The quiet, Midwestern town of Markesan, Wisconsin houses a well-kept secret and maybe even a few closet skeletons. Few people know about the Mackford Murder or the missing gold shipment lost on its way to Green Bay. Fewer still realize that Markesan once manufactured washing machines or baseball bats. These and many other “skeletons” can be discovered at the Grand River Valley Museum located at 214 E. John St. in Markesan, WI.
The museum opened it doors to the public in August 1991 and is open every Saturday May 1st through September 30th, from 1pm to 4pm or anytime by appointment. For more information, call the museum at 920/398-3945 or helpful members at 398-2719 or 398-3359. The complex has handicapped-accessible rest rooms, parking and displays.
Three separate buildings comprise the museum complex. The main building was donated by Mildred Draeger in memory of her husband, Edward. Inside are separate rooms showing how people lived in the early 1900's. Tools of the shoe-makers, doctors, dentists, haberdashers, trappers and bankers can be seen. The church room shows the history of area churches. For the family historian, there is a yearbook collection from Markesan High School. Many of the books from 1914 through present have been graciously donated by area residents and are available for viewing along with obituary and cemetery records of the area. This building also houses the original Utley Depot which served the thriving community of Utley with its almost 300 souls.
The Markesan train depot dates from the early 1880's and stands to the west of the main building. The depot contains a one room school house which is dedicated to the memory of Leona Weber, one of the founding members of the Markesan Historical Society. The depot agent’s office houses railroad memorabilia as well as a working telegraph. The loading dock houses a milk bottle collection and equipment used in the growing and harvesting of potatoes.
To the east is The Arthur Jahns Memorial Agricultural Museum or “Barn” as it’s fondly called; a 58' X 150' building housing many of the machines and implements used in farming when horses still provided the horse-power. Displays also include a blacksmith and harness shop, milking equipment and transportation of the past. This new addition was made possible by a bequest from Arthur Jahns and greatly enhances the offerings of the museum since Markesan’s heritage has its roots in agriculture.
An annual cemetery walk is scheduled for Memorial Day each year following the program and roll call at the Markesan Cemetery. Join us as we visit the veterans who have been laid to rest in one of the area cemeteries.
The Annual Heritage Day Celebration is held on the third Sunday in September from 1pm to 5pm at the museum complex. Members are dressed in costume and available to answer questions and explain the displays. There may also be demonstrations throughout the complex. As always, free refreshments and admission.
Bring the whole family for a visit. Grandma and Grandpa can reminisce about when they used “this” or “that” and the kids can see toys from the era before TV and video games. Everyone will enjoy a “step back in time”.