Milwaukee County Genealogical Society

History - MCGS Picnic In Ancestral Grove

The Milwaukee County Genealogical Society was organized on 31 May 1935 by Nuna E. Whitcomb at the Milwaukee Public Library. 
The first MCGS picnic was held 24 June 1938 at ANCESTRAL GROVE in Whitnall Park near golf course at 6751 South 92nd Street, Hales Corners, Wisconsin. And the last MCGS picnic held at ANCESTRAL GROVE was in 2005. Annual picnics continue each July at the Milwaukee Central Public Library.

MCGS Fifteenth Anniversary 1935 - 1950 Booklet:
One June 24, 1938, we took formal possession of the Grove. We brought our lunches, ate beneath the friendly trees, exchanged anecdotes, sang songs, visited, or did whatever our fancy dictated.

MCGS Reporter Volume 24 Number 2, May 1993, page 44:
56th Annual MCGS Picnic
Take Grange Avenue to 92nd Street and turn south. One to two miles from Grange, you will see the golf course/parking lot to the right. There is a road that goes to the bottom of the hill and a gravel road which branches off from it. This gravel road is usually open for the Society to use. The gravel road goes right up to the ANCESTRAL GROVE site where you may park along the roadway.
View article in the Reporter online in the MCGS Members Only section

MCGS Reporter Volume 25 Number 4, November 1994, page 116:
Mr. Lewis M. Hatch was one of the twelve persons present at the first organizational meeting to form the Milwaukee County Genealogical Society.  In 1938 he (along with MCGS member Alice Hatch Thayer) donated a tree in Ancestral Grove, in honor of their ancestor, John Alden. It was Mr. Hatch who proposed the name "Ancestral Grove" located in Whitnall Park, Hales Corners, WI..........
The MCGS had a tree planted in memory of Lewis Hatch in Ancestral Grove.
View article in the Reporter online in the MCGS Members Only section

1954 October 21 - The Milwaukee Sentinel
Ancestral Grove Thrives
Each of the leafy monuments bears a metal marker designating the individual to whom the tree is dedicated and the name of the donor.

MCGS Reporter Volume 37 Number 4, November 2006, page 109:
MCGS In-door Picnic, a First
Rather than hike down to Whitnall Park for the annual MCGS picnic, it was held in the Milwaukee Central Library instead. And a big success at that!!! MCGS member and the library's Arts and Humanities Coordinator, Virginia Schwartz, created the delightful picnic area in Room 1 with colorful tablecloths, vases of wild flowers and mint all enhanced by a fine display of antique picnic baskets!! In addition, she provided coolers of ice-cold lemonade into which picnickers could add fresh mint if they chose.
Members brought books, tapes, and publications to be sold, exchanged or given away. Genealogical problems and brick-walls were shared and ideas and solutions were sought. In the future, if some picnickers brought online computers, even more problems may be solved. Plan ahead and save the date of fraday, July 27th, 2007 so you can join in the fun!
View article in the Reporter online in the MCGS Members Only section.

1 1938 elm United States Constitution   Miss Nuna E R Whitcomb; dedicated by State Regent of DAR: Mrs W E Stuart
2 1939 maple Miss Nuna Elizabeth Rhoda Whitcomb founder of MCGS Mrs Hull Clark Blanding
3 1938 ? Gen. James Cudworth   by descendant Miss Nuna E R Whitcomb
4 1938 ? John Whitcomb colonial founder by descendants the Whitcomb family
5 1938 ? Miles Standish Mayflower passenger by descendants Mrs Charles W Hutchinson and Mrs Harlow S Roby
6 1938 ? John Alden Mayflower passenger by descendants Lewis M Hatch and Mrs Alice Hatch Thayer
7 1938 ? Mrs Clara Louise Little for outstanding achievement Mrs Hull Clark Blanding
8 1939 elm
Col.James Dala Watson
of Georgia, Spanish American and World War I Veteran Max Bodenbach
9 1939 elm Richard Sawtelle   by descendant Clara Harrington
10 1940 elm George D and Helen H Raab George (artist) Mrs C D Lord
11 1940 elm Rev. John Mayo   by descendant Miss Whitcomb and Mrs Hickox
12 1940 elm+? Nathaniel Hawthorne family   by descendant Mrs Caroline Hawthorne Ryan
13 1942 maple Kirby Proctor Raab   by his grandmother Mrs Helen Hammond Raab and grandfather George Raab
14 1943 elm Mrs Charles W Hutchinson (Ada Hubbell)   Hutchinson family
15 1943 elm John Howland Mayflower passenger by descendant Mrs Robert J Lacy
16 1944 elm Jeremiah Curtin noted linguist and writer by second cousin Miss Eleanore Curtin and family
17 1944   Michael Rodenkirch a German pioneer by gr-grandaughters Mrs O W Senglaub and Mrs G G Kaspari, dedicated by gr-gr-grandson Michael Senglaub
18 1946 elm Werner Trimborn   by descendants Mrs Anna Dietz and daughter Helen
19 1946 elm Mr John Morton and Rachel Tayler Wylie   Miss Rachel Mary Campbell
20 1946 elm George Hall a Revolutionary soldier by descendant Miss Romayne Rubson
21 1946 maple Dr Price Sawtelle   by descendant Mrs Clara E Harrington
22 1947 elm August Nicholas Ritz a story from Switzerland to Milwaukee Mrs Eugene Ralph Schmidt
23 1947 elm James and Mary Chilton (father and daughter) Mayflower passengers Mrs Hull Clark Blanding
24 1947 elm Oliver VanValin   Mrs Anthony Ganz
25 1950 maple Mrs Lydia Keller   Eleanor Curtin
26 1951 oak Ellerson family   Celie Ellerson Nieman
27 1951 maple Miss Eleanor Curtin   Mrs Clara B Harrington
28 1951 oak John Jost Herkimer   Mrs William F Casselman
29 1951 maple Mrs John G Ragsdale   Mrs Hull Clark Blanding
30 1952 maple George Orlo Stearns   Perry J Stearns
31 1952 oak Mrs August N Ritz   Mrs E R Schmidt
32 1954 maple Mrs Harry H Heming   Mrs Clara Harrington
33 1954 maple Emery Darling Wright   Mrs E P Davis
34 1954 oak Mathias Burgardt   Mrs Charles Cleveland Thoms
35 1955 oak Governor William Bradford   by descendant Mrs Arthur Knudson
36 1955 maple Mr Lewis M Hatch   Mrs Clara E Harrington
37 1955 ? Mr Kenenlm Winslow   Mrs Blanding, by descendant Mrs Harold B Reyer, Casselman
38 1957 oak Mrs Fred E Zindler   Zindler family, Mrs. Lord
39 1957 oak Mr J W Woodworth   Mrs Knudson and Mrs Woodworth
40 1957 maple Mr Benjamin Robinson   Mrs E P Davis
41 1957 oak Mrs Edith Nevins Bartlett   Mrs Hull Clark Blanding
42 1958 maple Mr Lewis Morris signer of the Declaration of Indepence Mrs John B Wilkinson
43 1958 oak Claus Thomas early resident of Milwaukee Mr & Mrs Charles C Thomas
44 1958 maple Conrad Mizer early resident of Milwaukee Miss Helen Dietz
45 1959   Mrs Clara E Harrington   MCGS - In Memorium
46 1959   Mrs Hull Clark Blanding   MCGS
47 1959   Mrs Wm F Casselman   MCGS
48 1960   Robert E Burns-Poet   Mrs J B Bobst
49 1960   Mr Blanding   Mrs Hull Clark Blanding

Milwaukee County Genealogical Society REPORTER: Vol. 23, #2, May 1992, page 44-46:

Dedication of Marker
Ancestral Grove, Whitnall Park

July 23, 1943
by Mrs. John F. Ragsdale

From September of 1937 to April 1939, the United States celebrated the 150th
anniversary of the formation of the United States of America.

Throughout the nation, thousands of programs were presented and great nunbers of
trees were dedicated in honor of the event.

At thls time, the Milwaukee County Genealogical Society was a mere handful of
people who were intent on searching for their ancestors and bound together by a
common desire to collect and preserve the records and tradiions of their early
forebearers , who had come, one and all, from some foreign shore. From Norway and
Sweden, from Holland and Germany, from France and Italy, from England, Ireland,
Scotland and Wales - frrom many lands they came, either remotely or recently. They
came to escape the old world oppression and to carve from the wilderness a New
World of freedom and opportunity, and their example of faith and courage and
sacrifice has afforded us an ever increasing source of inspiration and

The Society was led and eminated by the tireless enthusiasm of the organizer and
founder of the Society, Miss Nuna E.R. Whitcomb, whose work and writings have
since won for her national recognition.

To some of us, it seemed eminently fitting that WE, also dedicate a tree to the
constitution, in token of our profound reverence for the Founding Fathers who
gave to us that imortal charter of our liberties. Then, with this idea, was
coupled the thought that by the planting of trees in honor of our forebearers,
we could pubicly express our pride in our ancestry, and at the same time create
interest in the study of genealogy and family history, for the benefit of

The Milwaukee Park Commission graciously granted us leave to create such a
project, and on a summer day in 1937, they conducted our comittee on a tour of
Whitnall Park, which we had chosen as our preferred location. After a survey a
spot whlch Ms Whitcomb considered ideal, a sequestered little strip which was
lying "far apart from the maddening crowds", with its old stone wall overgrown
with native shrubs and wild flowers, was an ideal settlng for our proposed
memorial. And thus it was that the place on which we stand today has become our
particular bit of hallowed ground.

Then began our quest for a name and among the many good suggestions, "Ancestral
Grove", was proposed by Mr. Lewis M. Hatch, the one active male mmber of the
society and it was unanimusly adopted. And may I here say, that with the
passing years, we are increasingly pleased with our selection and never more so
than today, when we proudly present it to the public by means of this very
attractive and artistic marker.

Following months of anticipation and preparation came the great day of our first
dedication ceremony on June 24, 1938. Like the pioneers of old from whom we are
all descended, we came to take formal possession of our claim. In the shelter
of the friendly trees, we spread our lunch on the unmown grass. There were no
picnic tables or chairs as Whitnall Park was in its infancy. We ate, sang old
songs of yesterday and exchanged anecdotes of the things of long ago. Some of
you were there that day and can recall every precious detail of the occasion and
treasure, as I do, its memories.

Afternoon-or CONSTITUTION ELM, the beautiful tree which can be seen in the
background today and estimated to be approximately 150 years old, was dedicated
by Mrs. W. Z . Stuart, then the State Regent of the Daughters of the American

For Ms. Whitcomb, it was a gala day indeed-a day of analloyed joy and
satisfaction. For her, we had a double surprise. We dedicated in her honor, a
maple tree which was planted on the very spot where she had indented with her
heel, the place it should go, believing it was to be dedicated to the
Genealogical Society. A beautiful decorated cake in honor of her birthday was
presented, which also occurred near the date of our ceremony.

For three successive years, Ms Whitcomb was with us as we returned here to
picnic, sing, renew our faith in our heritage of freedom, and to dedicate one or
more trees each year in honor of the ancestors of exteemed members and

Today, we can honor her only in grateful rememberance. A few months after she
had participated in our 1940 program, she went from our midst, "Out through an
open door" to use her own words as expressed in a little poem of which I believe
she was the author, and of which she gave me a copy. I should like to relate:
"Death is only a door
Set in a garden wall
On gentle hinges it swings
As the shadows fall .

Across the lintels are green leaves,
Beyond, the light lies still
Many weary and willing feet
Pass over that sill.

There is naught to trouble any heart
Nothing to fear at all
Death is only a door
In a garden wall".
Ms. Whitcomb's ardor for the pursuit of genealogy did not come by mere chance or
accident. It was inherent in her nature to love freedom and to revere American
tradition, for in her veins mingled the blood of many courageous pioneers and
famous patriots.

To her, we owe much-The Milwaukee County Genealogical Society, which she
organized in 1935, The Wisconsin Genealogical Society, founded in 1939, and this
ANCESTRAL GROVE which without the former we should have had no inspiration for
the latter .

In her name and in her memory we have carried on her unfinished tasks. Under the
capable leadership of her life-long friend, Mrs .Clara Harrington, who succeeded
her as president, the work has continued without interruption.

Our progress of dedication has gone on from year to year, until now at the
beginning of our sixth year, we again came together to share our old-fashioned
lunch under the trees, to refresh our souls with music, to welcome our friends,
to dedicate trees and to accept this beautiful and particularly appropriate
marker, so generously presented by Mr. and Mrs. Caselman, both of whan are
descendents of many distinguished pioneer families.

To both of them, we are deeply grateful and we accept their generous gift. Let
us consecrate our lives to the sacred task of preserving in safety and security
the records, relics, tradition and the principles of their ancestors and ours,
who by their struggles and sacrifices have established for us a heritage worthy
of our highest respect and deserving of our deepest devotion.

It is because of the Faith and Courage of our noble fathers that we may assemble
as we do today, representing many nationalities, religious denaninations, and
various political beliefs, each justly proud of the part our ancestors played in
the building of the world's greatest republic.

Thus it is, with the sense of profound gratitude to each and all of loyal friends
and members who have cooperated to make possible this happy occasion, I dedicate
this marker to the ANCESTRAL GROVE of the Milwaukee County Genealogical Society.
View article in the Reporter online in the MCGS Members Only section

ANCESTRAL GROVE in Whitnall Park

Biography of Matthias Burgardt (1812-1888), 1954 by Mrs Charles Cleveland Thoms
A typewritten biographical sketch of Matthias Burgardt, an early settler of the Waukesha-Milwaukee County, Wis., area, presented before the Milwaukee County Genealogical Society at Ancestral Grove, Whitnall Park, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, June 25, 1954, by Mrs. Thoms.
A copy is located at the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives in Madison, WI
Information from