CRIVITZ, Wisconsin – It’s a story of logging, agriculture, and tourism.
A walk through the buildings and grounds of the Crivitz Museum provides an easy glimpse of all three, from the mid-1800s until as recently as the fire that destroyed Crivitz Lumber in January 2019.
The main museum building at 204 N. Oak St. was built in 1989 by the Crivitz / Stephenson Historical Society, which includes the village of Crivitz and the towns of Lake, Middle Inlet and Stephenson.
The land was donated by Al and Ellie Karman, who in the early 1900s owned an farm at the University of Wisconsin to test what might be the best crops to grow in the area after it was disconnected. While early results were well tested for potatoes, rutabagas and cucumbers for pickles, it ultimately led to the boom in dairy farms, said John Deschane, museum curator since 2010.
The main building has an oval walkway lined with exhibits on both sides. Among the areas of local history they highlight: the schools of the time, including the Crivitz high school, created in 1913; recreation and entertainment, with seats from the former Crivitz theater; the military and regional veterans who served (Crivitz founder Bartels fought in the Civil War); musical instruments and machines, including a phonograph which can still play cylindrical discs; tools; a bedroom with rope bases; communications such as old telephones and PO boxes; a living room and a kitchen typical of more than a century ago; a space with washing and weaving machines; and an exhibition devoted to sewing, quilts and early fashions.
A quilt given in this section contains around 650 names of residents of the Coleman and Pound area, meticulously sewn in red by Ladies Aid of the German and English Baptist Church in Pound in 1925.
The other buildings each aim to showcase the three main historical themes of forestry, agriculture and tourism.
Behind the museum is the “Honeymoon cabin” so named because it was once the only resort cottage on an island in Lake Noquebay and therefore popular with honeymooners looking for some privacy. It dates back to 1895, when it was used by surveyors from Peshtigo River Lumber Co., but remained at the John Ahle complex until 2015. To bring it to the museum, part of the roof was removed and then towed off the island and across the ice by truck, Deschane said. It has a kitchen and, unsurprisingly, a bedroom.
The reconstructed 1870s logging camp building, just behind and to the left of the museum, contains machinery from the days when logging was the driving force of the area; at one point, Peshtigo River Lumber was the largest lumber maker in the United States, Deschane said.
The exhibit is dominated by a 10-by-20-foot miniature model of a working logging camp that was sculpted and assembled by the late Evan Hirsch of Sheboygan Falls, who was a lumberjack in the 1920s.
A 1909 barn from a farm a few miles away is still under construction and needs to be reassembled after being given in pieces. When completed, it will house farm equipment, Deschane said.
The museum is made up of a dozen volunteers, supported by the 65 members of the Crivitz / Stephenson Historical Society. Deschane supervises the layout of the displays.
The volunteers are all familiar with local history to answer any questions or help find information.
“It’s a team effort” said Deschane.
Although admission is free, donations are greatly appreciated. Museum hours of operation are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
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