How to Help & Our History
How To Help Give Lake Mills/Aztalan's Past a Future:
Volunteering time for service at the museum or on a committee. Some areas your service can be in: Research, Membership, Program, Publicity and Public Relations, Fundraising, Museum, Aztalan Day and Property Maintenance.
Or make a donation, gift in memory of, commemorative gift.
The Lake Mills-Aztalan Hist. Soc. does not receive any state, local government or federal funding for museum operations.
The Lake Mills-Aztalan Hist. Soc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, donations are tax deducible as provided by law.
The Lake Mills Aztalan Hist. Soc. owns & operates the Lake Mills Aztalan Museum which is next to Aztalan State Park, but the museum is not part of Aztalan State Park.
Victorian Glass Presentation
Mike Ayers makes a presentation about victorian glass at one of the monthly meetings in Lake Mills.
Excerpts from "Our Thirty Years" (1941-1971) by Willis J. Erlandson
When eight persons gathered in the Lake Mills city council chambers the night of March 28, 1941 to discuss the possibility of organizing a local historical society, they could little foresee how far that simple step would take them. Present at that meeting, called by City Attorney Herman A Schmidt, were Mr. & Mrs. G. Peter White, Mr. & Mrs. W. E. Tyler, Albert Kracht, Charlotte Erlandson & Henry Michel, besides Mr. Schmidt.
On April 23 about 50 people attended the second meeting of the society, at which time Charles E. Brown, Director of the State Historical Museum, told the group that "landmarks must be preserved and marked, the folklore of the region collected, and steps taken for a public park at Aztalan."
By May 2 the paid membership of the society was 49 and by-laws were ready for adoption, completing the foundation of the society. In June the solicitation of funds for repairing the Aztalan Church was begun, with Mr. Kracht working in Aztalan and Ora A. Wodke in Lake Mills. Within another month the culvert had been installed in front of the old church, trees undermining the foundation had been cut, and the building cleaned up of all old bricks, plaster and broken glass.
It was evident almost from the very beginning that the life of the Lake Mills-Aztalan Historical Society was to be inexorably bound up with the future of the pioneer Aztalan Baptist Church, built in 1852 and happily turned over to the society by church officials. It would be restored and converted into a museum to house the steadily accumulating indian artifacts and relics of pioneer white settlement in this area.
By dint of a great deal of volunteer work in refurbishing the old church, plus the cash contributions to help finance needed improvements, the museum was ready for opening on Memorial Day, 1942, with Albert Kracht as custodian and curator.
Admission to the museum was 10 cents per person, with children 12 and under free. Booklets telling the Aztalan story went on sale at 10 cents each. That first summer 850 people visited the new museum and income was $90.82.
Two months after the museum opened, the Society acted quickly to purchase the house and lot immediately south of the building from Mrs. Anna Mohr Schmidt for $2,000 with Mr. Tyler taking a mortgage of $1,700, which was released in 1945 as a gift of the Tyler family. Another land accession was made in 1945, when the Gardner property of a house and three lots was purchased through the gift of John Hooper. The next real estate venture of the society -- purchase of the old Aztalan schoolhouse across the street, at public auction in 1958, for a little over $2,000.
Since developing the museum, the society has added three pioneer log cabins of this area to the site and equipped them with authentic furnishings of the early days.
The society has benefited from several bequests, the largest being $2,000 left by Dr. E. H. Weber, long-time dentist and active member, who died in 1963. Not always on the receiving end, our club in 1966 gave $400 to the Albion Historical Society to help rebuild its museum which had been destroyed by fire.
The society has existed and grown only because of the combined efforts of many people. Many of those have gone to their eternal rest, but our society and community are better for their having lived.
Excerpts From Lake Mills - Aztalan Historical Society 1971 to 1981 by Evelyn Cobb
The 40 foot observation tower was memorialized as the Albert Kracht Observation Tower in ceremonies held on September 11, 1971. His family and friends were happy that he received this recognition at that time for on July 21, 1974, at age 85, he passed to his eternal rest. He was treasurer the first eight years, then president for nearly two decades, and curator of the Aztalan Museum for 32 years.
In 1975 a admissions /souvenir building and a red cedar fence were constructed, all engineered by Loren Soter of Columbus Wisconsin.
At the June 20th, 1975 meeting Karl Magnussen presented a document, signed by Governor Lucey, designated the Society�s Museum property as a National Registered Landmark site.
Wisconsin First Cheese Co-operative Cachet
On Sunday, September 12, 1976, a special dedicatory program and marker unveiling was held at the Aztalan Museum grounds. A special Wisconsin First Cheese Co-operative cachet designed by Earl Fetterer of Fort Atkinson was made available to cachet collectors. Unveiled that day also was a Anne Pickett plaque cast in solid bronze.
Recognition Day and acceptance of the replica of the old cannon which stood in the downtown park in Lake Mills for many years and donated by Sam Perlman, a former Lake Mills resident, then of Milwaukee, took place June 11, 1977.
At the October 21, 1977 meeting Leo Barfknecht reported that the frame-work and poles were being put up for the new storage building. This building was used for the first time at Aztalan Day on July 30, 1978.
Aztalan Day, July 29, 1979 was a huge success. The dedication of the newly restored red brick one-room school was the highlight of the day.
Excerpts from Lake Mills-Aztalan Historical Society 1981-1990 by Ethel Mae Wagner, Effie Loomer and Ellen White
The Aztalan town board voted to vacate a portion of south street in order that there could never be a road running east-west through our property south of the caretakers house.
1982 found us searching for new caretakers. Elias and Vi Stroede had served in that capacity for almost 25 years.
The kitchen of the caretakers house had new cabinets and sink installed.
A quilt raffle was held which brought in over one thousand dollars.
Lyle Lidholm with help from society members reconstructed the Bornell Cabin.
Aluminum siding was put on the caretakers house in 1985.
In 1986 the book �50 years of Lake Mills, Wisconsin 1936-1985� by society members Frances Crone and Ethel Mae Wagner went on sale.
An agreement was reached with the L.D. Fargo Library Board to place history papers in files in the library.
In 1987 the family of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Conner Hanson donated Conner�s collection of Antique tools and the granary building which housed them. An fund drive made it possible to move the granary from the city of Lake Mills to the museum grounds at Aztalan in 1988. Other projects were reproofing the schoolhouse and building a large wardrobe for storing clothing in the annex building.
Among the items received by the Society during this period are: the Bicentennial covered wagon from Gus Klatt, manikins from Doug Jenks, a video �Settlement of Lake Mills Area� from Dr. Liebenow, scrap books of the late Edythe Wolff.
Historical displays started being placed downtown in Dr. Cheryl Peterson�s windows.
Some Highlights of the Lake Mills-Aztalan Historical Society from 1991-2005
In 1993 the Historical Society purchased lands from the Mayme Tews estate (Fire # W6601). The land purchased is colored in yellow & when added to the other holdings (colored in yellowgreen) of the historical society it about doubles the land holdings of the society in Aztalan.
The Mamre Moravian log church was reconstructed on the museum grounds by a group of dedicated local Moravians. The historical society provided only the site and the below ground foundation for the log church, the Moravians did all the rest.
Because of nitrate contamination, a deeper well was drilled at the caretakers house.
The condition of the observation tower became a safety concern, so the tower was taken down.
Costly repairs were made to the old Baptist church and was only made possible because of some generous donations.
A miniature prairie wildflower garden was planted on the museum grounds by a boy scout as his eagle scout project. Also a boy scout did trail work on the property for his eagle scout project.
Bill Ward ending a slide show on one room schoolhouses
Postcards from Lake Mills |
Grist Mill & Photos from Lake Mills |
The Founding of Lake Mills |
Maps of the Lake Mills Area |
More of the Museum |
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