Diane & Bob

Diane and Bob's Wedding - June 29, 2002
 

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Pauquette Park

This 8.8 acre park is the most picturesque park in Portage, Wisconsin. It is located at the west entrance of Portage at W. Connant Street and Highway 33.

This park bears the name of Pierre Pauquette, a famous fur trader and translator for the French and Indians. Pauquette operated a ferry from 1828-1857 and a marker is located near the "Pauquette Park" sign on the north side of the bridge. This park has two shelters, electricity and water at both shelters, picnic tables, cooking grills, basketball court, band gazebo, play equipment, skating and fishing pond, flower gardens and walking path. A bridal arch is located on the east side of the park, which was erected when a couple on their honeymoon missed the turn and drowned in the pond. Pulitzer Prize winner, Zona Gale, wrote the short story "Bridal Pond" in memory of the couple.

It was named for Pierre Pauquette, whose place in Portage's story goes back to fur trade days. Pauquette, whose father was French and mother Winnebago, came here in 1824 and operated a ferry service across the Wisconsin River at what is now the Highway 33 bridge. Pauquette was said to be as strong as an ox, so much so that if an actual ox broke down while hauling a wagon onto the ferry, he would grab the yoke himself and finish the job.

He also served as interpreter when the territorial governor, Henry Dodge, arrived to negotiate with the Winnebagos for their land. Dodge was said to have been suspicious that Pauquette took the Indian side in the talks, and maybe he did, because the meeting ended without the Winnebagos giving up their land.

That night, Pauquette went to Satterlee Clark's store to celebrate the outcome but overdid the wine just a bit. On his way home he got into a quarrel with an Indian named Iron Walker and - this was probably the wine talking - slapped him. Iron Walker retaliated by shooting and killing Pauquette. It's a tough way to get a park named for you but it surely makes for a good story.

The pond in the park - Bridal Pond
In 1927, John A. Pirkl and Hazel Ferguson, who had married that morning in Marshall, in Dane County, were passing through on their way to a Minnesota honeymoon. Driving in a heavy fog, however, they missed the curve at the edge of the park and drove over a 10-foot bank into what was then known as Armstrong's Clay Hole.

Their bodies were found the next day by highway workers, Pirkl's hands still gripping the steering wheel.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Portage writer Zona Gale later used the incident as the basis for a short story called "Bridal Pond" ("And all about them on the sides and back of the car were gay ribbon streamers, white and pink, and lettering said, 'Yes, we're just married.' And such signs were also posted on paper, and from the car was dangling a water-soaked old shoe."). Many retellings through the years have, as well, kept the tragic romantic tale alive.

Four years ago, their surviving nieces and nephews held a memorial service in the park on what would have been the 70th anniversary of this couple that never knew a wedding night.