Quester clubs pursue and preserve local history
The Black Point estate on Geneva Lake was built in 1888 by Chicago brewing magnate Conrad Seipp. Today it is open to the public for tours as a state historic preserve.
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Geraldine Ferguson, left, president of the Kishwauketoe Chapter of Questers, and Gwen Tveter of the Royal Joy Williams Chapter and the Geneva Lake Museum, stand next to a Hoosier cabinet presented to the museum by the Kishwauketoe Chapter. Terry Mayer/staff.
WILLIAMS BAY -- If you've ever toured the historic Black Point estate overlooking Geneva Lake, visited a mini-museum tucked in a corner of Yerkes Observatory, or admired the hand-hewn barn on the grounds of Elkhorn's Webster House Museum, you've seen firsthand the efforts of the Questers.
And if what you saw taught you something, made you happy a piece of history was saved or even nudged you to do a little research yourself, then the Questers are doing their job.
An international organization with more than 15,000 members and 900 chapters in the United States and Canada, the Questers boast of four chapters in Walworth County: Royal Joy Williams, Explorare, Kishwauketoe, and Blooming Prairie.
The Royal Joy Williams Chapter, chartered in 1996, is named for the son of Israel Williams, who purchased 200 acres along Geneva Lake in the area of present day Williams Bay, said chapter president Gwen Tveter.
In addition to working to preserve history, the Questers offer scholarships for those interested in pursuing an education in historical preservation, in effect passing on the torch to the next generation.
Tveter said one of the Royal Joy Williams Chapter's projects was restoring furniture - including two bedroom sets, a dining room set and a clock - at Black Point, the sprawling 19th-century estate of Chicago brewing magnate Conrad Seipp that's now a museum.
Judy Bausch, president of the Explorare Chapter of Questers, also based in Williams Bay, said people are beginning to recognize places in their communities that have historic significance, but often take them for granted.
"I've lived in Williams Bay for over 40 years and worked (at the observatory), and can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, 'Oh, yeah, Yerkes. I've heard of it, but I've never been there, never seen it,'" she said. "Well, good grief, it's right in your backyard."
The latest Walworth County Questers chapter, Blooming Prairie, hasn't chosen a restoration project yet, but it's only a matter of time, said Robin Staudt, chapter president.
"Because we're so new, we're pretty much novices, but our goal is to find something," she said.
Blooming Prairie, based in Delavan, was granted a Questers charter in November of 2008, making it the 15th Questers chapter in Wisconsin. It was named after the 1889 schoolhouse built in Darien, which is now located on the Walworth County Fairgrounds.
Read the complete story in the e-edition of Weekender HERE.