Explore Waterford to present ‘Mysteries of Old Settlers Cemetery’

In celebration of National Historic Preservation Month, Explore Waterford will offer an event highlighting the village’s earliest years, as part of its Preserving Our Past series.

Volunteers have been busy digging through old archives and uncovering records to present “Mysteries of Old Settlers Cemetery,” on Tuesday, May 24, at 6 p.m. at Waterford Public Library, 101 N. River St.

Attendees will learn about the forgotten Old Settlers Cemetery and the group’s current mission to restore the sacred place located on the west side of North Jefferson Street, where a number of Waterford’s earliest settlers are buried.

Much of the history presented comes from volunteer Bob Gariepy Sr., who has spent countless hours at area libraries, universities and governmental buildings uncovering how Waterford came to be, according to Explore Waterford.

He will be joined by local volunteers and hobbyist genealogists Liz Noble and Judy Gambrel, who have been researching those known to be buried at Old Settlers.

The Explore Waterford Historical Sites Committee is currently working with the Wisconsin Lutheran College Department of Anthropology to reveal some of the cemetery’s mysteries and preserve the site for generations to come.

“These cemeteries are physical representations of our local past,” said Ned Farley, Wisconsin Lutheran College associate professor of anthropology, who is leading the project. “They represent the culmination of generations of family traditions that have resulted in the establishment and growth of our Wisconsin communities. By closely studying them, we uncover hidden histories relating to the past and preserve the memories of those families that risked life and limb to transition the Wisconsin territory into a state.”

This is the fourth annual Preserving Our Past event presented to the community in an effort to educate, preserve and build hometown pride by celebrating its 186-year history. Light refreshments will be served. Postcards depicting old images of Waterford will also be available for sale.

Those who attend will learn about:

  • Restoration efforts and fundraising plans for the historic site
  • The stories of some of those buried and their impact on the community
  • Old maps and other images that helped to form the village as it is today

Those who cannot make the event but would like to learn more about Waterford’s past can visit explorewaterford.com and click on the “community” tab then drop down to “Legacy of Waterford” where the bulk of the group’s history research is contained.

In 2018, the group unveiled its self-guided Downtown Heritage Walking Tour. Another ode to the village’s past, this short downtown stroll includes 12 historic locations with stories to tell. Brochures are available at the Explore Waterford Office, 123 N. River St., and scan QR codes for a full history, or download and print a copy from the “Legacy of Waterford” website, by clicking on “Walking Tour.”

For more information or to donate, visit explorewaterford.com or contact Executive Director Tanya Maney at (262) 534-5911 or [email protected]

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