to the young people of today.  But just a couple generations ago in the 1960s it became a reality for many of our nation’s youth, including those from our area.  Our guest in August will be Bill Rettenmund, who will talk about what it was like to be drafted as a young man and suddenly find himself transported from a quiet rural life in Black Earth, WI to leading a crew on an assault helicopter across the world in Vietnam.

Bill has lived in Verona since the 1990's, having grew up in Black Earth.  He was drafted into the army in May of 1965 and trained as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief.  Bill landed in Vietnam in February of 1966 as part of the 162nd Assault Helicopter Company "The Vultures", which belonged to the 11th Aviation Company.  Through January of 1967 he flew air assault and transport missions on a D-model Huey helicopter from a base camp in Phouc Vinh.

Bill will talk about surviving two helicopter crashes in Vietnam in 1966, and the injury caused by shrapnel during a mortar attack that led to him receiving a purple heart.  He will also discuss the “on the job training” he had to learn on the fly, such as what to do with mechanical failures, strike damage, gun jams, and how he helped his injured door gunner survive using lessons from high school biology.

Please join us to learn about Bill’s experience and again renew our admiration and respect for the men and women of our armed forces.

*Saturday 7/14/18, 10am:  Volunteer Day - Historic Cemetery Restoration in Verona - In the field next to Gus’s Diner in Verona.

The Verona Area Historical Society’s “Bringing Their Stones Home” project is bringing back names and identities to the nearly-forgotten asylum and poor house cemetery in Verona, next to Gus’ Diner.  From the 1880s to the 1940s, this plot of land became the final resting place for over 400 residents of the then Dane County Asylum and “Poor House”.  For unknown reasons, all headstones were removed and discarded, probably in the 1960s.  70 of them have recovered, and we’re putting them back where they belong, based on a historic cemetery map.

Bring work gloves and a shovel or wheelbarrow if you have one.  There will be opportunities to dig the small holes for the stones, shovel and move gravel or mulch, and generally help clean up the site.  This project is entirely volunteer-driven, and we could really use your help.  Thank you!

*Saturday 6/16/18, 10am:  Field Trip - "The Little Farmhouse on PD and M"

See it on YouTube.

Farmhouse tour handout:  Here is a link to the handout from the farmhouse tour.

Have you ever wondered what lies inside the little farm house with the seasonal wreath at the corner of Hwy M. and PD?  Here is your opportunity to find out!  This house has quietly sat on this intersection for over 140 years, becoming much more noticeable since the recent Highway M road construction removed most of the surrounding trees.  Join us for a field trip and tour of the house given by the current owner, who cares for the house and creates the wonderful wreaths which adorn the front door and provide a quick moment of country beauty for motorists passing by.

We will be meeting at the farmhouse at 10 a.m. for a short talk about the house and tour to follow.  Please note that Raymond Road no longer connects to PD or highway M as it used to - your GPS will be of no help.  The best way to access the house is via a brand new short paved road that attaches to PD a few hundred feet east of the PD and Highway M intersection.

*Saturday 5/12/18, 10am:  "Living in the Verona area - 400 to 500 million years ago", with guest Jim Harrington.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Here are the historical society, we enjoy talking about life back in "the old days".  But how old is "old" - maybe 50, or 100 years?  For this month's meeting we are going to be looking at some snapshots of life in Verona a little farther back - about 500 million years ago!

Verona resident Jim Harrington enjoys the interesting hobby of local fossil hunting.  It started a few years back when a casual walk took him past a road construction site near his home.  Layers of rock laid down in the prehistoric time when Wisconsin was covered by water stuck out from the newly excavated roadbed.  A fan of history, Jim wondered if there might be a fossil or two floating around in there - and he started poking around.  That first informal "dig" yielded four Brachiopods (don't worry - he'll explain what those are!)  Jim was captivated his newly found hobby and an appreciation for the small bits of ancient history each one of us can find around if we know where to look.

Jim will be sharing his hobby with our historical society, including samples of the nine different types of Verona fossils he has come across since that first day he became a fossil hunter.  Also discussed will be tips for how your and your family can share in this hunt - this will be a good meeting to bring the kids and grand kids!

If scheduling allows, we will also have a fossil expert present from the UW Geology Museum to talk even more about local fossils, and answer all of your fossil and geology-related questions.

*Saturday 4/14/18, 10am:  "The Ice Age Trail", with guest David Lonsdorf.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Verona is a great place to learn about the great Ice Age and to experience glacial geology. During the recent Ice Age (50 – 100,000 years ago), what is now Verona was at the southern edge of an enormous ice sheet that covered the top 25% of the earth. When it melted, about 10,000 years ago, it left behind many features that are easily visible today – if you know what to look for!This month’s talk will review the history of the Ice Age, paying particular attention to Wisconsin, Dane County, and Verona.  We’ll talk about Pleistocene “Mega-fauna” including woolly mammoths, giant beavers, sloths, and saber-toothed tigers that lived in Wisconsin.  We’ll also talk about the changing landscape of plants as the climate warmed and dried.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail follows the terminal moraine left by the retreating glacier, and includes a 7-mile “Verona Segment” where you can see many interesting glacial features, some less than a mile from the Verona Senior Center.  We’ll also talk about the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the 60 year old organization whose mission is to “create, support, and protect” the Ice Age Trail.

*Saturday 3/10/18, 10am:  "The Verona Leper Colony", a presentation by Jesse Charles.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Many of us have heard the story of a past "Leper Colony" in Verona.  It's one of those things you might hear from a friend of a friend who knew a guy whose grandfather swears it's true...but is it?  It sounds almost like an urban legend; no one around today claims to have seen it firsthand, but there are so many stories you can't help but it true?

Our presentation this month looks to answer that question - and maybe pose a few more :-)  We have collected oral histories from the last several decades, looked through Dane County records, examined aerial photographs, and uncovered newspaper clippings from the 1800's that are all pieces of this puzzle.  These pieces will for the first time be presented together on a timeline that sheds light onto the "colony" and the people who lived there just a few generations ago.

Also discussed will be the work our historical society is doing with Dane County Parks, Archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the Prairie Moraine Friends group to "dig" more into this topic.

*Saturday 2/10/18, 10:00am:  "Shovels Full of Surprises", with guest Rich Schmidt.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

    Have you ever had that moment where you look around, maybe at the ground beneath your feet or off into the horizon, and wondered what used to be here a hundred years ago?  Did a team of oxen pull a pioneer's wagon across your front yard?  Did Native Americans hunt or camp where your garden is today?  Did pioneer families farm, settle, or build right where you stand?

What if the answer was only a shovel away?

Our guest Rich Schmidt came to Verona in 2005 after living near Belleville for 20 years.  He bought and moved into a fifty year old house on about four acres near highway PB that, like most neighborhoods in Verona, was once farmland eventually subdivided into residential plots.  Over the first few Summers as he mowed his lawn he noticed a small notch in his otherwise dry yard where cat tails grew thick and the mower's wheels would stick if he got too close.  After several years of this, curiosity got the best of Rich and he grabbed his shovel and started digging.  Almost immediately below the ground were two old wooden timbers with matching half-circle arcs carved in to them along with pieces of a cast iron reciprocating pump (the kind farmers would attach to windmills).  This is how it all started...

Rich will share stories and discoveries made by him and his sons - who turned backyard archaeology into a family hobby!  In the years following they would unearth many surprises that give unique glimpses into Verona life in the 1800s.  Graduate students from the University of Wisconsin and archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society have also visited his property and gotten some experience in the field - Rich's field.

Warning:  The Verona Area Historical Society warns that attending this talk may lead to uncontrollable urges to dig holes in one's own yard.

*Saturday 1/20/18, 10:00am: "The Rising Star Fossil Discoveries", with guests John Hawks.  Verona Senior Center

See it on Youtube

    What does Verona, Wisconsin have in common with the bottom of a remote South African cave?  The answer is professor John Hawks!  This Verona resident spends part of the year teaching in the UW's Anthropology department, and the other part about as far away in space and time as one could get:  8,600 miles and 300,000 years, give or take.    John has taught Anthropology at the UW for about 15 years.  Part of his work involves traveling and studying sites related to the study of human evolution and our early ancestors.  In 2013, he and a team of colleagues gained worldwide attention for their work discovering and studying a large collection of bones deep in a South African cave referred to as the "Rising Star" Cave.  This discovery has the potential to change and inform our future understanding of human evolution.

    Come and enjoy discovering how one of our Verona neighbors is traveling and doing work recognized by the scientific community around the world.  John will talk about his experiences and give us some insights into the exciting study of human evolution.

(Pictured:  A collection of  bones from the newly discovered "Homo naledi" species from the Rising Star Cave.  Photo from the Lee Roger Berger Research Team. )

*Saturday 11/18/17, 10:00am: "A City Is Born", with guests Jane Pearcy, Art Cresson, and John Perkins.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube

     This month we will travel back to the 1970s - a time when Verona was watching its borders gradually get gobbled up by annexation into our big neighbor to the Northeast.  Some of those living in the village banded together to discuss what might be done to keep the surrounding town of Verona from continuing to disappear.  The solution?  Become a city!     Village president Burr Weiland set in motion events that would include creating districts, ordinances, a referendum, and eventually campaigns and a vote for the city's first mayor and City Council.  Our guests this month will be two of Verona's first alders who were there at day one:  Jane Pearcy and Art Cresson.  They will share their memories of that time of change and what our young city government was like when the dust settled after we became a city on April 18, 1978.  We will hear of growing pains, early debates, and enjoy stories like the reason why buckets were required at our first city hall votes.

     Jane had been involved with the league of women voters in Madison before she moved to Verona.  In addition to being our first female city alder, she has been on the school board, been chair of the EMS, ran a restaurant on West Verona Avenue, and taught foreign languages at the middle school for many years.

    Art's interest in the local political scene began in the late 1960s during Verona's great fluoride debate.  When the time to find alders for the first city council came, a friend asked him to get involved due to the fact that his position as a mail carrier meant he "knew everyone in town", in Art's words.

Note:  Original city alderperson John Perkins also joined the discussion at this meeting.

(Pictured above:  Judge Shirley Abrahamson swears in alders Jane Pearcy [left] and Art Cresson [right] on April 18, 1978.)

*Saturday 10/14/17, 10:00am: "What's Up With the Matts House?", with guest Troy Rost.  Verona Senior Center.

     Lately the most common question we get asked at the historical society is, "What's happening with that brick house on the corner downtown?"  There sure has been a lot of activity at the old Matts house this year, and our guest this month will be Troy Rost - who is at the helm!    Some folks might remember just two years ago when the fate of this our city's oldest home hung in the balance, and most signs pointed towards it receiving a similar fate shared by three other prominent houses that once stood on the other corners of that main intersection.  Just a year or so before that you might recall getting a chuckle driving by and noticing a large sign next to it advertising "Free house if you can move it".

    But for all its recent years of uncertainty, there were as many decades in times past where this house enjoyed a prominent stature among Verona's downtown scene.  Our local histories state that "people came from miles around" to see this impressive double-brick structure when it debuted around 1848.  This was a time only eight years after the first white settlement in Verona (a simple hole dug into the side of a mound) - and for all the log and wood houses that were built by this time not one brick home had been constructed.  Much would happen in this house between that time and now - and we'll get you up to speed!

    Our meeting will start with a brief history on the house and the part it has played in Verona's history.  Our guest Troy Rost will then present a look at what he and his team have been doing since taking ownership from the city last year - and what their project will look like at the end.  Troy will share some surprises found beneath the many layers of drywall, veneer, and old layers of paint.  We will hear insight on the unique challenges of fixing up a historic structure into a sustainable business - which Troy is no stranger to.  We hope you'll join us to find out what's up with the Matts house!

*Friday 9/8/17, 12:30pm: "Goodbye, Gordon School". A presentation at the Verona Senior Center, followed by a field trip to the school - soon to be demolished.

See it on Youtube

The Gordon School building has sat at on the corner of highway M and Midtown Road in some form for over 150 years.  It taught generations of rural school children back in a day when Verona's countryside was divided up into over a dozen small, numbered school districts.

Families of shared district #11 would come to know this building well.  Their kids would walk in the snow from neighboring farms, in some cases being pulled in a sled by tractor when the snow was too high.  They would bring lunches that their teacher would warm up in the old stove, and enjoy recesses playing softball in the field next door.

The Gordon School is also home to one truly fantastic Verona story which occurred on a stormy September day in 1928.  While school was in session, a tornado formed to the West and headed towards the Gordon School - destroying nearby farms on the way.  As the original wooden school was torn open and collapsed, students inside were saved by the quick thinking teacher who had gathered them next to the piano for shelter.

The building was rebuilt of brick the following year in 1929.  Unfortunately, the budget left no room for supplies.  Area mothers solved that problem by selling squares on a fundraising quilt which - nearly 90 years later - will be on display during our meeting.

The great school district consolidation of 1964 would end the Gordon School's service.  It was then sold and has remained a private residence in the decades since.  Sadly, what the tornado started a bulldozer will finish as the building is demolished in the coming months to make way for the widening of Highway M.

*Saturday 8/19/17, 10:00am: "25 Years of Verona Area Community Theater", with guest Dee Baldock.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on Youtube.

Twenty five years ago, three Verona women organized a small show tunes performance for a public audience in the step room of the newly built Verona Middle School (now Badger Ridge).  What started at that first performance of a handful of people would grow to an organization that today puts on 9 shows a year involving hundreds of our Verona friends and neighbors - and is slated to open up their new 2 million dollar building this fall.

Our guest this month will be Dee Baldock, who was a founder of Verona Area Community Theater back in 1992.  Dee had acted in plays in high school and would later move to Verona in 1976.  Having no community theater outlets in Verona at that time (many residents will remember that Verona was previously home to a performance group called "Verona Varieties"), Dee got involved in Oregon Community theater.  It was there she learned the behind-the-scenes workings of a community theater group, eventually leading to her teaming up with Jeannie Pitsch and Karen Rogness to start VACT.

Dee will share her personal stories and memories of how a small group can grow to a successful organization that enhances the lives of both young and old Verona residents.

     Location:  Verona Senior Center (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593.)

*Saturday 7/8/17, 10:00am: "Treasures on South Main", field trip with host Tom Griffith.  Start at Verona Senior Center.

If you have ever noticed the lovely 1909 Victorian just South of the bike trail on South Main Street, you probably also noticed the new "Carriage House" recently constructed next to it!  In addition to purchasing the former Blizard family Victorian in 2002, Owner Tom Griffith has spent thirty years collecting architectural pieces rescued from demolitions of Wisconsin homes, churches, and barns.  In 2016 he combined many of these pieces into the eye catching carriage house next to his Victorian.  This is your chance to tour them both!

The carriage house is a unique artistic creation that serves to preserve and display pieces of historic Wisconsin structures removed as they disappeared under the bulldozer.  Components of the carriage house include the wide doors from an 1835 Stoughton house, Gables from an 1840 Milwaukee mansion, exterior wood from an 1855 Rhinelander mill, and roof trusses from a historic barn in Verona.

Our meeting with start at the Verona Senior Center at 10:00am for short project updates.  We will then walk over to to Tom's house for a personal tour of the carriage house and Victorian home.  We are grateful to Tom for this chance to see them both up close!

Footnote:  Tom sold this property four years later in 2021.  The carriage house was moved via semi to a new location.

*Saturday 6/10/17, 10:00am: "Delma's Lustron Home", with guest Delma Basthemer.  Verona Senior Center.

See it on YouTube.

     On Westlawn Avenue sits a unique piece of post-war American history - one of Verona's "Lustron" homes.  These homes began mass production in 1948 and promised to provide returning GIs and American families with a futuristic alternative to traditional housing.  Each home was ordered and arrived in roughly 3,300 pieces to be assembled on site by a team.  Modern features included an outer shell of enamel-coated steel panels, which would "defy weather, wear and time" and promised to provide all members of the family with more leisure time due to the reduced need for household maintenance (source:  Wikipedia).  Did they live up to this promise?  Let's ask Delma!

Henry Basthemer ordered a Lustron home 1949 - the same year he and Delma married.  Their 3,300 pieces arrived in a trailer on Westlawn Avenue in April 1950 and waited in the package (due to a labor strike) until June of that year.  In that same month the last Lustron home was made as the company shut down.  Delma has enjoyed and lived in her house for 66 years.

We will start our meeting at the Verona Senior Center by watching a short video on Lustron homes with Delma.  We will then carpool to Westlawn Avenue to see the home up close!  

*Saturday 5/20/17, 10:00am: "Follow the Evidence!  Excavating Early Verona Farmsteads", with guest Paul Reckner.  Verona Senior Center.

 See it on YouTube.

     Over the last year, you may have noticed several big square tarps dotting the landscape along highway 69 as it heads south through Verona.  Maybe you've also seen some people digging around in the dirt and wondered what they're up to.  Several of our members were just too curious and pulled over to meet these folks...who turned out to be friendly archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society!

Join our guest, Wisconsin State Historical Society Archaeologist Paul Reckner, who has logged countless hours studying and reconstructing information related to early Native American and White farmstead settlements along the highway 69 corridor.  It may come as a surprise to learn the wealth of artifacts and evidence found in Verona dig sites related to many periods of human activity here since last glacier.

Paul's talk will focus on work he is currently doing to research and create a map of the original overland routes and roads from Verona through Paoli to Belleville - and determine how these routes shaped the area's first wave of farmstead settlement.  Will discovering these paths and comparing them to known excavation sites lead to a better understanding of how Verona and surrounding areas were settled?

*Saturday 4/8/17, 10:00am: "Leaving a Mark on Verona Sports; Four Decades with Coach Randy Marks", with guest Randy Marks.  Verona Senior Center.

  See it on YouTube.

Our guest this month is a name that will be likely be recognized by any former Verona Indians and Wildcats who grew up chasing a finish line.  Starting in 1965, Randy Marks taught Chemistry and Science in Verona schools for 42 years.  He began coaching Boys Cross Country that first year and continued to do so for all but one year until 2016 - winning state in 1974, 1982, and 1991.

Coach Marks will discuss memorable moments and seasons from his tenure here as well as the many changes that occurred during this time.  One aspect that may surprise our younger Wildcats is that in 1965 there were still no official WIAA girls sports!  Coach marks will describe how girl's Cross Country in Verona started organically at first as several students banded together in 1969 to form Verona's first girls Cross Country running club - and how that evolved to the Verona Girls Cross Country team winning the WIAA state title three times in 1980, 1981, and 1984.

Additional references:

*Saturday 3/11/17, 10:00am: "Main Street Memories - a Round Table Discussion", with special guests.  Verona Senior Center.

  See it on YouTube.

Our Guest this month will be - You!  The Verona Area Historical society is hoping to tap in to our collective memories and learn as much about South Main Street as possible.  We would like to invite anyone from the public with memories of South Main Street starting from the Matts House and heading South to the Bike Trail (also known as the stretch from the Eagle's Nest to the Railroad Tracks if you've lived here long enough).

We will be leading a round table discussion and taking notes on what businesses were where, who lived in what house, and what memories you still have about that stretch of town looking back over the decades.  If you are interested or know any longtime residents to bring, please come and help us fill in the blanks for future generations.  

Historical and present pictures of buildings in this area will be shown to help jog memories.  It will be a fun morning of reminiscing!

*Saturday 2/11/17, 10:00am: "The Batker Blacksmith Shop", with guest Kim Kemper.  Verona Senior Center.

  See it on YouTube.

"Share the road" might be more geared towards bicycles today, but it hasn't been too long since our Main Street was shared by both automobiles and the original source of horse power!  Even in the decade following WWII it was not uncommon to see both cars and horse carriages traveling around Verona, and some older residents still recall seeing horses being shoed right on main street at the Batker blacksmith shop (currently occupied by Plumbing and Glass).

Our guest Kim Kemper is the great granddaughter of George Batker, whose blacksmith shop served the needs of our city for many years - from horseshoes to welding and machinery repair.  Kim and members of the Batker family have done research on the shop, and will be presenting some of the stories and artifacts they have preserved.

     Location:  Verona Senior Center (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593.)

*Saturday 1/21/17, 10:00am: "Verona's Lifeline:  History of the Sugar River", with guest Bill Keen.  Verona Senior Center.

  See it on YouTube.

The Sugar River has brought life and opportunity to Verona since the time of the glaciers.  As the glaciers melted, our first Verona residents the Native Americans used the river for transportation, hunting grounds, and to sustain early agriculture.  Evidence of their many encampments have been found on its shores.  Early white settlers also made note of the potential of the river and the abundant resources in the lands surrounding it.  Just as it influenced and provided for early Verona, now a group of dedicated individuals returns the favor and watches over the river itself - respecting its historical and contemporary significance.

Bill Keen, member of the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association will be our guest and will discuss some history of the Sugar River and what is being done now to preserve and care for it.  The association's work involves studying and monitoring water quality and animal/plant life, special restoration projects, and community outreach and education. 

     Location:  Verona Senior Center (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593.)

*Saturday 12/17/16, 1:00pm: "Fundraiser - Meet the Author:  John Scharer", with guest John Scharer.  Sow's Ear, Verona.

Enjoy a coffee and pick up your copy of "Down at the Nest" to help support our historical society (all proceeds go towards our upcoming projects!) Author John Scharer will be there to sign copies (limited run, available for $20) and talk about his wonderful book. John has done a limited reprinting to help the historical society as a fundraiser.

Every small town has had its own collection of "characters" - and Verona was no different! Located at Verona's "Four Corners" from 1850 to 1970, the Eagles Nest was a central hub of our small town culture for over 100 years. During its time it served as a stagecoach stop, hotel, "chop shop" for Chicago gangsters, speakeasy, hangout for Frank Lloyd Wright, and eventually a supper club serving the best dishes around.

Lifelong Verona resident John Scharer grew up in the 'nest and recalls many of the colorful people and events from the 35 years his family owned and operated it. Enjoy looking back to when "everyone knew everyone", and hear about interesting personalities from prominent citizens to railroad hobos, and all the small town drama in between

*Saturday 11/12/16, 10:00am: "Hometown Homegrown Business Series:  The Story of Park Printing", with guest Debbie Bass.  Verona Senior Center.

  See it on YouTube.

     We continue our look at the history of longtime Verona area businesses with our guest Debbie Bass of Park Printing.  Debbie's parents Marge and Wib Dudley started the business in 1952 in Madison, moving to Verona in 1968.  Initially focused on creating financial advertising materials for local banks, the company's focus changed to becoming a self contained printing house, leading to relationships with big clients such as Nicolet Instruments (for whom they printed product manuals).

    Park Printing of Verona is an example of a small family owned business growing along with Verona, yet keeping close ties with four generations of the family that started it. Debbie and her sister both married brothers from the Bass family (Tim and John, respectively) - all four being eventually involved with the business. Currently Debbie's son Greg is president, and her grandson also works there.

    Join us in enjoying this story of what it takes to keep a family and business thriving through the generations in our favorite small town.

     Location:  Verona Senior Center (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593.)

*Saturday 10/8/16, 9:15am: "Mendota Indian Mound Tour", with guide Robert Birmingham.  Meet for carpool at the Verona Senior Center.

     Author and Archaeologist Robert Birmingham will provide a personal tour to VAHS of the amazing and unique effigy mounds present on the grounds of the Mendota Mental Health Institute.  Robert has authored several books about Wisconsin Indian mounds, and is an expert on the fascinating and lost tradition of mound building in Wisconsin. He is a former State Archaeologist of Wisconsin and is currently a professor at UW-Waukesha.

    The free tour will begin with a carpool from the Verona Senior Center at 9:15 and will take about two hours.  There will be many open seats for those who do not wish to drive.  We will caravan to the mounds, each located a short distance from each other.  There will not be much walking required as we will be parking next to each point of interest.  It will be an opportunity to witness these same land formations seen by the first white settlers in the 1800s - but this time with an expert who can illuminate the various mysteries of mound building that occurred in Wisconsin from 800 to 1200 years ago.  Send questions to

     Location:  Meet at the Verona Senior Center at 9:15AM (108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593.)  We will be carpooling together to meet Robert at the mounds.

Wednesday 9/14/16, 6:00pm:  Capturing Farm Toys!

  See it on YouTube.

     Revisit historic periods of Wisconsin farm machinery with the Verona Area Historical Society! Our guest for our September meeting will be Tom Brunner of Verona.  One of Tom's hobbies is studying the remaining samples of classic farm implements and machinery and creating accurate scale model representations.  Whether you grew up on a farm or are just curious how the technology has changed over time, bring the whole family and enjoy these fun and educational creations.

     Location:  Verona Senior Center. 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593

Wednesday 8/17/16, 6:00pm:  "Verona's Forgotten Cemetery", with speakers Melissa Seymour and Jim Ferolie.

  See it on YouTube.

     In 2008, Verona Press writers Melissa Seymour and Jim Ferolie set out to write a piece about the small plot of unmarked graves on East Verona Avenue that was being encroached on all sides by development.  A solitary granite marker on that spot is all that still exists to remind passersby about the Dane County Hospital and Poor Farm which once dominated the East side of Verona.  Melissa and Jim's investigation unearthed many surprises and long forgotten stories of a time when many "unfortunate" souls lived and worked on these grounds...and ultimately what became of them. 

     Location:  Verona Public Library.

Wednesday 7/13/16, 6:00pm: "Local History Spotlight:  The Story of Carnes in Verona", with speaker Greg Cichon.

  See it on YouTube. 

    Carnes has been a fixture of Verona manufacturing since 1951.  A local Verona success story, the company traces its roots back to a single brilliant idea conceived as a side project by a local chemical salesman (Wilbur R. Carnes) in the late 1940's.  This idea - a new method of removing metal debris from machine oil so it could be reused multiple times -  fueled the early momentum of this company which has since evolved and grown along with Verona.

    Come hear the interesting and unique story of Carnes' early days, what it was like starting a small-town manufacturing company in the 1950's,  and how they got where they are now.

     Location:  Verona Public Library.

*Saturday 6/11/16, 10:00am:  "Verona Cemetery History Walk", with speakers Art Cresson, Mark Hunstman, and others.

  See it on YouTube.

Come discover the stories of Verona's founding families, veterans, notable citizens, and ordinary folks who helped shape our city - and still rest here today.

Hear about the successes and struggles of pioneer life.  See the effect of civil war on Verona families.  Meet the town doctor and his wife who saved 1,000 lives during the Spanish flu epidemic, and would later introduce basketball and annual fireworks to Verona.  Learn about the symbolism and themes carved into the headstones; why do so many graves have fingers pointing?  Why is there one hollow metal headstone, and why did bootleggers like that style so much during prohibition?

Our guides on this walking tour will be:

The tour is expected to take about 90 minutes.  Chairs will be placed around the Cemetery to facilitate sitting - we will be stopping many times to talk.

Location:  Verona Cemetery.

*Saturday 5/21/16, 10:00am:  "Wisconsin Arrowheads", with speaker Sondy Pope.

  See it on YouTube.

     Ever look for arrowheads as a kid?  Still think of that when you happen across a triangular rock?  Most of us know Sondy Pope as representative for Wisconsin's 80th district.  History buffs may be interested in her other hobby; that growing up, she and her family up were tenacious arrowhead hunters! They learned the tricks and techniques of this wonderful hobby and amassed several thousand arrowheads in the process.  Sondy will be joining us for coffee, showing off a portion of her collection, and discussing the study of arrowheads and the excitingly intricate art of finding them.

     Location:  Verona Senior Center. 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593

*Saturday 4/16/16, 10:30am: "Spirits of Earth:  Effigy Mound Landscape of Madison and the Four Lakes", with speaker Robert Birmingham.

  See it on YouTube.

     Once numbering as many as 20,000, Wisconsin is down to it's last 2,000 or so Indian Mounds.  Maybe you've seen a few and have been curious about the wonderful story they tell.  Robert Birmingham has authored several books about Wisconsin Indian mounds, and is giving a talk on the fascinating and lost tradition of mound building in Wisconsin. Robert is a former State Archaeologist of Wisconsin and is currently a professor at UW-Waukesha.

     Location:  Verona Senior Center. 108 Paoli St, Verona, WI 53593

*Saturday, March 19th - 10:00am:  Epic Farm Campus Tour, following our monthly meeting.

    The tour will be a handicap-accessible indoor tour of the three buildings that make up this third Epic campus, which opened in 2013.  A lot of Verona history went into this campus in particular.  Most of it is built on the Stewart farm (founded by one of Verona's pioneer families), and Epic's facilities team met several times with Don Stewart (direct descendant) to learn about the history of the property - so it could be worked in to the buildings.  Many of his pictures and documents hang in the halls.  Recovered barn wood and foundation stones from Wisconsin farms were used in the buildings.  Perhaps the highlight is a pair of 1950's Farmall Model M tractors that have been restored and used as art in the Shed building (one in its entirety, and one displayed as a collage of parts).

*Saturday, January 2016:  The Oregon Pump House Restoration, with Randy Glysch.

  See it on YouTube.


January – No meeting

February – Ken Behnke spoke on his long association with the post office and gave a thorough history of it.

March – Richard Doerfer presented “Farming Then and Now”. His organized history shed light on life on a farm from the 1930’s on.

April – Elisabeth told about her grandparents’ farm at the corner of Valley Road Street and South Main which became a turkey farm in the 1950’s.

May – Tour of Richard Doerfer’s mega-dairy farm on Whalen Road.

June- August – No meetings

September – Jerry Erdmann spoke (video) again on the Erdmann connection to the Civil War.

October –Art Cresson and Georgia Zink did a joint presentation on Verona’s cemetery, and the website she created and linked to Find A Grave, a national database of deceased.

November – Viewing a video produced by Brad Parkel for Verona’s sesquicentennial.  Interviews of older Verona residents.  The video, part of the library’s collection, was unearthed by Jesse Charles

December - Ellis Manufacturing


January  – Catherine Schneider presented an interesting detailed history of the Stoner School in Fitchburg, School District #7.

February – Ed Faber and Georgia Zink with several others combined to talk about one of the longest running country schools, the White School near White Crossing.  

March  -- Arlene Burke coordinated the presentation/discussion of Andrew Henry School, the small brown building at the corner of Old PB and Whalen Road.   

April --  Elisabeth Wenger Pankonin presented a detailed history of Maple Grove School, located at the corner of Maple Grove Rd. and Cty PD.  Razed for apartment complex.

May – The presentation of McPherson School on Cty Hwy G involved several people including Art Cresson; Cleo Henning, a teacher; and Nona Erfurth who spoke on Walter Brink’s written history of the school.   

June-August  No meetings

September – Don Stewart spoke on history of Verona Graded School, which looks much the same today as it did when he attended.  Located on West Verona Avenue.

October – The last school discussed was Valley View School, located at the corner of Valley Road and Sugar River Road. A group

discussion informed the audience of experiences there.  Patton School, Valley View’s predecessor, was the first school in Verona.  It was in the river’s floodplain so was eventually closed and Valley View was constructed at the crest of the hill above the river.

November --  John Scharer recalled Verona’s “notables”, most of whom liked to drink and made the rounds of Verona’s taverns.  They are included in his recent book about the Eagle’s Nest in Verona.

December – Viewing of historic Verona pictures from the framed collection.  Unfortunately, not too many individuals were identified.


January  – Elisabeth Pankonin, Doris Waldmann and Millie Whiting each presented a segment of church history, 1923 to the present.

February – Sally Matts Healy spoke on the Baptist Church’s history.

March – Ruth Jensen presented the history of St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church which she had researched and written for the church’s centennial in 1986.

April – Karl Curtis talked about his Verona history written as a project for the Verona Press.  Written for the Verona’s Sesquicentennial in 1997.

May – Segments of the movie, “Adventure in Dairyland” were shown.  It was filmed in part at the Sisk farm on Sugar River Road.  Annette Funicello was the star but many of the locals told of their participation in the filming.

June- August – No meetings.

September – No speaker.

October – Sally Matts Healy spoke on the Matts family,the founders/developers of Verona in the mid-1840’s.  

NovemberRural school series began.  Joe Wineke spoke briefly of his 2 years at Maple Corners School on Hwy. M South.

December – Informal discussion about attending rural one-room 


January -- Don Stewart, resident historian, was guest speaker.  He read a letter from his great uncle Thomas, who detailed his travels across the country to take part in the California Gold Rush.

February – Astrid Swain told of her Norwegian heritage, her life as a little girl when the family who lived in America resettled in Norway until Astrid was seven and then returned to the U.S.

March – Ruth Witt Jensen as a first-generation American spoke about her family emigrating from Europe and homesteading in Minocqua, Wisconsin.

April – Don Stewart spoke on his recollections of early Verona.

May – Glenn “Doc” Steusser spoke on the 1811 New Madrid, Missouri, earthquake, another topic that piqued his interest so he researched it as he had done with the Peshtigo Fire.

JuneAugust No meetings

September – Impromptu speaker was Don Stewart who had just returned from the one-day Wis. Honors Flight to Washington, D.C.     

October – Dale Yurs spoke of the evolvement of the United States Supreme Court.

November – Ernie Johnson spoke on his involvement in the Catholic church from his Lutheran beginnings to marrying Margaret who was Catholic and the move to Verona.  Rather than a history of Verona’s St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Ernie shared incidents from his participation in the church over the many decades.

December – No speaker


January  – No speaker.  Minutes state a collage by the Dane Cty. Hist. Society which included Verona pictures was on display at the State Capitol as part of the 175th anniversary of the Society.

February – Vince Weiland spoke about his grandfather Dr. H. P. Weiland who passed away in 1972.  Vince has the doctor’s book used to record patients in the period 1920-1925.

March – No minutes  

April --Ed Faber might have spoken about his Civil War research as the rough draft of it exists along with pictures of veterans: Ed Donkle [with children and his parents (?) wedding photo] and  William G. L. Matts.

May –  Dr. Glen Steusser spoke on the environment, and type of nature and humans who populated the North American Continent from the Ice Age up to the time of Columbus. 

June – Tour of Verona Cemetery led by Art Cresson.

July-September No meetings

October – Jerry Remy of the Dane County Historical Society spoke on how the county became organized and now was celebrating its 175th anniversary.  Emphasis on Montrose and Belleville and Frenchtown.  Many deeds were traced back to the original owner, Daniel Webster.

November – Ken Zingg’s presentation was about cheese making, his grandfather Adolf Eberhardt’s profession.  Included is a 20-page ‘recollection’ about Adolph (b.1852) and his family written by his elderly son, Ed Eberhardt.

December – Dr. Glenn Steusser spoke on the Peshtigo, Wisconsin, fire which is somewhat overlooked in history because it happened simultaneously with Chicago conflagration.


January– Speaker Bob Kleinfeldt – on his teaching/principal career – in Verona from 1956 until 1984.  Verona had the first Middle School in the state.

February  -- No speaker

March – No minutes

April – No speaker

MayOctober  --No minutes

November – Millie Whiting and Doris Waldman talked about Salem United Church of Christ and their long choir experience there – Doris, 70 years and Millie, 58 years.  Millie has 3 scrap books of newspaper clippings about Verona events and people.

December – Jerry Erdmann spoke on Civil War History- Ninth Infantry Unit.  Included with the minutes of that day are 25 outlined pages from his video presentation.


January --  Linus Stampfl’s topic was athletics in Verona. – basketball, football and baseball.

February – Don Stewart reported on his Great-grandfather John Stewart who arrived from Scotland in 1843 and purchased land near the Sugar River.

March – No speaker

April --  No speaker

May – Dr. Lawrence Lemanski spoke on Verona’s veterinary history with his role being a large animal vet.

JuneSept. – No meetings

October  --  Ed Faber spoke on his work in genealogy and the history of the White School.  He is working on documenting all Verona Civil War participants.

November – Vance Mannetter passed out his handwritten book “An Early History of the White Crossing Area”.  He moved to his home on Timber Lane, Town of Verona in 1974.  The house was built between 1882 and 1890.

December – No minutes


January  – No speaker

February – Ernie Johnson, having moved here in the 1930’s, shared his memories of early Verona.

March – John Scharer spoke about living in Verona since the 1930’s when his parents opened the Eagle’s Nest, a restaurant/road house. He has written a manuscript on the subject. He showed a few keepsakes from the “Nest”.

April – Marge Westergard spoke on Verona Parades and Boy Scout troops.

May – Art Cresson gave a talk about the Verona Cemetery.  He has been Secretary of the cemetery association for nine years.  He does all the duties of a sexton.

October – Jerry Maurer spoke on dairy farming in the Verona area.

November – Don Stewart talked about life in the 1920’s…about transportation in and around the area.

December – Alfred "Al" "Junior" Miller talked about the creation of the Bank of Verona, its survival during the Depression, and the fact that there never was a robbery at the bank.


October  – Karen Crossley (?), Director of the Dane County                                                                                                                                                                                                           Cultural Affairs Commission

November – Brian Bigler, a founding member of Mt. Horeb’s Historical Society, spoke about how to begin preserving local history.  Don Stewart showed movies that his father took in 1939 and 1940.  

December – Jenny (?) spoke on moving her 1895 house from Nesbitt Road, Fitchburg, to N. Jefferson Street, Verona.