Happy Birthday To Me!
Jul 22, 2015 12:56PM ● Published by Erik Dittmann
Postcard from Summer of 1913 - Comint to the Great Dodge County Fair All Photos Courtesy Dodge County Historical Society
Gallery: 175th Anniversary of Beaver Dam [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
I’m going to be 175 years old and you’re invited to my Birthday Party!
It seems like just yesterday that Thomas Mackie and his son-in-law, Joseph Goetschius, decided to settle here on my land that would be called Beaver Dam. I had much to offer these first settlers. There were abundant forests with plenty of wood available for building homes. My ground was fertile. Good crops could be grown in my soil. Most importantly, I had water, lots of water. Water was needed for everything. Waterpower would let me grow into something very special – a settlement, a town, a community, ME - Beaver Dam.
When you turn 175, you deserve a really big party. My party will last the whole year – all of 2016.
My Birthday Celebration begins the last weekend in January at Cabin Fever Fest to be held at Crystal Lake Beach. Did you know ice was harvested from Crystal Lake? In the 1920s the Crystal Lake Ice Company harvested or cut large blocks of ice from the ‘Beach’ during the winter. The ice was packed and stored in sawdust and sold during the summer months to keep food cool in iceboxes. The ice was delivered in chunks by horse-pulled wagons in Beaver Dam and nearby communities.
I’m going to have a parade on Saturday, July 16 followed by a picnic at Swan Park. More information about buying tickets for the picnic will be available later.
The park has always been a special gathering place. Before Tom and Joe arrived, Native Americans drank water from the spring. They believed it had magical properties. So did another early settler of mine, Doctor G.C. Swan. In 1879, Dr. Swan found that spring in the southeast corner of the park. He had the water analyzed. Test results showed it to be identical to other waters that were considered beneficial for restoring health. He immediately bought the spring and about 12 acres of land surrounding it. That land is the almost identical area you know today as Swan City Park. Dr. Swan named his park Vita Park and he named the spring VITA MINERAL SPRING. Vita means life in Latin.
Did you know that in 1880 Dr. Swan built a four-story hotel in his park? The hotel was located on the west side of Vita Park. Other buildings and landscaping were added to make the guest’s stay more enjoyable. One of them, a pavilion, was erected over the spring. It was considered both healthy and fashionable to drink water from the Vita Mineral Spring. Unfortunately, the hotel business was not profitable and it was closed at the end of the season in 1893. In 1902 the buildings were sold at auction with much of the lumber being used to build homes near the park.
The city bought the park from Dr. Swan in 1905. The only original building remaining was the pavilion. In 1980, the Vita Springs Pavilion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and restored in 1984 by the Beaver Dam Parks and Recreation Committee. Today, the Vita Springs Pavilion welcomes visitors and guests to the park as it welcomed your ancestors in the late 1800’s.
Did you know the Old City Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Dodge County? The first burial was the 2-year-old son of Anna and Joseph Goetschius in 1842. How sad that first burial was, the son of one of my first settlers. His father joined him there four years later. It remained the only cemetery in Beaver Dam until 1868. Most of my early settlers and my Civil War casualties are buried there. Many of those early pioneers have returned to share their stories during the October Cemetery Tour. I wonder who will tell their tales this year?
Now, I need your help, please. Over the years, many of my citizens have relocated and I want all of them to know about my 175th Birthday Party. I want to invite them to come home and celebrate with us. If you have family or friends that are no longer in this area, I would appreciate your giving their names and addresses to the Chamber of Commerce. You can call the Chamber at (920) 887-8879 or send them a note. The address is Chamber of Commerce, 127 South Spring Street, Beaver Dam, WI 53916. The email address to reach the Chamber is www.beaverdamchamber.com/ The committee that’s helping plan my party will contact them and let them know they are invited to the party.
I even have my own Facebook Page! You can find it at Facebook.com/BDAT175. My committee will continue updates as the plans are finalized, but for now please mark your calendars for the official kickoff with Cabin Fever Fest on January 30 and 31, 2016.
My 175th birthday year will be filled with celebrations and lots of surprises; so watch the Chamber website and Facebook for updates, as well as keeping an eye on the DAILY CITIZEN and listening to WBEV for details. I want all of us to enjoy my 175th birthday.
Thanks for your help and thanks for being one of my citizens!
Yours truly, with strong roots and a bold future, Beaver Dam