Monday, January 14, 2019

World War l: Algoma Prepares


The Algoma Record Herald – a merger of two Algoma newspapers – was a new paper when it carried an article pointing out that its edition would likely be late because employees refused to work. It was neither a work stoppage nor a strike. What came to be known as World War l was over.  And it wasn’t only Algoma’s workforce that failed to show up: it happened all around the country.

Known as the First World War, World War l, and the Great War, it began on July 28, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918. Political turmoil ravaging Europe for years came to a head on June 28, 1914, a month before the war’s official outbreak, in Sarajevo when Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. 

In the end, 16 million  military personal and civilians died. The war hastened the spread of Spanish Influenza, leading to the deaths of up to 100 million people world-wide, and the war led to genocide. Following the Armistice, the remaining unresolved conflicts escalated, giving rise to the likes of Adolf Hitler and plunging the world into what became World War ll, a mere 20 years later.

While the U.S. didn’t get into the European war until 1917, many of Algoma’s residents with German heritage – and those across Kewaunee County, the state and the nation – understood their former countrymen. Millions of German immigrants made up the largest immigrant group to the U.S., to Wisconsin and to Algoma. Within a year of Kewaunee County’s 1852 origin, Germans began arriving in what was then called Wolf River.

In the community’s early days, its Yankee residents derided the Germans (and others) as ignorant foreigners, often treating the immigrants in a detrimental manner. After 50 years, the prejudice was disappearing in Algoma. But then came the war. 

While many felt the U.S. would get involved in the European War, Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 election with the slogan, "He kept us out of war." But U.S. neutrality didn't last and Wilson declared war on Germany in April 1917. Serving as president from 1913 - 1921, it was Wilson who led the country through the war.  

Although the country was remaining neutral, Major Gen. Leonard Wood told Congress in November 1916 that war was coming and that the U.S. was utterly unprepared. He said the coast was vulnerable and that a force of 150,000 trained men could inflict incalculable damage before a U.S. army could be assembled to meet it. Algoma folks anxiously watched the papers, wondering when “the other shoe would drop.”

In early January 1916 the Record told readership that the European conflict put the U.S. in a trying period. It was said in 1914 the European war was going to be over by Christmas. Then it was said it was going to be a struggle to the death. Although the U.S. was initially neutral, it came face-to-face with such war issues as shipping, German U-boats and more. During late January 1916, the paper noted the need for preparedness for war, including all its horrors and human loss. The article continued calling attention to individual preparedness for old age and future welfare. Thrift was important and would be developed through a national thrift day.

Local papers – Algoma Record and Algoma Herald - were full of war news. Little by little, the papers carried more about what folks should know. Some men enlisted while others were drafted. The papers provided men with military options, and helped them sort out those options.

Papers informed residents about the Kewaunee County Council of Defense and its designation of wheatless Tuesdays and meatless Wednesdays. Residents were required to sign pledges to save food. Folks at home were told how they needed to do their part to aid the boys already in the military. Herbert Hoover, head of the U.S. Food Administration, said it was only fitting that mothers of men who fought the nation’s battles needed to enlist in such an essential service as saving food. Hoover said mothers wanted their sons to return when victory was achieved, and the mothers could hasten that work by what they could do.

Just before war was declared, Carlton resident Ida Peterson shared a letter from a cousin serving in the Canadian army in France. Though the letter was censored, the soldier spoke of the disagreeable conditions of the trenches during the winter weather. Had it not been censored, the letter would have no doubt told of far more, and “disagreeable” would have been a far more graphic word.

Newspapers announced that all men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft. By contrast, in 2018, U.S. citizens and male immigrants, documented or undocumented, ages 18 – 25, are required to register with Selective Service. In July 1917 it was written that those who enlisted then would have the advantage of two or three months of training over those who were drafted. There were quotas. The paper pointed out that those drafted would have physical examinations and, after that, could not voluntarily enlist in the branch of their choice. Selected men were carefully questioned regarding whether they already had a physical examination or were notified to appear elsewhere. Enlistment of a man following his draft amounted to fraudulent enlistment for which penalties were prescribed by law. Names of those exempted, due to physical condition or hardship, were listed in the paper just as those who were  inducted.

Little more than a week following the Declaration of War, Sturgeon Bay parties appealed to Algoma for assistance in recruiting enough men to form a company of the National Guard. The first to sign applications were Jerry Jerabek, Auggie Wasserbach, Gilbert Mounty, Frank Prokash, Carl Koutnik, George Fellows, Ernst Haucke, Leo Kohlbeck, Frank Lidral, Jr. and Fred Peronto. As it was, Ernst Haucke would be Algoma's first death on the battlefields of France.

W.E. Perry taught military tactics during nightly meetings at City Hall. Applications continued to come in. Because it was expected the men would join the Sturgeon Bay company, Perry applied for a commission when the new company was formed. The men felt Perry would be a shoo-in because of his several years in military schools. The Algoma unit became part of Sturgeon Bay, however in June petitioned for separation and attachment to Green Bay and Battery E which included men from Kewaunee County. Algoma men were snubbed when many of them went to Sturgeon Bay for a unit banquet. As it was, the banquet was for only the Sturgeon Bay men in the unit. When, in mid-July, Algoma gave the men a military send-off banquet, the men of Sturgeon Bay were invited. As were the Algoma honorees that day, the Sturgeon Bay men were also distinguished with ferns backing red roses pinned to their lapels.

Algoma and Sturgeon Bay men of Co. F, 5th Wisconsin Regiment in training at Sturgeon Bay's ball park.

It was the Navy that cried for skilled men. Those with trades were in demand as they were “the first line of defense” in carrying the “Sammies” to France and beating the Kaiser’s submarines. Amateur wireless operators, machinists, cooks and bakers were wanted. Men with such experience were offered “splendid” enlistment conditions and were told they could go right to work with an introductory training. According to its advertising, the Navy paid the highest military wages, as much as 100 a month for an apprentice seaman. Since Uncle Sam paid board and lodging while giving an enlistee $50 worth of free clothing, the pay for one in the Navy was touted as almost all clear profit. Experienced marine engine machinists were eligible to enlist as 1st Class, earning $66.50 a month with all living expenses and clothing provided. Those of 2nd Class proving their ability at sea were promoted. Master machinists were paid $83 a month if they had charge of the engine room.

When the Navy was calling for 20,000 apprentice seamen, Wisconsin’s quota was 800 men. Those enlisting in the Navy were paid $32.50 during their training period, and those who qualified and promoted to seamen 2nd Class received $35.90. Those who were promoted to 1st Class got $38.40. An added inducement was the opportunity for traveling and seeing the world.

Ernest Ponath was one who did that. A month following the declaration of war, Ernest left his job at the the Algoma depot to become the first city man to join the Navy. Making news at the same time was Col. George Wing who passed the examination for a commissioned officer’s position at the Fort Sheridan training camp. When Ponath wrote home in July, he told his parents he was living like a king, describing the mouth-watering turkey dinner served of July 4th. While Algoma residents understood turkey and baked chicken, Ponath’s description of each salivating detail such as the asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, tomato bisque, potato croquettes and more, surely helped recruiting efforts.

There was a place for high school graduates with a fair knowledge of electricity. They had the chance to attend the special Naval Radio School at Harvard where they made their meals in Harvard’s Memorial Hall and used the gymnasium as a dormitory. The four-month course covered military drills and technical and other subjects.

The Navy offered another opportunity for men who wanted to become cooks. By enlisting in the commissary staff of the Navy, men could learn the trade at some of New York’s biggest hotels and cafes. Although the Navy didn’t point it out, such training gave men prestigious employment contacts following the war.

Men who enlisted as cooks were paid $32.50 per month in addition to all expenses during training. Cooks qualifying for higher ratings received a corresponding higher pay. First class cooks grossed $60, 2nd $52, 3rd $41 and 4th Class, $35. Cabin cooks earned $55 while cabin stewards made $61. Higher ratings were open to the inexperienced who “make good,” as merit was always recognized. Touted as a means of learning a trade at government expense, it was a way to help oneself and the nation. All one had to do was see a postmaster, a recruiting officer or write to the Milwaukee recruiting station.

Newspapers were the source of information for most. However, they also caused confusion. After men had been told they would need to enlist to serve in the branch of choice, they were told that after they were drafted and examined by a local board, they were free to enlist in the marines. That lasted until the Provost Marshall General telegraphed to say a drafted man could only serve in the marines with the written consent of the local board. The Provost asked newspapers to call attention and give the matter publicity because nothing changed. After being drafted by a local board, a registrant was not eligible for voluntary enlistment in any branch of government service. Adding to the confusion was that the erroneous information came from the Marine Corps recruiting service itself!

While the young men enlisted, their mothers and sisters were quick to follow Herbert Hoover’s admonition. During July 1917, they made sturdy linen comfort bags stabilized with a small piece of veneer at the bottom. Containing toiletries, needles, thread and pins, the bags were expected to make life just a little more comfortable for the 29 Algoma men then in the military. Each bag was personalized with the recipients initials sewn into the fabric.

The 1917 papers continued in the same vein. There were lists of draftees and lists of exemptions and the reasons for them. One hundred years later, younger generations would wonder how the world could function in a day that depended on mail, newspapers and word of mouth. And, as the children’s party game Pass-It-On, there was much erroneous information. In 2018, social media, text messaging and, to a lesser extent, email serve to provide information that also provides inaccuracies. Reasons for exemptions might be regarded today as protected information, but it would be found on Facebook. Suspicion of German immigrants in a war against Germany is mirrored 100 years later with other groups.

By Fall 1917, more of the “soldier boys” were going “across,” and Algoma’s connection to the Great War solidified.

Sources: Algoma Herald, Algoma Press, Algoma Record Herald; Photo: Door County Democrat,, July 20, 1917; Poster, Military Museum. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Algoma: A World War l Christmas

Steele Street east from 4th; Fluck's is #3 and Boedecker Bros. is #10


Boedecker Bros. Rexall drug store, on the southeast corner of 4th and Stelle Streets, was advertising Christmas candies in fancy boxes and cigars to send to the "soldier boys." in addition to the Christmas cards at a penny to 10 cents each. "War Shall Pass, But the Spirit of Christmas Shall Abide," said the advertising. Folks were advised not to let their hearts dry up because of a world in woe. It said the spirit needed a special emphasis and to shop with experienced sales people while stocks were nearly complete. Fluck's drug store, kitty corner across Steele, advertised pocket sized Kodak cameras to make a soldier's life happy. A Kodak picture from home was another suggestion.

It was 1917. The U.S. had entered what became World War l, which hastened the flu pandemic. Immigrants from Germany were suspect. Families changed names from the original German to something that sounded more “American.” Kophmueller to Miller is only one example. Much as the war meant venturing into the unknown, Christmas was coming and Algoma was making preparations.

Electric lighting was catching on and most businesses were lit. However, war time changed things. Sunday and Thursday nights meant lighting had to be reduced, with only enough lighting for safety. House holders were also asked to reduce their lighting on those nights, sometimes called lightless nights. Much like parents admonishing kids to be on their best behavior for Santa, the Record told readership that the United States Fuel Administration would deal with violators.

The Red Cross wanted all members to place a lighted candle in a window, shining through the white transparent Red Cross service flag placed there. Such a display was sending a Christmas message of strength to the boys who were making the sacrifices.

In mid-December the paper announced Algoma’s first community tree. Trumpets would herald the lighting of the tree, an event, beginning at 5 PM on Christmas Day. When the city chose December 25th, it was to avoid other events with the hope that large number of city residents could attend. Rev. H.W. Blackmann of the St. Agnes-By-the-Lake led the prayers and Attorney Joshua Johns, later Congressman Johns, offered a short address. Songs were both patriotic and Christmas carols.

Such was Christmas 1917.

John Wattawa was a diplomatic attaché at The Hague. Reared in Kewaunee, Wattawa wrote from abroad to his mother in Madison, telling her about espionage and the spies who were all over, even the porters and waiters at the hotels. Wattawa knew he was being watched and said Germans were trying to take Allies’ pictures. He said bread was scarce and most could not get it without a bread card. He also said there were fewer air raids at The Hague than there were in London.

Just before Christmas, Mrs. F.W. Lidral and her daughter Mary journeyed to Waco, Texas where they visited Mrs. Lidral’s sons, Mary’s brothers, Carl and Frank Lidral, who were stationed there. Carl wrote to the Algoma Herald saying he was at Waco for 16 weeks of training before he left for France  to whip the Kaiser forever. Then he said he thought Wisconsin’s windstorms were bad until he got to Texas. A tent in the company across the street was split corner to corner but, rather than leaving, the boys stayed in their cots until morning because they were freezing in the 20 degree temperature. Carl said the cold and wind pierced one easier in Texas than Wisconsin as the air was lighter. He reported gaining at least 10# because the cooks were old hands at it, and while his company was well treated, he had heard from other Algoma boys about their poor treatment.

Quirren Groessl was another who wrote from Waco. Quirren said he was gaining weight and was up to 178# so his folks shouldn’t worry. He looked forward to getting to France and training there. Then they’d be ready for the firing line. It wouldn’t be long before Quirren’s life changed forever.

Herman Maedtke and Erwin Detjen had four-day Christmas furloughs from Camp Custer, Michigan. Detjen worked 12-14 hours a day as company clerk. Both men spoke highly of the camp, and the paper opined the boys acquired the carriage of soldiers. Henry DeVillers and Fred Naze got Christmas furloughs and told folks camp life was pleasant, also speaking highly of the W.M.C.A. and the Knights of Columbus. Fred DeVillers told folks to donate tp the K. C.s as they built a large building at Camp MacArthur at Waco to serve as a church, home and place of amusement. Fred was delighted with the Victrola, electric piano, organ, pool table and billiard table. There was a free library, free post office and free envelopes and paper. Fred said there was more, but things were too numerous to mention.

Walter Marquardt was serving aboard the USS North Dakota when he wrote to the Record. Walter said there was dancing on the ship nearly every evening, but even though the fairer sex wasn’t on board, the sailors managed to enjoy the dances nonetheless. Walter said all seemed happy. There were ship concerts morning, noon and night. He said the men played bootball, baseball and all kinds of sports. Navy life was good.

A year later, at Christmas 1918, the paper let folks know the Council of National Defense raised the ban on Christmas shopping. More money was in circulation then and that pointed to more expensive gifts. It was said the spirit of gift giving was profound and wide-spread. Not since the birth of Christ did Christmas mean so much. “Peace on Earth” wasn’t just lip service. It meant something in 1918. The war ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, but boys were still dying.

Stores and customers made sacrifices during the war, prompting The Herald to say the country’s citizens learned thrift. While saying that, the Herald also felt that the country’s citizens would soon be back to waste, as usual. Folks were reminded to help the less fortunate. They were reminded to put a Belgian guest at their table by eating a little less and saving what would be wasted. While the shopping ban was lifted, prices of food remained high.

Countries of Europe following World War 1

At Christmas of 1918, The Record reminded readers that the world looked toward the United States for leadership and peace had duties and responsibilities. Cities were leveled, fields were non-productive shell craters, and Europeans were starving. Readers were further reminded it was their duty to relieve such misery as the world has never known. Commodities had to be guarded from fire. Folks were told losing food through a careless fire was a crime against humanity. Distribution of foodstuffs would be easier than during the war, but the demand for food and materials would be far greater. Some countries were more easily reached when the fighting was over.

Algoma, as the rest of the country, had other things to worry about. William Walter was robbed by a crook who carried off all the ham and shoulder pieces that he could carry. Walter said if the burglar came around again, he’d get a more appropriate reception. But the robbery was overshadowed by those such as Earl Plettner who was training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station and Joseph Guillette who was severely wounded in France the day the Armistice was signed. Mrs. John Nellis’ Christmas message was that her husband was wounded on October 1. By Christmas, he was seriously ill with influenza-pneumonia in an Alabama training camp. Since there was no news on Jack for months, anxiety was palpable. Finally, inquiries were made in Washington. Although Mrs. Nellis didn’t learn much, she did know Jack was alive. Vernon Qualman’s family and friends received a Christmas gift in Vern himself when he was discharged from Camp Grant.

Across the county, families remained on edge. Rosiere’s Henry Wautlet went into the military about the time of the Armistice.  When Alex Monfils returned to Alabama after Christmas, Henry’s father Alphonse left with him. Alphonse planned to visit Henry who was in the camp hospital. Frank Drossart and George Villers were two Casco soldier boys with Christmas leaves from training camp. Frank returned to Camp Grant, but George was lucky enough to be discharged. Frank Dulek’s family was glad to see him when left Great Lakes Training Station to visit them in Casco.

Arden Fensel wrote his dad from France two weeks after the Armistice. He described the flour, potatoes, onions sauerkraut, pickles and more left behind in a German freight yard. The Germans even left coal, canned meat and candles. Reporting the huge welcome the Americans received while going through Luxembourg and northern France, he said he was glad he remembered a little German. M.J. Cayemburg wrote his dad that “it” was all over and all the men think about is going home. When he wrote to his mother and sister, he said he was fine – even though he had been wounded and could barely walk. He had other injuries from taking a bullet in the cheek. It knocked out a tooth and injured his tongue. Eating was a problem. Private Cayemburg said he was doing a lot of reading. Emil Hoffman described Verdun and all the German bodies, saying to walk the lines and see conditions were things that would open “your eyes.” Hoffman told about the last day on the front when a bunch of Germans asked for something to eat, telling the men about their hardships. Years later Quirren Groessl would tell of lying in a French hospital and sharing a cigarette with a German in the next bed. It was a German bayonet that wounded Groessl. Hoffman and Groessl fought the war and began the healing.

Michael Younk got to New York the day before Christmas. He would be home in two or three weeks. Mike said he was shot five times, but a “hard-boiled” fellow like him could take it. In mid-December the Perrys learned their son Ralph was severely wounded on the day of the Armistice. Ralph died. Two weeks after the Armistice, Frank Shillin and his division were following the “Huns” back to the Rhine. He said they were going through little Luxembourg but soon would be on “real Dutch soil.” Frank knew his letter would arrive just before Christmas, and he’d be following it. Frank said because the war was over, he could finally tell his family that he’d been serving on the front north of Verdun.

Folks felt the paper was right when it said Christmas 1918 would be the most important since the birth of Christ. Some were over-joyed at Christmas but many faced the knowledge that their father, husband or son was never to return. The U.S. had mobilized over 4,700,000 men. Over 116,000 were killed in action, with more than 200,000 wounded, for a total of 320,518 casualties. Influenza still reared its ugly head and men had yet to come home. Privations were rampant across the world, which looked to the U.S. for leadership. But, there was Peace on Earth. It was a peace that did not last. The prosperity following the war didn’t last either.


Note: St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay, Wisconsin has a side altar that is Green Bay’s  only World War l memorial. Built with donations nearly a century ago, the idea came from the Cathedral’s pastor not long after the Armistice was signed and reflects the 129 men from the parish who served. More about the altar can be found simply by Googling or going to the following website:



Sources: Algoma Herald, Algoma Record, Algoma Record Herald; Gold Star Mothers by Harry Heidmann & Lester Heidmann; the 1916 postmarked postcard is from the blogger's collection.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Algoma Box & Dowel/Algoma Dowel Co.


Algoma Box and Dowel is a distant memory in the annals of Algoma business. It began with the commercial fishermen's need for fish boxes. and Melvin Keller who originally fished with his father-in-law Frank Wizner, When Keller was working in the Sturgeon Bay shipyards during the early years of World War ll, he returned to Algoma, late in the winter afternoons, to join Wizner and the commercial fishermen assembling fish boxes in Walter Busch’s fish shanty. It was in 1944 that Kelly, as he was known, formed Algoma Box and Dowel Co., still operating in the shanty.

By 1948, Algoma Fuel Co. owned Busch’s shanty, and in 1951 Melvin Keller began planning the construction of a manufacturing plant on the northeast corner of S. Church and Michigan Streets, or 80 S. Church St. Michigan Street has its own history, but finding it takes some work as the city removed it from service for awhile. Michigan Street ran between the Box and Dowel and Northern Pallet Co., now Smashed on the Rocks at 70 S. Church St.

When Melvin Keller bought the land in the Third Ward for his anticipated factory, the property was designated as residential. Keller appeared before the city council, requesting the property rezoned as light industrial. It was. The property was a bit northeast of Kelly’s location at the rear of the Fuel Co, a site purchased from George McArthur and Sons of Baraboo who acquired the it from J.C. Anderegg Manufacturing Co. Keller made it clear he didn’t intend to build immediately, but he did want to clear the way for the eventuality.

In June 1952, Keller decided it was time to build. Operating in the Fuel Co. shed meant the high river levels and frequent water in the plant,. That forced the issue, driving Melvin Keller to apply for permission to construct a concrete block building.

Keller’s permit was the only industrial application in November 1952, and after his building was approved, he had to request sanitary and storm sewers, and water for the new building. The utilities were on Church Street, having come from North Water to Michigan. In late November, the Box and Dowel, in Government Lot 3, became part of Sewer District #3, along with Marcel Koss on the southwest corner of North Water and Church. Keller and Koss were assessed $200. Algoma Fuel Co., also in District #3, owning that part of Lot 3 lying north and northeast of the Ahnapee River and east of the 2nd Street bridge and Lot 9, east of and Street and south of north water, paid a utilities’ assessment of $276.

Early in January 1953, the Box and Dowel was up and running in its spacious new quarters. But, where did the dowel part of its name come from? While the fledgling company was producing the fish boxes in the shanty, it began making spreaders for the hammocks manufactured by Algoma Net Co., where Melvin Keller’s mother-in-law Mae Wizner was the floor manager. Having a dowel rod machine expanded the business. Purchase of a second rod machine put the company in the glue pin business. Spiral shaped, the glue pins of a few inches were used in the manufacture of doors and windows, and in furniture construction. The company produced chair legs, and built crating for skids used by Algoma Foundry, another long-gone Algoma business with a rich history.

Keller's crew had grown when employees posed for this May 1954 Record Herald photo. From left are Louis Berger, Mel Keller, Eugene Lamperuer, Wally Englebert, Lester Worachek, Ed Fenske, Joe Schmidt, Roland Luedtke and Frank Wizner.

Most of the wood used by the company came from Kewaunee and Door Co. loggers and farmers who brought in the preferred easy-to-work-with, easy-to-dry birch and beech bolts. The bolts were cut into boards and kiln dried to a moisture content of 7%. The boards were ripped into strips and finally run through the dowel machine. After that, the dowel rods went through a pin cutter which, in 1949, could cut an astounding 400 pins a minute. During May 1953, Keller filed a another building permit application with the City of Algoma. This time he planned to build his own 32' x 43' concrete block dry kiln, and did.

As any other small business owner, Keller had enough headaches. Algoma was hit by a violent lake storm in September 1951 when the flooding along the river meant Keller was seriously affected. The wash soaked ready-to-be-shipped glue pins which had to go back into the kiln for further drying.

A year later, it happened again when a southeaster ate 15 feet into the shore, significantly damaging river property. Losses were heavy. High seas flooded Art Dettman’s pop and beer depot, close to the mouth of the river on its north side. The floors of the Box and Dowel and Toots’ Fish Market were inundated by the water that covered the floors of all the fish shanties along the river. Even the Fuel Company suffered heavy losses. It was estimated that two-carloads of coal, about 100 tons, were washed away before Frank Lohrey could get the necessary men and trucks to build a temporary seawall on the coal dock.

One of Keller’s problems, in March 1956, was caused by Michigan Street and its status. As neighbors complained about sawdust from the hopper blowing around the neighborhood, Keller tried to address their concerns. He felt that moving the hopper to the south side of his building would correct the situation, but Michigan Street was on the south side of the building. Addressing the city, Keller pointed out that Michigan Street was not used and probably never would be. He told the city that he would sign an agreement saying that if he could use a portion of Michigan Street, he would move his hopper whenever the city needed the street. Council apparently felt that the request had other implications and forwarded the request to be studied by the street committee. Nothing happened, and Keller ended up erecting a high board fence on the north and east sides of the hopper. The plant was on the west side and, since the river was to the south, nobody else really cared.

The sawdust hopper was in the news a year later when it was destroyed by fire. It seemed that a spark from a  machine ignited the sawdust via the blower system. The hopper was rebuilt, but in the same place, only to be destroyed by fire again in July 1962. (Left)

Keller remained with the company when he sold to Maynard Feld in April 1959. For a time, the original dowel production remained, however, the fish boxes were long gone, and Feld grew the company. By November 1959, Feld was building. The city granted permission for an 18’ x 56’ addition to the plant. The addition on the north side of the building meant wood could be put in or removed from the dry kiln and left under cover until it went to or from the planer and the gang saw. From there, the wood went to rod machines and rip saws, with product ending up ready for shipment.

Feld continued with the accounts Keller had and expanded the company, getting into just about anything that was a dowel, from ¼” to 2”. What happened in the fall of 1959 made things interesting. Feld’s cousin’s husband, Jerry Waak, was a toy salesman for Aluminum Specialty Co. of Manitowoc. Waak traveled the world in search of new products and selling those AlSpeCo manufactured. The visionary Waak was always thinking and, in 1959, he was on the cusp of another idea. He was interested in aluminum artificial Christmas trees at a time when artificial trees were in their infancy. The timing was right. An entire generation had been through the Depression and World War ll and in the 1950s were throwing out the old and looking for modern. What was more modern than an aluminum Christmas tree?

Waak had the aluminum for branches, but not the trunks. When he approached Feld, it was with an idea for the Christmas tree trunks. Waak envisioned pieces of 12”- 15” with a hole in the center at each end of the dowel. He saw the tree being in pieces to streamline assembly and make storage a cinch. Since this was a first, there were no equipment sources for such drilling,. Feld and his brother LeRoy knew what they needed and if anybody could take their idea and build it, it was Johnny Beitling and his brother George. If there was something the Beitlings couldn’t figure out and do, they kept it well hidden.

Christmas tree trunks were dowels, and a good fit for the company. In years to come, the trunks stayed the same, but AlSpeCo offered trees in such colors as gold and pink, in addition to the standard silver. They offered revolving stands and spotlights. The aluminum trees were set up and taken down quickly. They eliminated the hundreds of long silver icicles that were so painstakingly and tediously hung on the ends of the evergreen tree branches. They eliminated the hours and hours spent taking off those icicles, carefully putting them around cardboard to save for the following year. After all, icicle packages cost at least 10 cents a package by 1950. A few shiny red balls were all one needed on the silver trees, thus saving needed time for the harried housewives who had joined the paid workforce in droves. A job, children and all the work a woman would have been doing had she not been in a paid position, ensured a niche in the marketplace for artificial trees.

Karl Kratz took over the plant in 1971 and a year or two later, Feld leased to John Lee and Eben DeClene, selling to DeClene in 1977. The machinery and employees were relocated to DeClene’s newly acquired Wood Industries Co. on Perry St., a company formed by Mahlon Dier for the manufacture of butter tubs and decorative wooden ware. The Industries’ 90’ x 115’ building was constructed in 1958, Algoma’s only industrial building permit that year, just as Keller’s permit was in November 1952.

The empty building at 80 S. Church St. began a new life in the later ‘70s when Jag Haegele bought it for use as his Living Lakes Expo. Haegele was a visionary and a man ahead of his time. His museum taught lakes’ history with a talking life-size model of a commercial fisherman, a talking fish and much, much more.

After the museum was closed, the building was eventually torn down. But Michigan St. remained.

Melvin Keller struck out in his efforts to close Michigan St. Feld tried too. In September 1960, William Stiller, Sr., spokesman for Northern Pallet Co., and Feld petitioned the council for abandonment of the street. Once again, the council wanted to study the matter. Feld was interested in purchasing the Pallet Co. for future expansion. If the road going no where was closed, Feld felt he could connect the buildings. As it was, the Pallet building was used by Algoma Foundry for storage. A month later, Alderman J.J. Jerabek said two property owners east of the Dowel Co. objected to closing of the street, fearing loss of access. Council’s suggestion was a temporary easement, subject to a 30-day notice by either party, to be negotiated. That would permit connecting the structures if there was no demand for Michigan St. east toward the lake. It never happened. If it had, the building’s history would have been far different. What was once Algoma Box and Dowel/Algoma Dowel Co. now offers parking between the Harbor Inn Motel and Smashed on the Rocks.

In Ahnapee’s early days, it was thought Michigan St. came off what is now Lakeview Dr., going down toward the lake but staying tucked into the bottom of the hill. Finding evidences of any street use in the old newspapers is difficult until September 1946 when J.C. Anderegg began construction on his 54 x 96 concrete block factory at 100-132 Michigan St., between the Ahnapee River and Church St. Mr. Anderegg died and the Michigan St. plant did not go forward.



Michigan St. remains and is the address for the residents of the condos on the north side of the Ahnapee River.


Note: Aluminum Specialty Co. became the world's largest manufacturer of aluminum Christmas trees, selling over 1 million.
Source: Algoma Record Herald and property abstracts. Photos and headline are from Algoma Record Herald. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

World War l News, the Newspapers and Algoma


Algoma Record Herald – a merger of two Algoma papers – was a new newspaper when it carried this article. The article pointed out that its edition would likely be late as employees refused to work. It was neither a work stoppage nor a strike. What came to be known as World War l was over.  It wasn’t only Algoma’s workforce that took time off: it happened around the country. It was newspapers that spread the news.

Known as the First World War, World War l, and the Great War, it began in Europe on July 28, 1914 and ended officially with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Political turmoil ravaging Europe for years came to a head on June 28, 1914, a month earlier, before the war’s outbreak, in Sarajevo when Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assissaniated heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

In the end, 16 million  military personal and civilians died. Additionally, the war hastened the spread of Spanish Influenza, leading to the deaths of up to 100 million people world-wide. It also led to genocide. Following the Armistice, the remaining unresolved conflicts escalated, giving rise to the likes of Adolf Hitler and plunging the world into what became World War ll, a mere 20 years later.

While the U.S. didn’t get into the European war until 1917, Algoma residents – and those across Kewaunee County, the state and the nation – understood their former countrymen. Millions of German immigrants made up the largest immigrant group to the U.S. and to Algoma. Germans began arriving in what was then Wolf River within a year of Kewaunee County’s origin in 1852.

In the early days, some of the community’s early Yankees derided the Germans (and others) as ignorant foreigners, often treating the immigrants in a detrimental manner. After 50 years, the prejudice was disappearing in Algoma. But then came the war. 

While many felt the U.S. would get involved in the European War, Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 election with the slogan, "He kept us out of war." But, U.S. neutrality didn't last and Wilson declared war in April 1917. Serving as president from 1913-1921, it was Wilson who led the country through the war.

Although the country was remaining neutral, Major Gen. Leonard Wood told Congress, in November 1916, that war was coming and that the U.S. was utterly unprepared. He said the coast was vulnerable and that a force of 150,000 trained men could inflict incalculable damage before a U.S. army could be assembled to meet it. Algoma folks anxiously watched the papers, wondering when “the other shoe would drop.”

In early January 1916 the Record told readership that the European conflict put the U.S. in a trying period. It was said, in 1914, the European war was going to be over by Christmas. Then it was said it was going to be a struggle to the death. Although the U.S. was neutral, it came face-to-face with issues arising from the war, shipping, German U-boats and more. During late January 1916, the paper noted the need for preparedness for war, with all its horrors and human loss. The article continued calling attention to individual preparedness for old age and future welfare. Thrift was important and would be developed through a national thrift day.

Local papers* were full of war news. Little by little, the papers carried more about what folks should know. Men enlisted and others were drafted. The papers provided men with military options, and helped them sort out those options.

Papers informed residents about the Kewaunee County Council of Defense and its designation of wheatless Tuesdays and meatless Wednesdays. Residents were required to sign pledges to save food. Folks at home were told how they needed to do their part to aid the boys abroad in the military. Herbert Hoover, head of the U.S. Food Administration, said it was only fitting that mothers of men who fight the nation’s battles needed to enlist in such an essential service as saving food. Hoover said mothers want their sons to return when victory is achieved, and the mothers hasten that work by what they can do.

Just before war was declared, Carlton resident Ida Peterson shared a letter she received from a cousin serving in the Canadian army in France. Though the letter was censored, the soldier spoke of the disagreeable conditions of the trenches during the winter weather. Had it not been censored, the letter would have no doubt told of far more and “disagreeable” would have been a far more graphic word.

It was the papers that announced that all men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft. In July it was written that those who enlisted then would have the advantage of two or three months of training over those who were drafted. There were quotas. The paper pointed out that those selected by draft would have physical examinations and, after that, could not voluntarily enlist in the branch of their choice. Selected men were carefully questioned about whether they already had a physical examination or were notified to appear elsewhere. Such enlistment of a man after he was drafted amounted to fraudulent enlistment and penalties were prescribed by law. Names of those exempted, due to physical condition or hardship, were listed in the paper just as those who were  inducted.

In the world of 2018, law says all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, residing in the United States, and 18-through 25, are required to register with Selective Service.

Little more than a week following the Declaration, Sturgeon Bay parties appealed to the men of Ahnapee for assistance in recruiting enough men to form a company of the National Guard. The first to sign the applications were Jerry Jerabek, Auggie Wasserbach, Gilbert Mounty, Frank Prokash, Carl Koutnik, George Fellows, Ernst Haucke, Leo Kohlbeck, Frank Lidral, Jr. and Fred Peronto.

The men met nightly at the city hall where W.E. Perry taught military tactics. Applications came in. It was expected the men would join the Sturgeon Bay company and Perry applied for a commission when the new company was formed. He was expected to receive it because of his several years in military schools.

It was the Navy that wanted men who did things well. Men with trades were in demand as they were “the first line of defense” in carrying the “Sammies” to France and beating the Kaiser’s submarines. Amateur wireless operators, machinists, cooks and bakers were wanted. Men with such experience were offered “splendid” enlistment conditions and were told they could go right to work with an introductory training. According to the advertising, the Navy paid the highest military wages, as much as 100 a month for an apprentice seaman. Uncle Sam paid board and lodging while giving an enlistee $50 worth of free clothing, thus the pay of one in the Navy is almost all clear profit.

Experienced marine engine machinists are eligible to enlist as 1st Class, earning $66.50 a month with all living expenses and clothing free. Those of 2nd Class proving their ability at sea were promoted. Master machinists were paid $83 a month if they had charge of the engine room.

When the Navy was calling for 20,000 apprentice seamen, Wisconsin’s quota was 800 men. Those enlisting in the Navy were paid $32.50 during their training period, and those who qualified and promoted to seamen 2nd Class got $35.90. Those who were promoted to 1st Class got $38.40. An added inducement was traveling and seeing the world.

Ernest Ponath was one who did that. A month following the declaration of war, Ernest left his job at the depot to become the first city man to join the Navy. Making news at the same time was Col. George Wing who passed the examination for a commissioned officer’s position at the Fort Sheridan training camp.

There was a place for high school graduates with a fair knowledge of electricity. They had the chance to attend the special Naval Radio School at Harvard. The men would make their meals in Harvard’s Memorial Hall and use the gymnasium as a dormitory. The four-month course covered military drills and technical and other subjects.

The Navy offered another opportunity for men who wanted to become cooks. By enlisting in the commissary staff of the Navy, men could learn the trade at some of New York’s biggest hotels and cafes. Although the Navy didn’t point it out, such training gave men prestigious employment contacts following the war.

Men who enlisted as cooks got $32.50 per month in addition to all expenses during training. Cooks who qualified for higher ratings received a corresponding higher pay. First class cooks got $60, 2nd $52, 3rd $41 and 4th Class, $35. Cabin cooks got $55 while cabin stewards made $61. Higher ratings were open to the inexperienced who “make good,” as merit was always recognized. Touted as a means of learning a trade at government expense, it was a way to help oneself and the nation. All one had to do was see a postmaster, recruiting officer or write to the Milwaukee recruiting station.

Newspapers were the source of information for most. However, they also caused confusion. After men had been told they would need to enlist to serve in the branch of choice, they were told that after they were drafted and examined by a local board, they were free to enlist in the marines. That lasted until the Provost Marshall General telegraphed to say a drafted man could only serve in the marines with the written consent of the local board. The Provost asked newspapers to call attention and give the matter publicity because, in actuality, nothing changed. After being drafted by a local board, no registrant was eligible for voluntary enlistment in any branch of government service. Adding to the confusion was that the erroneous information came from the Marine Corps recruiting service itself! Movies spread the news in a more interesting way.

During the fall, in 1918, the War Department announced guidelines for mailing Christmas packages to Europe. The mailing would be extended to November 30 because several divisions of the Army in active combat areas were unable to distribute and dispatch the parcel labels until the last week of October.

The papers continued in the same vein. One hundred years later, younger generations would wonder how the world went on in a day that depended on mail, newspapers and word of mouth. And, as the children’s party game Pass It On, there was much erroneous information. In 2018, social media, text messaging and, to a lesser extent, email serve to provide information that also provides inaccuracies.

As Algoma's men enlisted or were drafted, The Herald and The Record became even more important. Telephones were making inroads, but it was print that made the difference.


*The Record and The Herald merged to become the Record Herald in 1918. The paper was owned by the Heidmann family until Harold Heidmann sold to Frank Wood in the 1980s.

Source: Algoma Record Herald. Article and ad from Algoma Record Herald. World War l poster taken by the blogger at a Missouri war museum.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ghosts of Ahnepee, Ahnapee and Algoma


Door-Kewaunee County Normal School before 1937
Door-Kewaunee Normal School was the scene of a 1923 Halloween party few ever forgot. It was said that spooks, graves, a corpse and everything supernatural was there. Being aspiring teachers, it was Shakespeare in the casket and lighting was just right to cast a creepy feeling across the room. The adjacent room was the cemetery, filled with tombstones of those long departed, epitaphs in verse describing their lives. There were many a shivering spine among the would-be teachers, faculty and the invited high school seniors.

The students celebrated Halloween that year, however there were many years when Kewaunee County residents wondered if it was the jitters on a spooky All Hallows Eve, or if it was truly the supernatural. Then again, the supernatural isn’t confined to Fright Night.

Although it was an unusual time of year for such things – early December 1926 – the Majestic was the site of a complete spirit séance featuring the likes of Sir Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge. Doyle was famous for Sherlock Holmes and physicist Lodge’s work in electromagnetic radiation would, generations later, enable radio shows such as The Creaking Door and The Shadow. In that lyceum program, the presenter promised to demonstrate how “ridiculously simple” the supernatural really was. But, did anybody really buy that thought? Algoma had supernatural stories that lived.

In 1895, the paper’s editor wrote that the city never really had a ghost before then. Later it was said the ghost of Henry Schmiling roamed the brewery. And, what about Martin Klotz? Who'd worry about him when late that 1895 September, the populace of Ahnapee was in a dither discussing the ghost seen on the streets for weeks? The ghost was not the normal white-appearing graveyward specter, rather a tall, stately-looking visage dressed in black. Leisurely parading through the streets and alleys after dark, the manifestation closely tailed men on their way home for work, or frightened young lovers walking along the beach. Women and children were not miiune from the woman in black.


Ahnepee’s ghost was said to be a link between the past, present and future. It was also said that the spirit followed those who would flee while disappearing if any tried to follow it. As the story goes, the ghost vanished the night a man, in wait for a Goodrich steamer, saw the ghost and raised his hat to it. The ghost disappeared into an alley and was never seen again.

About 10 years earlier – in early November 1886 – a supernatural event took place at the Langemak home. As the family was visiting neighbors one evening, they were surprised to see their home lit up by bright lights shining from every window. As the family expected guests, Mr. Langemak felt they’d arrived early and were making themselves at home. Going home to welcome them, Langemak was astonished to see every light go out. The house was dark, and doors were locked. Neighbors witnessed the ghostly happenings that night and felt that some ancient pedagogue wanted to find out about living in the world of a modern school master. How else could it be explained?

During the fall of 1867 Martin Klotz’ body was found near the boom at the sawmill along the Kewaunee River. Klotz drowned,  and it was assumed he came upon a burglary and was over-powered by the burglars. Although there was indeed a burglary that night, others felt the drowning was accidental. Whatever the case, those who lived in the area were felt to be superstitious, telling weird stories about the drowning. Then one night Ben Boutin reported seeing a ghostly thing in white moving near the river bank. Boutin took to his heels and began yelling. When others heard the story, it spread quickly. It was more than a few nights before folks would pass the mill later in the evening. Later it was learned that two Kewaunee men developed the hoax as a way to scare area fishermen from their nightly carousings in Kewaunee’s saloons.

Back in the days when Rio Creek was known as Kirchmann’s Place, a part corduroy, primitive road ran between Ahnepee and Kirchmann’s. Just east of the new St. John’s church on the hill was Dettmann’s swamp. The lonesome road also led to the cemetery on the hill next to the church. The road was a place of melancholy and fear. The three Dettmanns in the area – Johann, Wilhelm and August – were called “Dutchmen” by their English neighbors a few miles to the east. The Dettmanns, who  lived adjacent to the swamp, worked hard clearing land, building log homes and making wooden shingles.

They were honest men and their credit was good with  Ahnepee merchants such as Swaty, Boalt and Knipfer. They were known to stop at Feuerstein’s or George Laux’s, and when they left town, townsfolk knew they had enjoyed some of the local brew.

One night the men unloaded their shingles, bought supplies and were hurrying to get through the swamp and home as quickly as possible. A ghost had begun appearing in the swamp and several had seen it. The tall white ghost was known to have come down from the cemetery. It was reported to have jumped on sleds, causing the drivers to faint and be carried home unconscious by their team. Noises of all sorts were said to come from the swamp. It got so bad that the Dettmanns began staying close to home, wondering if they should sell out. That was when they decided to see Squire Elliot to bring a suit against the ghost. A lawsuit against a ghost?

Squire told the men there were no such things as ghosts, but they knew what they saw and heard. Finally, Squire said he’d go out and have a look. Maybe Squire scared off the ghost because it was never seen again. But, just to be sure, whenever Johann, Wilhelm and August went to Ahnepee, they were certain to get through the swamp before nightfall. More than likely, Laux and Feuerstein lost a little business on the days the men brought in their shingles.

Some say the local ghosts are real. Others disagree. Some say the ghost of Henry Schmiling inhabits the brewery. Maybe the best ghosts are found in spine tingling haunted houses.

Sources: Ahnapee Record/Algoma Record Herald. The postcard is from the blogger's collection.
Note: The city now known as Algoma was Ahnepee until 1873 when it was renamed Ahnapee.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Furniture, Coffins, Undertakers and Algoma


When John Hughes'* daughter Elizabeth Van Deuser died, she made history. Elizabeth, the wife of Horace Van Deuser, was the first white person to die in what became Algoma. The year was 1852 when the place was called Wolf River. Elizabeth was thought to have been buried along the river. During the next few years, the few who died were buried at what is approximately 5th and State Streets, however those bodies were exhumed a few years later and moved to Defaut Cemetery, the first section of what became the Evergreens.

In the early days of the community, when folks died, their families built simple box coffins and prepared their bodies to meet the Lord. Then came the undertakers and finally today’s traditions.

In his 1980 Inventing the American Way of Death, 1830-1920, J.J. Farrell writes that most died at home during those years, and funerals and burials were handled by family and neighbors. After a death, the women were responsible for preparing the body for burial while the men built a plain wood coffin or, perhaps, bought one from a local carpenter. The men dug the grave and often made a headstone.

What is today known as a wake was traditionally held in the home. During the 1800s a lack of scientific knowledge often made it difficult to know if one was dead or in a deep sleep. Following the presumed death, the body was closely observed for three days to make certain the person was truly dead and did not awake from a deep sleep. Thus, the term “wake.”

As cities swelled with rural populations seeking employment, space became a premium and often there was no room for a wake in the households of the working man. Embalming became popular, offering expanded roles for undertakers. Farrell writes that cities meant longer distances were traveled from the home to the cemetery, necessitating someone do the organizing and seeing that all formalities were followed. In efforts to portray a more professional image, the term “funeral director” came into vogue sometime after 1900. As the years went on, the funeral directors assumed duties previously held by family and clergy. It was also said that when funeral homes proved the services, the words “living room” came into being because the in-home parlor was no longer used to display the dead. Funeral homes were known as funeral parlors as recently as a generation or two ago.

Deceased loved ones have always mourned, although until the last 70 or so years, there was a mourning period when family members did not engage in social pursuits that could be construed as fun. Some wore black clothing, or at least a black armband, to indicate there had been a death in the family. At the time of the Civil War, a widow was expected to observe a 2 or 2 ½ year mourning period for her husband. In some places it was customary to shroud mirrors and stop clocks while one was lying in state.

The practice of embalming caught on during the Civil War era. Touted mainly for men of higher ranks, embalming was advertised as a way of preserving the body to appear as if one was sleeping. Developments in photographic technology brought gave rise to photos of the deceased. It was not unusual to have pictures taken of the deceased lying in the coffin surrounded by flowers. Small children were often held in the mother’s arms for such a photograph. Others appeared to be sleeping
Hair watch fob, ca. 1854
in a child-sized chair or perambulator. Many families saved locks of hair to be made into such wearable items as rings and watch fobs, but the hair was also made into flowers and decorative items placed in a glassed shadow box. The floral tributes of today had their roots in the flowers, rose petals and other fragrances that were thought to minimize the odors of deterioration.

While it seems like a stretch of the imagination at first glance, Ahnapee, as other places, had a connection between death and furniture stores, and even harness makers. In the early days of furniture construction, it followed that coffins be built in furniture manufacturies and sold by furniture stores. Most of the coffins sold in Ahnapee/Algoma were made in town and advertised in the paper. In the early days, the coffin was usually set up in the parlor of the family of the deceased where much of the funeral took place. Often the wake was followed by a service at church, although such services were also held within the home.

It is thought Franz Schubich was Ahnapee’s first professional undertaker. His Steele Street furniture and undertaking establishment was an outgrowth of the Paarmann furniture business just west of the southwest corner of 4th and Steele. Schubich’s long-time business gave rise to what became Haucke’s and then Schinderle’s today. Another of the early businessman with undertaking in connection with his furniture business was M.A. McCune who was advertising as early as 1884.

Both Frank Jirtle and William Krueger ran harness shops in the 200 and 300 blocks, respectively, of Steele Street and were advertising coffins before 1900. On November 11, 1901, the Record announced that Chilton parties were considering opening a new furniture store in Algoma. Anton Egerce and Hugh Eldridge said if they did decide to open in the city, they planned to purchase the undertaking and furniture business of Perlewitz Bros., conducted by William Krueger**, and the undertaking business of Frank G. Jirtle. Their plans included opening in the Charles building on the southwest corner of 1st and Steele, however for some reason the men decided against the Algoma purchase. It was John Perry who went forward.

John Perry’s 1902 store at the northwest corner of 4th and State was one of the businesses advertising coffins. Perry concluded a deal with F.G. Jirtle for the purchase of his undertaking business, also purchasing the undertaking and furniture business of the Perlewitz Bros. Perlewitz’ were best known for their blacksmithing, and wagon and carriage making, while Jirtle was known for his harness making. It was Perry’s intention to leave his grocery and dry goods business to devote himself to his new pursuits. In the early 1900s, Perry’s ad included something new - services offered by a woman.

The Fremont Street property older Algoma residents remember as Weisner-Massart Funeral Home was owned by Mathias Melchior – of the shoemaking family - in 1895. Ten years later, Henry J. Wunderlich built a home on the site, and in 1907 Mary Parker was living there. Joseph Wodsedalek owned the property until June 1934 when Merlyn Foley bought it and remodeled the building for use as a funeral home which opened in August that year. After he died in April 1935, his widow Agnes, a licensed embalmer and funeral director, became the owner of the Foley Funeral Home, assisted by Harry Kinnard, also a licensed funeral director. After Kinnard was called to military service, Mrs. Foley announced in April 1942 that she would be assisted by Elmer Monard of Luxemburg. About six months later, William Weier of Oconto joined the company which became Foley-Weier Funeral Home.

Weier wasn’t there for long and early in March 1944, Nelson Massart of Weisner-Massart of Casco announced taking over the Foley Funeral Home, saying all Weisner-Massart funerals would be conducted from Algoma because of the fire that destroyed the firm’s Casco furniture store and funeral parlors nearly 10 months earlier.

Following Harry Kinnard's 1946 military discharge, he returned to the funeral home. His newspaper advertising promised that he’d be there at all times, and offered 24-hour ambulance service. A few months later, in August, Kewaunee County real estate transfers indicate that Community State Bank officer X.H. Naze, guardian, sold the funeral home to Pauline Weisner and Nelson Massart who owned it until 1955 when Massart became the sole owner of the property. In 2000, Weisner-Massart built a new facility at 1617 Flora Ave.


Schinderle Funeral Home has its roots in the business originating in 1878 with Edward Franz Schubich. Schubich began business in the Paarmann Cottage and relocated a few years later, in 1881, to the McDonald building at the southwest corner of 2nd and Steele. A few years later Schubich moved to the Toebe building at the northeast corner of 2nd and S. Water St., the street which later became Navarino. The location served as Schubich’s undertaking parlors for years, however he also conducted his business in the Swaty building in the triangle of Block 6, and in the Danek building on Steele..

Schubich, in 1916, leased, and then purchased, the Busch-Cohen building, on the south side of Steele between 3rd and 4th. The store later became Haucke’s furniture store, but Clarence Haucke operated his funeral home from 800 4th Street. With the exception from about 1900 when Franz Schubich died to Carl F. Schubich's sale to Clarence Haucke, the Schubich name was synonymous with funerals in Ahnapee/Algoma. Haucke Funeral Home was sold to William Schinderle in January 1967 when the new Haucke-Schinderle Funeral Home opened in the 1600 block of Jefferson Street. Although the business changed ownership in the last 140 years, Schinderele’s is Kewaunee County’s longest continuously operated funeral business.

Schubich, Haucke, Krueger, Weisner-Massart and other undertakers operated furniture stores in connection with the funeral business. I40 years ago most of Ahnapee’s furniture was made by hand, although chairs generally came from factories.

William G. Malcore’s undertaking business was a bit different than the others, however. By 1927 Malcore was operating a music store with an undertaking establishment in connection. In October his newspaper advertising said he was a licensed embalmer located in the Guth Music Store building where he was also a dealer in pianos, phonographs and radios.  Malcore listed his phone number – 443 - saying it was answered 24 hours a day. Twenty years earlier, Schubich also provided a telephone number in his ads.

John Cepek seemed to restrict himself to his undertaking business, at least in his newspaper ads. He provided a funeral car. When William Duescher opened an undertaking establishment in 1931, he rented the LuMaye building on the south side of Steele Street in the space previously occupied by the A & P grocery. Duescher didn’t remain in Algoma long. Leo Wochos, of Denmark, Wisconsin, arrived in June 1932 and moved into the flat above the funeral home William Duescher established the year before. Following his graduation from the undertaking and embalming school in Chicago, Wochos worked in Chicago and Milwaukee for some time.

Duescher and Wochos never had Algoma furniture stores. Neither does Schinderele. Wesiner-Massart has one in Algoma today, and has been operating a furniture store in Casco for over 100 years. But, they aren’t building their own furniture and they aren’t building coffins either.

*John Hughes was one of the three “founding fathers” of what became Algoma.


**William Krueger conducted the furniture and undertaking business for Paul Gablowsky & Co., Perlewitz Bros. and John Perry, respectively.



Sources: Ahnapee Records/Algoma Record/Algoma Record Herald; Commercial History of Algoma, Wisconsin Vol. 2, c. 2012; Inventing the American Way of Death1830-1920, J.J. Farrell, c. 1980.

Graphics are from Ahnapee Record/Algoma Record Herald. The photo is the blogger's.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ahnapee: Shifting Sands, the Limestone and the Harbor


Algoma's iconic lighthouse is almost the tip of the iceberg.
Harbor stories began 75 years before its construction, but oh the stories it could tell!

t was not long after first settlement in 1851 that the harbor in what is now Algoma became an issue.

The river's mouth - the pier area - was the busiest part of the small community, however it took five years for the first pier to be built. Businessman David Youngs built it on the north side of the river in 1856 so boats did not have to cross the ever-shifting sand bar at the mouth, which was not where it is today.

The Wolf – now called Ahnapee – River entered Lake Michigan east of the Harbor Inn of today. From that point, the river turned south for a few hundred feet, connecting to the channel residents now know. It was years later that the U.S. Engineers “straightened” the channel. In January 1860 residents of Ahnapee, as Wolf River was renamed in 1859, established a committee tasked with making plans for a harbor and estimating costs. The decision to build a 200' pier for protection at the mouth of the river was made at a well-attended community meeting. Attendees envisioned building the pier by subscription with the community doing its own work.

Kewaunee Enterprise was organized in September 1859. In 1860, Ahnapee had yet to have its own newspaper, relying on meeting notices being published by the Enterprise. However, the Enterprise failed to publish the harbor meeting announcement, felt by some due to hostility regarding Ahnapee's success. Editor Garland responded by saying his paper would "cheerfully publish" Ahnapee matters if such information was provided. Such sparring continued in the years to come.

The Enterprise did, however, carry the news in February 1860 when it reported Ahnapee's piers would be extended into the lake 360' on the south side of the river and 240' on the north, thus improving protection. Additionally, the piers would be a great help to farmers who could produce more hay since the shifting sands at the mouth would not back up water in the river. Two months later the Enterprise was extolling the virtues of Ahnapee, saying it was a small village that built a pier independent of government assistance. By then Youngs sold the pier to Charles Griswold Boalt, a man reportedly arriving in town with $400,000 in his pocket. Youngs associated in the forwarding business with Boalt and Boalt's partner Edward Decker until 1872. The Enterprise did not mention C.G. Boalt's wealth, but it did comment on the unusual facilities for a smart thriving town.

A month following the first harbor meeting, project leadership was named: David Youngs was chosen president while A.D. Eveland and the two Halls, Abraham and Simon, were named directors. George Elliot was the clerk and J.M. Parker was named treasurer. Twenty-three hundred dollars was raised to extend the piers. This time the Enterprise said the protected harbor would benefit up-river settlers, enabling them to cut more logs, again because water would not back up as it did with the constantly shifting sand.

During February 1860, Mathias Simon wrote to tell Edward Decker in Kewaunee that Ahnapee was going ahead with harbor development and had spikes out. Following the spring ice break-up, about 500 piles were driven, and they were still being driven when the Civil War stopped all activity.

Sometime following the close of the Civil War, Governor Lucius Fairchild, realizing the Republican party could not go on forever promising veterans’ benefits, changed his cause to internal improvements, including railroads and river and harbor improvements along Lake Michigan.

Years after harbor development was interrupted by the Civil War, Congress authorized the expenditure of $1000 for a survey of the Ahnapee harbor. A correspondent for the Milwaukee Sentinel advocated the Ahnapee harbor as early as  October 1867 when he wrote that the harbor provided good lee and good anchorage. It was pointed out that reefs jutted out from both north and south points in the lake, which make it a "good lee in all winds." The correspondent had called for the necessity for refuge points along the lake. Racine Journal ran a supportive article on the appropriation for the Ahnapee harbor in March 1871 saying there was no point on the lake at which there was a more needed harbor. The Journal said river sand and "secretions" did not wash into the lake as they did in most harbors, and the inner harbor provided six miles of slow moving water for ships of light draft. There was enough timber and stone in the area to do the job and since the public had voted to tax themselves, public action needed to be considered. The Journal continued saying that in terms of refuge, the harbor would pay for itself yearly in the marine disasters it prevented. Ahnapee’s harbor was looking like a “go.

Both Kewaunee Enterprise and Door County Advocate watched the goings-on in Ahnapee with interest. In September 1870 both papers knew there was a fair probability that the government would aid local residents in improving the harbor.

It was Congress that provided for the harbor’s survey, completed by Civil Assistant Capt. Miller of the U.S. Engineer Corp. Most necessary was a harbor of safety – and possibly two – between Manitowoc and Baileys Harbor. Michigan’s improved harbors were spaced about every 15 miles of shoreline, accomplished with public money. While Michigan’s harbors were close, Wisconsin appropriations were made for harbors to be about every 25 miles from Manitowoc to Chicago. Manitowoc to Baileys Harbor is about 82 miles, and in 1870, there were no harbors of refuge.

At the harbor planning meeting on February 5, 1870, residents felt harbor improvements would make it practical for rafts and schooners to be floated out into the lake.  It was said vessels with ordinary drafts would be able to get cargo into the river. Townsfolk knew in 1870 that although the harbor gave protection, the river was a problem. The town wanted a protective pier and moved to secure government appropriations by asking the Legislature to authorize $20,000 in improvement bonds payable in one, two or three years. The $20,000 harbor improvement tax levy was voted in overwhelmingly, 262 - 23, at a town meeting in April.

The point at which the Ahnapee River enters the lake now is about midway between the two pies. Making improvement feasible was that the river was navigable about 8 miles from the lake and that there was sufficient water about a mile from the mouth to float the largest class of lake vessels. Due to water depth, because the lake bottom drops so fast, piers shorter than average would be in order. The bottom of the lake was composed of clay so once dredged, the shifting sands wouldn’t soon obstruct the channel. Shifting sands were felt to be the curse of Lake Michigan harbors.

Captain Miller, of the U.S. Engineers, completed a preliminary government survey for Ahnapee’s north pier project in late August 1870. Harbor Commissioner Casgrain said the outside approaches to the mouth made it one of the best points on the lake. Soundings showed a 14-foot water depth just one hundred feet from shore. The channel inside was deep, wide and easily improved, except for a rocky ledge limestone obstruction about three blocks from the mouth. Townsfolk already knew that was going to be difficult. The obstruction was about four rods wide, going from bank to bank, covered by about 6’ of water. If the appropriation were to be made, the village would be required to remove the limestone.

1870 U. s. Engineers Map. The old pier is near the bottom of the map. Broken lines indicate proposed piers.

The $20,000 residents voted on is an amount that seems almost staggering when one considers the population and what money meant.  That 20 thousand would be about $340,000 today, a sum today’s Council would carefully consider. At any rate, some felt the money was a paltry sum for such work. As the other papers saw it, the location, advantages and natural adaption made it certain that the government would lend a hand.

When Casgrain made the survey, he was tasked with not only surveying the river, but all approaches to it. Soundings had to be made upriver for three miles. The lake was surveyed from north and south boundaries of the village from the shore out 30’ into the water.  The project included plans for construction and cost estimates. Casgrain was impressed with what he found.

But, there was more to come. Dealing with the limestone ridge was worse than anybody thought and it was felt the $20,000 could be used for the project. However, a special election was called on October 8 to vote on a $2,000 tax for drilling and blasting through the rock west of the bridge.

The limestone outcropping inside the mouth was especially serious when the water was low. The channel needed to be at least 12' deep, 150' wide and 700' long. Because the limestone made it impractical to have a harbor inside the river, the decision was made to submit an outer harbor project. By 1870, it was more than shifting sands. Driftwood, sawdust and refuse also often blocked the entrance to the channel. Depths varied making dredging a necessity. Cost of this March 1871 project was estimated at $25,000.

The Record told readers to "look to the future." If the town was to offer vessels shelter, it needed to open the channel. The editors continued by saying the government had spent large sums and citizens should do their part to ensure growth and prosperity. The Sturgeon Bay Expositor was not so positive. Its editor said he was glad not to own land in Ahnapee because of the $700 debt for fire equipment, the thousands spent for the harbor, and the big splurge for the schoolhouse. 


1885 U.S. Engineers Map with the Completed Work in Ahnapee Harbor
By 1885, much of the work was completed and the U.S. Engineers put out another map illustrating the new piers and the change in the river's course when the sand bar was dug out. The work was done, and yet Ahnapee was plagued with on-going harbor problems.


Note: Ahnepee became Ahnapee in 1873. Kewaunee Enterprize was renamed Enterprise in 1865. The most widely used spellings for each are used in this blog post.

Sources: An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River? c. 2001; Ahnapee Record/Algoma Record Herald; Kewaunee Enterprise; Sturgeon Bay Advocate; Sturgeon Bay Expositor; Decker Files found in the Area Archives at UW-Green Bay.
Painting is copyrighted and used with permission of NL Johnson Art.