Legendary Locals

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Mary Antoine holds a copy of her new book “Legendary Locals of Prairie du Chien.” (Photo by Ted Pennekamp)


Local historian writes about those who impacted Prairie du Chien

By Ted Pennekamp


The stories of numerous Prairie du Chien people, past and present, famous and not famous, are explored in a new book “Legendary Locals of Prairie du Chien” by local author Mary Elise Antoine. 

The 128-page book is comprised of seven chapters highlighting, and in some instances, revealing many locals who helped build Prairie du Chien. Chapters include: A Lasting Impression, Generations of Business, Educators and Active Minds, Coaches and Athletes, Part of the River and Heritage, Promoters and Entrepreneurs, and Neighbors. 

From the day Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet entered the Mississippi River in 1673, fur traders, and then settlers, were drawn to Prairie du Chien. Since then, generations have worked to form a friendly and cohesive community. Some, such as George and Dorothy Jeffers, Ralph and Albina Kozelka, Henry Howe, Frank Stark and Henry and Emma Kaber, to name a few, began businesses that descendants operated for many decades or continue to operate. John Peacock and Mike Valley are among those who found a livelihood from the river. John Lawler, Bernard A. Kennedy and Margaret M. Garrity are among the many who made lasting impacts upon education. 

Antoine said that about 120 people are profiled in the book, which was published on March 9 by Arcadia Publishing. “We wanted to highlight people who impacted the community positively,” she said, in noting that if not for a limit on the number of pages she would like to have included more. The stories of “Legendary Locals” reveal the great quality of life that has been part of Prairie du Chien throughout its rich history.

In 2011, Antoine completed the book “Prairie du Chien, Images of America” for Arcadia Publishing who is the leading publisher of local and regional history in the United States. The “Images of America” series featured the history of numerous communities through photos. 

Because of the success of “Prairie du Chien, Images of America,” Arcadia Publishing of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina contacted Antoine in May of 2014 for its new “Legendary Locals” series. “We put together a proposal and then broke the book down into categories,” said Antoine, who noted that everything was done via email and phone calls. 

“I enjoy researching and I enjoy writing, and that’s why I do it,” said Antoine, who noted that it was harder to find information on the people in “Legendary Locals” than it was to research the first book. “The families were all very generous in sharing photos and information,” she said. “It was very fun. I got to know a lot of people and I learned a lot along the way.”

Antoine said that she hopes that the book will help to promote the Prairie du Chien area and that all who read the stories realize that Prairie du Chien is a special community because of the people who worked and gave of themselves to ensure that the city and area maintained its character. “I hope that with this book I will make known to people today some men and women time has forgotten, but were very important to what Prairie du Chien was and is,” she said. 

Antoine will be at a book signing on Saturday, March 28 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Fort Crawford Museum in Prairie du Chien. There will be another book signing at Paper Moon Books and Beyond in McGregor from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, April 4.

Antoine was born and raised in Prairie du Chien. She is the fifth generation of her family to make the community home. She has a master’s degree in History Museum Studies from the State University of New York at Oneonta. She worked in the museum field for many years in the Mohawk Valley of New York and then for the Wisconsin Historical Society at the Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien. Antoine is the president of the Prairie du Chien Historical Society, which operates the Fort Crawford Museum.

“Legendary Locals of Prairie du Chien” is available at the Prairie du Chien Public Library, and for sale at the Paper Moon, the Fort Crawford Museum, Huckleberry’s Restaurant, the Villa Louis and Valley Fish and Cheese. It is also available through online bookstores and Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.

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