Friday, April 20, 2018

Clyde Station: A Moment in Time

1912 Plat Map showing Clyde Station and the railroad

Clyde Station is another of the Kewaunee County places that has found its way into the more forgotten annals of history. It was the only stop on the Kewaunee, Green Bay and Western Railroad between Kewaunee and Casco Junction. It was a place where passengers could catch the train and, between 1891 and the beginning of RFD in Kewaunee County  on November 30, 1904, mail for Ryan and Slovan was dropped off and picked up there.

The mail was the big thing and in May 1892, the Ahnapee Record told readership that mail from the south and west arrived daily in Ahnapee by about 1 PM, thanks to Ted Richmond and his white mule. The morning mail came via train to Clyde and was carried to Casco where Ted picked it up. The paper felt Ted would keep up his exceptional speed until the iron horse replaced his mule. It was only weeks before the railroad entered Ahnapee, but until then the community was served by Ted.

Clyde Station often made news, but not the kind one would think. In late July 1892 Charles Kinstetter’s cow was run over and killed by a Kewaunee, Green Bay and Western train nearing the station. Just about a year later, another cow was killed near the station, but then the paper said the cow was hit by a “wild train.” When Judge C.G. Boalt was making a business trip to Green Bay in August 1894, he missed the train at Ahnapee. Hiring a livery team, Boalt made it to Clyde Station in time to make connections with the west bound Kewaunee train.

It wasn’t only cows the train collided with. During February 1894, it collided with its own equipment. Workmen were on the track using hand cars near the station as suddenly a west bound train was barreling down the track. The workers escaped serious injuries – or perhaps death - by jumping off the hand cars which were badly wrecked in the incident. However, the only damage to the locomotive was to its headlight.

Clyde Station finally got a depot building in 1900. Plans were announced in January that the railroad had determined a site and that erection of a depot similar to the one at Casco Junction would begin soon.

By late March 1904, spring rains were playing havoc with the place when the train from Green Bay was forced to turn around at Casco Junction. Three miles of track were under water following a huge washout and conditions were decidedly unsafe. Kewaunee’s mail did go through, however, as the A & W brought it to Algoma where it was then transported to Kewaunee. As it was, Conductor Walker felt that although conditions were fine near Kewaunee, the outlook was poor beyond. He further felt that when the frost started coming out of the ground, there was going to be trouble at the cranberry marsh. Interestingly, it was another cranberry marsh  between Algoma and Sturgeon Bay that caused the Ahnapee & Western problems.

Just before Christmas 1911, a County Board special committee made up of Frank Kott and John Baumeister met with Casco’s town board for the purposes of supervising contracts for a new bridge to be built across the Kewaunee River at the new Clyde Station in that town.  After receiving bids for the project, they let the contract to Worden Allen Co.* of Milwaukee for $1078.00 and awarded the abutments contract to Wenzel Opicka for $475.00. Casco Town and the County were to furnish the material at a cost of $259.93. Kott and Baumeister recommended that as Chairman and Clerk of the committee, they be authorized to draw and sign an order in favor of the Town of Casco for $906.46. Other towns were also liable for bridge costs.

The train from Kewaunee ran into more washout problems in September 1912 and could not get to its destination. Mr. Hollister, the engineer, had to travel slowly and after passing Clyde Station found the track undermined where, in some places, 3 or 4’ of gravel was washed out. Section crews and Conductor Lake tried making temporary repairs, but eventually, the train needed to return to Kewaunee.

The big news on Christmas Eve 1915 was the man who took “French Leave” of the Kewaunee train near Clyde Station. As it was, former Slovan resident William Bouschek feared the train would not stop at the station when it was urgent that he reach his destination. Bouschek risked death and caused significant problems for the crew. Conductor William Lake was aware of Bouschek’s destination and when he went to tell his passenger, he was unable to find him on the train, which had not stopped between Casco Junction and Clyde Station.  Jerry Robillard, the car inspector on board, noticed the passenger had gone out on the platform in front of the car. That led the crew to think he had fallen from the train. After depositing the other passengers and mail at Kewaunee, the train returned to Clyde to investigate.  Near the station called “Old Clyde,” Bouschek’s footprints were found in the snow. He had apparently jumped off the train, fallen and rolled down the embankment, but he was not found. Because there was no evidence Bouschek had been killed, the train returned to Kewaunee. The conductor said there was no trace of the man. A year earlier there were jokes about the Italian immigrants who were en-route to Kewaunee for work at the Nast Lime Kilns. When the train arrived at Clyde Station, the men were certain the place was the City of Kewaunee and were about to leave the train when the conductor explained. They did get off at Casco Junction though – and had some walking to do.

Then there was a fire, but it was Michael Smithwick’s barn just east of the station.  The barn he was using for storage and a house were deserted that October 1916 day. It was uncertain what caused the barn’s destruction but it was believed the conflagration started with a spark from a train engine.

An ice floe damaged the bridge over the Kewaunee River near the old Clyde Station during flooding the following March. As the southerly approach to the bridge washed away, the bridge fell into the river. Repairs were made to the bridge, and train service was quickly restored.

February 1919 saw those around Clyde signing a petition to keep the depot. There were rumors of closure but the neighbors felt it was a busy place and wanted it to remain. Again in 1923 there were discussions about closing Clyde Station when the railroad applied to the Railroad Commission of Wisconsin for authority to discontinue stopping there. Again the citizens protested as closure would be inconvenient to those who would need to travel to Casco or Kewaunee for train service. The railroad withdrew its request, however the Railroad Commission required that Clyde depot would be cleaned and maintained in the future.

Clyde Station continued to serve until the early 1930s. Eventually the station stood idle and deteriorated, although trains continued to pass by. Late in 1942 Frank Opicka bought an old station car which he used as a shed on his farm. Today most memories of Clyde are those of the pupils at Rosebud School. Clyde Station faded into the past.

Sources: An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River? c. 2001; Here Comes the Mail: Post Offices of Kewaunee County, c. 2010;  History of Commercial Development in Algoma, Wisconsin Vols. 1 & 2, c. 2006 and 2012; Algoma Record Herald files.

Photos: 1912 Plat Map of Kewaunee County and Blogger's postcard collection. 
*Worden-Allen was a Milwaukee company that built other bridges in Kewaunee Co., most notably in the Town of Franklin.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Breezy Knoll: Kewaunee County's First Golf Course


Golf was something for the rich and for big cities. Few folks in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin were familiar with the sport 100 years ago, but when there were rumors of interest, the Record Herald was there with an opinion. The editor was no doubt honest when he said what he knew about golf could be put in a small container, but the paper did opine anyone could play. It wasn’t violent. Age was not a factor, and women could play. In the 1920s, golf was touted as a way to walk and a way to keep the populace away from its fascination with wheels. At the time, it was felt golf would empty the grandstands to fill the playing fields or, in other words, get moving.

Where did golf come from? A Google search takes one back to the Chinese. Sources date U.S. golf to the late 1700s, but the sport really began catching on in the late 1880s. Golf was associated with leisure time in an era where the word “leisure” was virtually unknown. In an agrarian place such as Kewaunee County, if one had that much time, there was obviously work being neglected by one who’d never be accused of hard work! Golf was associated with being “citified,” and “why on earth would anybody chase a little white ball around?” Golf did, however, come to Kewaunee County.

Golf on the Peninsula made news by 1914 when Peninsula Park Superintendent Doolittle was charged with laying out two golf links of 60 acres each, one near Fish Creek and the other near Ephraim. During the late 1920s Baileys Harbor was chosen for a golf course by a Chicago fellow, Peter Collins, who was in the community visiting relatives. The place he chose offered views of both Lake Michigan and Kangaroo Lake. That golf course remains and is Maxwelton Braes. In May 1930, it was announced that 8 holes of the new golf course would open and be available in addition to the original 9 holes, making it Door County’s largest golf course. By then new roads in Peninsula Park offered added convenience to the course there.

In September, Kewaunee jumped on the golf bandwagon, but it was with miniature golf. After being open only a week, the Enterprise told readership that after A.J. Westerbeck completed his course along Highway 17 (now Highway 42) a week earlier, the course was drawing patronage and proving to be a popular pastime. During November the Record Herald wrote that commercial fisherman Frank Chapek started work on his miniature golf course, adjacent to his tourist court along the lake at the bottom of the Lake Street hill. A Clintonville firm was laying out an 18 hole course.

By 1923, papers were encouraging a golf course in Algoma saying many of the “bugs” went to Sturgeon Bay each week, thus Algoma had the nucleus for a golfing organization. The paper said a course would cost a lot of money as did the hospitals to which many contributed weekly. A strange comparison. A few months earlier the paper said Algoma’s cool breezes offered paradise to a fat man golfer. Fat men were congenial, the paper opined, they spent money, did not rush from place to place and, in short, Algoma had much to offer fat golfers. It was another strange comment. E.W. Anderegg, R.P. Birdsall and W. Perry made news in fall 1923 when they went to the Appleton Country Club to spend the day playing golf as guests of Neenah’s Nathan Bergstrom. The paper also noted that of the 1,806 women enrolled in UW winter sports, 30 chose indoor golf.

As area golfing news was being made in 1930, it came from Algoma too. In August Joseph Weber leased 75 acres of his farm at the northern edge of the city. The greens keeper and golf pro at Green Bay’s Oneida Golf Course laid out the new place. The hills, valleys and waterways on the farm made the place perfect. The work went forward in haste and in late September it was announced that 9 holes were seeded and more than a mile and a half of water pipe had been laid. Tees were being built and fairway construction would begin in a week. A power pump located on the river bank provided liberal sprinkling. At the rate the course was being built, the Weber farm no longer looked like a farm. Remodeling the barn as a clubhouse and using the silo as a lookout over the course were in the plans. A circular stairway built into the silo would offer views of the Ahnapee River, Lake Michigan and beauty in every direction. Prospective golfers to the area felt Algoma was going to be a mecca.

Algoma’s Breezy Knoll golf course was the site of Kewaunee County’s first golf tournament. Entries were expected to pass 50 before all the qualifying rounds were played. It was September 1931 and Green Bay pro James Coffeen was in Algoma to bracket players. Prizes included a leather duffel bag, sweater and hose set, wood golf club, golf balls, and a golf bag which was the blind bogey prize. It
wasn’t only the tournament that brought golfers. Thursdays from 8 – 4:00 were designated as Ladies Day. There would be no charge for using the links and arrangements for balls and clubs could be made at the club house. A women’s tournament was also being planned. Algoma’s first tournament showed just how much interest there was in Kewaunee County.

In mid-February 1932 golfers around Algoma were already looking forward to a new season at Breezy Knoll, likely beginning on May 1, or even maybe before. It was a cold May Sunday morning at Breezy Knoll when 30 golfers were out on the course. Executive secretary R.P. Birdsall said the cold weather that year was responsible for a lag of interest but still season ticket sales were progressing. Breezy Knoll was sure to be a popular place.

1930 Kohlbeck's ad
Algoma Record Herald
Improvements accomplished over the 1931 late fall and winter were indications that the course would be one of Northeastern Wisconsin’s finest.  Grounds equipment such as a power mower would keep newly seeded grounds in outstanding condition.  There were new fairway signs and traps. Caddy service was offered. And, rates went down. Yet another fee schedule appeared in the paper the following week. Weekdays and Saturdays remained at 50 cents but Sundays and holidays were reduced to 75 cents. A week later, there was a change in ticket rules. Non-stockholders were charged $10 more seasonally than stockholders and “family” was defined to mean head of house and those under his roof. Stockholders had perks others did not – clubhouse privileges, a bath and locker area.

Ed Anderegg made the paper in July by leading Cowboy Wheeler in a 36 hole match, with 9 left to be played. When the 4-man matches were finished, both Anderegg and Wheeler’s groups tied at 203. Then the 4-man Southpaws led the right-handers. Another Kewaunee County Championship tournament was planned for August.

Breezy Knoll continued to grow and by August 1933, over 1,550 had registered at the club house. It was expected that by the time the season closed, the season would see at least 2,200 golfers. Many were sure to play in the tournament, an event won by Ed Anderegg for the first two years. In order to generate more golf enthusiasm, the 1935 season opened with a “Get Acquainted” tournament that was open to all. Good golfers wouldn’t have advantages over beginners, and anybody could win the prizes. There were twosomes, threesomes and foursomes and the entry fees were just 10 cents for each of the ten weeks of tournament play.

Late in 1936 it was announced that Ed Kabot, pro at the Alpine, had moved his family to Algoma. Ed was the new Kewaunee County Golf course manager. The Weber farm was still being leased with an eye toward its purchase, but a year later a press release told about the Weber farm course being abandoned. Algoma and Kewaunee folks joined those in other parts of the county who were calling for a new course at Alaska on a farm that was part of the Janda property, once owned by John Meyer of Algoma. The location was ideal and the terrain was positive. As early as January 1937, the new course was named Alaska Golf Club.

In June 1938, the Record Herald commended those with the foresight in moving the course to Alaska, a much more centrally located place. The paper felt that over the years, the course would develop into one of the best in “this part of the state, another tangible asset will have been added to the county’s list for citizens to refer to with pride.” By May 1939, Stony Janda, who had engineered many of the changes, was in charge. Pro Don Nelson had joined the Coast Guard. Janda’s changes must have worked as the paper reported that golfers were having a rollicking good time.

If Coast Guardsman Nelson made golf news during the war, it didn’t seem to be reported in the paper, however Yeoman 3-c Richard Cmeyla made some news in August 1942 when he placed second at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, golf course. Cmeyla’s prize was $2 worth of golf balls, a win that some thought was ensured when his folks sent him the golf shoes he used to trek around the Alaska course.

As for the course at Alaska – it is just over 80 years old and remains a popular spot.

Sources: An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River?, c. 2001; Commercial Development of Algoma, Wisconsin, c. 2010 ; Cox-Nell House Histories, c. 2012; Algoma Record Herald. Postcard from the blogger's collection; ads from Algoma Record Herald.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Casco Junction: Created by the Railroad



Ahnapee & Western and Green Bay, Kewaunee & Western trains 
meeting at the Casco Junction Depot

When the Ahnapee and Western rails were laid to meet the Kewaunee, Green Bay and Western railroad at Casco Junction on Saturday, August 20, 1892, it was the completion of a dream that started with Casco’s Edward Decker before the Civil War. Trains began running on the day that track was completed, two years after the project started.

Edward Decker was given credit for the railroad, and he served as president. As early as 1860 Mr. Decker was applying to secure a railroad from both Ahnapee and Kewaunee to Green Bay. While Decker was serving in the State Senate in 1861, his relative W.S. Finley was a member of the Assembly. Finley introduced a bill to incorporate the Kewaunee and Green Bay railroads, a plan interrupted by the Civil War.

Years later – 1868 – Edward Decker was about to go forward with an idea that could have been the first railroad from the Northeast to the Pacific. With his business associate C. B. Robinson, editor of the Green Bay Advocate, Decker and lumberman Anton Klaus obtained a charter and were organizing a railroad line from Green Bay to St. Paul when the unthinkable happened. On May 22, 1869 Decker was trying to control the horse he was driving when the horse seized Decker’s arm, chewing it and the hand almost to a pulp while nearly trampling the man to death. Decker’s arm was amputated and his life was in jeopardy. It was a year before he was again seen on the streets. In an ironic twist of fate, U.S. railroad history was made 12 days prior to Decker’s accident. The Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory on May 10, 1869.

After Decker’s health forced his withdrawal and resignation as railroad president, the railroad was built instead to Winona, Minnesota. It was years before Decker completed a freight and passenger line, but this time it was from Casco Junction where it connected with the Ahnapee & Western – and Sturgeon Bay from Ahnapee- and the Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western lines.

Ahnapee & Western Railroad was incorporated on August 18, 1890 and began service in 1892. Financed largely by Decker, it serviced his business interests while serving both Kewaunee and Door Counties. Built without federal subsidizies, the company did secure about $76,000 in assistance from the county and the communities on its route. The Village of Ahnapee voted to contribute $23,000 in support of the bond issue, and to provide $10,000 in depot and dock privileges. Providing most of the capital, Decker eventually acquired most of the railroad’s stock and was its first president. His company was short-lived however as when his family fortune collapsed in 1906, Green Bay & Western purchased controlling interest in the Ahnapee & Western, although kept its name.

Location of Casco Junction, 1912 Plat Map
It was the railroad that put a place called Casco Junction into the annals of Kewaunee County history. Surprisingly there was no big celebration the day the track was extended to Ahnapee, in part because of possible delays. There was a special train made up of the construction engine and a caboose, and when it came into Ahnapee factories blew steam whistles and flags were flown from hotels, buildings and boats. Even though it was stipulated that the track would be laid within two years, few believed it would happen. When the Ahnapee Record editorialized on the new line in August 1892, it said the success that would follow was in the hands of the city. Edward Decker, George Wilbur, Maynard Parker and Frank McDonald were on the train and attested to that.

By May 1885, Casco Junction was touted as a meeting spot for trains and for passengers. The place really was a junction and not much else. Both morning and afternoon trains met there, offering a convenience for the traveling public that wished to visit for a few hours with those along the line and yet return home the same day. Checking the schedules in the county papers meant folks didn’t have to plan in far in advance and could make plans as opportunities arose.

During May 1899, the Record told readership about the wild ride that passengers to Green Bay had. Coming from Sturgeon Bay, the train had an accident thus was delayed in leaving Ahnapee. The delay prevented the connection at Casco Junction prompting orders given to Conductor Decker to take the train through to Green Bay. Engineer White opened No. 2’s throttle, thus making the distance of 35 miles – including 3 stops – in 50 minutes. A stop at Casco let a passenger off. A switch was turned at Casco Junction and orders were gotten at Luxemburg. It was the fastest trip ever made between Ahnapee and Green Bay with running time about a mile a minute.

Taken at the Pony Express Museum
News was made again in August 1900 when 275 passengers were aboard at Casco Junction, all going to Green Bay for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The train opened a new world, and Casco Junction was the portal to Green Bay and the world beyond. Buffalo Bill drew the whopping 274 on the train, however as early as 1893, the railroad was announcing excursions to Green Bay for the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Maybe it was because Casco Junction was out of the way that theft seemed easy. A young man brought before Casco’s Justice of the Peace Bohman was charged with stealing potatoes. Fifteen bags of potatoes being taken from Sturgeon Bay to Kewaunee were left on the Casco Junction platform to await the next train. The young man standing before Bohman was a section hand who took two of the bags and hid them under the platform. He returned at night to get them, but the potatoes were missing and others felt the man’s actions were suspicious. The railroad had enough of the thievery at the Junction and announced the place would be closely watched in an effort to stop it. Who knows if the survelience stopped it?

Perhaps the 1904 telephone installation at the Junction’s depot helped. Kewaunee’s William Rooney was working for Ahnapee & Western stringing telephone wire from Casco to the Junction in order to connect both depots. The railroad felt the service would be invaluable and would be used by the traveling public as well. A story about a traveling man using the depot phone was most likely what happened to others. While waiting at the Junction, he decided to make a call. He noticed the train moving but felt it was backing up. It wasn’t and the fellow walked to Casco a few miles north.

Door and Kewaunee folks got used to the world at their beckoning, but by November 1917, Casco Junction meant delays. Chicago and Northwestern Railway made changes to its schedule, changes that affected both the A & W and the Green Bay, Kewaunee and Western. Passengers were forced to wait at Casco Junction for two hours, in essence because the line was “small potatoes.” As the paper pointed out, patrons of the C & NW would not desire to have their Green Bay connections broken. There were, however, positive things happening at the same time.

Algoma Record sketch
In late November, also in 1917, the paper reported on the new “Y” being built at Casco Junction to replace the turntable that would be removed and taken to Maplewood where some trains had to run backward. It wasn’t the only turntable moved. During July 1893 a turntable was built near the veneer plant in Ahnapee. A year later it was moved to Sturgeon Bay.

The Casco Junction turntable saved a life during a 1912 train collision when a Kewaunee train was switching tracks. What was called a catastrophe with nobody at fault, wrecked the Algoma train, damaged the Kewaunee train and badly shook up passengers. A brakeman on the Algoma train was in the baggage car when he spotted a signal from the Kewaunee train’s conductor. Knowing what it meant, he jumped from the train into turntable pit thus saving himself from being crushed to death as the baggage would have all gone forward.

It was the railroad that created Casco Junction and gave it much of its history. The trains are long gone, but mention Casco Junction and most people know where it was.



Sources: An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River? C. 2001; Decker files at the Area Research Center, UW-Green Bay; Here Comes the Mail, Post Offices of Kewaunee County, c. 2010;  Doug Larson Door County Advocate, 9/18/1998; Kewaunee New Era. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Kewaunee County and the GAR


Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain planned on going to the 50th reunion in Gettsyburg, but was ill. Ironically, he died on February 21, 1914, almost on the eve of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the battles that would follow. In the 1860s and beyond, it was called the Great War. Who would have believed there would be another “Great War” engulfing so many countries? History eventually called that one World War 1, which separates it from World War ll. Chamberlain, who was with Robert E. Lee, saw horrific death and destruction. That did not change in the wars that followed, but in the Civil War, that death and destruction was visited on families, friends and countrymen.

Pickett's Charge, July 3, 1863; Gettysburg
Eventually called the Civil War, battlefields of the Great War of Rebellion became places of reverence. Fallen comrades – North and South - were, and are, remembered. It was in February 1896 that Gettsyburg Association turned its holdings over to the U.S. to preserve the battlefield. By September 1908, preparations were being made to build a magnificent highway from Washington D.C. to Gettsyburg, a hard place to reach at the time. Civil War battlefields are places to learn U.S. history from exceptional National Park Service staff and volunteers, however the solemnity found at Gettysburg 40 years ago has been replaced with a more of a Disneyland atmosphere today.

Little Round Top at Gettysburg
At the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” After Lincoln's assassination, Senator Charles Sumner said Mr. Lincoln was mistaken saying, "The world at once noted what he said, and will never cease to remember it.” Even in today’s carnival atmosphere, we do not forget.

Our Kewaunee County ancestors kept the battlefield memories alive in their G.A.R. posts and encampments. As the August 1885 G.A.R. celebration at Milwaukee drew near, the Record mused about the old stories while facetiously mentioning the joy in eating hard-tack and talking about battles which killed or maimed so many. And, the rampant disease.

Men of Co. E, Kewaunee County
A big event at the Milwaukee encampment was a panorama of the opening siege at Vicksburg on May 2, 1863. It commemorated a charge that was one of the war’s fiercest. Chicago followed with a panorama of a Gettysburg scene. The panoramas must have taken on a competitive nature as it was said the “fighting” in Milwaukee’s presentation was more realistic and that the dead, dying and wounded were exact representations.

When the GAR’s National Encampment was held in Milwaukee in 1889, nothing was left to chance for a crowd expected to exceed anything Milwaukee had seen to that date. Thirty-five hundred tents were being provided and bands joined to form a 1,000 piece ensemble for a concert at Schlitz Park. There were competitions and cash prizes for drill units and bands. Fireworks displays were the crowing event.

Following the glowing news reports from the Milwaukee event, there was planning for a reunion the following year. A November 13, 1890 article told readership that relic sellers at Gettysburg were said to be importing wagon loads of junk from southern battlefields and selling them for Gettysburg relics.

Railroads and steam boats were advertising low rates of $3, a point not lost on the 70 Ahnapee residents who planned to go to the 1889 gathering. The list of attendees read like an Ahnapee Who’s Who, most of whom were members of the Joseph Anderegg Post. They were joined by large numbers from Sturgeon Bay and Forestville posts, and, of course, countless others from Kewaunee County. Kewaunee County men served and died in the Civil War’s most well-known battles.

It was in 1923 that Haney Ihlenfeld shared articles with a G.A.R. Convention. The articles came from a Confederate newspaper purchased by his grandfather Sgt. John Ihlenfeld before the siege at Vicksburg. In it, General Grant was quoted as saying he’d eat Sunday dinner in Vicksburg, but the paper opined that he’d have to catch the rabbit first.

Ahnapee’s David Elliott was at Vicksburg and in a letter to a friend he mentioned the battle at Corinth and went on to say how sick many of the men were and that only 1/3 of them were fit for duty. David was waiting for action.

Civil War veterans, Frank Gregor, I.W. Elliott, Gene Heald
1937, Record Herald photo
Seventy-five years after Gettysburg, I.W. Elliott attended a veterans’ reunion held there. When he gathered with family in August that year – 1938 – he proudly displayed momentos gotten there.

At a 1944 Memorial Day commemoration, the names of deceased Ahnapee Civil War veterans were read. Irving W. Elliott was both Kewaunee County and Wisconsin’s last surviving veteran. The list fails to include others identified with Ahnapee, however there are vets such as Henry Baumann/Bowman and Magnus Haucke who relocated following the war. To check Wisconsin Volunteers, one must sometimes spell an ancestor’s name as it might sound to another. Typesetting of the era was accomplished by setting pieces of type upside down and backward, prompting one to search for other letters when the name includes a lower case “n” or “u.”

The GAR - Grand Army of the Republic - was made up of Civil War veterans, including the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Founded in Decatur, IL in 1866, the GAR grew to include hundreds of posts across the country. Although posts were mostly in the North, there were also posts in the South. The group lived on until the last member died in 1956. The men of the GAR made up a political advocacy group, which among other platforms, supported voting rights for black veterans.

A section of the battlefield at Vicksburg



Note: To learn about the Belgians in the Civil War, read John Henry Mertens'  The Second Battle : A Story of Our Belgian Ancestors in the American Civil War, 1861-1865.




Sources: Algoma Record Herald, battlefield visits; Wikipedia. Photos were taken at the sites except where noted..



Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kewaunee County, Algoma, 1918 & Influenza

An article in the January 23, 1918 issue of USA Today tells readership the “flu season is wretched, but it’s not the worst.” The worst was 100 years ago during World War l. It wasn’t only a nationwide flu, it spread throughout the world and was called a pandemic.  At least 675,000 people died in the U.S. alone. Wisconsin, Kewaunee County and Algoma were not immune to the disease.

Well after the advent of the flu, the State Board of Health, late in 1919, adopted methods for its prevention and suppression. Physicians were mandated to report, in writing, to local health officers any case of flu within 24 hours. If a doctor was not engaged, such reporting fell to the head of the family, school principal, plant superintendent, hotel keeper or anyone else in authority. A red placard containing the word “Influenza” was ordered to be placed in a conspicuous place on the home of one who had influenza or pneumonia. Persons with the disease were to be isolated. It was pointed out that droplets produced during sneezing, coughing and speaking spread the disease, which was also transmitted with common drinking cups, dirty hands, roller towels and more. Posters and newspaper articles created public awareness.

Nearly a year before the state mandates, Algoma Board of Health forbad gathering for public funerals, parties, lyceum courses or anything involving groups of people. Physicians felt that the influenza was showing signs of being managed, feeling that the city had seen the worst of it, but it was also that gatherings would continue to spread it.

When the influenza known as the Spanish Flu reared its ugly head in Algoma, health authorities closed schools, including Door-Kewaunee County Training School, and theaters. At the time there were 25 cases reported in the city and each day brought new reports, including that of assistant teacher Miss Ingerson who was said to be recovering. Principal F.A. Maas and his wife were both suffering from the epidemic, but their cases were not reported as being serious. How long public gatherings would be banned was anybody’s guess.

The flu struck Kewaunee County and was known to have surfaced in Forestville, Brussels and Union. It was all over. Thanksgiving 1918 saw the United Slavs cancelling their program at the Kewaunee’s Bohemian Opera House. The group felt that whenever conditions were favorable, it would hold its Thanksgiving program.

It was World War 1 that spread  influenza and death to the four corners of the earth. One would think battlefield deaths came from bullets, but, as in the Civil War, disease killed fighting men faster than ammunition.

Drafted men died in camp before ever getting to the battlefield. Algoma’s Louis Bull died in Edgewater, Maryland, of pneumonia following weeks of being treated for flu. Elmer Thibaudeau of Luxemburg suffered the same fate after enlisting only a month earlier. Joseph Koukalik of Franklin was another. Adolph Wacek died of influenza in Kansas City. It was said Adolph had an irresistible urge to serve his flag and country, however he never got to the battlefield. Louis Gerondale was luckier. Shortly after he left for training, he was struck by the influenza. Gerondale recovered and was sent home to Brussels to recuperate on a 9-day furlough. Paul Tikalsky was in an army hospital in France, but he too reported recovery in December.

Saloon keeper James Soucek was Algoma’s 2nd flu victim in April 1918. It was said he died because he did not follow Dr. Witcpalek’s orders for a prescription. Since he felt he couldn’t neglect his business, he kept working. Farmer Joseph Palechek of Rio Creek was sick only a few days when he died of pneumonia during April 1918. Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Svoboda of Casco had the flu at the same time in December, however both recovered. Lincoln Town saw three deaths during one November 1918 week: Frank Guillette, Frank Martin and William Wautlet. During the same week, 24 year old Rankin blacksmith Edward Durst succumbed to flu. Influenza forced Algoma thresher Fred Braun to discontinue his work in October 1918, but then his brother Charles came from Green Bay to help out until Fred recovered.

History remembers the pandemic during World War 1 as the worst, but it seemed as if la grippe was around yearly. In 1898, the papers fairly screamed influenza. Once again the dreaded prevalent influenza was causing alarm in New York, Chicago and other cities. Papers said it was the worst since 1891 and coupled with impure water in Chicago, many victims never regained their physical or mental health. Fire and police departments were in danger of being crippled by the sick lists. Manufacturing was also suffering.

There were 50 million deaths in 1918. Where does it come from? A Google search offers as many articles as one wants to read. One article says the term “influenza” was first used in England in 1703, and that the word is an Italian world for “influence,” referring to cause. It was believed that stars, the moon and plants influenced the flu.

Influenza wasn’t discovered in humans, but was discovered through animal studies. Veterinarian J.S. Koen saw the disease in pigs and felt it was the same thing as was called Spanish flue in 1918. Swine flu is another widely used term. In 1938 Jonas Salk and Thomas Francis developed the first flu vaccine for the virus discovered in the 1930s. That vaccine was used on World War ll soldiers. Salk used that experience to develop and perfect a polio vaccine that was approved in 1955.

By January 1951 Algoma’s Dr. Herb Foshion was encouraging residents to prevent the flu by getting a vaccine. In at least 50% of injections, flu was entirely prevented.  For those who got injections in the fall, Foshion recommended another in January. Those who never received an injection were advised to get one immediately and then another three weeks later. Foshion stressed the vaccine’s effectiveness while pointing out influenza in Europe appeared to be as serious as the 1918 epidemic. He pointed out the deaths in Europe, the U.S. and in Algoma.

As the USA Today says, “flu is wretched.”

Sourcces: Algoma Record Herald, USA Today.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ahnapee and Algoma: The Milk Routes



Carnival Guernsey Dairy 1954
Algoma, and Ahnapee before it, had any number of dairies. Ted Blahnik’s Carnival Dairy is perhaps the best known to recent generations, those who might also remember Knipfer’s beer depot and distributing company. They might, however, be surprised to know that Knipfers started business with another beverage: milk.

It was about 1883 when Joseph Knipfer started his dairy business. After his death on May 25, 1894, Knipfer’s son Frank took over, but it was Frank’s wife Theresa who operated the dairy for most of 50 years. Until his accidental death at 19, Mrs. Knipfer was also assisted by her son Elmer, and then a hired man. Clarence Toebe bought the dairy in 1938, selling it 50 Algoma Creamery 20 years later.

In today's world, door-to-door milk delivery is nearly unheard of. We buy our milk in a store, one-stop or some other commercial establishment. Milk is pasteurized and packaged under strict regulations, regulations that begin from the time the milk leaves the cow. We buy skimmed, 2% or whole milk. Milk is white, chocolate and even strawberry. We have countless choices that our ancestors could have never dreamed. Today it is hard to imagine the milkman going from door to door with a pail of milk. But, that's just how it was.

Knipfer Dairy Farm
In the beginning, Knipfers conducted the dairy business from their home just to the rear of the present St. Paul’s parsonage. Housing 7 cows, their barn was behind what was Rinehart’s shoe store on Steele St.  The cows were milked in that barn, but pastured on the Knipfer farm at the base of the present Lake Street hill where they built a home in 1895, the farm at 1503 Lake St. that Clarence Toebe bought in 1937.

At Theresa Knipfer's death in February 1965, just two months short of her 99th birthday, she was said to be Kewaunee County’s oldest resident. In an interview sometime before her death, Theresa said that dairying was much different when she started out. There were no regulations and all one needed was a good pair of strong hands, a milk pail and a stool. Mrs. Knipfer told how, in the early days, her husband made deliveries on foot, carrying a 2-gallon milk pail in each hand. A housewife would ask for the amount of milk she wanted and it would be measured and poured into her container.  

When Knipfers moved from the site in town to the farm, they still delivered milk by hand even though the walk was longer. Eventually they delivered milk in a horse-drawn wagon built by Perlewitz Brothers, but the manner of selling remained the same. When the wagon was repainted in 1901, the newspaper noted that it was difficult to get ahead of Frank Knipfer because the wagon was “fixed up in metropolitan style.” During the winter the wagon was replaced by a sled with an oil stove that prevented the milk from freezing. However, the milk was still carried in pails and poured into the housewives’ containers.

It was in the 1930s that laws mandated milk be delivered in bottles. That necessitated a bottler and capper. Milk bottled in the basement of the house was subject to pasteurization by 1950. When cattle weren’t allowed on the streets, cows couldn’t be driven from the in-town barn to the pasture. Logistics and laws meant price changes.

Theresa Knipfer sold Cloverleaf Dairy to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Toebe in 1937. Toebes operated the milk route until the late 1950’s. Five years before Mr. Toebe purchased the Knipfer dairy, Carnival Guernsey Farm in Kodan established a milk route. George F. Blahnik was the owner, however his son Ted was the manager. Daily deliveries came directly from Blahnik’s farm, which eventually became the area’s largest dairy, a distinction once held by Theresa Knipfer. Antone Leiberg and Karl Lienau were Mrs. Knipfer’s competition for some years. Leiberg sold his milk route during the winter of 1902. Lienau’s farm just above the Lake Street hill adjoined Knipfer’s. When Lienau decided to discontinue his business in 1919, he encouraged his neighbor Adolph Feld to take on the milk route. Feld also delivered daily directly from his farm at what became 2114 Lake Street. In his earlier days Feld was Mrs. Knipfer’s only competitor, and, for a short time in the 1930s, both Toebe’s and Blahnik’s dairy. Feld left the business when his barn burned in July 1941. Toebe discontinued his milk route due to changing regulations and Blahnik expanded.

As Mrs. Knipfer said, all one needed was a pail, milk stool and strong hands before regulations came into being. Late in 1906 the veterinarian in the Bureau of Animal Industry recommended licensing dairies as the only way to prevent tuberculosis in milk. Recommendations were that testing milk from licensed certified cows was the only way to take care of the situation. Hogs were becoming diseased from infected skimmed milk, and a law against unsterilized milk was something Wisconsin Sanitary Board was considering. Pasteurization came.

In 1923, representatives of both Algoma banks - Citizen’s Bank and Bank of Algoma - Cashier C.E. Boedecker and Auditor H. Nelson encouraged dairies to advertise. State bankers and farmers conducted campaigns to market Wisconsin’s dairy products on a national level. To create an advertising fund, bankers were asked to donate 1% of their capital and farmers were asked to donate the proceeds of one day’s milk. Boedecker felt that because merchants would also benefit from such publicizing, they might like to be included in adding to the advertising fund.

Algoma had 6 dairies in April 1934 when State Dairy Inspector Joseph J. Wetak took samples from milk deliveries on the 5th. There was pride among the dairy owners when Wetak said Algoma’s milk supply was clean and it had a higher fat content than in most cities.


Although dairies offering home milk deliveries no longer exist in Algoma, the area – and all of Kewaunee County – is known for its exceptional farms. Such farms keep the state a milk processing leader.

Sources: Algoma Record Herald; Commercial History of Algoma, WI, c. 2006; Cox-Nell House Histories c. 2011; Photos are from Algoma Record Herald; postcard is from the blogger's collection.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Kewaunee County Christmas: 1941

On Friday December 5, 1941, Kewaunee County residents were preparing for Christmas. The "Christmas Season" had not yet started, but folks were thinking of it. It would be another year before the Bing Crosby-Irving Berlin hit White Christmas, however there was a lot Christmas music to be hummed and sung. Although the political situation and the war in Europe was in the minds of most adults, generally things were upbeat in Algoma.

Algoma Businessmen were encouraging all to participate in the second annual lighting contest, offering prizes of $5 as first prize, and $3 and $2 to 2nd and 3rd place. That kind of money was quite an inducement following the ravages of the Depression, and the businessmen knew there would be incurred electrical costs for such participation.  Lighting was just getting off the ground when, two years later, residents were asked to reduce their use of such lights.. A cadre of local men used the Dug-Out as a place to fashion street decorations, further adding to the city’s Christmas 1941 celebrations.  Algoma High School Dance Band played for a hop at the Normal School that weekend, a party that also included a play. It was the day the elementary school announced characters for the musical Hansel and Gretl. Mr. and Mrs. Claus were checking prices two or three times and found Kohlbeck’s advertising leather jackets for $6.95 and up. Hansen’s gloves were nearly 3 dollars though.  Heine Wiese sold Wembley ties for $1.00. Wiese's ties did not wrinkle like the 50 cent sellers. The future was in Algoma! Katches had all one could possibly want, including a visit from Santa the next day, December 6. Fashionable women could opt for a new hairdo at Marione’s  and get it for under 4 bucks. The state even had money in the treasury and roads would be improved.

The downer was that the State Draft Chief was in Kewaunee County attempting to improve selective service, however there was also a military-related upper: R.J. Ihlenfeld was given a government award honoring his late grandfather, Cavalry 2nd Lt. John Ihlenfeld, for his service at the Battle of Vicksburg. Late though it was, the award meant much to the Ihlenfelds.

It was Algoma 20 days before Christmas, and all was well.

The unthinkable happened only 2 days later, on December 7, a day President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would live in infamy. Pearl Harbor was attacked. But when the Record Herald came out on the 12th, there were no screaming war headlines. The front page carried an article about men serving in the Pacific and another article about 1-A men leaving for their physicals. It carried an article saying war bond purchases skyrocketed during the week, that county Civilian Defense was seeing volunteer activity, and that Red Cross was raising money.

To read the paper, it almost seemed Algoma was oblivious to war in the Pacific. Countless men had been drafted within the previous year or two, and the Plywood had gone to a war time production that figured in Lend-Lease.  Maybe city residents were listening to their radios and Gabriel Heater provided all the news. Who knows? But things changed when the December 19 paper reported Kewaunee County’s first casualty. Radioman 3rd Class Joseph Muhofski was a seaplane crew member killed near Hawaii. In an article announcing his death, the paper noted that Joseph’s parents received a Christmas gift from him the following day. The Record told readership that Algoma was one of the Wisconsin places showing war movies. 200 attended. It didn’t forget to remind patrons that carrier boys would be collecting before Christmas Eve while stressing how fast the boys worked to provide such conveniences.

Christmas went on, and the following day the paper noted the death of Irving W. Elliot, Kewaunee County’s last Civil War veteran and Wisconsin’s oldest Mason. The same paper carried what was felt to be the last picture of draftees as there was an information clampdown regarding quotas, calls to service and photos, although eventually the pictures returned to the paper. American Legion Auxilary purchased a mobile hospital unit, and the scouts were praised for collecting toys for needy children.

The U.S. got a war for Christmas 1941. Perhaps so few were touched by it before December 7 that they just didn’t give it a lot of thought. There was no "Peace on earth, goodwill to men" to men that year, and yet, Christmas was celebrated in Algoma as it always was.


Christmas 1942 was far, far different, however, that's another story.

Sources: Algoma Record Herald, Images: The postcard comes from the Kannerwurf, Sharpe, Johnson and the painting is is from NLJohnson. Both are copyrighted and used with permission. The photo of men departing for their physicals was found in Algoma Record Herald.