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Burial Grounds: Living history

Stu Smith brings Daniel Whitney to life during a cemetery walk
Stu Smith brings Daniel Whitney to life during a cemetery walk. BCHS photo

By Kris Leonhardt


The conclusion of our series on the La Baye burial grounds

While some of the area’s ancestors and pioneers may lie beneath the growth and development that surges above the surface in downtown Green Bay, many of those interred in the La Baye burial grounds in the Catholic faith were relocated to a more peaceful restful place.

“The closure of the La Baye graveyard in 1835 required relocation of the remains. The majority of the graves had been marked with wooden crosses making identification difficult,” explained Brown County Historical Society Executive Director Christine Dunbar.

“Descendants had to identify which graves were Catholic. The Catholic remains were moved to Shantytown Cemetery which had been established in 1822. It later became the Allouez Catholic Cemetery.

“Today, no marker indicates where the La Baye burials were placed. However, in 1957 Monsignor Joseph A. Marx reported that in 1932 the cemetery needed gravel for roads, and workmen digging for gravel near the north line of the cemetery discovered a 20-foot trench with human bones. The trench is located in section AA North. Monsignor Max wrote that this area could be claimed as the resting place of the La Baye Catholics including Augustine and Charles de Langlade.”

Today, Langlade and the others are often memorialized during the historical society’s cemetery walks.

“One of the characters the society portrays in Allouez Catholic Cemetery is Charles de Langlade. Called the ‘Father of Wisconsin,’ he is one of the earliest French settlers at La Baye. His feats include numerous battle victories during both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. Yet equally interesting to cemetery walk participants is the fact that his final resting place is a mass grave,” Dunbar explained.

The cemetery walks were the concept of Loretta Delvaux, who more than two decades ago proposed a living history event at the Woodlawn Cemetery to recognize notable men and women of Green Bay’s past.

Each year, the society selects a theme and seven residents interred at the cemetery to bring to life during the walk.

“For the historical society, a cemetery walk is a trip to the past in which participants experience history with the help of costumed actors. It connects people with their city’s history and consequently builds pride in the community,” Dunbar added.

“Our program continues to grow and we do three cemeteries each year.”

This year’s walks will take place in June, August and September.

The Fort Howard Memorial Park event will take place June 11-13, with inside the chapel event with no walking on June 11 and walking tours on June 12 and 13.

Cemetery walks will also take place at Allouez Catholic Cemetery, Aug. 6-7, and at Woodlawn Cemetery Sept. 10-11.

An inside event will also be held indoors at Woodlawn Cemetery on Sept. 12, with no walking.

For more information, contact the historical society at (920) 437-1840 or [email protected].

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