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Capital House

Madison Capital House (1853 ca.)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-11329

Pioneer Festival, 1856

The first reunion of the pioneers of Wisconsin - defined as those who had settled in Wisconsin before July 6, 1836 - occurred in Madison on February 13, 1856. Held at the Capital House on the Square, it attracted some of the most illustrious names in early Wisconsin history. President of the day was Madison founder and former territorial governor James Duane Doty; the vice presidents were Ebenezer Brigham, Dane County’s first white settler; Charles Dunn, first chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court; Solomon Juneau, fur trader and a founder of Milwaukee; Henry Baird, territorial politician and important early Green Bay lawyer; and Augustus A. Bird, a Madison mayor and Capitol commissioner who had erected the first statehouse. The orator was Harlow Orton, another future Madison mayor.

The pioneers fell in behind the Madison Band in front of the U. S. Hotel and followed it to the Assembly chamber. The chamber, the lobby, and the gallery of the Capitol were all crowded. There were numerous speakers, including Moses Strong, noted for, among other things, his drinking. There was “considerable laughter” at one point when Strong paused in the middle of his speech and a gentleman offered him a glass of water; Strong replied “Thank you sir. I don’t use water much.”

After the speeches concluded, eighty participants sat down to dinner at the Capital House, then went on to the National Theatre to see The Wonderful Woman and The Old and the New.

The bill of fare at the Pioneers Festival and Union of the Old Settlers of Wisconsin would likely cause those who promote today’s Madison as a healthy and fit city to shudder. It consisted of eleven separate categories of food.

Soup: French white.

Fish: baked Mackinaw trout with brown sauce.

Boiled dishes: corned beef, leg of mutton with turnip sauce, pig’s jole, salt pork with carrots, beef tongue.

Roast dishes: sirloin of beef, loin of Southdown mutton, rib of beef, spring lamb, spare rib of pork with applesauce, young pig stuffed with fine herbs, turkey with giblet sauce.

Cold dishes: cold pressed spiced corned beef, beef a la mode.

Game: saddle of venison with game sauce.

Side dishes: vermicelli cake baked in forms and flavored with lemon, mutton cutlets in Navarino sauce in Capital style, old fashioned New England style baked pork and beans, porterhouse steak with fried onions, venison steak broiled with cranberry jelly, macaroni with Parmesan cheese, pigs feet with St. Menchauld sauce, stewed tripe with fine herbs Cincinnati style, apples dressed with rice with Madeira wine sauce, filet of beef with olives, tenderloin of pork with Robert sauce piquant.

Relishes: pickled beets, pickled cucumbers, pickles.

Vegetables: boiled potatoes, onions, mashed potatoes, baked potato balls, boiled rice, mashed turnips, whole onions browned, sliced and stewed beets, carrots, browned parsnips.

Pastry and puddings: baked rice pudding with brandy sauce, tapioca pudding with cold sauce, mince pie, apple pie, peach pie, green apple pie.

Dessert: almonds, raisins, apples, cake, fancy cake, fruit, rose blanc mange, lemon blanc mange, variegated blanc mange, ladies’ kisses.

Mark Gajewski