Former Mayor honored
On Saturday May 4, Council Grounds State Park will celebrate its 75th Anniversary with several events, including a Candlelight Walk and a ceremony honoring Dr. A.R. Wittman.
Few persons today are aware that we owe that beautiful park to the efforts of Dr. Wittman, who, as mayor of Merrill, in 1924 persuaded the city fathers to purchase that land and create a park. Until the state acquired it in 1938, it was known as Wildwood Park and was part of the city park system. Mayor Wittman himself proudly named Merrill the “City of Parks.”
His contributions to Merrill were many and included civic improvements as well as dedicated medical services. An editorial in the Merrill Daily Herald at the time of his death in January 1939 spoke of his “indomitable public spiritedness” as well as the fact that “he was always ready – day or night, in good weather and bad, winter and summer – to answer the call of those who were sick or injured.”
Beyond Merrill, however, Dr. Wittman was widely known as the collector of Indian artifacts. In a feature article on him, the Milwaukee Sentinel of Aug. 12, 1934, said ” . . .no one anywhere has a collection of arrowheads quite like that gathered by Dr. A.R. Wittman of Merrill. . .over a period of nearly 60 years.” The same article featured pictures of the “paintings” he created by fastening arrowheads on canvas backgrounds to copy well-known pictures associated with Indians. But his interest in Native Americans also included a genuine appreciation for their culture and especially their closeness to the natural world. He was a man of many interests and many accomplishments, a citizen to be proud of.
At a brief ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on May 4, the Friends of Council Grounds will present a plaque commemorating Dr. Wittman’s role in the establishment of this park.