Where Past Meets Present

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Why History in Focus?

Our blog is about YOU and YOUR stories. From farms to factories, parks and parades, the Rock County Historical Society will capture and share the stories of Rock County’s people, places, and culture.

How To Share Your Story

There are four dynamic ways to make you feel comfortable sharing your story with Rock County!

WEB:

Submit your story online using this form.

SOCIAL:

Share on Instagram. Insert #HistoryInFocus to share your story in Rock County!

WALL:

Place a story about you on our StoryWall inside the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center.

SQUAD:

Engage with our Story Squad members out in the community and at our events.

History in Focus: Your Stories

Focus In: Tom & Cheryl Skelly

Tom and Cheryl Skelly are the founders of Skelly’s Farm Market.

Focus In: Tales of Downtown

An interview with RCHS History Teller, Teresa “Tess” Nguyen, who plays an integral part in the show’s development.

Focus In: Jim Dumke

Jim Dumke is a retired Attorney, Civil War Reenactor, and a Rock County Historical Society Tour Guide.

From The RCHS History Teller: Collections to Gardens

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “History Teller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Wanda Sloan

Wanda Sloan is the retired HR Diversity/Staff Development Specialist at Blackhawk Technical College, former Student Advisor at Blackhawk Technical College, State Youth Advisor for the Wisconsin Chapter of the NAACP, former Board Member of League of Women Voters, one of the leaders in Preservation of The Fairbanks Flats, and a Civil Rights Activist.

From The RCHS History Teller: Chalkboards to Smart Boards

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “History Teller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Jackie Wood

Jackie Wood is the co-owner and manager of Olde Towne Mall, Emeritus Board Member of RCHS, Board Member of the Kandu Foundation, member of Downtown Janesville, Inc., member of the Janesville Historic Commission, former Rock County Board of Supervisors, former President of The Women’s Club, former President of United Way, and former President of YWCA.

Focus In: Sherry Kuelz

Sherry Kuelz is the President and Co-Founder of the CAMDEN Foundation.

From The RCHS History Teller: Milton’s Civil War Living History Days

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “History Teller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Tim Cullen

Tim Cullen is the Vice President of the Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Club, Inc., Chair of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Owner of Roundhouse Marketing, and a Spin Instructor at Janesville Athletic Club.

Focus In: Nancy Belle Douglas

Nancy Belle Douglas is a former Professor of Art History at Milton College, and former President of the Janesville Art League.

Focus In: Mary Mueller

Mary Mueller is a Certified Religious Educator and Youth Minister at St. John Vianney, former Religious Education Director at St. John Vianney, and she and her husband, Larry, are Rock County Foster Parents.

Focus In: 2018 History Makers Award Recipients (Part 2)

The 2018 RCHS History Makers award recipients contribute to the historical preservation and betterment of the Rock County communities of Janesville, Beloit and Footville. The following are the stories of three of the six award winners, receiving the Scholar, Good Neighbor and Young Historian awards.

Focus In: 2018 History Makers Award Recipients (Part 1)

The 2018 RCHS History Makers award recipients contribute to the historical preservation and betterment of the Rock County communities of Janesville, Beloit and Footville. The following are the stories of three of the six award winners, receiving the Generations, Community Pride and The Phoenix awards.

Focus In: Lyke Family History in Rock County, 1856-2018

This week’s Focus In story was written and submitted by Jim Lyke of Milton, WI. It details his family’s 160+ year history in Rock County.

Focus In: Mark Dwyer

Mark Dwyer is the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens and Forward Janesville’s 2018 Educator of the Year.

Focus In: Earl Schultz – “The Ice Man”

Earl Schultz – “The Ice Man” – is a U.S. Army Veteran, retired Owner/Operator of City Ice Company, former Board of Trustees for the Rock County Historical Society, and former President of the Great Lakes Ice Association.

From The RCHS History Teller: County Louth to County Rock – Stories of Our Irish Roots

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “History Teller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Dave Parrish

Dave Parrish is a retired Episcopal Priest and Director of the Blue Velvet Dance Orchestra.

Focus In: Larry Squire

Larry Squire is the Regional President of Johnson Bank, President Elect of Janesville Morning Rotary Club, Mercyhealth Community Board Member, and Forward Janesville Board Member.

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: Abe to Martin

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “HistoryTeller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Rich Fletcher

Rich Fletcher is the Vice President of Fletcher Pump Distributing, a Janesville Historic Walking Tour Guide, Board Member of the Janesville Performing Arts Center, and an Olympics Volunteer.

Focus In: Camilla Owen

Camilla Owen is a Retired Educator, Tennis Coach, Organizer of the WIAA State Tennis Tournament, Organizer of the WIC College and the Midwest Conference Tournaments, Co-Organizer of the Janesville Community Alliance Network, and a member of the Janesville Multicultural Teacher Scholarship Fund.

Focus In: Stan Milam

Stan Milam is a U.S. Army Veteran, Bronze Star Recipient – Vietnam, Radio News Broadcaster for THE BEAT, Former Radio Host of “The Stan Milam Show” on WCLO and The BIG AM 1380, Former Janesville Gazette Reporter, and Former WCLO News Director.

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: Hope For 2018

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “HistoryTeller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Edie Baran

Edie Baran is the Executive Director of the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra, Community Theater Director/Actress/Educator, and Co-Founder of Spotlight on Kids.

Focus In: Diane Quade

Diane Quade is the United Methodist Women Legacy Fund Coordinator for the State of Wisconsin, former Chair of Janesville Southeastern 4-H Fair Club, Absentee Ballot Coordinator for Rock County, and a Dedicated Community Volunteer.

Focus In: William Hyzer

William Hyzer is a U.S. Navy Veteran, Engineer, Physicist, World-Renowned Inventor, Photographer, and Author.

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: Meaning in Memories

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “HistoryTeller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Tony Huml

Tony Huml is the Founder and President of Close The Gate Hoops, Co-Founder of Janesville Basketball Association, Founder of Local Vision TV, a former Social Studies Teacher, Forward Janesville’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a 2017 Janesville Hall of Fame Inductee.

Focus In: Margaret and Ron Delaney

Ron is a retired electrician; both Ron and Margaret are long-time Rock County Historical Society supporters, Look West neighborhood leaders, Historic Homes enthusiasts, and community volunteers.

Focus In: Edmund Halabi

Edmund Halabi is the owner/operator of Italian House.

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: Pause For Positives

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “HistoryTeller,” interviewing local residents and telling their stories.

Focus In: Rev. O’Zell Golden

The Rev. O’Zell Golden is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Minister of God’s Word, Civil Rights activist, and advocate for the African American community.

Focus In: Alan & Betty Dunwiddie

Betty is a former employee of Merchants Bank and former volunteer at Rock County Historical Society. Alan is a retired Merchants Bank President, former RCHS Board Member, former President of the Janesville Foundation and co-founder of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.

Focus In: Joe Pregont

Joe Pregont is the President and CEO of Prent Corporation.

Focus In: Elsie Van Tassell

Elsie Van Tassell is a retired Theater Actress/Director and a 2015 Arts Hall of Fame Award Recipient.

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: Spiders, Snakes, and Spirits in the Night!

Welcome to “Spirits in the Night”! This year’s brand-new Lincoln-Tallman House haunted tours will cause your heart to race, palms to sweat and tingles will creep along your spine as you explore the dark mansion and a mysterious story unlike any other.

Focus In: Dale Henning

Dale Henning is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a retired electrical engineer and stockbroker at Wells Fargo.

Focus In: Spirits in the Night Team

Behind the Scenes of “Spirits in the Night”: One-on-One with the Directors, Writer and Consultant of the Haunted Tour.

Focus In: Jose Carrillo

José Carrillo of Janesville is a retired General Motors employee, and an activist/advocate for the Latino community.

Focus In: Laurel Fant

Laurel Fant is the Rock County Historical Society’s Museum Curator/Collections Manager. She plans to retire in November 2017.

Focus In: Laurel Canan

Laurel Canan, formerly of Janesville, was the first director of the Janesville Performing Arts Center and is President at Center Productions.

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: The Arts and History: Cultural Cousins

The weaving of Teresa Nguyen’s job as History Teller with her creative interests has led to a desire to share a few observations on the relationship between history and the arts.

Focus In: Marv Wopat

Marv Wopat is a retired UAW-GM Employee Assistance Program Representative, an Alcohol & Drug Addiction Treatment/Recovery Volunteer, and a Community Activist.

Focus In: Arlene Shea

Arlene Shea reminisces about what downtown Janesville was like in the 1950s, including time she spent working at the Woolworths store.

Focus In: Tony Farrell, Sr.

Tony Farrell, Sr. is the former owner of Voigt Music, Outreach Coordinator for the Coroner Medical Examiner’s Association, Volunteer Director of the Suicide Prevention Network and Safety Series, and a Neuroscience Researcher.

Tapestry in the Making

Stories really are how we link, and in my role as History Teller I look forward to meeting more amazing people and gathering more fascinating tales. By Teresa Nguyen, RCHS HistoryTeller.

Focus In: Sister Lauretana Gorman, O.P., Sinsinawa Dominican Sister

Sister Lauretana Gorman, O.P., of Janesville is a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister.

Focus In: Quint Studer

Quint Studer is founder of the Studer Group, founder of the Studer Community Institute, chairman of Sacred Heart Health System, Inc., a nationally recognized speaker and published author.

Focus In: Peg Vechinsky

Peg Vechinsky is a retired Registered Nurse and JPAC volunteer, and a supporter of the arts.

Focus In: Paul Tropp

Paul Tropp of Janesville is manager of the Edgerton Performing Arts Center and a professional piano tuner.

Focus In: Kathy Boguszewski, RCHS Volunteer/Intern Recruiter & Retired School Library and Instructional Technology Coordinator

Kathy Boguszewski is the RCHS Volunteer/Intern Recruiter and a retired School Library and Instructional Technology Coordinator for the School District of Janesville.

Focus In: Joe Quaerna, Owner/Operator of O’Riley & Conway’s Irish Pub

Joe Quaerna is the owner/operator of O’Riley & Conway’s Irish Pub in downtown Janesville.

Focus In: Santo Carfora, former Social Studies educator & past president of Diversity Action Team

Santo Carfora of Janesville is a former Social Studies educator, owner of S&J Consulting LLC, and past president of Diversity Action Team.

Focus In: Ken Corey, WWII Veteran & Owner/Operator of Dubes Jewelry

Ken Corey of Janesville is a World War II veteran and owner/operator of Dubes Jewelry Store, the oldest such store in Janesville.

Focus In: Leon Freeburg, U.S. Army Veteran & Retired Social Worker

Leon Freeburg of Janesville is a U.S. Army Veteran and retired social worker.

Focus In: Wes Paul, Vietnam Veteran

Wes Paul of Janesville is a Vietnam veteran who was interviewed during the 2017 Vets Rolls trip to Washington, D.C.

Focus In: Tim Pogorelski, owner of Boxcars Pub & Grub and Vets Roll Bus Leader

Tim Pogorelski is the owner/operator of Boxcar Pub & Grub in Clinton, WI and also serves as a Bus Leader for the Vets Roll organization.

Focus In: Teresa Nguyen, Rock County Historical Society HistoryTeller

Teresa Nguyen is the Rock County Historical Society’s “HistoryTeller” and has been collecting many of the stories for the Focus In blog.

Focus In: Christina & Jim Piccione, owners/operators of Jim’s Pizzeria

Christina & Jim Piccione are the owner/operators of Jim’s Pizzeria in Janesville.

Focus In: Thelma Wilcox

Thelma Wilcox is a Retired Orchestra Teacher/Director and Suzuki Violin Instructor, and Organist/Choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Focus In: Steve Dean

Steve Dean is the owner of Mocha Moment in Janesville.

Focus In: Jaleh Dabiri

Jaleh Dabiri is the owner of Hilltop International Pub in downtown Janesville.

Focus In: Kevin Murray, Retired Firefighter & 4-Term School Board Member

Tell me about a woman or women who have had a positive influence in your life: Three People come to my mind, and two are in my family. First is my grandmother, Irene Chamberlin. When I was about 7, we were in a restaurant, and my order came wrong, my lunch, and she stood up […]

Focus In: Mike O’Brien, WCLO & WJVL Radio General Manager

Can you share a Rock County memory? In 2008, General Motors announced that they were closing. We were beginning what we later called the Great Recession, the worst recession since the Great Depression. And then in June, the Rock River backed up and inundated the downtown in Janesville and many of the properties in Beloit […]

Focus In: Nancy Nienhuis, Retired nurse, volunteer & owner of The Good Acre Farms

Memories of life in Rock County My family came out of the potato famine from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Born on this farm, I grew up here. I had to milk the cows. At that time, of course, we had no phone, no electricity, so used candlelight and wood stoves. Our water was from the […]

Focus In: Naomi Hackbarth, Retired Educator & Volunteer

Memories of Life in Rock County (1941-1958) We moved to a farm in Harmony Township in June of 1941. In September, I entered first grade at Blackhawk Country School on Ruger Avenue. The school had no running water or indoor plumbing. Since I was quite small, I had to have a box under my feet. […]

Focus In Friday: Al Hulick, Milton City Administrator

Memories of Life in Rock County I lived in a house on “the edge of town”. It was along the Greenbelt and the creek ran close by. So much of my youth was spent playing at the creek, much like stories of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer’s adventures from Mark Twain, using debris and wood […]

Focus In Friday: Women in a Male-Dominated Field

“To support the war effort some two thirds of the force women were women. Many of these performed jobs that up until that time had been held predominately by men. Approximately 4,500 people were employed by Fairbanks Morse during the peak years of war production.” -Fairbank Morse Memorabilia Room Four different women from four different departments […]

Focus In Friday: Female Incarceration Rates on the Rise

The United States has the highest documented incarceration in the entire world, a title that has been held since 2002. Since the late 1970s the U.S. has seen a decline in its crime rates. Yet the country has seen the largest percentage of its population being incarcerated over the past decade, with prison and jail population rates projected to […]

Focus In Friday: Fairbanks Morse Women in the Workplace

As part of this month’s Focus In theme of Women & Finance, we wanted to provide a brief history of Rock County women in the workplace!   Rock County’s heavy ties with industrial goods and businesses provided a unique look at how women have fought to remove the inequalities in the workplace. Companies Fairbanks Morse […]

Focus In Friday: Eric Beck

“Eric knows everybody, and that’s only a slight exaggeration.” -Rita Beck. Meet Eric B. Beck, a man who knows everyone in the Janesville (and most of the Rock County) community.  66 years old and Milton College ’73 graduate, he has been closely tied to the Rock County community all of his life, growing up in […]

Focus In Friday: John Scott

“There have been instances that people have told me you can’t do this, or you can’t do that, and that’s part of the reason I think I’ve succeeded. Because of people telling me I can’t do something. My philosophy in law enforcement was, if you can dream it, you can do it. If you want […]

Focus In Friday: Black Youth Challenges in Rock County

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” –Martin Luther King Jr. from ‘Letter from Birmingham, Alabama Jail’ April 16, 1963. Upon a simple Google search of “black youth in Wisconsin” the […]

Focus In Friday: Fairbanks Flats

What Rock County city was once known as “Jim Crow Town” and is home to only one of two company built segregated housing complexes in all of the United States?   If you guessed the city of Beloit, you are correct! If a minority stayed in the same site for twenty years, they typically would […]

Focus In Friday: Deb Perry

Beloit Historical Society this season is putting on a string of four events called Putting Down Roots. Each of these four events will highlight a different group that make up Beloit’s History. First Settlers/Native Americans (Jan), African Americans Settle in Beloit (Feb), The Tide of Immigration Begins (March) and Beloit: New Home to Hispanic Immigrants […]

Focus In Friday: Sundown Towns in Rock County

What do the towns Clinton, Milton, and Plymouth, as well as the cities of Evansville and Janesville have in common with one another (beyond all being a part of Rock County)?   The answer- All of the listed towns and cities above share the same history of being sundown towns. And what exactly are sundown […]

Story Squad: Who We Are & What We Do

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Do you know who said these few words? We’ll give you three hints: He once stayed as a guest at the Tallman house in Janesville, camped out nearby the Rock River during his service in the Blackhawk War, and he delivered an anti-slavery […]

Amanda S W.

“My first memory of the Lincoln-Tallman House was Keighton giving me a tour after my interview. It was such a great experience and being able to walk through the mansion was a perfect end to the day!”

Laurel F.

“I moved to Janesville in 1992 to accept the job as Collections Manager at RCHS. That is when Project 640 began and it was exciting to be part of the restoration. We moved furniture so many times! It’s exciting now to be part of today’s changes on campus and watch RCHS grow.”

Jim L.

“My great-great-grandfather moved his family to Rock County in 1855 and established a farm in La Prairie Township. It was on that property that my father was born in 1924. A few years ago, I discovered that the farmhouse he was born in, and the one room schoolhouse he attended on Belding Road, still stand. That discovery deepened my love for this area that I’ve always called home.”

Sam B.

“When I was young and biked all the way down to Monterey park in the summer, my friend and I rode along the water and watched bathing turtles jump back into the water. We climbed up over Monterey Rock and enjoyed the view.”

Nathan S.

“For a few years now, I’ve been recording myself dancing to various songs. There’s a song called “Home” by Ingrid Michaelson that I really enjoy, and I thought it’d be interesting to make a video of myself dancing around various locations in Janesville. I went to places such as the courthouse, my old high school, Rotary Gardens, and the Lincoln-Tallman House and I put it all together and it ended up looking really nice.

Nate F.

“One of my favorite memories is taking walks from our apartment in Beloit down to the Beloit Public Library. My wife and I would walk through Riverside Park and hear the ducks, see the myriad of goslings, and watch fish jump! It’s a splendid bit of nature in the middle of a city and a true Rock County gem!”