When was the last time you looked up while walking through your downtown or considered the origin of your town’s name?
Humans are creatures of habit. People tend to travel the same routes and observe scenery from the same perspective. With a little guidance and natural movement on foot, a person can glean a whole new perspective on their community.
Blue Zones Project encourages people to move naturally and connect socially. Recently, community members came together to connect through a common interest in learning about the history of their community on a history walk. Blue Zones Project hosted the event and commissioned the help of local historians to share their knowledge and passion during a walking tour.
In Juneau, lifelong resident Jim Zahn led walking tours which started and ended at the Dodge Centre Historical Society. With a rich history, serving first as a Methodist church, then housing the Juneau Public Library, the Historical Society building was a fitting meeting place.
From there, Zahn led the group to the City Park where one could picture its role in the 1850s as the site of the Dodge County Fair. The circular drive that still exists around the park would have once been made of dirt and held horse races during the fair.
The next stop on the walking tour was Juneau City Cemetery where both Paul Juneau, the founder of the city of Juneau, and the man who shot and killed Paul Juneau are buried. The Juneau family was well-educated, affording them influence across the area. Theresa, a nearby town, also drew its name origins from the influential Juneau family.
Paul Juneau’s nephew, Paul Husting, practiced law in the late 1800s in Mayville. The historic downtown in Mayville was the site of another Blue Zones Project history walk led by Main Street Mayville Inc. manager Trina Justman Reichert.
Justman Reichert pointed out the ornate buildings that line Main Street, causing many participants to observe upper levels they had never noticed before. She also noted the legacy left by the May and Foster brothers, namesakes for the community and its parks, as well as that of the Ruedebusch Family. The unusually wide street that runs through the downtown was essential for heavy horse traffic hauling iron, the main natural resource that helped to establish the town.
In Horicon, the group met at Discher Park before walking to the historic Satterlee Clark House led by Lahnie Moyle-Neu. Moyle-Neu is passionate about history and frequently participates in historical re-enactments. She also serves as the curator of the Horicon Historical Society, housed in the Satterlee Clark House. The house was built in 1855 and holds an amazing and diverse historical collection. Visitors can learn more about what home life was like in Horicon in the late 1800s. At the Satterlee Clark House, visitors can also view a re-creation of a 19th-century school and blacksmith shop.
Following the history walks, participants had the opportunity to join a Blue Zones Project walking group, called Walking Moais. These groups provide participants with the opportunity to build social connections and encourage natural movement. Whether you connect with others through walking, a common interest or through common history, research shows that reducing social isolation can also reduce your chances for premature death, helping you to live longer, better.