There is no doubt that the Milwaukee River is important to Ozaukee County. Named for the big City of Milwaukee, the 104 mile long Milwaukee River begins in Fond du Lac County and runs south until it meets first the Menomonee River and then the Kinnickinnic River, just before it empties into Lake Michigan underneath the Hoan Bridge. Besides Port Washington and Belgium, every community in Ozaukee County has been shaped by the Milwaukee River, as even Cedar Creek in Cedarburg is a tributary, but perhaps none are as important as the Village of Saukville.
Long before Wisconsin became a Sate, there were two major trails used by Native American tribes which became known as the Old Decorah Road and the Old Green Bay Road (The fascinating history of where the name Decorah comes from can be found in this document). The Old Decorah Road runs east to west and, today, is known as Highway 33, while the Old Green Bay Road ran north to south between Green Bay and Chicago. These two ancient trails intersected near a unique bend in the Milwaukee River, known today as Peninsula Park in Saukville, and this intersection was known as "the crossroads." It was a place where both Native Americans and Wisconsin's earliest European settlers gathered, particularly during the Fur Trade Era, when the network of lakes and rivers were the highways of the day.
Between 1991 and 2006, the Saukville Historical Society celebrated the history of this important place at an event called the Crossroads Rendezvous. In 2018, with fresh organizers and historical reenactors, Mary Boyle and Sara Dahmen, at the helm, the event made a triumphant return to Peninsula Park after over a decade, and then again in 2019, with a strong focus on the Fur Trade Era in Wisconsin and the importance of the Crossroads to Saukville, Ozaukee County, and the State of Wisconsin. The organizers also worked in a collaboration with Riveredge Nature Center, whose Community Rivers Program has been working hard to bring the community together to help improve the health and quality of the Milwaukee River.
"The Community Rivers Program is the link between what we're doing to teach people about the past and to connect it directly to the present," said Mary Boyle, Crossroads Co-Organizer. "Our School Day, which is always the Friday of our event, is one of the only ones I've ever attended that had non-reenactors participating in this way, but we thought it was a perfect fit and a great opportunity to collaborate with other local non-profits, which is really important to us."
Unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to the return of the Crossroads Rendezvous in both 2020 and 2021, as it did to so many other events, but the organizers did not want it to be gone for so long that people thought it was forgotten so, in lieu of the large event, a smaller one was created that would help bring awareness to what the Saukville Historical Society and Riveredge Nature Center brings to the community, as well as what the Crossroads Rendezvous and the Community Rivers Program is all about, called River History Day.
Coming up on Saturday, October 16th from 10-3 at the Crossroads Museum (the home of the Saukville Historical Society), River History Day will offer a small taste of what these organizations have to offer, including:
Participants will also have a chance to submit ideas for a future mural to be painted on the newer addition to the Crossroads Museum which will showcase a timeline of Saukville's history. Organizers hope that, besides being a fun and family-friendly event, members of the community will be inspired to get involved.
"The members [of the Saukville Historical Society] have been at this a long time, and we need new people to keep it going," said SHS President Anne Kertscher. "So many people don't even realize we're here and what we bring to the community, but hopefully this will be a great way to introduce ourselves. Consider this your invitation!"
The Crossroads Museum is located at 200 N. Mill St. in Saukville. There is ample street parking, as well as public parking at nearby Grady Park and Saukville Elementary School. River History Day is made possible by a Tourism Grant awarded by the Saukville Chamber of Commerce. For more information, please contact Mary Boyle at info@Crossroads Rendezvous.org.