was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Her interest in history and the objects people left behind comes from listening to her grandmother tell stories of her family and the people they knew. These childhood experiences fashioned her future.
Mary Elise attended Marquette University, graduating with a BA in History. She went East to learn and experience more history, attending the Cooperstown Graduate Program and receiving an MA in History Museum Studies from State University College at Oneonta, New York.
For fourteen years Mary Elise lived in upstate New York. She was Coordinator of Interpretation for the New York State Division for Historic Preservation. As Director of the Montgomery County Historical Society, she assisted in the research and restoration of Fort Johnson, the 1749 home of Sir William Johnson. While in New York, she received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to research the Palatine German culture of the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys, which resulted in an article for The Magazine Antiques
and the first exhibit and catalogue on the early Germans of New York.
Returning to her hometown of Prairie du Chien, for eleven years Mary Elise was Curator of Collections at the Villa Louis Historic Site, owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Her research guided the restoration of the interior of the Dousman Family home. Her documentation of the Battle of Prairie du Chien in 1814 is the foundation for an event at the Villa Louis and Cannons & Redcoats, a children's program sponsored by the Prairie du Chien Historical Society. She consults on a regular basis for the Prairie du Chien Historical Society.
Prairie du Chien is the second oldest community in Wisconsin. Upon her return, Mary Elise became reacquainted with the French-Canadian fur trade culture that once defined the settlement. She researched fur trade documents, legal documents, church records, private correspondence, and government records pertaining to the Illinois French and French-Canadians who settled in Wisconsin.
Mary Elise is recognized as the authority on the architecture and material culture of the fur trade in Wisconsin and the upper Mississippi valley. As such, she has presented papers at conferences sponsored by Winterthur Museum, the Center for French Colonial Studies, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Her research on the Francois Vertefeuille House was the subject of an article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, and she is a contributing author in the forthcoming Early Louisiana Furniture 1735-1835 to be published by the Historic New Orleans Collection.
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