Koehler eager to share site’s history
By Scott Bellile
A former teacher is taking on a new type of classroom: a historic New London farmstead.
Megan Koehler of Waupaca will educate students, community members and tourists on the story of Thern Farm. New London Heritage Historical Society hired her as the part-time programming director for the farm, situated along U.S. Highway 54 just east of the U.S. Highway 45 bypass.
The 35-acre Thern Farm was donated to the historical society this past spring by the late Sandra (Thern) Fuller. To run the farmhouse, Fuller left enough money in her will for the historical society to hire a part-time worker.
“The main things would be continuing what Sandy’s mission was, is to preserve the farm and use it for education and get the community involved,” Koehler said of her responsibilities.
Koehler taught English before coming onboard, but her passion didn’t lie in classroom teaching. She came across the job posting for Thern Farm and applied because history is a personal interest of hers.
The new job will allow her to still give tours to students and travel to schools to give talks. She’s found there’s a lot she could talk about.
“I spent the first couple weeks just reading through history and newspaper articles and whatever I could find around here in drawers and on shelves,” Koehler said. “I haven’t even gotten to everything.”
James Henry Cannon built the Thern farmhouse in 1891 to serve as a dining hall for the New London City Fair. The City Fair ran from 1891 to 1912 and included a horseracing track that is today a cornfield.
The farm was in Fuller’s family for more than 100 years and passed down to Sandra Fuller. She spent the 2000s remodeling it with the intent of opening a bed and breakfast, but before her dream became reality, cancer ended her life in 2015 at age 70.
Koehler said people continue uncovering artifacts from the farm’s long history. Someone recently discovered 1893 City Fair tickets that were inside the walls, Koehler said. A person using a metal detector found coins, rings, and stirrups from the carousel used at the City Fair.
Koehler aspires to bring plenty of programs to the farm and reach audiences. Her ideas so far include quilting programs, tea parties and a community garden.
At a March press conference announcing the donation of Thern Farm, Sandra Fuller’s surviving husban Tony said his hope is the part-time programming director can “help develop events and displays and mine this potential historical and educational venue to share the rich history of this site with generations to come.”
Koehler said a portion of the community still doesn’t know about Thern Farm, but she’s finding people are curious to learn.
For those wanting to take a look, Christmas-themed open houses run every Thursday night in December from 5 to 7 p.m. Two open houses will also take place this weekend: Saturday, Dec. 17, from 3 to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18, from 12 to 4 p.m.