Looking over Voyageur Shoulder

Still Room for more.

Chief Black Hawk and Dr. Beaumont

Emma Big Bear and Victorian Lady


Dedicated in 2013, the Mississippi River Sculpture Park Shelter will provide families and friends to gather, share a meal, and imagine the possibilities.

Marianne La Buche

Marianne La Buche Dedicated June 7 2020.

Some Thoughts About the Mississippi River Sculpture Park**

Often public monuments commemorate an historical event or an “important” public figure. Sometimes a sculpture park will be for the display of contemporary sculpture by different artists.

The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is designed as a monument in honor of the people, some recognized as historically important and some who have, over the centuries, come to this Prairie du Chien area as ordinary people living their daily lives. Hunters, housewives and explorers, doctors, musicians and fishermen, some heroic, some adventuresome, some giving birth and some saving lives, all have contributed to the intricate tapestry of human endeavor defining this confluence region in the heart of our country.

There is no other place just like this. The beautiful Wisconsin and great Mississippi waterways have made it possible for this gathering of people sharing their stories and knowledge and lives with one another. This is the meeting ground for our collective cultural heritage. People have gathered here from all over the world for thousands of years. This rich diversity of knowledge and experience, I believe, helps to define the strength of our nation. We retain the knowledge of the Mastodon hunter and the tribal shaman, the voyageur and the basket maker, the riverboat captain and the Victorian Lady. We have inherited this great variety of experience.

Take, for instance, the latest sculpture planned for out park, Aunt Mary Ann La Buche. She came up river from New Orleans, was part African American, part French and part Sioux. She used a Spanish “Pieces of Eight” silver coin to disinfect the wound on her granddaughter who had been scalped by American Indians. She and her granddaughter each had 13 children. What a profound impact she had on our present day lives!

Each life size bronze figure contributes to our history and will remain available as a monument and resource for our many generations to come.

**Florence Bird, Artist

Hiding in Plain Sight*

Of all the hidden treasures which have been shared in past Mississippi River Sculpture Park newsletters, the Cal Peters murals located in the Prairie du Chien City Hall are the most hidden of all. (See photos)
In 1935 Peters was one of several artists at the Stout Institute in Menominee, Wisconsin (now a State university) employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). While there, he painted murals and about a dozen portraits illustrating the history of Prairie du Chien and the surrounding area In 1936, again funded by the WPA. From 1938-1948 he continued his work for the WPA in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where he created numerous murals and dioramas. His work was originally displayed in a local museum located in the Dousman stable that's still on the Villa Louis property. In 1949 he left Prairie du Chien to become the Curator of History at the Los Angeles County Museum.
After the 2001 flood, however, the museum was closed and the paintings were moved to City Hall, where they are scattered throughout the building. All of his dioramas still exist. Three are on exhibit at Fort Crawford Museum. The rest are stored in the Brisbois House on the Villa property. Fort Crawford is looking at 2 more of the dioramas that can put on exhibit in the future.
Common Council meetings are televised locally; anyone who watches will always see Marquette and Joliet canoeing toward the mayor, city administrator and some council members. Chief Blackhawk and The Prophet surrender to Zachary Taylor behind other city officials.
The most hidden of the paintings was probably hung well out of sight because of its subject matter, the Gagnier massacre that took place where the Wal-Mart parking lot is now located.
*Article from September 2013, Touch History: Mississippi River Sculpture Park Newsletter (1)

Bluff Top Tombs

CollagesOne of the more interesting stories about Prairie du Chien is about  Michael Brisbois, a fur trader,  whose tomb is located high atop  a bluff north of the city. According to the story,  he wanted to be buried on top of the bluff so he could look down eternally on his rival, Joseph Rolette, also a fur trader, who is buried in the Old French Cemetery.

in those days, nothing prevented one from being laid to rest on private property in rural areas. Today, the tomb  is only accessible through private land. The tomb is marked by a weather beaten cross which can be seen from the valley below.

These are the names of those who are with Michel Brisbois on the bluff:
Brisbois, Michael died Apr;1,1837,age 77 years,6 months
B. W. Oct;4,1808---June 15,1885
Therese Apr; 27,1815---July 23,1849,wife of B. W.

Tilmont, J. A. May 25,1816---Feb;26,1872,born in Brussels

Bernard (B. W) was Michael Brisbois son.  Therese was Michael Brisbois Wife. Joseph A. (J. A. ) Tilmont was a druggist. He was not related to the Brisbois family and it is unknown why he is buried on the bluff.

Michel [aka Michael] was born in Val-Maska, Quebec, Canada, in 1759. He attended school in Quebec. Soon turning to the fur trade, he worked out of DSC_0045Mackinac (1778), and in 1781 he moved his operations to Prairie du Chien where, with other French Canadian traders, he founded the first permanent white settlement. Although sympathizing with the British in the struggle for control of the Northwest Territory, he accepted a commission in the Illinois Territorial Militia (1809). During the War of 1812, he furnished supplies to both the American and British forces but maintained a pro-British attitude. Arrested for treason at the close of the war, he was sent to St. Louis for trial but was acquitted. He was appointed associate justice for Crawford County by Governor Cass of Michigan Territory (1819), and thereafter held various local offices in the Prairie du Chien area. In 1785 Michel married a Winnebago woman (reputedly the illegitimate daughter of Charles Gautier de Verville) and had three Metis children: Angellic, Michel and Antoine. She lived with her Winnebago relatives. Michel's second marriage on August 8, 1796, was in Mackinaw City, Michigan, to Domitelle (Madelaine) Gautier de Verville, legitimate daughter of Charles Gautier de Verville. To Michel and his second wife, a son Bernard Walter Brisbois was born in Prairie du Chien in 1808. Michel died in Prairie du Chien in June, 1837. (1)



(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Brisbois

A Fall Visit to the The Mississippi River Sculpture Park – *

All over the world the Mississippi River is introduced to countless school children as one of the most important features of our continent. How better can we learn than to actually see and touch these bronze people from out of the pages of our history?
It is an experience not to be forgotten to stand by the great warrior Black Hawk or lie down beside the resting Voyageur.
Dr. Beaumont and his son Israel will not be forgotten by children who touch the frog in his hands. Victoria Victorious adds her poetry to the statue of the Victorian Lady, and Emma Big Bear will always remind us of times past merging with times present.
As each new figure is introduced into the park people will return to have their pictures taken with these characters from our past. Families will remember their heritage as they stroll among the statues. Stories will be written about the lives of these bronze people and teach others about them.
Visitors may learn about the making of bronze sculpture and gain appreciation for the expression of fine art.(1)
Fascinating history and towering rugged bluffs make this Prairie du Chien and St Feriole Island a memorable visit. Prairie du Chien, located four hours south of Minneapolis and two hours west of Madison, is nestled in a pristine landscape of rural hills and valleys.
The driftless area boasts scores of rocky bluffs and winding trails. Prairie du Chien lies at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers.
Anytime a a great time to visit Prairie du Chien, and The Mississippi River Sculpture Park. Fall is a spectacular time. Make the Mississippi River Sculpture Park one of your places as a “Must See”.
--(1)*Florence Bird

The Black Hawk Tree*

220px-Black_Hawk_TreeThe Black Hawk Tree, or Black Hawk's Tree, was a cottonwood tree located in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, United States. Local legend held that Sauk leader Black Hawk used it to elude his pursuers, though there are differing details and versions of the story.  (Photo - Left - 1915 postcard of the Black Hawk Tree)
In one version of the tale, the tree was said to have been used by Black Hawk during the 1790s to evade capture from troops stationed at Fort Crawford.Black Hawk would later became famous for his role in leading a band of Sauk and Fox, known as the British Band, back into Illinois in violation of several disputed treaties. The event triggered the Black Hawk War of 1832.
Another version of the story held that one day, after his capture following the Black Hawk War, he was being escorted by Lieutenant Jefferson Davis and managed to escape. While eluding his pursuers, it is said, Black Hawk hid himself among the branches of the tree. This version of the story appeared in the LaCrosse Tribune in 1922; even then, the story noted, there were those who pronounced the tale a "myth."
In reality, the local legend is probably untrue. Most historians believe that while Black Hawk was in Prairie du Chien once, it was not until after the decisive battle of the Black Hawk War at the mouth of the Bad Axe River. By this time, in August 1832, Black Hawk had surrendered to the custody of the Ho-Chunk and could not have hidden in the tree.
Regardless of the veracity of the tale, the tree was unique in a settled area that had few trees and a large population utilizing wood for various purposes. A 1906 article in the Prairie du Chien Union debunked the popular tale, outlining the ownership of the property, the writer's interviews with the subjects, and their assertion that the tree was not planted until at least the 1840s. The same article went on to assert the tree had a right to "importance and honorable mention" because of its namesake and the injustices he faced during the 1832 "war of extermination."
Newspaper accounts stated that visitors purposely passed the tree in automobiles and many stopped to view the tree. By 1922, the once two-trunked tree was reduced to one trunk and was in decline.  During a windstorm in the 1920s, the Black Hawk Tree was destroyed, but even after its death the site continued to be marked. The Black Hawk Tree is, without question, the most well-known tree in the Prairie du Chien area and part of local lore. The Black Hawk Tree, like other trees in Wisconsin such as the Hanerville Oak, was so revered that the road was detoured around it to save it from being cut down.
Even after the tree's destruction, and certainty that the tale is not true, the legend persists. When the tree came down, the road it grew from was renamed from Bluff Street to Black Hawk Avenue.A piece of wood, purportedly from the Black Hawk Tree, hangs in the museum at Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien.


What’s in a Name?

name-tagSpelling Complicates Search for Descendants*

            Searching for descendants of Marianne Labuche has gotten me into the most complicated spelling puzzle of my life.  The grandmother who saved her granddaughter's life was French, but by 1830, the officials who were writing down names were English speakers, so they recorded names the way they thought they were hearing them.  The biggest change I know of, so far anyway, was a family named Gauthier then, now known as Gokey.  But the Gokeys aren't anywhere on the Labuche family tree, so that spelling isn't my problem.
            Depending on where a descendant discovered the name of the grandmother, she would be listed in the records as Mary Ann or Marianne, La Buche or La Bouche.  She was listed as Marianne Labuche when local historian Mary Antoine found the name in the records for her children's baptisms and her marriage to Charles Menard, her third husband.
The grandmother had 13 children, and one of those was Registe Gagnier or Francois Regis. The first spelling showed up in a document about that branch of the family tree provided by Alice DuCharme Kirschbaum, a descendant who lives in Prairie du Chien. This ancestor was the father of Louise, the name used on her baptism and her marriage to her first husband, Amable Moreaux, or Louisa, as some other records list her.
The Mississippi River Sculpture Park Board has decided to rely on the spelling as it shows up on the list provided by Mary Antoine as the most accurate. Here are the names of the 13 children of the first generation, plus the 13 children the injured baby brought into the world with her two husbands after she healed and grew up.
Children of Marianne Labuche
1. Married Duchouquette
Francois Duchouquette
Charles Duchouquette
2. Married Claude Gagnier
Helen born circa 1795
Francois Regis born circa 1796
Claude born circa 1798
Melanie born circa 1800
Adelaide born circa 1800
3. Married Charles Menard 12 May 1817
Julie born 6 April 1805
Margueritte Born 6 April 1805
Charles born 22 February 1807
Louis born 1814
Pascal born about 1815
Children of Marie Louise Gagnier
1. Married Amable Moreaux 5 August 1843
Isadore born 1844
Aurelie born 1846
Caroline born 1847 (Dead by 1855)
Lillian born 1848 (Dead by 1855)
David born 1852
Virginia born 1 September 1853*
Sophia born 1856*
Emilie born 1857
Rosana born 1858*
Esther born 1859*
2. Married Combe Cherrier 1 March 1863
Madeline born 1863
Felix Combe born 1865
Louise born 1869
*In 1870 Federal Census listed with the last name Cherrier
In addition to Francois Regis, we've heard recently from a descendant of his brother Basil. And from the branch that starts with the granddaughter, we've also heard from a descendant of Isadore. If you see a name that sounds familiar, even if the spelling isn't, please let us know at marl@centurytel.net.
--Marilyn Leys

Who was Marianne Labuche Menard?

Modern day writers are not quite sure how her name is spelled; Mary Anne, Maryann, Mary Ann, or Marianne. Maybe that’s why her patients just called her “Aunt Mary Anne”.  (Photo right – from Mississippi River Sculpture Park)

The majority of the earliest settlers of PdC were illiterate and had to make a mark on documents after their names spelled by others. 

Those others did not necessarily know how the French names should be spelled, either spelled them phonetically or Anglicized them. However, if Mademoiselle LaBuche lived in a French community and had a French father, the likelihood is that, no matter how others wrote it later, the name would have been intended as "Marianne". There is no "Mary" in French. It is always "Marie". Marianne is the symbol of France.  (5)

James Lockwood first popularized the name of the woman as "Aunt Mary Ann". Lockwood's native language was English and he lived at Prairie, but most of the others there spoke French in the first part of the 19th Century. They wouldn't have said "aunt", either, but "tante".  (6)

“Aunt Mary Anne”was also noted as a “person of consequence” according to an 1856 pioneer writer who knew her in the nineteenth century(1).  Mary Ann Labuche was the first non-indigenous medical doctor to practice in Wisconsin (2).  Mary Ann was born before 1774 in “one of the villages below”(2), possibly in a village across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  It is likely that the village’s name was Cahokia. Prior to 1720’2 slaves were brought to this village.  Given Mary Ann’s surname it seems that her father, Pierre LaBuche(3), was a French creole from Canada and her mother, Marianne, a slave, from whom she gained her knowledge of the healing art(2).

She had thirteen children by three husbands. And, she was the first person that was sent for by the sick and attended to each one regularly as their physician. Even after the U.S. Army provided a physician at Fort Crawford, civilians preferred “Aunt Mary Anne” as their doctor.

She also charged her patients for her services for giving them “device and yarb to drink”. Reports indicate that she was not modest at all about her charges. She took her pay in the produce of the area. 
Mary Ann’s talents and her use of “Yarbs and drinks” were put to the test on June 26, 1827, when her baby granddaughter was scalped during an Indian attack. She covered her grandaughter’s exposed brain with a silver plate hammered out of a silver dollar.  In time, the skin covered the plate. She lived to be eighty years old.(4)

Mary Ann’s status is indicated by allocating a farm lot in 1820 to a French Canadian man in her life, ‘Charles Menard, for Marianne Labuche Menard his wife”.(2)

“Aunt Mary Anne’s” daughter, Adelaide Limery, followed in her mother’s footsteps as a medical practioneer. (1) Adelaide used roots, barks, berries, and seeds for different ailments. A story goes that when a Prairie du Chien logger was stabbed in a fight that punctured his lungs, the town doctors despaired in curing the logger. Adelaide took the logger home, and with her experience of “yarb and drink” cured him, earning $200 for her efforts.

(1) Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Lucy Murhpy
(2) French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest, Jean Barman
(3) http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=71&p=surnames.gagnier
(4) Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin’s Past, Erika Janik
(5) Marianne Luban
(6) Early Times and Events in Wisconsin, James Lockwood

The Story of Sculpture: From Clay to Bronze*

The earliest known “lost-wax” castings date from the early dynasties of Egypt, nearly 7,000 years ago, when metal was poured into “investments” of fired clay that had been shaped with the help of wax that was melted, or “lost”. Then, sometime between 4,000 and 3,000 B.C., bronze was discovered, probably by accident, as being a metal that was harder than copper or tin alone. Thus began the era known as the Bronze Age.
Ancient “lost-wax” bronze castings have withstood the centuries, visually telling the tale of past cultures, their religions, and their social structures. For example, Chinese bronzes depicted ceremonial images; Indian and Egyptian castings symbolized deities; Africans cast images of nature; and the Greeks recreated the human form.

Many of these cultures have since grown obsolete, their religions have evolved and societies have changed. Elements of the “lost-wax” process have been refined. Yet today, bronze casting is essentially the same as it was in 2,000 B.C. during the Akkadian period.

Bronze is an alloy of 95% copper, 4% silicon and 1% manganese with traces of other elements such as iron. Silicon bronze has been the bronze of choice for fine art castings since its development in the 1920s. It is corrosion-resistant, strong, resilient, formable and weldable. Also known as "hot-cast" bronze, a fine art "lost-wax" casting of silicon bronze is created through many labor-intensive steps. Read more….




What’s the Difference between Sculpture and Statue?*

Statue and Sculpture are two words that are often confused due to the similarity in their meanings. Strictly speaking there is some difference between the two words. A statue is a large sculpture of a person or an animal. It is usually made of stone or any other metal like bronze. On the other hand, a sculpture is a work of art, and it is produced by carving stone or wood or any other material for that matter. This is the main difference between statue and sculpture. Thus, statue can be said to be a subset of sculpture.

DomnateSculpture is a piece of art executed with creativity. On the other hand, the element of creativity is generally not found in the making of a statue. A statue can only be a replica, whereas a sculpture can be a replica and can be even a creative production. Sculpture is a fine art, whereas statue is not an aspect of fine art. (Click on image for information)

Thus, it can be said that a sculpture is a unique piece of art, but a statue cannot be a unique piece of art. It is either same or similar to the person or an animal modeled by which it is made. This is an important difference between the two words.

It is important to know that both sculpture and statue differ in terms of their size as well. The size of a statue has to be big or life-size. On the other hand, a sculpture has no dimension. It can be of any dimension. It can be modern in conception too, whereas, a statue cannot have a modern conception in its making.

A statue thus, is very much likely to look like a person, whereas a sculpture is a creation based on pure imagination and creativity. For example, the sculpture of a religious figure need not look exactly like the figure for that matter. It can be an imaginative creation as well. Since mythological characters were never seen by people, the sculptors use their imagination to a great extent to create their images. Thus, images can be found in religious buildings. These images portray religious or mythological characters in an imaginative way.

Another important difference between sculpture and statue is that sculpture can be exhibited in group shows or one-man shows of the creative artists. On the other hand, statues cannot be exhibited in group shows or one-man shows. In fact, statues are meant for celebrations and worship.

Sculpture too is meant for worship based upon its religious significance. Primarily they are meant for visual enjoyment. Statues are not meant for visual enjoyment. A sculptor enjoys more liberty and freedom when compared to a statue maker. This shows that sculpture is a piece meant for appreciation. It appeals definitely to the human mind. It is important to note that statues can be sometimes bigger than life-size.


*Source: http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-statue-and-vs-sculpture/

  Read more: http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-statue-and-vs-sculpture/#ixzz39c67RvkK

Mississippi Flood Update**


            downloadOn Tuesday, July 8, most of the roads on St. Feriole Island were closed, including the road to the front entrance of the Sculpture Park.  A temporary swimming pool blocked the back entrance to MRSP. 
            The north/south road closest to the Mississippi was open to traffic in both directions, although ordinarily it is a one-way street.  However, according to the Villa Louis bookstore manager, none of the events scheduled for the next two weekends and highlighted in the last "Hidden Treasures" have been canceled or will be canceled unless more heavy rains cause additional flooding.              

            On Saturday, July 12 and Sunday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a walking tour on the island will cover the land at the center of the Battle of Prairie du Chien. Each tour will include a stop at the planned archaeological dig taking place on the lawn of Villa Louis that will be searching for the remains of Fort Shelby and Old Fort Crawford.

            As part of the commemoration of the Battle of 1812 that took place on the island 200 years ago, the Roseville Community Band will play a mix of music from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday night, before the fireworks go off over the river.

For the last 25 years, on the anniversary of the Battle of Prairie du Chien, re-enactors have camped on the island and assembled on the battlefield. This year's battle will be the biggest, taking place on Saturday, July 19 and Sunday, July 20. Canadians will be coming down to take part as the Canadian voyageur militia. Other re-enactors will become American infantrymen and American Indians in the battle. Among the 150 to 200 re-enactors, there will also be non-combatants - women and cooks.

The concert and fireworks on July 12 are free.  To get more information about the admission fees for the other events, go to the Villa Louis website.


**Update from Mailing list for Mississippi River Sculpture park.

When Sculptures Talk– mwnews – Dave Collins Video*

Sculpture_BlackhawkPrairie du Chien, WI - Something special happens when people channel a statue, history comes flooding back in a way that a book can’t convey. A person in costume taking on the persona of a historical figure, telling verbally what it was like for them at that point in history makes it real. Humans are story tellers. We empathize with someone when we meet person to person. The sculpture park in Prairie du Chien on St. Feriole Island had a group of volunteers bring the park’s sculptures of historical figures to life. See video highlights (HD - watch full screen). mwnews.net 

Nearly an estimated 125 people strolled through the Mississippi River Sculpture Park to listen and ask questions of statues come to life.   The event marked the official kickoff of a major fund raising campaign to bring to life the sixth bronze sculpture– Marianne Labuche.

Five life sized sculptures: Black Hawk, Dr. Beaumont and son Israel, Victorian Lady, Julian Coryer - Voyageur, and Emma Big Bear are already installed.

The statues that came to life were:

  • Emma Big Bear
  • Riverboat Captain
  • Marianne Labuche
  • Mastodon Hunter
  • Victorian Lady
  • British Redcoat
  • Chief Blackhawk
  • An archaeologist
  • Father Jacques Marquette
  • Dousman Daughters

The event also marked the introduction of Friends of the Mississippi River Sculpture Park.  Becoming a Friend is a great way to get your family involved and to do as much or as little as you'd like. Additional information can be found here.


HD Video by mwnews – Dave Collins

Photo (by Dave Collins): Todd Crotty portraying Chief Blackhawk.

Become a Friend of Sculpture Park

friends-epplYour participation is welcome in the Friends of the Sculpture Park organization. It's a great way to get your family involved and to do as much or as little as you'd like. Here are some more advantages available only to dues-paying members of the Friends:
  • discounts on future paid events and merchandise
  • thank-you picnic for members only
  • meet the artist special event
  • special announcements

Make out a check to the Mississippi River Sculpture Park with "Friend of the Sculpture Park" on the memo line and send it to
Mississippi River Sculpture Park
PO Box 395
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821

Make a Donation

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the development of the Mississippi River Sculpture Park at Prairie du Chien may make a tax-deductible donation in any amount.
Donations can be by check or credit card. Please make check out to:
Mississippi River Sculpture Park. Each check should be marked on the bottom for Mississippi River Sculpture Park and should be mailed to:
Mississippi River Sculpture Park
PO Box 395
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821

Bronze Plaque
In addition, major contributors ($5,000 or more) will be honored with their name in bronze on a plaque at the site of the sculpture park.
Sponsor a Sculpture
Donors who wish to sponsor an individual piece of sculpture (approx $95,000) will have their name inscribed in bronze on the sculpture and will receive a bronze scale model of that sculpture.
Sponsor a group of Sculptures
If an individual or group wishes to underwrite a whole group of figures for the sculpture park (approx $500,000 includes 5 statues and landscaping) arrangements will be made for a public dedication ceremony and a permanent bronze marker with the donor's name will be installed at the site of the sculpture park.

For more information regarding tax exempt donations please contact:
Dale Klemme dklemme@developmentplanning.net
Community Development Alternatives

Brick Store

A unique gift for that someone who is hard to buy for at the holiday season, or the celebration of the life of someone who has passed. Also, the celebration of an anniversary or in honor of your children or grandchildren - you may wish to make a contribution via an inscription brick.

Click here for The Brick Store Form

Creating a Bronze Sculpture

Sculptor’s Corner – bronze casting It has been suggested that there may be a way to lower the cost of making the life size bronze statues for the Mississippi River Sculpture Park. They are very expensive ranging from $75,000.00 to over $100,000.00 each. I thought it might be helpful to talk about the process that leads to the cost of each statue:
It may not be understood that these are one-of-a-kind works of art made in the tradition of famous museum pieces and other public bronze monuments. They are each made especially for the Mississippi River Sculpture Park in Prairie du Chien, to illustrate the history and prehistory of this area. These statues are not mass produced decorative garden pieces. Each one requires its own separate production process starting with the inspiration of the artist. The whole process takes from 6 to 8 months for each statue. The techniques and tools are similar to ones used for bronze statues of all ages. Each bronze statue will last for thousands of years. Following is a brief outline of the work involved (not including the years of ongoing historical research):

  1. Artist modeling of the original figure about ¼ life size. This is made with fine plasteline clay over sculptor’s armature wire, using special modeling tools.
  2. Production mold made at the art foundry.A special rubber mold, backed by plaster, of the original artist’s model.
  3. Hard copy taken from the production mold.this is usually plaster or resin. It may also be wax for casting a small bronze sculpture.
  4. Shipping hard copy to the enlarging company.currently in California)
  5. Enlarging the figure. The hard copy of the small figure is scanned and enlarged to life size by computer. The enlarged figure is laser cut out of extruded Styrofoam.
  6. Life size Styrofoam figure is cut in pieces, packed and shipped back to the artist’s studio.
  7. The artist reassembles the life size foam figure and covers it with plasteline clay for the final sculpting process.
  8. Final sculpting process by the artist. This is when the detailing of the portrait and character of the figure is completed.
  9. Final life size clay model is returned to the foundry.
  10. At the foundry the figure is sectioned off for piece molds.
  11. Each piece mold is painted inside with sculpture wax. There is a special wax for this purpose. The final wax impression is about ¾ inch thick.
  12. The wax impression is removed from each of the piece molds and attached to wax stilts called sprues. The sprues, in turn, are attached to a baseboard.
  13. Wax pieces on sprues are dipped in ceramic slurry. The wax is dipped and dried several times to ensure an even coating.
  14. Slurry coated wax pieces are placed into a kiln. The wax melts leaving the ceramic mold hollow.
  15. Bronze is melted in a crucible in the furnace.The bronze is melted to about 2,100 degrees f. while the wax is being melted in the kiln.
  16. The clean hot ceramic molds are removed from the kiln and placed upside down in a bed of sand.
  17. The molten bronze is poured into the ceramic molds. The crucible is lifted by special tongs and placed into the pouring bar.
  18. The crucible containing the melted bronze is lifted and carried to the ceramic molds in the bed of sand.
  19. Melted bronze is poured into the ceramic molds.
  20. Ceramic molds are removed from the bronze pieces.
  21. Bronze pieces are sand blasted to remove fire scale.
  22. Bronze pieces are trimmed and welded together to assemble the figure.
  23. The bronze figure is polished and detailed.
  24. Patina is applied to the finished figure.This is a spray with different chemicals used for color.
  25. The finished sculpture is shipped to the Mississippi River Sculpture Park.
This is a complicated process involving several people working many hours, days and weeks. There are also the costs of materials and tools, utilities and overhead. Bronze, for instance, goes up in cost every year. There is the added cost of shipping and insurance and the bronze nameplate installed by the statue. I use Vanguard Sculpture services in Milwaukee. I find it is the best art bronze foundry in the area.
To pay for the sculptures it takes many people contributing small amounts and/or one person or organization contributing one large amount. Most often it is a combination of both of these. The whole process of making and installing a statue takes money, time and effort by many people. It is good to remember that they will stand in place for many generations to come.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about the making of these statues.
Florence Bird, Artist

"Aunt Marianne" Labuche

Currently, The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is raising funds for a bronze statue of "Aunt Mary Anne" Labuche. Fundraising is led by 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteers of Mississippi River Sculpture Park.

Step 1: Small-scale bronze  $6,915- 91% Raised

Step 2: Life-sized Enlarging artwork   $30,859

Step 3: Artwork and Molds $55,481

Step 4: Final Bronze Casting $82,481

Mary Ann Labuche, was the first person to heal the sick in Wisconsin(1). Her patients called her "Aunt Mary Ann". Labuche came up the Mississippi River about 1790.
She married three times and was the mother of fourteen children.
She filled a crucial need in the Wiscosnin frontier with her knowledge of herbs, midwifery, and Native American and folk medicine.
Until a fort was erected in Prairie du Chien, 1816, and a surgeon arrived, she attended the sick and attended to them as a physician, and charged fees.
After the Fort, she continued to practice among the people of Prairie du Chien. Her talents were put to the test on June 26, 1827, when her baby granddaughter was critically injured during an Indian attack. Labuche covered the exposed brain with a silver plate over which the skin healed. The little girls lived to be eighty years old.

(1) Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin's Past (http://goo.gl/ynO2Dh) 

Sculptor's Corner

by Florence Bird
When I am modeling a portrait I like to think of the whole person and how all parts work together. There is a certain stance or gesture which portrays how the legs and arms and body and head all work together to express a personality. Then there are the details of the face and hands, eyebrows, nose, mouth fingers and wrists. Each part is important in relationship to the other parts. All of the parts working together express a whole person. Next time you are looking in the mirror notice how your whole expression changes when you move your eyebrows or mouth or eyes.

When I think of the individual historical figures in the Mississippi River Sculpture Park in Prairie du Chien, I think of them as parts of one whole community portrait. Each figure has integrity as an individual portrait. As other figures are added to the park, each one becomes more than an individual. Each one is in relationship to the other figures and to the central firecircle. An unspoken dialog takes place between the figures. Imagine Victorian Lady in relationship to Black Hawk or Julian Coryer, Voyageur., or Emma Big Bear in relationship to Dr. Beaumont.

As more and more figures come to the park, the dialog between them becomes more complex with more possibilities, just as when more and more people from different places and backgrounds come into a community. The community of Prairie du Chien and the confluence region is unique in its complexity. People with different backgrounds and places of origin have been coming here for millennia. This community history is emerging as a portrait of a crossroads of where people from all corners of the world meet and have been meeting forever.

Each individual historical figure is important individually as well as being a part of the whole story. Just as the portrait of Aunt Marianne Labuche and her grandbaby tell about their personalities and relationship to one another, their addition to the Sculpture Park will help to define the whole story of Prairie du Chien. I look forward to having them in place among the other characters.

Florence Bird - Sculptor

Receiving the inspiration for the sculptures, putting a vision together with my life training as a sculptor, interest in history and ancient lives has collaborated to make the creation of The Mississippi River Sculpture Park an amazing process!
Finding this deep ancient Mississippi valley and learning of the people who have inhabited this area and whose descendants are still calling this beautiful region home has been a great adventure.
Putting this all together to manifest in the form of life size bronze sculptures is beyond my wildest dreams. It really is happening! The adventure is boundless as more people become involved in telling their stories, assisting with the sculptures, landscaping the park grounds, spreading the word about the park and sponsoring individual sculptures.
I shall never find words adequate enough to describe what is happening in the unfolding of this vision. Truly, I am privileged to be the artist for this project. I look forward to the journey that will see completion of a life sized chronicle of the past for many futures to enjoy and discover from.
- Florence Bird, Artist

Florence Bird Studios

Zebulon Montgomery Pike

Zebulon Montgomery Pike, 1779 - 1813 In 1805, Lieutenant Pike and 20 men came from St. Louis to explore the Upper Mississippi River as official representatives of the United States of America. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 had made most of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers' drainage areas the property of the United States. There is debate about when he might have explored "Pikes Peak" in Colorado and when he was on the Iowa side of the Mississippi on the bluffs at what is now called Pikes Peak State Park. Pictured here as he might have been gazing from St. Feriole Island over to the bluffs across the river to "Pikes Peak", Iowa and in the direction of "Pikes Peak", Colorado.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor (1784 - 1850), was known as "old rough and ready". He was an army colonel and the commandant at Ft. Crawford in the 1830s, receiving Black Hawk's surrender at the fort in 1832. Promoted to general during the Florida Seminole uprising, he also distinguished himself in the Mexican War. Consdered a national hero, he was elected the 12th President of the U.S. in 1849, and served for only a year before dying in office.

Minnie Owens

Minnie Owens, 19th C. Minnie Owens (born 1887), performed on the vaudeville circuit with the Kentucky Juvenile Minstrels and was known as Miss Minnie Owens - Wisconsin's Favorite.

Nicholas Perrot

Nicholas Perrot, 18th C. After the French missionaries and explorers opened up the Great Lakes area to trade and settlement, France maintained a military presence there, manning a string of forts with men recruited from France's Canadian territories.

Mound Builder

Mound Builder, 9th to 13th Century Archaeologists continue to discover new earthen mounds along the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. Effigy Mounds National Monument above Marquette, Iowa preserves and educates us about these mysterious prehistoric mounds and the people who built them. Not too far away from the rivers' confluence there is a rock shelter pictograph of legendary people ancestors of our present day Ho-Chunk. Ho-Chunk elder, Chloris Lowe Sr., has drawn a picture of what one of these figures (possibly Red Horn) would look like as a man of that time. This sculpture is based on that drawing. Chloris Lowe Sr., has drawn a picture of what one of these figures (possibly Red Horn) would look like as a man of that time.


Mississippian, 13th, C. This figure is representative of a Mississippian man as he might have appeared at an early rendezvous at Prairie du Chien, coming from the Cahokia area farther south along the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River Boat Captain

Mississippi River Boat Captain, 20th C. Captain William D. Bowell, Sr., owner of the Padelford Packet Boat Company is seen here at the wheel of a riverboat holding a Mississippi River chart showing the channel at Prairie du Chien. He is one of the two most famous present day Mississippi riverboat captains.

Mastadon Hunter

Mastadon Hunter, Circa 10,000 BC Recent archaeological digs have uncovered the bones of mastadons along with spear points, indicating the presence of ice age hunters and mammals in the Prairie du Chien area.

Louis Joliet

Louis Joliet, 17th C. Joliet was a French Canadian explorer, fur trader (and musician), commissioned by King Louis XIV to explore vast areas of the American frontier for France in 1673. Together with Fr. Jacques Marquette, he "discovered" the Mississippi via the Fox and Wisconsin riverways, travelling from the site of present day Green Bay on Lake Michigan to Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi.

John Lawler

Active during 1857 & 1874, Founder of modern day Prairie du Chien bringing the railroad, the pontoon bridge, St. Mary's and Campion.

Judith and Nina Dousman

The younger daughters of Nina and Hercule Dousman, shown as if they were coming from Villa Louis to join the picnic at the sculpture park.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis (1808 - 1889) was a young army lieutenant, a graduate of West Point, stationed at Ft. Crawford. It was Davis who escorted Black Hawk to St. Louis, by river, after his surrender in 1832 at Prairie du Chien. Davis later married Zachary Taylor's daughter, served as a U.S. Senator and was the U.S. Secretary of War under President Pierce before becoming the President of the Confederacy in 1861 during the Civil War.

Father Samuel Mazzuchelli

Father Mazzuchelli, born November 4, 1806 is known in the tristate area for establishing more than 35 parish communities, designing and building more than 24 churches, and founding the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. John Paul II declared him "Venerable", the first step to saint-hood. Fr. Mazzuchelli's life and example continue to have meaning for people today. His commitment to justices for the oppressed, education, and responsible civic participation are relevant values for our time. Fr. Mazzuchelli was the architect for St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Prairie du Chien.

Father Jacques Marquette

Father Jacques Marquette, 17th C. French Jesuit Jacques Marquette (1637 - 1675), able to speak six of the "Indian" languages, was a missionary and explorer who accompanied Louis Joliet on the 1673 expedition commissioned by the French King. They explored the Great Lakes area reaching the Mississippi, thus opening the area to French fur trading and settlement.

Chippewa Woman

Chippewa Woman (Circa 1890)
These woodland people called themselves Anishinabeg, "people", but the colonists called them Ojibwe or Chippewa, referring to those who spoke a form of the Algonquian language. They are still occupying reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Tribal Elder Women like this woman are esteemed for their great wisdom.

Chief Waapasha

Waapasha's name eventually was popularized into Wabasha. He held a balance of power in the West during the last years of the revolution when the British tried to incite an Indian border war to divert some of Washington's troops. Wabasha successfully juggled both sides until peace arrived, then calmly claimed presents from both the British and Americans for not declaring war. General Henry Whiting in 1820 described him as "a small man with a patch over one eye, but who walked about with the air of an ancient king.


Present day Chief Clayton Winneshiek is a great grand nephew of Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Chief Winneshiek who was one of the 19th century treaty signers in Prairie du Chien.

Chief Shin Ga Bo Wassin, Chippewa (Ojibwa) 1763 - 1828

Chief Shin Ga Bo Wassin, Chippewa (Ojibwa) 1763 - 1828 From the History Department of The Bay Mills Indian Community we learn: "The Saint Mary's River is the earliest permanent location for the Ojibwa peoples......Spring and Fall fishing brought all the bands together. The ruling clan was the Crane Clan. Chief Shingabawasin (Spirit Stone) received his chieftainship from his father and from his father before him......He was the First Chief of the band of St. Mary's and was one of the most respected and influential men in the Ojibwa nation. He signed the Treaty of 1820. This was the first treaty made with the United States in this area. He also signed the Treaty of Limits at Prairie du Chien in 1825, and the Treaty at Fond du Lac on August 5, 1826. He died in 1828."

British Redcoat,War of 1812

The war of 1812 battle that took place at Prairie du Chien was won by the British, but the Americans eventually won the war. When the British left the area they destroyed their fort, then called Ft. McKay. The Americans rebuilt it in 1816 naming it Ft. Crawford after the U.S. Secretary of War.

"Aunt Marianne" Labuche

18th & 19th century, Prairie Du Chien's first Physician rescued and nursed her granddaughter, baby Louise Gagnier who had been scalped and left for dead.
Marianne Labuche, was the first person to heal the sick in Wisconsin(1). Her patients called her "Aunt Marianne". Labuche came up the Mississippi River about 1790.
She married three times and was the mother of fourteen children.
She filled a crucial need in the Wisconsin frontier with her knowledge of herbs, midwifery, and Native American and folk medicine.
Until a fort was erected in Prairie du Chien, 1816, and a surgeon arrived, she attended the sick and attended to them as a physician, and charged fees.
After the Fort, she continued to practice among the people of Prairie du Chien. Her talents were put to the test on June 26, 1827, when her baby granddaughter was scalped during an Indian attack. Labuche covered the exposed brain with a silver plate over which the skin healed. The little girls lived to be eighty years old. (Click here to download the Story of Red Bird - Prairie du Chien Public Library archives.)

(1) Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin's Past (http://goo.gl/ynO2Dh)

#5 - Emma Big Bear

After her relatives left for the reservation in Wisconsin, Emma Big Bear Holt stayed by her beloved Mississippi River, making beautiful baskets and jewelry for a living. She is a direct descendant of Chief Decorah of the Winnebago which are now called Ho-Chunk. Part of her home is still preserved at The Winery in Marquette, Iowa. (Dedicated July 16, 2011)

#4 - Voyageur, 17th and 18th Cs.

Voyageurs were men hired especially to paddle the canoes and work on the long river trips that the fur traders, explorers and missionaries undertook. Most of these men were French Canadians, many of them familiar with the river ways and the frontier.
Julian Coryer, great great great grandfather of our sponsor, Patrick Leamy traveled as a voyageur for the Hudson Bay Company from New England through the great lakes and on the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to Prairie du Chien, down the Mississippi River, up the Missouri River and finally back to settle in Prairie du Chien during the early part of the 19th century. (Dedicated May 30, 2009)

#3 - Victorian Lady, 19th C.

This Victorian woman's clothing, circa 1894, was known as a "tailor suit" and was considered appropriate for an active woman. It consisted of a one-piece bodice with large leg-o-mutton sleeves. Typically made from dark wool broadcloth, the bodice front and collar were often made of silk.  (Dedicated November 4, 2006)

#2 - Dr. William Beaumont and son Israel, 19th C.

Dr. Beaumont (1785-1853) was a famous pioneer of medical physiology. His extensive experiments on one man, Alexis St. Martin, formed the basis for much of our knowledge of the human digestive system. He served as the Army surgeon at Ft. Crawford during the 1820s and 1830s, the era of the Black Hawk War. (Dedicated June 10, 2006) 

#1 - Black Hawk, Chief, 19th C.

Black Hawk (Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, Black Sparrow Hawk, 1767-1838), a Sauk war chief, led a faction of Sauk and Fox in 1832 to defend their ancestral lands that had been ceded to the U.S. in an 1804 treaty. This action resulted in the Black Hawk War which ended with the Battle of Bad Axe near Prairie du Chien. Black Hawk escaped but surrendered at Ft. Crawford a few weeks later in August 1832.  (Dedicated October 8, 2005)

Inscription Brick

Fire Circle Paver

They say that in order to create lasting memories, you must first pave the way. Each life-sized bronze sculpture in the Mississippi River Sculpture Park at St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien, WI, are created to tell a story. All of the historical sculptures have been visitors of the Prairie du Chien area. Each bronze sculpture was created by master sculpture Florence Bird. You, too, can help to preserve these stories in the hearts and minds of future generations. You have the unique opportunity to create a lasting tribute. Pave the way with a commemorative paving brick,.The individualized inscription on each brick can honor your children or grandchildren, an anniversary, or in memory of a loved one. The lines of personalized text vary with the size of the brick. The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is a city-owned park and open, free of charge, year round... The paving stone is placed around the Central Fire Circle. One line permanent inscription. $75.00 Cash or Check.