Three weeks ago, an exciting discovery was brought to the attention of a New London Historical Society member by Dan Hedtke, of New London.
Hedtke, has been a restoration buff for years. His list of accomplishments include a 1970s Mustang, a Ford model T, a vintage pickup truck, a surrey and various smaller projects.
Hedtke works fast, and cannot wait to get the wheels rolling on a turn of the century wagon he purchased at an auction north of Clintonville.
The wagon was stacked in pieces with huge wooden wheels lying beside it. Hidden beneath other weathered boards in the pile, Hedtke found the words New London Wagon painted on a sideboard. Hedtke knew he had to put the pieces of the pile together again. He won the bidding. Later, he requested research be done by the New London Public Museum staff.
The discovery will be unveiled for the first time at Heritage Days and Rail Fest. The annual festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2 – 3, and is located at the historic village, adjacent Memorial Park in New London.
Hedtke is uncertain how far he will get prior to the festival, but nonetheless, it will be there. The wooden wheels will be a challenge for him. Right now, they are unable to be used. It is speculated the wagon may have transported visitors from the train to the hotels in town. It may have transported barrels of beer, or a load of items for a hardware store.
This year at Heritage Days, New London railroading is explored. Older natives of New London can tell younger generations about the huge ski hill located here in the 1930s and 40s. The hill brought thousands of sports enthusiasts to New London each year, by the Chicago Northwestern train.
A trackless train ride is sure to delight families who can ride together around the grounds. Take a chance at winning cash raffles, Piggly Wiggly gift cards and numerous prizes.
A pre-1840s buck skinner encampment near the society’s log cabin, allows visitors to see firsthand the way pioneers and fur trappers lived.
Food and drink are on site.
On Sunday, a bake sale begins at 10 a.m. and a non-denominational church service is held at 11 a.m. in the little white chapel. Pews in the chapel represent nearly every church in the area.
Nearly four decades have passed since New London’s Historical Society began the creation of a historic village for the community. One by one, buildings of historic record were relocated adjacent to Memorial Park, on the city’s southeast side. As of 2014, there are six buildings to explore on site: an octagon house, one-room schoolhouse, chapel, log cabin, a garage from Simmons Juvenile Products factory and a train depot.
Parallel to the railroad depot, sitting on a set of tracks is a diesel locomotive, a wooden boxcar and two cabooses from different eras.
Most historical societies experience an uphill battle when it comes to maintaining a collection of historic items. That fight compounds itself when a village like the one in New London is created. Six buildings and the surrounding grounds need upkeep.
New London Historical Society members are aged retirees, for whom the tasks are exhausting. Nonetheless, the buildings are swept of cobwebs and gathered dust. The curtains are washed, rugs beaten and hung out, walls given a good looking over and patched or painted, and floors washed and sometimes repaired. This takes hard work from a decreasing number of society members and volunteers.
A call is out for new members who are under the age of 65. Meetings of the Society are held at 8 a.m., the last Saturday of each month, at Marly’s Restaurant, corner of Pearl and Beacon Street in New London.
During June, July and August, the village is open from 1-4 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of the month. The chapel’s interior is revitalized and available for small weddings or renewing wedding vows. The spacious, well-groomed exterior grounds of the village are perfect for any size reunion.
Group tours are welcomed by calling 920-982-8557 or 920-982-5186 to make an appointment. See Historicalvillage.org for more information.