Friday, June 22, 2018

Ahnapee/Algoma and the Village Blacksmith

Blacksmith at the William McKinley Museum, Canton, Ohio

“Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village blacksmith stands,” Longfellow wrote that in 1842, a time when communities all over the U.S. were dependent on horses and blacksmiths. Blacksmiths were essential, and highly esteemed members of the community. Their skills were not only important to thriving villages and fledgling hamlets that depended on the smiths to shoe horses, fashion hames and whipple trees, but, in just a few years, to Kewaunee County, which, as the rest of the country, needed all sorts of forged goods. Where blacksmiths and wagon-making businesses once dotted the landscape, we find gas stations, one-stops and hardware stores.

Longfellow wrote that the smithy was a mighty man with large, sinewy hands who had arm muscles as strong as iron bands. His description portraying blacksmiths as compassionate, spiritual and almost larger than life failed to tell of the dirt, grime, burns and injuries in a smithy. Blacksmiths were hard- working men.

John Roberts appeared in Ahnapee about 1860. His blacksmith shop was one of Ahnapee’s first. Roberts located in various places around town, including near the northwest corner of 4th and Steele and, in July 1907, on 2nd and South Water, now Navarino, Street. Storm and Bro. wagon and sleigh shop was operating in 1873 in what had been Roberts’ 4th Street shop. Roberts made news during the blasting of the limestone ridge in the river during 1879, but not because he had anything to do with it. A stone weighing about 5# was blasted so high that when it came down, it made a sizable hole as it went through the roof of his 2nd and South Water Street shop. Luckily, his was a two-story building, and that second floor prevented an employee from being severely injured by the stone.

Thain and Elliot were partners in 1874, however by November 13, 1884 J.H. Thain and J.R. Curie formed a blacksmith and wagon business on Fremont. John Johnson, another 4th St. blacksmith, bought out Louey Mason, the wagon maker who was associated with him in 1879. The men had worked together for about a year. Earlier in the year, Johnson and Mason’s facility burned down in a fire appearing to be arson. When the Kewaunee Enterprise reported the fire, the paper opined that it was set by an enemy of Mr. Johnson who did more work than any blacksmith in town and that he had just paid for his new shop. Was the fire indeed arson? The building and tools were insured for $800, however insurance fell far short of the loss. Johnson moved equipment from his 3rd Street shop on the northwest corner of 3rd and Fremont and used his rebuilt shop as the wagon shop.

Mikkleson blacksmith site
Boeder Mikkleson was a west side smith. April 1893 saw Mikkleson building a new blacksmith and wagon shop just east of the northeast corner of Navarino and Mill on property purchased from Michael Melchior. Charles Bastar opened his blacksmith shop in 1880 on his premises in “Slab Town,” as the area around the mill on the South Branch was called.  The Ahnapee Record called Bastar’s blacksmith and wagon shop “first class. Bastar had been located in part of the
Bastar's shop
foundry building at 6th and Fremont. It was there that Hamachek’s electric light plant had its start. Bastar later relocated to the northeast corner of Mill and Navarino, the site Boeder Mikkleson once owned. Mikkleson seemed to move around. He was renting Wenzel Blahnik’s blacksmith shop in 1898. Wenzel Blahnik sold his shop to his brother Frank in 1902.  John Teich bought it in 1906, but then leased it to William Bohne the same year.

Another early resident - Christian Knospe - opened a blacksmith shop in 1865 on the east side of 4th on the approximate site of today’s LCL Printing Co. George Doerfler and Simon Pies were operating their shop in 1873 on 4th on the site that several years later became Knospe’s, just north of the present Walters’ Hardware.

John Kumbalek and Simon Pies began their smithy on South Water, now Navarino Street, and relocated a year later to the Danek building on south side of Steele, today the site of Harmann’s Studio. Frank Jirtle married Kumbalek’s daughter and took over the business. Jirtle also leased the east portion of Henry Baumann’s building during the 1880’s.  By then Mr. Jirtle was in the harness business.

Former government employee John Utnehmer announced in August 1880 that he would do blacksmithing. His shop was located on the flats on the north side of the river, the area east of what was Sunrise Cove in 2018. For a time in 1884, Utnehmer ran a shop on the east side of South Water with Simon Pies. Utnehmer also worked for other village blacksmiths.

Welniak's 4th Street blacksmith shop
The Record found it newsworthy when Welniak & Son put in a new shoeing floor in 1897 and in 1904 when Walter Knospe began using a windmill. Perlewitz Blacksmith Shop installed electric blowers in the forge in 1916. That was a big labor saver. Perlewitz’ new drill was another newsworthy event that year.

On December 19, 1928 Algoma Record Herald carried an article about Perlewitz Wagon Works saying the company had just completed 50 years in business. Perlewitz shoed horses for 15 cents in 1878. By 1928, the price had increased to $2.00. First class wagons sold for $42 in 1878. If one could be found in 1928, the buyer paid $85. The civic minded Perlewitz Brothers’ best years were between 1890 and 1910 when two blacksmiths and several wagon makers were employed. The years 1927 and 1928 saw only one wagon sold each year. Perlewitz’s promoted the community, contributed to the dredging project, assisted in establishing the grain market, assisted in financing the merchants’ dock and much more.

Sam Noetzel and Henry Muench appear as neither wagon makers nor blacksmiths in Ahnapee’s history, yet, following his arrival in Ahnapee, Henry Perlewitz worked as a wagon maker for each. The Perlewitz brothers built a 16’ x 24’ facility on the site of Urbanek’s South Water Street barn in 1878, and then bought out Pies and Utnehmer. In mid-July 1922 Lorenz Perlewitz’ old barn, a “State Street landmark,” was removed when a new paint shop was under construction.  

Charles Zapetal operated his harness shop in the Schubich building on the northeast corner of 2nd and Navarino near the 2nd Street Bridge, and John Madden took charge of Welniak’s 4th Street blacksmith shop in 1913. It was a time when Algoma was beginning to see autos on the road, although as most knew, such contraptions would never replace the horse. For awhile, they did not.

By 1923 as autos were becoming more prevalent, William Bohne announced his new blacksmithing location in Fred Braun’s State Street building. August Zimmermann, formerly at Rankin, relocated his blacksmith and horse shoeing equipment to Algoma in 1933 and opened a shop in the Empey building near the steam laundry. Autos and trucks were all over, but horses were still seen on the streets of Algoma.

Dependence on the horse finally came to an end in Algoma in late October 1941 when long-time drayman Louis Kammer ended his business. Draying thrived at the turn of the century but as vehicles replaced horses, it was no longer profitable. Kammer continued his career, however it was in trucking for the Ahnapee and Western Railroad. Kammer entered the draying business in 1913 and then bought out the Hilton Fuel and Transfer on March 27, 1916. In the early 1920s, Kammer had as many as 8 horses and 4 men in his employ. He noted that during the “last war,” (World War l) hay was $35/ton and oats cost $1.35/bushel. Now there was the cost of gasoline. Before Kammer entered the business, it was Henry Haucke who took over William Torge’s draying operation thus meeting the needs of residents.

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem about the village blacksmith, he wrote about an indispensable member of the community. The clang of the hammer on the anvil told about life as did the school and church bells. As the horse was replaced by the automobile and blacksmiths faded into existence, a generation or two of grade school kids memorized the poem, which by then was nostalgic. Even the nostalgia has faded away.

Sources: Algoma Record Herald; An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River?, c. 2001; Cox-Nell House Histories, found at Algoma Public Library; Commercial History of Algoma, Wisconsin. Vols. 1 & 2; Here Comes the Mail, Post Offices of Kewaunee County; The Village Blacksmith, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Photos from Algoma Record Herald, Kannerwurf, Sharpe, Johnson Collection, and blogger's collection.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Where in the World is San Sauveur?

Finding the area of Kewaunee County once called San Sauveur is indeed a challenge today. The settlement was one of many originating with the Belgian immigrants to Kewaunee, Door and Brown Counties in the mid-1850s. The largest concentration of Walloon immigrants came from the region around Grez-Doiceau in Brabant, Belgium and settled in the tri-county area where, in Kewaunee County, they founded such settlements as Walhain, Rosiere, Tonet, Thiry Daems and San Sauveur. Populated by those named LeCaptain, Alberts, Flavion, Ferron, DeGrave, Moens, Moreau, Fabry nd more, their descendants are still found in Red River and throughout Kewaunee and Door Counties.

Door County historian Hjlamar Holand says the place was first called St. Savior, however newspapers and other articles refer to the community as San Sauver, San Savior. San Sauveir, San Sauvuer and perhaps others.

San Sauveur never had a “downtown” such as the nearby hamlets of Lincoln and Thiry Daems, but if there would have been one, it surely would have straddled the Lincoln-Red River town lines, the northwestern corner of Section 19 and the southwestern corner of Section 13 of the towns, respectively, the locations of a cheese factory and church.

Lincoln Farmers’ Cheese Factory was nearly on the town line on its Red River side, about a half mile north of the tiny village of Lincoln, from its founding in 1923 to closing in 1989 when it was affiliated with the National Farmers Organization, or NFO. There was an earlier factory about which little is known.

By 1925 Wisconsin cheese inspectors identified the newly constructed Lincoln Farmers as a model factory. Whey was stored in tanks above the boiler room ensuring there were no frozen pumps during the winter simply because there were none. The plant’s 65 patrons were able to drive to a hose and thus fill up without finding frozen whey in winter or flies in summer. And, dirt was not a factor. Cheese makers Peter Sticka and William Vlies lived with their families in on-site housing offered by the brick duplex that matched the factory.

At the time, there were many who felt the high quality cheese produced at the plant was a no-brainer. After all, its milk came from some of the well-kept farms around. Henry LeCaptain, for instance, had a herd of Holsteins in a stanchioned barn with a concrete floor. His cows had water in easy reach. Besides that, LeCaptain had electricity. His brother Joseph LeCaptain, who served as Red River town clerk, was another Holstein farmer.

Charlie Alberts was one on the cutting edge in his advocacy for wooden silos, although not all agreed with him. He felt silage froze fast in concrete silos while there were others who thought any kind of silo was bunk and that contents were certain to be detrimental to cows. Charlie’s brother Jule’s herd included Guernseys with the popular Holsteins. Jule even had running water in the barn. Another Alberts – Moses – was known for his clean, white, dustless, neat-as-a-pin barn with all the necessary cow equipment. His farm was called one of Red River’s model farms. It boasted a concrete stable with a mow above it, a stone hog building at the rear of the barn and a machine shed with a blacksmith shop. Louis Moreau was another of the Holstein milkers.

William Flavion bought pure-bred Guernseys as the foundation of his herd. Hubert DeGrave also raised Guernseys in his refurbished barn that was complete with stanchions and water cups. Peter Moens lived across the road and often worked in company with DeGrave. Emil Fabry’s farm was near San Sauveur School. He and son William continued to grow the farm on the land purchased in 1856 by Emil’s father. Fabry was another with a full set of blacksmithing equipment.

Red River didn’t forget its children and in 1925 planned to build a new school to replace the original San Sauveur School. The district hoped to attach to nearby Lincoln and build a graded school, but that did not happen and a new, rural one-room District #5 school was built. Years later, the school even had a hot lunch program. District #5 children were offered educational enrichment in bus trips to places such as Milwaukee, but that came later.

San Sauveur pupils began attending Casco Graded School when some grades were absorbed during the 1960s. That followed the selected grades’ absorption at both Fayette and Lincoln. With that consolidation, San Suaveur School faded into history. Several years later both Red River and Lincoln were two of the Kewaunee County towns that joined in the creation of the Luxemburg-Casco School District.

Gospel of Truth Hall, also called both San Sauvior and Lincoln Presbyterian Church, had its beginnings in 1920 as the Plymouth Brethren Church on the corner of today’s Townline and Martin Roads. What prompted the location of the church? Was it the proximity of the old cheese factory and the possible location of a much older store? Or, was it something else? There were Catholic churches in nearby Lincoln and Thiry Daems

Peter (Pierre Joseph) Houart was an early San Sauveur businessman who had other interests in Red River, in Ahnapee,* and was also in the lumbering and flouring business in Door Co. with George Bottkol of Bottkolville.* Houart was born in Belgium and married Mary (Marie) Noel there just before immigration. Mary’s brother, Amand Noel, joined Peter in a general merchandise store that opened in 1860. The men operated their San Sauveur store until 1881 when Houart bought out his brother-in-law.

Houart owned property in Sections 7 and 18 in the Town of Lincoln. The 1876 Kewaunee County Plat Map shows Noels and Houarts owning much of the western halves of both sections.  It shows additionally that Catherine Noel was the owner of the NE ¼ of Section 24 in the Town of Red River, immediately to the west of what would become church property years later. It seems logical that the store would have been in Lincoln’s Section 18 because of property ownership, however “store” does not appear in that area on the 1876 map.

Also fading into memory is the church, however the cemetery remains as a testament to those who lived in the area. The cheese factory is long gone but the rich farmland remains. San Sauveur Kermis isn’t like it was when it was celebrated at Gigot’s Hall in Lincoln, but Belgian pie, cheese curds, booyah and beer are still popular. Gigot’s hall has become history, but Joe Rouer’s isn’t far.

Finding San Sauveur might be a challenge, but it is still there.

Notes:  Wisconsin Historical Collections gives St. Peter/St. Pierre in business with Mr. Noel. It is most likely that St. Savior and Peter Houart were confused.

*Ahnapee was renamed Algoma in 1897 and Bottkolville was renamed Euren, reflecting the Bottkols’ ancestral home near Trier, Germany.

Photos of the cows were found online from Hoard’s Dairymen.

Sources: Algoma Record Herald; An-An-api-sebe: Where is the River? c. 2001; Cox-Nell House Histories, c. 2013; History of Commercial Development in the Youngs and Steele Plat and Other Selected Properties in Algoma , Wisconsin, c. 2006; History of Door County, Wisconsin, The County Beautiful, Hjalmar R. Holand, c. 1917; Wisconsin Historical Collections, V 13; Wisconsin 1901-02 Gazetteer; Wisconsin: Its Story and Biography, c. 1914

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.