History: Fort Crawford D.A.R.

The Fort Crawford Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was organized on January 11, 1917 at the home of Mrs. J. S. (Ona) Earll of Prairie du Chien. The name "Fort Crawford Chapter" was the unanimous choice of the members in honor of what they believed was the most important historic site in the northwest. There were eleven charter members, five were from Prairie du Chien, others were from Crawford and Grant Counties and Rochester and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Within three months of the organization of the chapter, the United States entered World War I. The Fort Crawford Chapter organized a Red Cross Association, and after several hundred members were enrolled, the association organized as the Crawford County Chapter of the American Red Cross. The Chapter was involved in many activities and maintained the service flag and roster of all soldiers, sailors, and nurses enlisted from Prairie du Chien.

At a meeting of the Chapter on 13 December 1921, there was a discussion about the fact that the property on which the remains of the Fort Crawford Hospital stood might be subdivided into building lots. So the Chapter purchased the two lots and a portion of a third lot to preserve the remains of the Hospital. The cost was $1,250.00. The Chapter made a down payment of $500.00. By soliciting donations, giving parties, selling soap, vanilla, flour, and other articles, the Chapter raised the remaining $750.00. It took them almost four years and December 1925 the Fort Crawford Chapter of the DAR became the owners of the Hospital ruins.

The effort to raise funds proved difficult as the United States was in a depression. But help came through the relief programs begun by President Roosevelt. In November 1933, the City of Prairie du Chien received a grant from the Civil Works Administration (this was replaced by the Works Progress Administration WPA in 1934). Of the grant, $7,261.00 was earmarked to restore the Fort Crawford Hospital. A crew of twenty was hired, and William Steiner was the chief stonemason and put in charge of the men. Copies of the original plans for the construction of the Hospital were procured from the War Department and work began.

The membership of the Fort Crawford Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has always been small. Chapter records indicate that the membership never numbered more than 25. So the ladies worked hard. They located and saved parts of the building, which were then placed in the structure when it was restored. They raised money dollar by dollar.

Funds from the CWA were not to be used on private property, so the Fort Crawford Chapter of the DAR passed a resolution on January 8, 1934. In the resolution, the Chapter gave the Fort Crawford Hospital property to the City of Prairie du Chien on the condition it was to be “forever maintained and used solely for the use and benefit of the entire public as a historical landmark and memorial.” The City then leased the property to the Chapter for $1.00 a year with a 99-year lease.

In 1943, the Chapter requested that the City of Prairie du Chien convey the Fort Crawford Hospital property to the Dr. William Beaumont Memorial Foundation. The Foundation held the property until they sold it for $1.00 in 1956 to the Charitable, Educational, and Scientific Foundation of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. The Medical Society of Wisconsin deeded the Fort Crawford Hospital, the Medical Museum, and all of the collections to the Prairie du Chien Historical Society in 1996.

The Fort Crawford Chapter has maintained a connection to the Hospital. The members meet each spring at the Fort Crawford Museum. In 2012, the Chapter donated funds to purchase historic reproduction fabric. From the fabric, Patricia Miller, a Museum volunteer, made two dresses. One dress is an 1835 afternoon dress in a style that would have been worn by Mrs. Zachary (Margaret) Taylor, when Col. Taylor was commandant at Fort Crawford. The other is an 1840 day dress in a style that would have been worn by Mrs. William (Deborah) Beaumont when the family lived in St. Louis. Both of the dresses are made of a cotton print produced by Windham Fabrics. The fabrics are the Hanna Wallis prints produced in association with the Daughters of the American Revolution. The dresses are on display in the Fort Crawford Hospital.

A postcard shows the ruins of Fort Crawford around 1910.