WCHAS launched a formal fundraiser in December to create a dedicated fund to support the preservation of the historic Morgan House. We are pleased to report that through March 2017 $8,925 in donations have been received. This brings us to 25.5 % of our goal of raising $35,000. Our friends at the Kuenzl Foundation are supporting our efforts with a dollar-for-dollar match. If we fully achieve our goal, WCHAS will have an account with $70,000 dedicated solely to the maintenance and preservation of the Morgan House. Some of the major expenses we will face in the near future include a new roof and driveway. Additionally, as we found out in late 2015-16, unanticipated repairs can be significant. Over $32,000 in unexpected costly repairs were performed during that time. We are working to get ahead of things by thoughtful planning and taking positive preemptive measures with challenges we will certainly face. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
If you’d like to support our effort, your tax-deductible donation can be sent to the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation by filling out the Donation Form. We cannot do this without your help. As always, your support to preserve local history is greatly appreciated.
Written by board member Patti Yana
Nestled on the boundary line between Fond du Lac and Winnebago County sits one of the best kept secrets in Fond du Lac County. The Peniel Church, completed in 1856 is located on County Road FF. The original building was enlarged in 1868 and a kitchen added in 1871. A vestibule was built in front in 1894.
The church began as a Calvinistic Methodist congregation, but by 1920 they were known as the Welsh Presbyterian Church. In 1955 they united with the Presbyterian Church with English services. The Peniel Church dissolved in 1977 and members transferred to churches of their choice in the surrounding community. However, the church is still maintained by a devoted group of nine trustees who keep the building up and running.
The church has no running water, heat or AC, but does have electricity for lights and ceiling fans. An outhouse graces the grounds as a testimony to times past and is still functional today. The church building’s floor actually slopes to the sides to represent the inside of a ship. Stained glass windows, movable pews, a piano, and a working 100 year old organ complete the ambiance of days past. The curious two door entrance takes us back to the days when men and women entered through separate doors and sat on different sides of the church.
The Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society decided to help this small dedicated church community preserve this historic building by making a donation to their preservation project. After doing so, the WCHAS Board was graciously invited for a tour last fall. What an awesome historic gem! The building is still occasionally used for weddings and funerals and some Sunday “sings”. However, the main event called a Gymanfa Ganu is held annually on the fourth Sunday every August at 2:30. Last fall’s “sing” drew almost 250 people to help them celebrate 160 years! This tradition started 93 years ago in 1923. The church even has one member who boasts that she has been at every Gymanfa Ganu starting as an infant! We were also rewarded with a few songs on the historic organ and piano.
The Wisconsin Historical Society’s History of the Oshkosh Welsh Settlement 1847-1947 lists the John Rodgers Morgan family as members. The WCHAS was honored to be a part of helping to preserve this part of history on behalf of the Morgan family.
There is an exciting historic restoration project underway at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds. The county recently obtained the original steel archway that welcomed visitors to the former county fairgrounds on Jackson Street and Murdock Avenue in Oshkosh. The arch was acquired by a private citizen when the old fairgrounds was razed years ago, but was recently donated back to the county.
Archway in the mid 1960s (photo courtesy of Dan Radig)
Plans for building the archway were announced in August 1928, and the archway was officially completed on September 12, 1928, when it was lit up for the first time at dusk. The new entrance was well received by the public. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern noted that motorists who normally hurried down Murdock Avenue now passed slowly by to “take a longer look at the brilliantly-lighted archway.”(1)
Architects- Fluor Bros Construction Company
Est. Cost- $1,500 (2)
You can help raise this beautiful archway back over our fairgrounds by purchasing a “Raise the Arch” button at the Winnebago County Fair between August 3-7 at the “Raise the Arch” booth in the Expo Center. All proceeds will help restore and raise it back up on a beautiful brick base. You can also make donations by visiting the Winnebago County Parks and Sunnyview Expo Center office in the James P. Coughlin center. Checks can be made out to the Winnebago County Fair Association.
1 button- $2
3 buttons- $5
Do you remember this old archway when the fairgrounds were still along Jackson Street and Murdock Avenue? Comment below with your story.
(1)Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, September 14, 1928. pg 6.
(2)Oshkosh Daily Northwestern , August 18, 1928. pg 3.
County Courthouse 1938
Second Floor Lobby-Light Fixture Hangs in the Background
The Light at in the Wagner Opera House Building
The Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society is excited to announce that the original, bronze light fixture that once hung in the county courthouse lobby will be returned and placed back over the main staircase once again. This massive fixture currently hangs in the lobby of the old Wagner Opera House building—between Skis Meat Market and Winnebago Bicycle. The WCHAS has been working with the building’s owners Sarah and Kris Larson the last couple of months to bring the light home. The Larsons have been very excited about helping us in preserving local history. Jay and Julie Karner of Crescent Moon Antiques and Salvage have been a tremendous help in making the project a success. The Karners helped by assisting the society in finding a suitable replacement light fixture to purchase for the Larsons. The light will come down in early August, at which time it will be turned over to the Winnebago County Facilities and Property Management Department. The department will retrofit the light with updated electrical components and have the light mounted.
Learn more about the history of our county courthouse that will be presented on at the WCHAS annual meeting this October.