The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Marenisco Historical Society opens doors to friendly faces


January 14, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

CELEBRATING A Sunday open house of the Marenisco Township Historical Society are some of its founding members. They are, from left, Marsha and Al Fairfield, Kathe Balcon, and Sally and Dave Hagen. The society is now located on the corner of Curtis and Main streets, around the corner from the Marenisco Township Hall.


Marenisco - A Sunday open house of the Marenisco Township Historical Society brought a steady flow of visitors to a building that once supported the former Marenisco Presbyterian Church.

Located at the corner of Curtis and Main streets, the small brown building is around the corner from the Marenisco Township Hall.

Marsha Fairfield and Kathe Balcon, two of the society's founding members, said the township still owns the building. They said Marenisco Township supervisor Dick Bouvette invited them to use the building to display historical items.

According to the ladies, they first met with several other founding members in September of 2017. "They tried to do something in 2012, but it never really took off," said Fairfield, who claimed of their most recent efforts, "There wasn't really a true plan. We just kind of all collaborated really well."

In addition, said Balcon, "We had two nights of reminiscing at the town hall, where people just came and told stories."

Since then, said Fairfield, "We've been collecting over the past one and one-half years. People just gave us stuff." She added that township officials also had been saving historical materials in the basement of the former church.

"We have things to look through," said Fairfield. "We don't have anything catalogued yet. We don't even know how we'll catalogue it. We'd like to get software. We like to get more volunteers." Balcon said eventually they hope to rotate exhibits.

To help gather initial focus, Fairfield said some of them also attended meetings of northern Wisconsin historical groups to get ideas. "Some of those members are here today to support us," she said of Wisconsin's historical societies.

The result of their labor was a room full of people Sunday, enjoying treats and beverages while also perusing various nicely arranged displays that included information on "Rails to Trails," the Gogebic Lodge, American Legion memorabilia, old yearbooks and a map of Marenisco Township.

There was no attempt to sugarcoat some of the sad times the area has seen. One poster board featured the Marenisco train wreck of 1956. An entire wall featured photos of companies such as Norco or Kimberly Clark that have closed.

Headlines such as "Marenisco residents mourn as sawmill is sold" and "State formally ends Ojibway's 47-year history here today" recall the end of a sawmill with more than one owner and the recent demise of the Ojibway Correctional Facility.

"We've been through it so many times," said Diane Dean of Marenisco as she reviewed the display, "and when the school closed, that was the worst of all. It was like someone came and stole all our kids."

Dean was referring to when Marenisco students were consolidated within the Wakefield-Marenisco K-12 School more than a decade ago.

Accordingly, Sunday's displays paid homage to Marenisco's now defunct band and athletic uniforms, along with cheerleading pom poms and news articles, including one on the township's final graduating class of 2004.

Even the site of the historical society is a reminder of the Presbyterian church that once opened its doors there in 1927. One side of the room still displays the church organ with a stainglass cross window above it.

"We've been through a lot of ups and downs," concluded Dean with a wise smile, "but we're still here. We're still working."


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