Deep Bench: Exploring a rich, German history in central Wisconsin

WAUSAU, Wis. (WZAW) -- From sauerkraut to schottisches, there's no doubt hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites take pride in their German heritage.

That influence will be explored in a new traveling exhibit called "Neighbors Past and Present: The Wisconsin German Experience" that you can check out right now at the Marathon County Historical Society in Wausau.

Archivist Ben Clark joined the Deep Bench on Wednesday to talk about the history and how the culture of the past translates to today.

He said while early German immigrants thought the soil was too sandy for farming, that eventually changed, when a large amount of people settled in Marathon County.

"But it was actually pretty close to some of the areas in the Baltic regions and so when when the Germans were looking for a place to go, it kind of made sense to come to Marathon County where the soil was very similar to what they were used to," Clark explained.

The exhibit, a project of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the UW-Madison, comprises 14 panels that explore German migration and settlement in Wisconsin, questions of ethnicity and identity in newly forged communities and the cohesiveness of these communities over the decades, especially in times of economic crisis or war.

Specific topics include the language, print culture, religion, Amish and Mennonites, traditions and social clubs, education, rural and urban life, business, political and civic engagement, times of war, and immigrants and their descendants in the global world, past and present.

It will be on view at the Marathon County Historical Society July 16 - August 22. The exhibit will be augmented by displays of local Marathon County German history, plus two special events on August 17.

The first is a talk by DuWayne Zamzow, who will present “The Pomeranian German Immigration to Central Wisconsin” at 2 p.m. at the Woodson History Center, 410 McIndoe St., Wausau.

Zamzow’s talk will address the story of how groups of people were “pushed” from Pomerania, their journey across the Atlantic Ocean, their arrival in America, their “pull” to Wisconsin and how they established a life in this area. There will be information about the Pommerscher Verein of Central Wisconsin and its goals to preserve this German heritage.

DuWayne Zamzow became interested in genealogy as a teen, and fulfilled his dream of finding his ancestral home in Pomerania after 14 years of research. He is a founding member of the Pommerscher Verein of Central Wisconsin. He directs the club’s Pommerscher Danz Gruppe (German dance group), writes for its newspaper and assists at its library.

The Harold Schauer’s Brass Band will present an outdoor concert at 3:30 p.m. August 17 in the Yawkey House Museum Gardens, weather permitting.

The Harold Schauer’s Brass Band plays music in the traditional, German style that was popular across Marathon County in the late 1800s.

There is no admission fee to view the exhibit or to attend the talk or concert. Donations are appreciated. For more information, please call the Marathon County Historical Society at 715-842-5750.