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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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LOST AND FOUND--In 1911, Mary (Lindquist) Miller graduated from Peshtigo High School, and the event was formalized with diplomas signed by then-Principal George Michael Murphy. In 2001, the diplomas were found by in a dumpster when the Steenberg Homes office in Marinette was being moved. On Aug. 18, Lindquist’s nieces, Mary R. (Lindquist) Wolcanski, left, of Schacht Road, Peshtigo, and her sister, Alice (Lindquist) McDonald mailed the diplomas to Miller’s daughter, Jean (Miller) Mays, in Fort Smith, Ark.

Epic Journey Ends For Old Diplomas

Diplomas earned by Edna Lindquist in Peshtigo over 100 years ago are finally back with her descendants, thanks to a bit of dumpster diving and some old fashioned sleuthing started by Ruby Griffin in 2001. The saga of the diplomas ended on Monday, Aug. 18, when Lindquist relatives Mary (Lindquist) Wolcanski and her sister Alice (Lindquist) McDonald packed them carefully and sent them to Edna’s daughter, Jean (Miller) Mays, in Fort Smith, Ark.

Modern technology like e-mails, computers and cell phones entered the education, but in the end it was good old fashioned print communication and one-on-one helpfulness that got the job done.

It all started when Edna Lindquist graduated from Peshtigo Elementary School in 1907, and Peshtigo High School in 1911. The high school diploma was signed by George Michael Murphy, Peshtigo High School Principal, on June 1, 1911.

Edna Lindquist, who had been born and raised in Peshtigo, went on to become a certified teacher. In 1915 she became the second teacher ever at Shanebrook School, which at the time was located across from the old Steininger Farm in rural Middle Inlet. There were eight grades in the one-room school. According to old reunion accounts, some of the pupils in that first year were bigger than Edna, and she wasn’t much older than some of them. She taught there many years and eventually married George Miller and raised a family. After retiring they moved to Irving, Tex.

The Shanebrook School building was moved to “downtown” Middle Inlet in 1953 and burned in the spring of 1958.

What happened to the diplomas in between remains a mystery, but they were next seen in February of 2001 by Griffin and her friend , Wanda Watkins, previous manager of Steenberg Homes. Steenberg Homes was moving out of its office in Marinette, and the duo made a stop at the office to clear out some things before it closed down.

The women noticed numerous items in a dumpster behind the office. Griffin says being of a frugal nature and coming from a poor family, she decided to check the dumpster contents out of curiosity. There might be something useful. She noticed a cardboard roll, similar to one that blueprints would be stored in. With Watkins assisting, Griffin managed to retrieve the cardboard container. Inside, rolled up, were the then-90 year old diplomas.

Griffin said she has always been interested in genealogy, family history, memorabilia, etc., and decided to keep them. She felt someone had to be missing them, or at least there would be family members who would like them back someday.

Fast forward 13 years. Griffin went through many moves herself during that interim, and now lives in Black River Falls. But she kept the diplomas safe. On July 12, 2014 she went to Tomah for her own class reunion. There she met her old friend, Annie Rehberg, now of Peshtigo, and told her about the find. She had taken the diplomas with her to show Rehberg and see if she could help find members of the Lindquist family.

Rehberg started her own quest to find Lindquist family members. Among her efforts was sending a letter to the editor to the Peshtigo Times asking if anyone knew an Edna Lindquist or members of her family.

Mary R. (Lindquist) Wolcanski of Schacht Road, Marinette, responded. “She had what we were looking for,” Wolcanski said. Edna was her aunt. Mary hasn’t e-mail or computer access, and there was no phone number to contact in the letter. With the help of Peshtigo Times receptionist Lynette Brosig, she managed to advise Rehberg and Griffin that Edna was an aunt of hers and her sister, Alice McDonald, who lives in Park Manor in Peshtigo. They contacted Edna’s daughter, Jean (Miller) Mays, now 93. She was indeed interested in the diplomas, and on Monday, Aug. 18, Wolcanski sent the documents to her home in Fort Smith, Ark. After 103 years, the diplomas are back in the family of the lady who earned them.


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