Murder/Cemetery Tour 2019

Historical Cemetery-Murder Tour On October 5

The annual Adams County Historical Society Cemetery Tour comes with a different twist for 2019.  In addition to traveling to selected county cemeteries and visiting with “spirits” of the dead buried there, the tour will also stop at sites where murders occurred.  The Society held its first “Murder Tour” last spring and discovered plenty of interest in a second one.

The cemetery tours have been held in the fall for fifteen years and combining the two was a logical decision.

Last spring’s murder tour covered fatal crimes in the northern half of the county. The October 5 tour will head south.  Among the crime scenes to be visited are the site where an unidentified body was found off of Highway 13 in 1926;  the roadside where the police chief of Wisconsin Rapids,  R.S. Payne, was bludgeoned to death in 1939; the intersection where potato truck driver Adolph Miller was shot to death in 1948; and several other places where murders took place.

The guide for the murder portion of the tour will be Matt McLaughlin, author of the book The Murders of Adams County. Thanks to Matt’s diligent research and story telling ability, the book has been a “best-seller” in Adams County.

In between the murderous tales, the bus will stop at five cemeteries to hear ghostly stories.  At Plainville, the spirit of Amelia Dutcher, the young woman who wandered out of Kilbourn City and was lost until her body was found months later on Elephant Mound. At Big Springs, a spirit will tell the heroic story of World War II Marine Sergeant Edward Armson. The bus will also stop at the former County Farm Cemetery near Jordan Lake to learn about the “poor souls” buried then, then move on to Davis Corners to hear from the spirit of Marie Bork, the women who lived in three centuries. The last stop will be at Gould Rock, where Harriet Sylvester will talk about life at the Marsh House tavern  in the Pinery Road days of the 1840s-’50s.

Instead of a school bus, this year’s tourists will ride in a comfortable tour bus.  These tours are popular and the bus fills up, so reservations are required.  Seats are $25.00 and can be reserved by calling the historical society at 608-339-7733 or via email

Due to limited seating on the bus, Reservations must be paid for prior to the day of the tour.

You may mail in to: Adams County Historical Socety, PO Box 264, Friendship, WI

The tour will start and end at the McGowan House in Friendship on Saturday, October 5.  Boarding will begin at 8:30 am and the bus will leave promptly at 9:00 am. All the stories will be told on the bus and we will not be getting off at the cemeteries. The bus will return to the McGowan House at approximately 12:30 pm and a picnic lunch will be served inside the Niebull School.

Michael Goc will be co-hosting the cemetery portion of the tour. (Any of you who have ridden the bus with us in the past know benefit of gaining so much information about the areas we pass thru from his running commentary as we travel.)

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Salute to Veterans





We celebrate American Independence Day on the Fourth of July every year. We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.  We also honor our veterans from all wars.


During the month of July, a special display will be presented at the McGowan House, 507 Main Street in Friendship to remember and honor veterans of all wars from the 1898 Spanish-American War through present day wars.  The McGowan House will be open each Saturday in July from 1 to 4 PM.  The “Salute To Veterans” display will commence on July 6 with patriotic music and refreshments in addition to a number of displays of uniforms and artifacts.


Hear the stories of some of our Adams County soldiers such as Edward R. Schwartz who served in WWI, last assigned to the 47th Coast Artillery; Ned McGowan, son of Dr. W. E. McGowan, who joined in the Spanish-American War at age 16.  See the uniforms and medals of Edward Thomsen who served in both WWII and the Korean War.


View the story in words and pictures “Two Fathers, One War” written by Marcia L. Pollock Wysocky about soldiers Clarence H. Mathe and Melvin L. Pollock.


On display will be the uniform of Lt. Joann G. Bingen Gruendler, RN who served in WWII in the European Theatre.  (Joann was the mother of Mary Jo Meyer of Friendship.) A complete record of Joann’s time in the military along with other interesting items of hers will be on display.


Artifacts of many wars will be open to viewing such as the Veteran records and pension book of a dozen soldiers from wars beginning with the Spanish-American War; items from Viet Nam, Iraq and India will be displayed.  Posters from WWII and a Global Atlas of the World At War will help you follow the progress of WWII from start to finish.


We hope you will join us one or more Saturdays in July to remember and give a “Salute to Veterans.”

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Check out “Adams County Tales”

Click on the “Adams County Tales” at the top of this page.  You will see a list of short articles telling about events from the rich history of Adams County.  The article series is a work in progress so there will be more pictures, expanded articles and all new articles yet to come.  In the meantime among the current articles you will learn …..


  • how the railroad first came to Adams County after every other county in the state had its own rail service

  • how a fellow who had such an enjoyable childhood in Adams County that he brought a factory to Adams building aluminum and stainless steel boats,

  • how a local boy won fame as a major league baseball player only to die a tragic death,

  • and many more tales from the rich history of Adams County.

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Join the “Murder Tour” Sat, May 4, 2019


 The Historical Society’s annual “Voices of the Past” program will be a tour of locations around Adams County described in our popular book

“The Murders of Adams County”.

Adams County Historical Society will present “The Murders of Adams County Tour” Saturday, May 4th.


Matt McLaughlin, the society’s murder expert, will take you to the “scenes of the crimes” through northern Adams County in the Town of Rome.

“Murders of Adams County Tour” will start Saturday, May 4, 2019 at the McGowan House Museum, 507 Main Street in Friendship.  The bus will leave the house at 8:30 am.  As there will be restroom facilities on the bus, there will be no rest stops.  At the end of the tour the bus will return to the McGowan House Museum where lunch will be served.

Fee for the “Murders of Adams County Tour” will be $25 per person and includes the tour and lunch.  Register by calling the Adams County Heritage Center at 608-339-7733.  Leave your phone number when you call.  Or you can drop in at the center when it’s open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The address is 311 Main Street in Friendship.  Space on the bus is limited.  Tour fees must be paid before May 3rd so that waiting list people may have a day’s opportunity to pay and join the tour.  There will be no fee payments received the day of the tour.

Among the stories to be told at the nine places along the way will be the suspicious death of Stephen Arendarczyk whose battered body was found in water too shallow for drowning, the suspicious death of Dominic DeGeorge, the disappearance of Victor “Bunk” Travis, the murder of John Burdick by his own father, the gun fight that left Sheriff Emil Griese seriously wounded, and many more stories.   None of the stories will be about events that happened since 1974.


“I wouldn’t drive through Adams County at night unless I was in a Sherman Tank” Attorney Jack McManus was quoted as saying in the Historical Society’s book The Murders of Adams County.  Well, how about riding through Adams County in the daytime in a luxury motor coach to see the sites and hear the stories of the murders described in the book?  Well, will ya?  Come along, it will be fun.

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The Heritage Center Elevator Will Be Built!

Thanks to Many Generous Donors   (Click to view)



Currently, the Adams County Heritage Center’s rear facade looks like this with a 2nd story doorway opening onto a balcony landing.  Previously, there were stairs leading from the landing to the parking lot below.





A rough artist’s concept of how the rear Heritage Center facade will appear with the 16 by 32 foot addition containing the elevator.  The 1st floor entry will be in the same relative position as the current entry.  Current 2nd story windows will be moved out to the addition.





Cut-away view of the addition showing where the elevator will be.  The 2nd story doorway will become an interior door opening onto an elevator lobby.  Stairs will wrap around the elevator.  Some elements in the picture have changed since the drawing was made.







The 2nd story door from inside the Heritage Center, looking outside.











Where the landing is now will be an inside elevator lobby.









The 2nd story northeast exhibit room will show the history of Adams County from prehistoric times through settlement, development and progression to the present.






The 2nd story southeast exhibit room will celebrate the professional, recreational and cultural life of Adams County.






More of the 2nd story southeast exhibit room.








More of the 2nd story southeast exhibit room.






The 2nd story south-middle exhibit room will feature Adams County military.







The 2nd story southwest exhibit room is already in use housing archives and providing work space for cataloging and filing.







The 2nd story northwest exhibit room will continue to be a work room, and may be used to teach lost arts such as tatting and chair caning.







The 2nd story north-middle exhibit room will be an audio visual room where videos or Power Point presentations of the history of Adams County may be shown.







For reference, this is the current front view of the Heritage Center.








In this picture of the current back view of the Heritage Center, the new addition will come out to about the front of the parked car.






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“Friendship, Wisconsin – A History” Now on Sale



Local author Dennis McFarlin’s  newly published book Friendship, Wisconsin – A History is now available for sale at the Adams County Historical Society’s Heritage Books & Gifts at 311 Main Street, Friendship, Wisconsin.

The two volume Friendship, Wisconsin – A History chronicles the history of a small village in central Wisconsin. Dennis M. McFarlin grew up in Friendship and experienced first-hand life in the village for fifty years. McFarlin’s discussion of the book should be of interest to students of history, genealogists, and particularly to those persons who live in Friendship today or grew up in the village or its surrounds.


The book is 934 pages, with 600 photographs and images.  Because the book is intended as a research source, the author has provided over 10,000 endnotes to guide the reader to additional resources.  An extensive index is provided.

Volume One of the book presents a history of the village through subject categories, such a education, health care, government, lifestyle,  and the early geologic history of the area.

Volume Two of the book presents a history of the village through a block-by-block review of the businesses that operated in the village from its inception in 1856.




Friendship, Wisconsin – A History is available by mail.

Send $65 plus $10 shipping and handling to Adams County Historical Society, PO BOX 264, Friendship, WI 53934 along with your shipping address.


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Local History Books on Sale in Society’s Heritage Books & Gifts shop.

The books listed below are in stock and on sale at the Adams County Historical Society’s Heritage Books & Gifts shop, 311 Main Street, Friendship, Wisconsin. 
The books are also available by mail; send remittance with name and address to Adams county Historical Society, PO Box 264, Friendship, WI 53934.  Add $5  per individual book for shipping and handling.  (Add $10 for the two volume “Friendship Wisconsin – a History”)


“A-F SPEEDWAY, STEEL FENDERS-GOLDEN MEMORIES” A DVD Hosted by Bill Holland with film, interviews, stories from the History of A-F Speedway. A wonderful combination! $30.00


“ADAMS COUNTY AT WAR” by Gordon K. Klaus. This book contains the Civil War letters that Adams County native Pvt./Capt. Charles Bassett wrote home while serving with Co. E, 16th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Included is a roster of Company E’s original members. $15.00

“FRIENDSHIP WISCONSIN – A HISTORY”  by Dennis M. McFarlin. A two volume set presenting the history of a small village in Adams County in central Wisconsin. Volume One of the book presents the history of the village through subject categories, such as education, health care, government, lifestyle, and the early geologic history of the area. Volume Two presents a block-by-block review of the businesses that operated in the village from its inception in 1856.   Having 934 pages, with 600 photos and images 10,000 endnotes, it is meant as a research source. The Book store price is $65.00.

FROM PAST TO PRESENT” A comprehensive history of Adams County by Michael Goc. $20.00


“GRANDMA ‘D’ “  by M. Delores Maynard Cherveny. A new book by 96 year old author describing a life well lived. $15.00

“GROWING UP POOR” by Joseph Soulak. (Memories of Wisconsin life in the central Wisconsin Railroad town of Adams.) $5.00

HERO OF THE RED RIVERThe life and times of Joseph Bailey by Michael J. Goc. A Collections of letters discovered in an old Wisconsin Dells building was the catalyst for this history of Colonel Joseph Bailey who owned a small farm in southern Adams county. His friend, a local attorney who stayed behind after Joseph entered the Civil War had saved them and gives an eye opening portrait of a man who accomplished much in his military career. $12.00

“K” A GIRLS LIFE IN FRIENDSHIP DURING 1905 & 1906. by Sharon Hart Addy for the Adams County Historical Society about young Katherine McGowan who became a teacher and Supervising Teacher overseeing the many schools in this rural county. $10.00

“LOOKING BACK” by Walter J. Kappel. The middle son of Austrian immigrants tells of his life from 1914 through WWII.  $10.00

” MURDER IN ADAMS COUNTY” by Merlyn Ruphus. The notoriety of Adams County as ‘The Murder Capital of the United States’ is documented in this fascinating book. $20.00

“NEW CHESTER” by Barbara Morgan (A history of this small community and the surrounding country) $8.00

“POWER IN MANY HANDS” by Michael Goc. Tells the story of Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative and of the communities it serves in twelve central Wisconsin counties. The beginnings of local REA services. $20.00

 “ROCHE-A-CRI TO TRINITY” (The History of Trinity Lutheran Church in Arkdale, WI.) $10.00

“THE HISTORY OF A-F SPEEDWAY” by Matt McLaughlin (Well documented history of a Adams County favorite. Many wild characters and even wilder racing!) $30.00

“THE TANGNEY & DAY FAMILIES OF ADAMS COUNTY, WISCONSIN by Linda Berg Stafford. Winner of the 1994 Family History Book Award from the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society and State Historical Society of Wisconsin. A beautifully executed genealogy of two branches of the Tangney family spanning 6 generations, and eleven generations of the Day family. (We have received multiple copies of this book to be used for fundraising. In most cases our society has received only 1 or 2 copies of family genealogies which we hold in our archives for research.) $25.00

“TO THE LAST BIRD by Evalyn Attoe Blumer & Jerry W. Carlton (a saga of generations of the bird family as it progressed westward eventually settling in central Wisconsin, describing their involvement in the development of the new city of Madison and constructing it’s new capitol building) $7.50

“TWO FATHERS, ONE WAR” by Marcia L Pollock Wysocky. A daughter’s story of her natural father and step father one in the European theater and the other in the Pacific theater of World War II. $25.00

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