History conference to visit Eau Claire

Was Adin Randall a business cheater or a founding father of Eau Claire?

That and other local history issues will be among topics discussed during the 40th-annual Northern Great Plains History Conference at The Plaza Hotel & Suites, 1202 W. Clairemont Ave., Wednesday to Oct. 1.

It is the first time in 20 years Eau Claire has played host to the event, which attracts historians throughout the region to present more than 50 sessions.

Melisa Davis, a graduate assistant in the history department who will be presenting Randall’s legacy, said the conference is a great opportunity for anyone, especially history students.

“It is very exciting,” she said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the historians.”

The meeting rotates around the region, which includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and parts of Illinois and Michigan. Eau Claire received this year’s conference because “it was just our turn,” history professor and Conference Council member Robert Gough said.

One of the major highlights, he said, will be keynote speaker Donald Ritchie of the U.S. Senate Historian’s Office, who will speak during the banquet Wednesday.

Ritchie will be reassessing the career of Sen. Joe McCarthy, formerly a Republican senator from Wisconsin infamously known for “McCarthyism” and his attacks on communism.

The Chippewa Valley Museum, 1204 Carson Park Drive, is sponsoring the event, along with the Society for Military History.

Melissa Holmen, the museum’s interim director of community programming, said she mostly looks forward to the variety of the topics, which include everything from “Race and Baseball” to a roundtable on farm life to a session on brewing history in the Midwest.

“I’m looking forward to one quiet evening so I can choose which ones I’m going to attend,” she said. “There are just so many different topics.”

Tickets are $15 for the general public; however, all UW-Eau Claire students attending the conference will be admitted at no cost, thanks to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Students should register for the event in the history office, Hibbard 701.

The event will kick off on Wednesday with “Studying and Writing About War.” A reception will follow. It then will continue all day Thursday and Friday and wrap up Saturday morning.

Gough said the conference is exciting for the history department and a can’t-miss for any students with an interest in regional history. He said he expects overall attendance to be in the hundreds.

He said history students also will be helping with the event by getting folders and other paperwork ready.