The uniform of Navy Hospital Apprentice First Class Keefe Connolly has been received by the Markesan Historical Society. Keefe was on the Oklahoma when it was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; the Oklahoma capsizing after sustaining several hits. The uniform, along with a duplicate of Keefe’s bronze veteran’s grave marker is on view in the Grand River Valley Museum’s Veterans Corridor. Keefe’s remains have been laid to rest in the Markesan Memorial Cemetery. Keefe would have been 100 years old on May 7th. Keefe is among ten servicemembers from Markesan killed in action who are honored in the Veterans Corridor.
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 its 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 920/398-3344 or 920/398-3359. The complex has handicapped-accessible rest rooms, parking and displays.
Four 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.
The newest addition to the complex is the Walter O. Kienas Building at 223 E. John St., which is across the street from the rest of the complex. This building houses the archives and also serves as storage for any artifacts not on display.
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.
Markesan residents may remember the site where the Kienas Building now sits as a blacksmith shop, owned by Herman Butenhoff in 1899. The business consisted of shoeing horses, carriage building, and repairs to buggies and farm wagons. The business was later operated by Herman’s son, William.
The building was purchased by Walter O. Kienas in 1957, who razed the blacksmith shop and erected the current building. Mr. Kienas not only owned the building but the property behind it where he operated an apple orchard and greenhouse. The building was used to store apples from the orchard. In 1987, after the death of Mr. Kienas, his wife, Mary, sold the building to the Grand River Co-op until its purchase by Landmark in 2007. Landmark moved its headquarters from the building, selling it to the Markesan Historical Society in 2018.
The Walter O. Kienas Building now houses the Grand River Museum archives, consisting of cemetery records, obituary and wedding notices, school records and high school annuals, photographs, genealogies and other pertinent Markesan information.