Wisconsin History Takes Center Stage in Howard
HOWARD, Wis. -- I'm sure everyone who has studied Wisconsin state state history knows about the early French Canadian settlers in the Green Bay area.
Most of the information is only found in books or public museums, but there is one gentleman who will be more than happy to provide a first hand look at life of the early settlers, from his historic home overlooking Duck Creek in Howard.
Even at 94 years old, Les Rentmeester can remember every detail from his days as a dashing bomber pilot over Germany, especially one day when Nazi fighters took him head on.
Lester Rentmeester/historian: There must have been about nine of them...came through our formation, and i think I must have got about....I must have got about 8-9-10, 13-millimeter cannon shells...if I could have reached out I could have reached out I could have touched one of them German planes it came right over the top of me upside down, but we made it back home ok.
Maino: Once home they found an unexploded shell that had gone through his jacket and into his seat, he kept it for a souvenir. if it had exploded?
Les: I would be two people, upper half and lower half....
Maino: But these days there's a different history Les is more interested in talking about...that of his house.
Les: It was my wife's house, she was born here.
Maino: As were her ancestors, going back to 1826, making this the oldest home to be continually lived in in the state of Wisconsin. The history is endless, such as the day a soldier living here murdered his officer for cutting his whiskey ration.
Les: He waited outside the window, and then he shot him in the back and then he died after 3-4 hours.
Maino: And that happened right here?
Maino: Enter his hand built museum and the history comes alive, from antique pistols,
Les: the stage coach was robbed one time sao the boss man Mr Louis Rioux bought these for his drivers, they are 28 or 32 caliber,
Maino: to unique leather boxes
Les: these were dated by the New York historical society as 1819.
Maino: 1819, this box...yeah
Maino : to the possible precursor of the beer can.
Maino: this was a bottle of beer? That's a pretty stout bottle of beer,...it would keep it nice and cold.
Maino : for years Les' wife's ancestors ran the Duck Creek Quarry, then known as Riviera Oh Kindard, hard looking men who mined the earth for stone shipped around the world. With very famous Green Bay names seen here.
Les: Those are Duck Creek names, alot of those names are still here.
Maino: Where did the passion come from, to preserve this, the history?
Les, I love the history, my wife's folks, they were such remarkable people, French Canadian, happy, always happy, I just like the place you know, my wife was really the determining factor.
Maino: Do you feel that this is kind of like a tribute to your wife and her family...?
If you would like a tour of Les' museum, contact the Howard Historical Society.