Tracking Your Past

If enthusiasm is any indication, the Arena Historians have a great path ahead, as well as clear roads into a colorful past. Arena family and community treasures are now on view in the Historians’ memorabilia room, located in what was once the kitchen of the former Arena Elementary School, 314 Willow St.

Doris Green

Visiting genealogists will find several family histories, scrapbooks and cemetery books. One wall displays a 1901 map of Iowa County and an 1873 plat map of Arena. A center worktable is available to spread out materials and set up your laptop.

Donated exhibit cases feature high school sports trophies and memorabilia, as well as vintage souvenir plates depicting various early Arena scenes. Photos showcase downtown streets of yesteryear, and visitors learn that Old Arena was located on the banks of the Wisconsin River, one mile north of the present village.

Many displayed documents and objects describe school life — from class photos of students in the surrounding one-room schools to uniforms of players for the former Arena High School. Several school desks line up along one wall. Squint a bit and you can almost envision students working at their sums or prepping for a spelling bee.

The Historians continue to receive historical documents and objects from helpful donors. The group particularly welcomes one-room school photos, ideally with the names of the pictured individuals identified.

Other artifacts reflect business life in earlier times. There’s a food scale and giant cash register positioned on one table, and several agricultural tools hang in a far corner. The medicine bag, used by Dr. E. N. Brown in 1905-55, reposes on a shelf, as if waiting to be picked up and used again.

A lower shelf contains books offered for sale, for instance, “Arena Remembered” ($20), “Arena Athletics” ($20) and “Ghost Town Dover” (300 pages, plus CD: $25). Dover was the first white settlement in the township. Another Dover-focused book can be ordered through the Iowa County Historical Society in Dodgeville (https://iowacountyhistoricalsociety.org): “A Brief History of the Sawle Family: Cornwall-Wisconsin” ($20) was prepared by the great-grandchildren of Capt. Stephen and Margaret Sawle. The Sawle family homestead is now the site of the Sugarland event venue (https://sugarland-weddings.com) where many an outdoor wedding has taken place beneath the family’s gigantic bur oak.

The Arena Historians’ memorabilia room will be open 1-4 p.m. the first Sunday of the month this summer, July 3 and Aug. 7. Also, check out the Historians’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/arenahistorians

Doris Green authored “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Caves, Mines, and Tunnels.” Also available: “Minnesota Underground,” co-authored with Greg Brick. Visit http://henschelhausbooks.com.