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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Receive Awards-Robert (Cubby) Couvillion, Peshtigo's 93-year-old historian/archaeologist was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the People of Marinette County in a ceremony at his home on Thursday, Sept. 20. Couvillion was presented with a plaque from the Wisconsin Historical Society by Representative Jeff Mursau. Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke, made the presentation of the People of Marinette County award. Pictured left to right; Mayor Cathi Malke, Pat Couvillion, Robert (Cubby) Couvillion, Rep. Jeff Mursau and Ron Strojny.

Cubby Couvilion Honored For Contributions To History

Issue Date: September 27, 2018

At age 93, long-time Peshtigo Historical Society Charter Member, Robert (Cubby) Couvillion is old enough to be able to recount a bit of history from first-hand recollections. However, he does not rest on that, nor on his own past achievements. An avid history student for his entire life, Couvilion remains an active and interested member of the group he helped found back in 1961, and continues his efforts to quite literally dig up new information and old artifacts important to local history.

Couvillion's work has unearthed and preserved much about the before, after and during the Peshtigo Fire on Oct. 8, 1871 and about the Native Americans (mainly Menominee Indians) who occupied this land long before the first white men arrived to trap furs and harvest timber.

In a ceremony at his home on Thursday, Sept. 20, Peshtigo's ageless historian/archaeologist was honored with lifetime achievement awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and from the People of Marinette County.

The Wisconsin Historical Society award was presented by State Representative Jeff Mursau of Crivitz, who is chairman of State Tribal Relations Committee in the Wisconsin Assembly.

The certificate of recognition read: "The Wisconsin Historical Society hereby extends its gratitude to Mr. Robert Couvillion, for his successful efforts to recover and honor remains of an unknown woman found along the banks of the Peshtigo River. Mr. Couvillion is hereby recognized for his efforts and for his dedication to the history and heritage of the peoples of Northeastern Wisconsin."

The certificate was signed by Christian Overland, who is the current Ruth and Hartley Barker Director (Executive Director) of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke presented Couvilion with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Archaeology on behalf of the residents of Marinette County. Wording on that plaque reads, "Presented to Robert J. Couvillion in recognition of your pursuit of human knowledge through archaeology and related disciplines, for outstanding professional archaeological work consistently of the highest standard, for exceptional contributions of local historical events through archaeology including the 1965 excavation of Menominee Indian remains and artifacts registered in the Wisconsin State Historical Archaeological Department as MT005/BMT-0082, the Old Shipyard Village and Cemetery. Your practice of historical archaeology through education has earned you this acclaim as you strive to bridge the gap of our past, present and future." It is signed, "With Appreciation of the citizens of Marinette County."

Cubby, as he is known around Peshtigo, is a well known local figure, and commonly recognized as he person to go to if you want know something about how Peshtigo began. He is one of the few remaining charter members of the Peshtigo Historical Society, which he helped found in 1961.

Couvillion said for his entire life he has always had a love for history and read whatever he could about it, particularly history of the Peshtigo area.

The knowledge he had collected was called upon in 1965, when then Marinette County Sheriff Donald A. Witt was called to investigate a human skeleton found by duck hunters Bill Leafe and Clarence Mogenson of Marinette along the banks of the Peshtigo River near County BB near Peshtigo.

Couvillion, who already was recognized as a collector of Indian artifacts and student of local and Indian history, was able to verify that the remains were those of an Indian, and that a clay pot and some beads discovered at the same spot were of Indian origin. Further investigation showed the remains were those of a female buried sometime between 1825 and 1850, he said.

Through Couvillion's help it was determined that the Indian woman was buried sometime before 1850 because a lumber mill was built later on the site where the remains were found and company officials did not allow Indian burials in the area. Her cause of death is not known for sure but could have been caused by a skull fracture, Couvillion said.

He added that the approximately 30 acre area where the remains were discovered was the site of an Indian village that could have been home to over 1,000 members of the tribe in its heyday.

Remains of the Indian maiden were eventually laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery in Peshtigo. Helen Borths, who was a sexton at the cemetery, later purchased a headstone that now marks the spot where she is buried.

Cubby Couvillion's first word was "wow" when asked how he felt about the awards he was about to receive, and added that he never expected anything like this to happen to him. His good friend Ron Strojny, also a long-time member of the Peshtigo Historical Society, was on hand to help celebrate the honors being presented to Cubby. Both are considered historians for the City of Peshtigo.

Couvillion credits Bob Hruska of Oshkosh with giving him the training he needed, and then the opportunity to find Indian artifacts. They were on several digs together. Couvillion said he learned a lot from Hruska, but added, "I enjoyed archaeology but my true love is learning about the history of Peshtigo...That is my passion!"

He went on to say the word "Usa ke'wik," which in the Menominee language means "village near the mouth of the river", was the original name of what today is Peshtigo.

Couvilion was involved in many organizations during his busy life. He served many years as head of the Marinette Logging Museum, and served as president of the Peshtigo Historical Society for many years taking over from Omer Fritz. He continues to be an active member of the Peshtigo and Marinette Historical societies today.

Couvilion was born in Menominee Mi., at St. Joseph Lloyd Hospital in 1926. He graduated from Peshtigo High School in 1943. He was drafted into the Navy during World War ll and served until June of 1946. He fought in the battle of Okinawa in 1945 and served on an LCT. After the war he came back to Peshtigo and landed a job at the Peshtigo Post Office where he remained for 38 years.

Cubby married his wife, Pat Donovan in 1951 and the couple have four children: David, now of Montana; Susie, now living in Neenah; Cole, who lives in Wausaukee, and John, now of San Diego, Calif.

Summing up his reaction to the awards that had just been presented to him, Couvilion declared, "reading about history and archaeology have been my passion. I am happy to now be a part of the history of Peshtigo!"


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