Museums’ executive director feels right at home in Prairie du Chien

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

Brandon Brockway became the executive director of the Fort Crawford Museum and Museum of Prairie du Chien in 2022. His knowledge and efforts to organize the collection and bring more locals in have been a great fit so far. (Photo by Correne Martin)

Hope is that local residents will feel the same and come visit

By Correne Martin


The Prairie du Chien Historical Society has experienced a changing of the guard this year. The reshuffling has involved the society’s board as well as its executive director of the Fort Crawford Museum and the Museum of Prairie du Chien. 

Leading up to this, a new interpreter, Brandon Brockway, was hired at the museums two years ago. 

A self-proclaimed lifelong tourist, Brandon spent a lot of time growing up with his grandparents in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Those days were filled with little road trips, and quite often they brought Brandon to Prairie du Chien to the Fort Crawford Museum and the Villa Louis, or to other historic attractions like the House on the Rock.  These excursions developed a love of history and antiques for him. 

So when Brandon, and his wife, Lisa, moved back to Harpers from Waterloo a few years ago, it was only a natural move for him to volunteer at Prairie’s museums. 

“This whole area was my second home. I’ve been coming here with my grandparents since I was 3 years old,” he said. 

Previously, he was the education and collections manager for the Cedar Falls Historical Society for four years. The Brockways also had an antique shop for eight years in Waterloo. Now, they continue to sell antiques online and host a store at their house seasonally. 

Last August, Brandon became museum manager and, then, upon Friday Wiles’ resignation in March, he stepped into the executive director role for the Fort Crawford Museum and Museum of Prairie du Chien. Current interpreters are Gene Bouzek, in addition to newer staff Jeremiah Brockman and Michelle Walleser.

The distinction of the two separate names of the museums, located on the one site at 717 S. Beaumont Rd., has become more regular in recent years. Essentially, the Prairie du Chien Historical Society is the umbrella over the Fort Crawford Museum, the Museum of Prairie du Chien, and the St. Germain dit Gauthier-Coorough House (French log cabin) on St. Feriole Island.

“We have such an important niche here. In 1996, the big thing was that no one else was doing specific Prairie du Chien history. That is what brought about the Prairie du Chien Historical Society,” he said. “We interpret the War of 1812. The Fort Crawford Hospital space is still doing what it was intended to do.”

The Museum of Prairie du Chien is filled with city and residential memorabilia, from Campion and St. Mary’s school items to buttons made here, from pieces once owned by the city’s first mayor to the first ledger of the city’s initial government body, and from family trees for some of the most prominent local names to photographs, postcards and flood records.

Brandon said one of the biggest struggles of the historical society has always been getting the city of Prairie du Chien excited about it. There are currently 142 memberships (individuals/families). Though, the hope is to entice more community members to visit the museum, keep coming back and maybe even become members. 

“This is their museum, and we hope it stays here for the next generation. I don’t think people realize what a big part Prairie du Chien has played on the national level,” he stated, specifically mentioning slavery, military history, the Fur Trade and War of 1812. “The thing I’m constantly reminded of being here is that Zachary Taylor once commanded the fort here.”

Yes, the 12th president of the United States was a colonel in Prairie du Chien between 1829 and 1837. There are numerous other national connections as well. 

However, it’s the local historical society that maintains ownership.

“The Daughters of the American Revolution (celebrating 105 years) originally bought the property and turned it over to the city for $1. Then, the William Beaumont Foundation took over and eventually the state of Wisconsin. Once PDCHS was formed, the state gifted it to the society. 

There’s still plenty of time this tourism season to stop into the museums, before Oct. 31, to self-tour and appreciate the collection. Each year, new exhibits are pulled together and new donations are displayed for visitors to admire. 

Now that Brandon is well settled in, he has committed a lot of effort toward organizing the paper items in the museums’ collection. Artifacts are now arranged by series, succession, donor name, and item number. 

In fact, he’s pretty proud of his office/archive room in the back of the gift shop building. It’s been rearranged in a more orderly fashion and allows three spaces where anyone is welcome to come research Prairie du Chien archives. 

Brandon also has a book in the works that will tell the town’s tales through one-of-a-kind postcards, “Postcard History of Prairie du Chien, Wis.” He expects it to be released next June. 

For more information about the PDCHS’ three museums, visit or call 326-6960.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet