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.

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.