First Lieutenant E. Eugene Helgeson

If you visited the Anderson Barn Museum this year or read any of the previous blog posts, you probably know about some of Ephraim’s Civil War veterans.  Today, in honor of Veterans Day, I’ll be writing about a Vietnam veteran with Ephraim connections.

It’s hard to miss the tall white pole at Ephraim’s Anderson Dock.  This memorial commemorates E. Eugene Helgeson, Jr., who served in the United States Air Force and was killed in action on March 6, 1968, during the Battle of Khe Sanh.  The pole was erected later that year by Amos M. Rasmussen.

E. Eugene Helgeson (photo from Tom Reece)

Eugene was born May 14, 1942, and served with the 311th Air Commando Squadron, 315th Air Commando Wing, 7th Air Force.  He was awarded a number of medals for his service, including the Silver Star Medal for Bravery, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart.  Eugene was killed in a plane crash at the age of 25 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  His name appears on panel 43E, line 020 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

We’ve had questions from curious visitors about why Ephraim has a memorial to First Lieutenant Helgeson, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The answer to that question comes from the name Helgeson, which has a long history in Ephraim through Matilda (Tilla) and Elias Helgeson, Eugene’s paternal grandparents and proprietors of the Edgewater Lodge.  While Tilla and Elias weren’t the first owners of the Edgewater, the Helgeson family operated the hotel from 1906 to 1961.

The Edgewater Lodge

Though Eugene didn’t grow up in Ephraim, he had strong family ties to the community.  Five of his aunts and uncles, Lillian, Grace, Pearl, Elsie, and Guy, helped their parents run the Edgewater and continued its operation after the deaths of Elias in 1923 and Tilla in 1954.  While Eugene’s father, Ellis, moved away from Ephraim, he maintained connections to Ephraim throughout his life and is buried alongside his wife Ruth, his parents, and most of his siblings at the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery.

The next time you visit Anderson Dock, be sure to stop and see the plaque for First Lieutenant E. Eugene Helgeson on the memorial pole.

-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin

Arsenic and Old Lace

While it’s common to find old lace in museum collections, you might be surprised to learn that hazardous materials like arsenic can also be found in many museums.  A few days ago, while cataloging a sad iron (sad being an old word for solid), I was surprised to find the name Asbestos Sad Iron printed on the iron.  Upon closer inspection, I found a layer of asbestos in the space between the iron and the handle.  This asbestos lining kept heat from reaching the handle and the hand of the person ironing.  Today, we know that asbestos causes serious health issues, but when this iron was manufactured in the early 1900s, the dangers of asbestos were unknown.

Asbestos is not the only harmful materials found within museum collections.  Arsenic was commonly used in taxidermy to help keep bugs from destroying skins and furs. Mercury, cyanide, formaldehyde, and strychnine are some of the other chemicals which can sometimes be found on or in museum artifacts.  Some museums even house radioactive artifacts.

Hopefully this list of hazardous materials won’t keep you from visiting museums!  In the average museum, artifacts containing these materials are only a tiny fraction of the entire collection.  These artifacts still tell important stories, and when the proper steps are taken, the risks associated with these items are minimal.

Artifacts like the Asbestos Sad Iron are individually bagged and clearly labeled, both on the artifact and in our collections database.  This ensures that the iron is not accidentally handled.  Using safety procedures like wearing gloves and respirators and, most importantly, interacting these objects as little as possible minimizes risks.  Many large museums have a cabinet or room dedicated exclusively to hazardous materials, which ensures that exposure to these artifacts is kept to a minimum.  In severe cases, museums can send affected artifacts to professionals for treatment.

Medical museums, geology museums, and museums with a large number of taxidermy mounts have to deal with these materials on a regular basis.  Fortunately, our collections are highly unlikely to contain these sorts of chemicals.  The Asbestos Sad Iron is definitely an outlier here at the Ephraim Historical Foundation!

-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin

Annual Cemetery Walk – September 11, 2017

Karen Ekberg as Ida Seiler Sohns

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit with someone who lived on this earth 100 to 150 years ago?  If you come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery on September 11, you will have the opportunity to do just that.  For the last several years the Ephraim Historical Foundation, in conjunction with the Ephraim Moravian Church, has presented a cemetery walk called the “DEARLY DEPARTED.” Read More

What Makes An Artifact?

EHF garment collections storage

In a previous blog post, I talked about how an artifact in the EHF collection is cataloged.  Today, I’ll share how the photograph from your great-grandmother’s photo album or the washtub in your neighbor’s attic can become part of the Ephraim Historical Foundation collections.

It’s important to note that the EHF cannot accept all the items that are suggested.  Part of our mission is to preserve the artifacts in the collection, which requires time, space, and funds.  To keep those artifacts safe for future generations, we sometimes have to make tough decisions about what we can and cannot accept.  Here are a few reasons an item may not be accepted into the EHF collection. Read More

Wisconsin 101

We often talk about Wisconsin, Door County, and Ephraim history in terms of image and text-based artifacts, like photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, and postcards.  A project called Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects is sharing Wisconsin history in a different way – through three-dimensional artifacts.  Specifically, it focuses on objects which tell distinctly Wisconsin stories, like the Babcock Butterfat Tester or Old Abe, the Live War Eagle.  Anyone can propose an object to be included on the Wisconsin 101 website, with object categories like Arts & Leisure, Education, and Transportation. Read More

Greta Anderson’s Flag

The fully unfurled flag

As work on the upcoming EHF exhibit continues, we faced the challenge of displaying Greta Anderson’s flag.  Greta, an early Ephraim resident who married Aslag Anderson, sewed this 35-star flag during the Civil War.  Her cousin, Torger Torgersen, was in the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment and is one of the soldiers featured in the new exhibit.

Greta’s flag, at over 150 years old, is delicate and was obviously flown at some point.  There are some tears and damage due to age.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle is size: the flag is 7.5 feet wide by 12 feet long.  Despite the display challenges, the flag needed to be included in the exhibit.  It tells an important story about Ephraim during the Civil War and about Greta Anderson. Read More

When Johnny Comes Marching Home: Ephraim’s Civil War Stories


Andrew Anderson

The 2017 Anderson Barn Museum exhibit tells the stories of eight Civil War soldiers with connections to Ephraim.  Some enlisted from Ephraim or the surrounding area, and others came here later in life.  The exhibit will focus on Andrew Anderson, Goodlet Goodletson, Michael Kalmbach, Christian “Charley” Morbeck, Carl Nelson, Tallack Tallackson, Torger Torgersen, and Henry Sherman Vail.

Though each of the eight soldiers has a unique story, there are shared experiences in their lives.  All eight men enlisted voluntarily, and seven of the eight joined in the same year, 1862.  Four of the eight joined the same company and regiment, Company F of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Seven of the eight were immigrants: six from Norway and one from Germany.  And three of the eight did not survive the Civil War. Read More

Making a Custom Dress Form


Dress form base

PVC pipe with drilled holes

One of the challenges in displaying garments from the EHF collection is changes in body shapes and sizes over the years.  Many of the dresses in our collection come from a time when women wore corsets and other complex undergarments to fit into smaller clothing.  The EHF’s dress forms are a standard size for modern clothing, but are too large in the hips and waist for clothing like Munda Anderson’s 1880s dress.  Miss Munda’s waist was around 22 inches, or about a size 0 in today’s clothing.  In fact, her dress is too small to even fit on our child’s dress form.  Archival forms can cost thousands of dollars, so we needed to find a different way to display our smaller garments.  Thanks to Dave, our dedicated handyman, we came up with a great solution.  In this blog, we’ll show you how we made a dress form with minimal materials and cost. Read More

Welcome to the EHF Blog

Welcome to the Ephraim Historical Foundation’s brand new blog. We thought it would be fun to publish little snippets of information every so often to keep you abreast of upcoming pleasures, events, and happenings, and to remind you of stories from Ephraim’s past. There is so much history in our little village, and since we love every single bit of it, we simply have to share it.

I remember that when I was a little girl, the “old timers” would talk about past happenings with great pleasure and interest, but I didn’t give it much thought.

Store Summer exterior

Anderson Store

As I got older, I began to realize the value of old stories, often repeated, and I began to store them in my own memory bank. Now I am fast approaching “old timer” status, certainly “long timer” status.

Here are a few things from my memory bank:

Did you know that: at one time there were three general stores in our little Ephraim?

That after finally getting one sawmill, there were suddenly five of them?

That our post office is currently occupying its sixth location, and that the first one was just a metal box on a shelf in the bedroom of a private home?

People often ask if we have written it all down, or recorded it. The blog will be our answer to that. Jotting down some stories for you to read will provide something of a local historical journal and may cause some of you to recall stories as well! Please let us know when that happens, as we hope to have guest bloggers occasionally to keep things fresh. Send an email to EHF Marketing and Volunteer Director Emily Irwin at  We will move from one topic to another, and from one time period to another to keep interesting.

Thanks for reading,
Linda Carey

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Miss Munda’s Dress


Miss Munda in the dress on her 80th birthday

Winter is the perfect time for working in the Archives and the EHF staff started an important collections project last week—cleaning Munda Anderson’s dress.  Miss Munda helped run the store for many years and is an important figure in the Anderson Store’s history.  She made this cotton dress in the mid-1880s and even wore it for her 80th birthday in 1949.  The dress has been on display for many years and is an important artifact in sharing the history of the Andersons and the store. Read More