OnFocus – The Upham House and North Wood County Historical Society are longstanding stewards of history for the Marshfield community. Recently, we were reminded by the destruction of the TB Scott Mansion in Merrill how important these stewards are to preserving history.
North Wood County Historical Society
The NWCHS has been serving as preservers of the history of Marshfield since 1952. According to Upham House Coordinator Kim Krueger, the NWCHS was originally the Marshfield Historical Society but the name changed in 1956 to widen its scope to the ‘collection and preservation of material pertaining to the history of Wisconsin and Wood County, and particularly the Marshfield Area.’
After meeting in various places, the society eventually established a historical museum in Praschak Park but the museum quickly outgrew that building and needed to search for a new home.
Toward the end of 1975, the North Wood County Historical Society bought the home of former Wisconsin Governor William H. Upham, with some community funding and help from the City of Marshfield, and helped get it established on the National Registry of Historic Places. The building opened to the public in June of 1978 and is open for tours of historic places of Marshfield and the surrounding area yet today.
The society itself consists of 12 members of the Board of Directors who hold meetings and collect and display pieces of history from central Wisconsin. The group also collaborates with other area organizations to host a series of lectures in which sponsors can present historically relevant topics to participating citizens.
Constructed in 1880, the Governor W.H. Upham House is listed in the Local, State, and National Register of Historic Places.
The house used to belong to former Wisconsin Governor and Marshfield resident, William H. Upham.
The crown project of the NWCHS is located at 212 W. 3rd St in Marshfield, the house has served as a museum since 1978. Local history research, activities, and exhibits are all parts of the house’s importance to preserving the past.
Brad Allen, NWCHS Board President, emphasizes the value of Upham House in the community.
“I think it is a great link between the area’s past and current events,” he said, adding that it is an ideal resource for research, education, family activities, architecture enthusiasts, and more.
“I think the house itself is a very good example of what a frontier businessman who worked hard and utilized the freedoms and opportunities our Country had at the time could achieve,” said Allen. “It represents the steadfastness of our community. After the Great Fire [of 1887], there was not much left and the man who owned this home, who the community looked to for guidance in a very troubled time, offered a solution to rebuild and make the city what it is today.”
The Value of Volunteers
Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome to contact the NWCHS.
“Whatever a person’s interest may be, we could probably use you!” said Krueger. “I became involved with the NWCHS when I started working here as the Coordinator in 2010. I have a degree in History and Anthropology, did an internship with the Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, WI, and worked for a couple seasons with the Mississippi Valley Archaeological Center in La Crosse, WI. The skills I use here at the NWCHS come directly from working with these organizations.”
Jerin Turner, who serves as NWCHS Board Vice President, explained that a lot of work goes into preserving local history – almost all of which is done by volunteers.
“We archive photos, newspaper articles, oral histories, preserve both large and small objects, and even the house and the grounds itself,” she said. “Things we do range from cataloging items, organizing documents, and taking photos of artifacts. We are fortunate enough to have people with many different strengths to help with this, and are grateful that so many people have an interest in preserving the history of the area.”
Turner encourages anyone who is interested in joining to reach out to NWCHS.
“If someone has a passion for preserving and sharing history, there are so many ways one can do this through NWCHS. One would also get the privilege of working in and with the community and networking with like-minded businesses and individuals,” she said. “I got involved with NWCHS because I have always been in love with local history. When I bought my house and knew that I was going to call Marshfield my forever home, I wanted to become a part of preserving history for future generations.”
For her, the most rewarding part is learning about Marshfield’s past and being able to share what she knows.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have my daughter come to the house and help us out a few times, which is great. I’m hoping it inspires a love of history for her,” she said.
The Importance of Preserving History
In a time where all non-profits and similar organizations are seeing declining numbers of participants and volunteers, NWCHS is striving to keep the group as a vital part of the area.
“We also partner with other organizations for events or volunteer opportunities as we feel it is important to not only have people involved here, we want to be able to reach out and be a part of our greater community,” added Allen.
While he finds that role fulfilling, he added that one of the best parts about Upham House is keeping the community’s history alive.
“There is a story there and it needs to be told so we can appreciate who we are and how we got here,” he said. “I also love when I give tours and get to see the looks on people’s faces when we explain not only Mr. Upham’s history but the story of our area. The wonder in kids’ eyes when they see our artifacts and the house itself is a delight to see (and to watch them try and figure out how to use a rotary phone!).”
To find out more about the North Wood County Historical Society and the Upham House, go to http://uphammansion.com/.
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