Waupun Should Do More to Honor Edwin Hillyer — Opinion

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Last week I participated in a history program on library and museum history in Waupun. Hosted by the Waupun Historical Society and held at the Waupun Public Library, the event garnered a great showing and an active audience with great questions. 

For that, I would like to thank Zac Dickhut and Tracie Nichols for putting on the presentation and for inviting me to participate. I’d also like to thank Mayor Rohn Bishop, Alderman Dan Siebers, Library Director Bret Jaeger, Assistant Library Director Pam Garcia, and the Library Board members for attending the program. 

In the presentation I spoke on the early library history, with a heavy focus on the library’s primary founder and sole librarian, Edwin Hillyer. Those who have followed this page for a while may have read my previous article on Hillyer, which I titled “Waupun’s Unsung Hero,” where I shared his part of Waupun’s history.

Hillyer was involved in all manner of civic life in early Waupun. In short, he was involved in the establishment and early times of several banks and insurance companies, the railroad, the prison, the Forest Mound Cemetery, and most pertinently, the Waupun Library Association. 

From the establishment of the Waupun Library Association in 1858 to the City’s acquisition in 1895, Edwin Hillyer served as Waupun’s sole librarian for 37 years. For his work he went unpaid, believing that the service was too valuable to the community to give up even suffering great financial losses. 

After turning his collection over to the City’s new Library Board—the same still in existence today—he served on the board for the remainder of his life, who in his honor named the library “The Hillyer Library.” It was also during this time that he was able to witness the construction of the Waupun Carnegie Library in 1905, which now serves as the Waupun Heritage Museum. 

In the week following the grand opening of the Waupun Carnegie Library, the Waupun Leader-News ran an article written by Lucius Dwight Hinkley, one of the directors of the Waupun Public Library, a history on the Library Association and Edwin Hillyer’s efforts to building and maintaining the library. 

“It is but justice to say that from the outset Mr. Hillyer was the moving spirit in the establishment and maintenance of the library,” wrote Hinkely. “It is hardly too much to say, that it is doubtful if all the other people of the town contributed an equal amount of time, energy and money. It is a question whether the town would now be in possession of a library, but for his efforts.”

The article was published November 1st, 1905, and there is no doubt in my mind that this statement is no less true today than it was over one hundred years ago when it was written. It is this very quote that inspired my interest in Hillyer’s importance to the community, and my firm belief that he should be honored among the “greats” of Waupun. 

While Hillyer was involved in the establishment of several Waupun industries and associations still in existence today, his legacy is most felt in the Waupun Public Library. And it is there that he should be most honored. 

I would like to see the Waupun Public Library rename one of their rooms to “The Hillyer Room,” and to place a plaque somewhere in the building describing his great efforts to establish the Library Association from which the current Library traces its roots.

It is about this very matter that I will be addressing the Waupun City Council at their next meeting, to discuss Hillyer’s importance to the history of Waupun, and to honor his legacy to our community. 

Thank you,
Jaedon Buchholz

Edwin Hillyer, 1898