Many attend Friends of the Villa Louis dinner, get a peek at War of 1812 artifacts

Leslie Bellais (left), of the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Villa Louis Site Director Susan Caya-Slusser showed off a few early-1800s artifacts at the Friends of the Villa Louis Annual Dinner, including a high-wasted, simple wedding dress.

The artifacts shared at the annual dinner last week also included a child’s dress and an artillery jacket from the early 1830s.

By Correne Martin

The Friends of the Villa Louis Annual Dinner was held on March 18, at The Barn Restaurant. Around 90 members of the organization and associates of the historic site attended and enjoyed a social hour, music, dinner and guest speaker Leslie Bellais, the Wisconsin Historical Society’s curator of social history.

Site Director Susan Caya-Slusser reminded all that 2014 is going to be a great season for the Villa Louis, as it is the 200th anniversary year of the War of 1812 Battle of Prairie du Chien (1814) and many events are being planned by the Villa, the Fort Crawford Museum, the library and the community.

Caya-Slusser also informed the crowd that 2013 attendance at the Villa Louis was up 5.8 percent, which was “good especially with the big rains” that hit the city. The Friends of the Villa Louis had 102 members last year. Board members include President Luanne Neumann, Vice-President Nancy Becker, Secretary Mary Novey, Treasurer Diane Witt and At-Large Members Katie Forsythe, Bob Welsh and Greg Bender.

In 2014, the site will host two new events, including a behind-the-scenes tour of the Villa Louis and a children’s cooking workshop.

Bellais, who has been with the Wisconsin Historical Society since 1990, brought a number of War of 1812 artifacts from Madison to share at the dinner. They included two soldiers’ epaulets (military shoulder pieces), a powder horn, a cartridge box, an ornate handkerchief, a Pollyannaish war uniform, an artillery jacket, several styles of wedding dresses, underwear, a calash (hat) and a few pieces of children’s clothing.

“These items rarely see the light of day,” Bellais said.

“This is a pretty big deal to have these items here from Madison,” Caya-Slusser added.

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