On Monday, June 20, 2022, the Jackson County Area Retired Educators group visited the
Jackson County History Room for a presentation by Historian, Mary I. Woods.
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Click here to be linked to a brochure about the Benson Bubblers.

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Jeff Kannel and Dennis Gjerseth

Dennis Gjerseth, left, was among several individuals who enjoyed a presentation by Jeff Kannel at the Black River Falls Public Library last week. Sponsored by the Library’s History Room, Kannel recently published a book, ‘Make Way for Liberty: Wisconsin African Americans in the Civil War’. Kannel’s ten-year research brought him to the History Room several years ago where he did extensive research on Daniel Underhill. Underhill was born free in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His wife, Mary Jane, bore their first child there. By 1855, they were living in the unincorporated village of Black River Falls. Underhill operated a barber shop and worked as a ferryman. The Underhills bought and sold several properties in town between 1856 and 1860. On his enlistment form in 1864, Underhill gave his occupation as lumberman. He may have worked winters in the pineries, on rafting crews, and in a mill during the summer. Kannel’s book, that received the 2021 Book of Merit Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society Board of Curators, is available for check-out at the Black River Falls Public Library.

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The Changing Landscapes of Wisconsin: A Digital Archive of Historic Aerial Photographs can be accessed here: https://search.library.wisc.edu/digital/AAerialWI

Memorial Cards:

A Unique Resource Found in the Jackson County History Room

Most researchers will agree that each Library/History Room has a unique resource for those seeking family information. A resource unique to the Black River Falls Public library-Jackson County History Room are Memorial Cards. Today, researchers will find over 3,400 donated Memorial Cards to review and copy for their family histories.

Historian Mary I. Murray Woods states that the project began when she became historian in December 1994. Mary’s father, William Murray, had a large collection of Memorial Cards, and the family did not know what to do with them. Mary found the perfect home for the cards – the Jackson County History Room.

A former volunteer in the History Room, Donna Rousey, began indexing the cards. Being she was active in the Alma Center Cemetery and worked closely with area funeral directors she was given Memorial Cards for many of the area funerals. Throughout the years, the collection grew as families, aware of the History Room’s Memorial Card Collection, gave cards they found when cleaning out a loved one’s home or closing out an estate. 

Recently Volunteer Trudy Rosenbaum Arrington put all the card names on a database for researchers to search by name. Woods stated, “Trudy is a wonderful volunteer and having this project on a database is a great resource for History Room visitors.”  Woods adds, “Memorial Cards contain information that can be helpful in many ways, such as the names of pallbearers who may not be relatives, but friends and neighbors. These friends and neighbors may offer a personal story or life experience of the deceased which again, adds to the family’s history.”   

Those interested in searching the Memorial Cards database, may contact Historian Woods by email at m.woods@wrlsweb.org or by visiting the Black River Falls Public Library-Jackson County History Room, 222 Fillmore Street, Black River Falls, WI  54615.  Mary may also be reached by calling, 715-284-4112 Ext 3.  The History Room is open Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by appointment.     

Family Histories

The Jackson County History Room has over 200 family histories that contain a wealth of information. According to Historian Mary Woods, most of the family histories are from researchers who have utilized the Room for their research, and when their research was compiled, shared a copy of their work. Woods added that these histories, along with the hundreds of biographical files available to researchers, makes the History Room the perfect place for researchers. You may now search the listing of family histories by going to the library’s main menu, then go to the History Room tab and then to local research. There you will find the family names listed alphabetical. The list includes the family name, author, and date of publication. The histories cannot be checked out, but Woods notes that she certainly is available to answer questions regarding a specific book.  Pictured are  Woods, left, and History Room Volunteer, Grace Nordahl, who worked to organize the family histories. Questions regarding the collection may be obtained by contacting Woods at 715-285-4112 #3 or email: m.woods@wrlsweb.org. History Room hours are M-T-W, from 11 am – 4:30 pm, or by appointment.