Recording connections between town history and memories is something Jim Schuh, Donna Bourget and Anne Keller are familiar with.
Upon releasing their first book, “That’s All for Now from Engel’s Little House on the Wheaton Prairie,” comprised of newsletters from Chippewa County Historical Society board member Arley R. Engel in 2015, the three Chippewa Falls history enthusiasts and friends, began work in July 2016 to release a book about Lake Wissota and its dam for the 100th anniversary.
“We had such a good time with the Lake Wissota book, and it’s actually be really successful,” said Schuh, who has been a board member with the historical society for 21 years. “We sold a lot of them, and people, I’ve not heard one bad comment. Everyone’s just so happy with the amount of information and how interesting it is.”
And the town wanted more.
“So people asked us what we were going to be doing next,” said Keller, a founding member of the genealogical society, now housed in the Chippewa Area History Center.
For their next book, the group is working on a picture and story history of Irvine Park — and other Chippewa Falls parks as well — as another fundraiser for a new Chippewa Area History Center, titled “Irvine Park: The Bear Facts.” Just like the $35,000 from the co-authors’ “Lake Wissota: The Dam Story,” profits from their new book on the parks will also go toward a new Chippewa Area History Center building.
With the new book, they are hoping for a similar strong reaction to local history.
“People say you should have done this 20 years ago, but we did it now,” Bourget, active in the genealogical society and the historical society, said about the Lake Wissota book. “Twenty years from now it will be here.”
While the three co-authors have been digging through files and archives at the history center since they began work on the book in late October 2017, they are asking the community for help in finding action photos of families, kids and individuals using Chippewa Falls parks.
Anyone with photos will have the opportunity to share their stories and photos with the co-authors at a Chippewa Falls Public Library event at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 7. The event will feature a slideshow of the historic postcard collection and more recent photos of the park.
The co-authors are asking anyone with local park photos and stories either connect with them at the event or reach out to them with information. Specifically, Bourget and Schuh said, the group is looking for action photos — such as skating or swimming.
Other desired action photos include ball games at Casper Park, Murphy Park or Pound Park, children on playground equipment, pickleball players at Buchannan Park, bobsledding or tobogganing, ice skating and volunteers decorating the Christmas Village.
The group, Schuch said, is also looking for photos and information on some parks staff, such as John Mayer (1908-1917), Thomas Murphy (1917-1929), Charles Ermatinger 1930-1958 and Margaret Hurd Barker.
So far, from the handful of stories and photos the group has collected from sources outside of the history center, the trio has learned — among other things — about days of catching pollywogs by Frog Pond Trail and a land deed signed by Abraham Lincoln, which would later be donated by the Fattu family for 60 acres of the park.
The backgrounds of these stories show a significance for the three authors on continuing to get their community involved in a book about its park.
One was told to them by an older gentleman recounting stories of his youth, when he used to catch the pollywogs, hang a bucket in a tree and wait for them to turn into frogs, Bourget said. The Abraham Lincoln story, Schuh said, came from a couple on the east coast who had the original land grant.
“People are all part of the same community, so I would expect a really good response,” Keller said of the co-authors’ anticipation for the upcoming book.
“People really, I think, feel a really strong connection to Irvine Park,” Schuh added.