Awards 2009

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by

Oconto County Historical Society Awards

Annual Meeting of the Society

Recipient Information

November 19, 2009


The President’s Award – for preservation of Oconto County buildings, constructions, or sites

John Baumgartner and Kathy Campshure purchased their home from the city of Gillett in 2005.  It was one of three built by the Schmidt family just before 1900.  The other two houses are gone now, but through their efforts Emily, as they named the house, has been restored to its original charm.  The journey has been hard.  The staircase to the second floor wasn’t even there any more.  There has been new wiring, heating, windows, drywall, flooring, and a wrap-around porch.  It has taken a lot of labor, but it has been a labor of love.  Their house has become a home.  It is even on the Gillett tour of homes.  John, Kathy, and Emily all deserve the President’s Award.


The George E. Hall Award – for documentation of Oconto County history

Bayland Telephone has been a part of the Oconto County business community since 1909.  That is when the Oconto Rural Telephone Company was established connecting farmers with the city of Oconto.  In 1911 the Abrams exchange was acquired.  In 1912 Chris Hermsen became the manager and corporate secretary.  He and his 11 children were involved in the company for his 43 year tenure.  Because of the high cost of operators the company boasted being one of the first in the state to provide dial service.  Green Bay didn’t have dial service for another 20 years.  In the 1950s Chris’ son Pat became president and general manager and the Oconto exchange was sold to Wisconsin Telephone.  In 1965 Chris’ youngest son J. Roger became president and general manager.  In 1970 the name was changed to Bayland.  In the years that have followed, Bayland has set a pace of providing the latest technology for the people of Oconto County.  They currently offer services for land-lines, cell phones, the Internet, and cable television.  We would like to recognize Bayland’s place in Oconto County history with the George E. Hall Award.  Roger Hermsen accepted the award.

Tom Thielke has deep roots in Oconto County.  His grandfather settled in Lakewood in 1925.  His father graduated from Oconto Falls and his mother from Gillett before they raised their family in Lakewood.  Tom eventually moved but not far.  He taught history in Crandon and retired as superintendent in 2003.  Four or five years ago he realized that the stories of the people of Lakewood were going to be lost if nobody collected them.  At the annual Lakewood reunion, which his two sisters coordinate, he was able to get many people interested.  He has gathered stories and pictures to capture the community of Lakewood.  The result is the book “A History of Lakewood”.  We are pleased to present Tom with the George E. Hall Award.

Leon Janssen has also been part of Oconto County for a long time.  His family moved in 1942 to his great-grandparents’ farm in Couillardville.  The farm was sold in 1957 but Leon bought it back in 2001.  He had a neighborhood party in the Machine Shed and started a tradition.  As long time residents shared their stories Leon decided to capture them for posterity.  Since that beginning he has videotaped interviews with 28 people and counting.  At the annual party he has shown these interviews to the gathering.  Finally in 2009 he put it all on a dvd and made copies available.  He hasn’t stopped, though.  He continues to share the stories in different formats adding books and photo albums.  Leon has preserved so many stories about the Couillardville community that would have been lost without his intervention.  Leon has truly earned the George E. Hall Award.


The Kay Stewart Award – for lifetime achievement in family history

Sharie Merline started compiling her family tree in April of 2008.  Her grandmother, Mildred Giese-Pillath, was in a nursing home and Sharie felt time was of the essence.  She put together the information Mildred had gathered on the Winkler branch of the family.  Then she went on to the Merline side.  She got the information that Melba Merline-Lince had worked on about the Merline family and the beginnings of the Desjarlais side.  She put out a call to family members and researched at the library and online.  As she continued she found herself branching into several other families: Bourassa, Pecor and Lefebre.  Sharie put all this information into a book: The Merline Family Keepsake Book.  She had it printed and gathered everyone for a Merline Reunion to unveil the result.  Her family and we are happy she undertook this project.  We are happy to present the Kay Stewart Award to Sharie Merline.


Volunteer of the Year Award

Betty Watt has been involved in the Historical Society for many years.  She has helped on countless specific projects but also is available to help with the ordinary day to day jobs that need to be done.  She has contributed a great deal to making the Museum function.  We thank Betty for all her hard work.


Lifetime Membership

Jeanette Skaggs-Schroeder has been a part of the Historical Society for as long as anyone remembers.  She has taken many leadership roles to help the Museum thrive.  She keeps track of the membership roster including sending personally signed membership cards.  She has been instrumental in organizing the Annual Pie & Ice Cream Social.  She has procured many speakers for meetings as well as making arrangements for the dinner and keeping track of reservations of members.  As she was brought up to do, she has provided countless refreshments for board meetings, committee meetings, and society meetings.  We are very fortunate to have had Jeanette be a part of our society.  We are honored to present her with lifetime membership in the Oconto County Historical Society.


Copper Culture Historical Association Award

Ann Herman is the daughter of Charles and Emma Werrebroeck who homesteaded the land of the Copper Culture Park.  They arrived from Belgium in 1911 and built the house at the Park in 1924.  Ann gave tours at the museum until she was age 96 years.  We’re happy to celebrate Ann’s 100th birthday by awarding her the Copper Culture Historical Association Award.