Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc.

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Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc.: About SLAHS

 Background / History

Our Mission

Our Vision

Officers, Board of Directors, and Committees


Society Background History

    Local historian, Fred H. Keller, who had been gathering and studying local history artifacts for more than 50 years, decided to donate his local memorabilia and history library to the Village of Sussex early in February 2001, provided that a historical society be formed and a suitable building be found to store the materials. If the Village decided not to take his collection, it would either go to his children, then possibly auctioned off, or have been donated to the Waukesha County Historical Society.

    Village President Mike Knapp said if the Village took the collection, they "would have to look at" getting help from experts. Roger Johnson, Sussex Trustee, was then appointed by the Sussex Village Board to be one of several leaders to find ways to establish a historical museum. The first steps were taken to establish a Sussex-Lisbon Historical Society that would be a educational, non-profit organization to preserve and promote the history of Sussex-Lisbon. It was hoped that a historical society and research center can be created to promote interest in the prehistory, natural history, history and culture of Sussex-Lisbon, and to collect and preserve materials and provide educational opportunities.

    One of the first steps was to form a local historical society with the support and direction of the State of Wisconsin Historical Society. An informational meeting was held in on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 at the Pauline Haass Public Library's Quadracci Meeting Room after Keller and Johnson attended a six-hour seminar presented by the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The months April through June were used to locate interested individuals and businesses, then to meet in late May or early June in an initial public meeting to determine the possibility of forming a Sussex-Lisbon Historical Society.

    Prior to the next meeting, Vol. 1, Issue 1 Quarterly Newsletter of the Proposed Sussex-Lisbon Historical Society was published and mailed to all those signed up. A July meeting was considered as well as several activities discussed to acquaint the public with the proposed society. One was to stage "a living cemetery" at St. Alban's Cemetery (God's Acre), and two, to have a show and tell booth at the August 25-26 Old Engine Show. Although Mr. Keller's collection was primarily of Sussex-Lisbon, other adjacent communities such as Lannon are also included it in, and would probably be included.

    The initial/charter meeting was delayed until Wednesday, August 22, 2001 and was held at the Pauline Haass Public Library's Quad/Graphics Room at 7:00 pm. Prior to the meeting some 60 area residents signed up as charter members and were invited to the presentation. The meeting included a presentation by Tom McKay, coordinator for the Wisconsin State Historical Society's office of local history. Before Mr. McKay outlined the steps necessary for the formal incorporation of a Sussex-Lisbon historical society, Fred Keller presented slides from Sussex's history. Mr. McKay spoke on the importance of creating by-laws for the society, and provided details of tax-exempt status.

    At the meeting 46 members voted unanimously to adopt a charter and elect officers. Lisbon resident Henry Ray had moved that the society be incorporated, with a second from Village Trustee Greg Goetz. Mr. McKay said that the Sussex-Lisbon Historical Society could be granted its' incorporation charter by the State Historical Society as early as February 2002, if the required paperwork was completed on time.

    Hank Carlson, a former Village Trustee was elected to chair a steering committee that would adopt by-laws and appoint a board of directors. Interim Board officers appointed at the meeting were Carlson as President, Betty Mindemann, a local antiques dealer, the vice president, and Sheree, nee Cullen, Schweiger, the secretary. Fred Keller is to serve as Curator, and Roger Johnson is an advisor and liaison to the Village of Sussex. The new slate of officers would later meet with Mrs. Keller and Johnson to set the next meeting and discuss steps in organizing the society.

    The new officers of the Sussex-Lisbon Historical Society met on September 19, 2001 to continue the organizational efforts launched in August. using a sample provided by Mr. McKay, the "Steering Committee" officers drafted a bylaws document for consideration at the next meeting.

    In October 2001, Vol. 1, Issue 2, Quarterly Newsletter of the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society (SLAHS), note name change, was published. The next meeting to be held November 5th at the Pauline Haass Public Library Quadracci Room at 6:30 pm. Besides the bylaws draft, membership categories were also drafted by the using the Waukesha County Historical Society categories as an example. In addition to the membership categories, the society will encourage endowments, corporate gifts, memorials, estate bequeaths, and similar gifting that could be earmarked as donor's wish. It was also mentioned for the first time that the old depot property behind the church on Main Street might present a future opportunity for housing a local historical museum. The former North Western Railroad depot was built in 1911, and moved to its' present location, behind the old Zion Evangelical Church and parsonage on Main Street in Sussex, in 1978.

    Late February 2002 saw the publication of the "SLAHS NEWSLETTER", Volume 1, Number 3 noting that with the help of the law firm Arenz, Molter, Macy & Riffle, S.C., the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society became an official incorporated entity. SLAHS now was a corporation, with its' own Federal ID number, and only needed to receive formal designation as a non-profit corporation.

    The newsletter revealed that the Wisconsin State Historical Society had approved the affiliation request of the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc., and now SLAHS was eligible to participate in all State programs, and freely request assistance from State staff members.

    Other news was that the Membership Committee was manning a booth at the annual Spring Fest on Saturday, March 16th. New Society Treasurer officer, Joanne Smith was also listed. Regretfully a charter member, serving on the Steering and Membership Committees, Lois, nee Kramer, Wandsneider, died on February 16, 2002. Lastly, SLAHS Officers scheduled the first annual meeting of the Society for March 11, 2002 at the Pauline Haass Public Library Quadracci Room.

    "SLAHS NEWSLETTER", Volume 1, Number 4 reported that the Society is still waiting for IRS formal approval to be a designated Federal tax-exempt non-profit corporation. Because of By-Law requirements, the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society elected a slate of officers for 2002 at the March 11th Annual meeting; Hank Carlson, president, Betty Mindemann, vice-president, Sheree Schweiger, secretary, and Joanne Smith, treasurer. Five members were also named by the officers to the Board of Directors - Elsie Weyer, Francis Haasch, Judy Taylor, Roger Johnson, and Bob Schlei. 

    As of March 2002 there were 47 full-fledged members of the SLAHS, including two lifetime members and two business members. Betty Mindemann offered to conduct appraisals of antique items as a ongoing SLAHS fundraiser. Each item to be appraised will require a $5.00 donation to the SLAHS. items have to be brought to Betty at Mindy's Antiques on Main Street (Please call Betty at 262-246-3183 to set a mutually agreeable time). The next meeting of SLAHS was scheduled for June 3, 2002.

    On July 9, 2002, the Sussex Sun reported that the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc. had received official Federal not-for-profit status the week before. Now donations or gifts to the Society can be used as deductions on income taxes. The Society had been in a holding pattern for doing important fund raising and acceptance, especially that leading to the purchase of the depot for use as a museum. A single donation of at least $100,000 from an unrevealed benefactor was expected to be announced soon. A Society member (and antique dealer) recently found three 80-100 year old display cases in Jackson, Wisconsin that will be used in the proposed depot museum. One is eight feet long, the other two are five feet.

    A number of new members joined SLAHS, including three lifetime memberships: Francis Haasch, Perry Tom Halquist of Halquist Quarry, and Mike Mooney of MLG Commercial.  

    On July 14, SLAHS sponsored a float in the Sussex Lions Daze parade. SLAHS member Mary Nettesheim's father, Ron, donated the use of his antique oil-pull-type tractor to pull his mini farm wagon in the parade. On the wagon rode SLAHS dignitaries; runners along it, dispensed candy to children watching, while others passed out brochures.

    In July 2002, a letter was mailed to members telling about fundraising ideas. The FUNdraising Committee of SLAHS motto is "To have FUN while raising money". It was noted that after details are finalized, and the Society occupies the depot at Historic Square on Main Street, there are building needs, in and out. The grounds need work, and bills for heat and light will need to be paid. Plus insurance, security, etc.

    The first fundraising opportunity for Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc. members was to sell donated rummage and antiques at the Society's booth during the Annual Antique Power and Steam Engine Show, held Saturday and Sunday, August 24 and 25th, at the Sussex Village Park. Besides the flea market items for sale, information about the Society was provided, along with displays of old community photos, and visitors were able to purchase reproductions of old area postcards.

      As reported by the Quarterly Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 4 - At a September 9th special meeting of SLAHS,  Board Director terms were set for Bob Schlei at 3 years, Francis Haasch and Judy Taylor for two years, Roger Johnson and Elsie Weyer at one year. The Office of Curators Betty Mindemann will oversee the James A. Taylor collection, and Fred Keller, the SLAHS collection. SLAHS officers continued activities to purchase the depot, more of which would be discussed at the December 2nd member meeting. 

    The publicity committee was working on a publicity mission statement, generating a newsletter format, and seeking out names for the newsletter. Some suggestions were: SLAHS Newsletter, Time Capsule, Diggings, Artifact, Time Table, Historian, Messages from the Past, and Lime Stone Messenger. 

    Lifetime Memberships were given at the September meeting to James A. Taylor, Fred Keller, and Betty Mindemann for all of their SLAHS contributions.

    On October 5, 2002, as part of the 160th anniversary celebration of the founding of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Sussex, the church and SLAHS staged a "living  cemetery". A "living cemetery" is an improvised performance as one or more living people take over a gravesite and assume the role(s) of the famous, infamous, or unique person or families buried there. The actors, many dressed in period costumes for the performance,  told about their lives, how it was back then, and answered questions from visitors.

    At the December 2nd meeting held at the Pauline Haass Public Library Quadracci Room, members heard that the depot had been purchased for $74,000 on Tuesday, November 26, 2002. The money came from an initial donation of $100,000 by James A. Taylor whose collection will be displayed in the proposed museum.

    In the December 3, 2002 issue of the Sussex Sun, the public found out how the depot was purchased. The money came from an initial donation of $100,000 by James A. Taylor of Mequon whose personal collection will be displayed in the proposed museum. Taylor, founder of the former Taylor Electric Co, in Mequon downplayed his involvement in the purchase, he said, " I did it because it is right and good to help the Historical Society."

    The depot was purchased from Sandy Mack who earlier bought the depot, former church and parsonage at N63 W23811 Main St. in 2000. She operates Sussex Country Printing out of a portion of the former Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church.

    The depot building provides 1,510 sq ft of space on the 1st floor, and has a basement for storage. Vacant for several years, it had been moved to its' present location in 1978 after being constructed in 1911, located adjacent to the Bug Line tracks on Maple Avenue. It had served as a telegraph office, freight-handling facility, ticket office, and waiting room for passengers. Sussex was once served by three railroads, in 1886 by the Wisconsin Central, in 1890 to 1910 by the Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls and Western Railroad (Bug Line), then the Northwestern Railroad in 1911.

    Mr. Taylor collections of coverlets (colorful woven quilt-like items used to cover beds or to warm a seated person), cut glass, Buddy L toys, and detailed model wooden ships will be displayed on a rotating basis to encourage people to come back and visit the museum, time and time again. Editor's Note: Jan. 4, 2005 - In the Fall of 2004, Mr. Taylor withdrew his collection donation offer; none of his collections will be displayed in the near future.

    The SLAHS Second Annual  meeting was scheduled for March 12, 2003.

Fred H. Keller

Reference Sources for the above article by Mike Reilly obtained from SLAHS newsletters, SLAHS letters to members, and various Sussex Sun news articles written by staff, including Fred H. Keller.

Sussex Chamber of Commerce met with the BOD: January 24, 2006, 5:00 PM at the Sussex Depot Museum to exchange honorary membership plaques and tour the exhibits.

On track to history - Sussex -Lisbon Area Historical Society to open in old rail depot

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) - Sunday, December 15, 2002

Readability: 11-12 grade level (Lexile: 1240L)
Author: JACQUELINE SEIBEL, [email protected], Journal Sentinel

An 1893 charcoal drawing of the village's pioneers, an 1872 map of Lisbon and an extensive Kewpie collection kept in the home of historian Fred Keller will soon have a permanent place here.

The recently formed Sussex -Lisbon Area Historical Society, with the help of a Mequon memorabilia collector, has purchased the 88-year-old former Chicago & North Western Railway depot for $74,000 from Sandy Mack.

Mack owns and operates Sussex Country Printing Inc. inside the former Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church, N63-W23811 Main St. The church is in front of the depot and across the street from the Pauline Haass Public Library and Mindy's Antiques.

The depot is the only remaining of four that once operated in this historic railroad community, Keller said.

The 1,500-square-foot building, which needs some repairs, will provide enough space to display all of Keller 's collection and more, he said.

The basement, which was added when the depot was moved from Maple Ave. to its current location in 1978, will allow for storage.

The Bug Line Trail borders the back of the depot property, and parking will be available in the Sentry grocery store lot adjacent to the depot.

"Considering the history of the area, it's very fitting to have the museum in the depot," he said.

Keller , 70, has been collecting area memorabilia since he was 14 and he purchased a Civil War musket from a "local" for $5. Today, his collection has grown to 300 books, thousands of photos and memorabilia from area businesses and organizations.

His Kewpie collection has drawn interested parties to hear his presentations from around the United States. The doll was used as a logo for the former Mammouth Springs Canning Co., a longtime employer of area residents.

Old signs among treasures

Keller says he has one of two remaining lighted "Kewpie Pop" advertising signs, created when Mammouth canned soda water in 1954. It was discontinued soon afterward.

Keller also has a 100-year-old ice cutter, a 1930s wool basketball uniform from Hamilton Sussex High School and letters from the area's first female settler.

In 1976, Keller was named the village's official historian, and serves as the sites and markers chairman for the Waukesha County Historical Society. He also has been part of the effort to install numerous historical markers around the area.

But Keller said the items he has collected, purchased or received don't belong to him.

"They have been placed in my care to look after and have fun with," he said. "They belong to the community."

More than a year ago, Keller told the community that he would hand over his collection if a historical society were formed and a building purchased to hold the collection.

Forty-six people from Sussex , Lisbon and Lannon met in August 2001 and voted to form the society.

Hank Carlson, former village trustee and a Waukesha County board supervisor, was elected chairman.

Purchase wasn't smooth

It has taken more than a year to purchase the building, Carlson said, and it wasn't a simple process.

The property, which doesn't have street access, needed an easement acceptable to village officials and all of the depot's neighbors, Carlson said.

The property description needed to conclude the sale had to be rewritten at least twice because of errors, delaying closing the deal for more than a month, he said.

During the delays, the society paid rent on the building so it wouldn't be purchased by another party until the deal was complete Nov. 26.

Through it all, Carlson said, he became frustrated at times and, had it been his own purchase, he probably would have walked away.

"It would be terrible not to preserve this items," he said.

"It's really been a combined effort of a lot of people," Carlson said of the purchase and the new society.

He was joined by village Trustee Roger Johnson, who handled the paperwork so the society could get tax-exempt status in February, and acted as a liaison between the village and the society.

Collector's arrival `a miracle'

Betty Mindemann, the owner of Mindy's Antiques and historical society vice chairman, also helped put the society on the track.

Mindemann, who has been in the antiques business for more than 42 years, has known James A. Taylor, 83, of Mequon, for 30 of those years.

About the same time the society was formed, Taylor approached Mindemann about finding a rural museum for his collection, she said.

"I told him that it's a miracle that he came," she said.

They began talking about the Sussex -Lisbon Area Historical Society and its desire to find a home.

Taylor, whose family owns Taylor Electric Co., agreed to donate $100,000 once the group obtained non-profit status.

"What I've done is because I think it's good for the area," Taylor said.

Taylor's collections are not specific to the Sussex -Lisbon area, but are part of American history, which could be of interest to people visiting the museum, he said.

He has a collection of coverlets, quilt-like covers woven in the 1850s and used for warmth. He has been collecting the coverlets for about 50 years.

Taylor also has a several Buddy "L" toys that he played with as a child. These rugged steel toys include a truck, fire engine and cement mixer.

The Mequon man also will donate his collections of pewter, cut glass and models of clippers, schooners and other ships.

Taylor said his donation should not be the focus, but rather preserving history should be the goal.

"This is a wonderful thing for the Sussex -Lisbon area and for the future," he said.

Mindemann, who will be the curator for Taylor's collection, said the next step would be make the repairs so the museum can open in 2003.

"I think it's going to be very interesting for the people to come in and not just see Sussex area memorabilia, but Americana," Mindemann said. "That's what it's all about."

Keller will be the curator of his collection.

"Somewhere, sometime and somehow they have been entrusted to me to care for until I can give them back," he said.




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Copyright Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc., , 2002 - 2016, Except as noted: All documents placed on the website remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, these documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. They may be used by non-commercial entities, when written permission is obtained from the contributor, so long as all notices and submitter information are included. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit. Any other use, including copying files to other sites, requires permission from the contributors PRIOR to uploading to the other sites. The submitter has given permission to the website to store the file(s) for free access. Such permission may be revoked upon written notice to the website webmaster. Website's design, hosting, and maintenance are donated by Website Editor & Webmaster: Michael R. Reilly (Mike)