When the new Reedsburg Library opened in 1998, many visitors were intrigued by the chalk drawings on display around the periphery of its interior.
These 4' 4" long by 8" wide renditions of scenes in nature were originally commissioned to hang above the fireplace in the old Carnegie Library across the street. Executed by Ethel Nott during the first half of the 20th century, they depict the changing seasons and were designed to be rotated during the year.
The collection consists of approximately 24 pastel drawings which have retained their muted colors through the past half century.
Ethel Allis Nott was born on a farm in Columbia County on June 19, 1890, and spent her childhood in Lodi. She was a student of commercial illustration at the Chicago Academy of Art and taught perspective and free hand drawing in Battle Creek, Michigan. She later took a course in photographic retouching in Chicago and worked in that trade in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and finally in Reedsburg at the Gregory Photography Studios.
Miss Nott was also keenly interested in the beauty of nature and its feathered inhabitants that surrounded her. She served for many years as a voluntary observer for bird migration for the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, now known as the Fish & Wildlife Service. She was elected associate member of the American Ornithological Union and a member of the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology.
Ethel is remembered as a diminutive lady—a spinster who lived with her old maid sister. She was a common, ordinary person who dressed several decades behind the styles of her day. Sporting a large flower-covered hat, she could often be seen around the city, sometimes carrying a pink frilly parasol, pursuing her passion with easel, chalk or watercolors.
"My father always called [Ethel] the 'Swamp Angel'," recalled Margaret Schierholtz in an interview several years ago. "She would be down in South Park [near the river] painting birds and studying nature."
Gertrude Harper also recalled seeing the sisters walking the streets of Reedsburg in their long skirts. "They did their own sewing. I remember her sister [Jessie] had a little round hole in her front tooth. I think it came from all the sewing she did when she bit off the thread. I remember that used to fascinate me."
"Ethel was a nice appearing lady," recalled Hazel Struebing a neighbor of hers on Pine Street, "[She was] very neat and always wore a hat while walking wherever it was necessary to go." Hazel also remembered that Miss Nott wore her hair in large puffs over her ears, as was the style during the early part of the 20th century.
When Reedsburg celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding in 1923, Miss Nott was asked to paint the scenery for pageants put on by the citizens and churches of the city. Rev. T.S. Beavins, pastor of the Methodist Church, wrote and conducted the programs. There was a different pageant each night for a week. "It was difficult for Ethel to get the [stage settings] finished in time," recalled Mrs. Struebing, "but she did."
Many of Ethel's pastels were done during the WPA years and were also for sale in the area during the 1920s. Emilia Huebing recalled that during the depression, Ethel also re-bound old books.
Ethel Nott was dedicated to her church, the First United Methodist, and taught Sunday school there for 27 years. She would often reward her students' accomplishments with small drawings she had created for the occasion. A large watercolor painting done by her, entitled "Brown Thrasher," hangs in the parlor of the church.
Mrs. Struebing lamented that it was too bad that Ethel "didn't live to see how much enjoyment her artistic ability brought to the community."
Ethel Nott died August 10, 1952 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Reedsburg.
Won’t You Be My Valentine?
By Bill Schuette
Every February 14th the thoughts of couples turn to the centuries old custom of sending a valentine to the one they love.
The legend of St. Valentine, a priest in Rome, dates back to the 4th century. Valentine was imprisoned for performing clandestine weddings for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry because the emperor thought single men made better soldiers.
While in prison, Valentine befriended his jailer, who had a blind daughter, Julia. Valentine is reported to have performed a miracle and healed Julia. Her forty-four member household was later baptized and became Christians.
In order to remind the soldiers, and other persecuted Christians of God’s love, Valentine made small parchment hearts for them to carry, the possible origin of the custom of giving heart-shaped cards on Valentine’s Day.
The night before Valentine was scheduled to be executed; he wrote a farewell letter to Julia, signing it “From Your Valentine”, perhaps associating this saint forever with love.
The first commercial valentines appeared around 1800 in England, and were not very ornate. A half-century later, they were transformed into works of art with the use of satin, ribbons and lace. Included were delicate verses along with pictures of turtledoves, bows and arrows, cupids and bleeding hearts.
During the Gay Nineties, valentine cards took on a more garish look, being festooned with spun glass, mother-of-pearl, imitation jewels and silk fringes.
A Mount Holyoke college student, Miss Esther Howland, created the first truly American valentines. Until that time most cards were imported from England. Around 1830 she used imported lace and fine papers to create her cards, eventually employing several assistants. Her entrepreneurship brought in a hundred thousand dollars annually—over 1.5 million in today’s dollars!
Elderene (Halvensleben) Hasz taught at Hay Creek School from 1952-55. She recalled the Valentine's Day celebrations in a rural school.
"We would take a big box and decorate it with white paper and lots of Valentines. It had a slot in the top and everyone would put his or her Valentines in the box. On Valentine's Day it would be opened and they'd be passed out. I think back then, everybody gave a Valentine just to their favorite friends, possibly because people didn't have a lot of money. But everybody would get a Valentine, no one was left out."
The choosing of a mate has been a popular theme for romance novels, movies and television programs. Sauk County too has had its share of star-crossed lovers throughout its history.
Reedsburg was just a small village situated on the muddy banks of the Baraboo River in 1848. Not all of the early settlers were lucky enough to have mates. One particularly unfortunate lass counted herself among this group of lonely hearts. Her story is recounted in “The American Sketchbook—A history of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, 1875.”
She was an “old maid”, and as the story begins, we learn that she was not blessed with abundant beauty, and was therefore overlooked by the eligible gentlemen of the day. So she decided to resort to a devious strategy in hopes of snagging a suitable beau.
A dance was being held in Reedsburg and almost everyone from the community would be in attendance. However, our unfortunate maid had no invitation, but she devised a plan that might snag her a date for the evening. A young man by the name of Sprague was one of her boarders, but his intentions were to accompany another young lady to the evening’s festivities. “Upon the night in question,” notes the author, “he went to the stable to harness a horse, and when he brought the animal to the place where the sleigh was, he found the seat occupied by this same old maid!”
He was at a loss and couldn’t decide what to do. “He was too much of a gentleman to order her out and did not want to take her with him. There seemed to be no help for the latter course, and he was obliged to submit.” It was not a happy evening for him, and to add insult to injury, he did not dance a single dance with her.
Inadequate postnatal care frequently resulted in the death of pioneer mothers shortly after childbirth, and that is apparently what happened to one family living on the prairie near Reedsburg around 1848.
Marriages were oftentimes a matter of convenience in those days, and one unfortunate settler had recently lost his wife in childbirth.
“The old chap was possessor of about a dozen children,” the author noted, “the younger being a babe two or three months old. There was trouble at the shanty. Somebody must take care of the children; and who besides a wife would do such a task? Emergencies however demanded immediate action…”
His search began in the surrounding countryside. He was looking for a good woman who could “enjoy with him the comforts of his shanty, and the possession of a dozen youngsters.”
He stopped at each neighboring house with the question, “Is there any wimming here as wants to git married?” The response from within was not always comforting, for in one or two places he was answered by the sudden appearance of a broomstick.
Soon he had exhausted all the homesteads on the prairie and headed for Reedsburg. There, someone remembered the old maid and suggested he seek her out. As the narrator of our story continues, “He did not have to journey further. A match was immediately made, the marriage taking place scarcely a week later.
The farmer brought his blushing bride home with him and…..on the bed was a row of babies. A further observation was noted that, “the old maid is said to have made a first-rate wife and mother; her devotion to the children was great, and when people spoke if it, her reply was, ‘I can’t help but love the little darlings for I love their dear father so much.”
To paraphrase an old saying, “Beauty is in the heart of the beholder.
Sauk County Had Its Moonshiners
By Bill Schuette
The National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, was passed by Congress in 1919, to carry out the intent of the eighteenth amendment, thereby establishing the prohibition of the sale of liquor in the United States. It forbade the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors. But that did not stop enterprising bootleggers from making the stuff anyway, nor did it prevent taverns from selling it undercover.
Victor Rehr shared his recollection of those days, in a 1995 interview: "This is the area [Sauk County] most rich in the history of prohibition of anywhere around because it was one of the biggest suppliers of Chicago. There were two large operations—which I was told by my dad who has been gone since 1935 — of Al Capone's operation, which had a two-thousand gallon capacity per day. They rated a still by how much they could evaporate in 24 hours.”
Rehr recalled that one of the operations was located on a farm south of the Reedsburg golf course on Hwy 33. Since the moonshiners needed to have a front to prevent detection these men told people they were running a dog farm and raising police dogs. Ray said that one night about 50 of the dogs got out and raided his father’s pig farm, killing all the hogs. He reported the incident to the sheriff and told him who he suspected. The sheriff told him “You can’t go over there or there’s going to be shooting. So you have to figure out just how much they were worth. Tell them what you told me, that it had to be their dogs.” The sheriff told him where to drive in and not to try to pull anything on them and that he thought he’d get his money.
Victor continued. “So my dad drove down in there with his old open touring car and he got down in there back across the 40 where the road turned to the south, and there sat a man with a heavy old mackinaw coat and a deer rifle across his lap. He was sitting on a nail keg. [The man] stopped him, and wanted to know what he wanted. My dad explained it to him. [The man asked] ‘Well are you sure it was our dogs?’ It was quite obvious they were. ‘Well how much were the pigs worth?’
The man said very little, but he got out a big roll of currency from his shirt pocket. He wet his thumb and counted it off just what they were worth. Then he stopped, ‘is that right?’ he asked. I think my dad said that he gave him three extra twenty dollar bills. Then he took his rifle and motioned he should turn around and get the heck out of there.”
Rehr said that the liquor was shipped to Chicago in ten gallon milk cans. There was a false bottom in the cans which held nine gallons of hooch and a gallon of milk on top.
The operation was terminated a year later when they were raided.
Moonshiners had some cute tricks too, said Rehr. “One guy worked the Sauk County Fair and that was about the only time he made a haul. He’d hang around the barns and he had a bottle of the stuff. He would get somebody off by himself — people like that could smell each other out, I guess—anyway they’d say, ‘I'd like a drink of cold tea.’ He'd give them a sample drink of his booze. ‘Can I get some of it from you?’ ‘Yeah, you come back and leave your dollar under a brick in the straw, and there’ll be quart of it there. But don't dig in there if there's anybody around. Also, don’t drink it until you get home.’ This guy sold a lot of it. Imagine the surprise of the buyer, when, on the way home he’d hoist the bottle for a swig, and what he tasted was really cold tea!”
That moonshine still had a two gallon capacity and Victor recalled another funny incident that happened when he was a little boy.
“There was a church up in Westﬁeld where Highways W and D divide — there’s a little cemetery there yet. They had church in the afternoon and the minister would stop at our place on the way back. At least once a month or so we’d have a late afternoon lunch. In the beginning of the dust bowl days, it was extremely hot; nobody had refrigeration or packed any ice. But we were fortunate; we had a basement 14 feet deep for potato storage, with a clay floor. My dad would call the neighbors over and entertain them under the shade trees out by the road. Anyway, my dad sent me in to get a bottle of beer. Dad and the neighbor wore straw hats [because of the hot summer days] and the minister wore a felt hat. When I went down cellar and got the bottle of beer I dropped it at the top of the long stairs and it bounced all the way down. But it didn‘t break because it landed on the clay floor, and I took it to my dad standing out there in the open. He pulled the cap off that bottle and the beer shot out of there until the bottle was dry inside. The comical thing was to see my dad, along with our neighbor with their straw hats and the minister with his felt hat held by the rims trying to catch some of that beer on its way back down.”
There were several bands in the village of Loganville during the prohibition years. One of them was the Village Marching Band. Their uniforms looked very much like the police uniform of the day. Bill Thies, an area farmer, recalled that one time the band went somewhere to march in a parade, and on the way back to Loganville, they became a bit thirsty, so they stopped at a place they knew to be a “speakeasy.”
The cars all stopped and the entire band got out—still in their uniforms—and walked to the door and knocked. After rapping several times, a voice finally called out, “Wait a minute.”
Soon they heard bottles breaking and the sound of liquid being poured down the drain.
Finally, the owner opened the door and the band walked in to be greeted by a stunned silence—which soon turned to anger!
It seems the lookout had spotted their uniforms and mistook them to be the law, and sounded the alarm.
The band decided they weren’t as thirsty as they thought and headed out the door as fast as they could.
Prohibition finally ended, after 13 years, when Congress repealed the Volstead Act in December, 1933.
This undated photo of a still was displayed in the law library at the Sauk County Courthouse. It may ultimately have been donated to the WWII scrap metal drive, as attempts to locate it have failed.
by Bill Schuette
It is not known when Midwestern Native Americans first discovered the sweet taste of sap from the maple tree, but it is likely the discovery predates recorded history.
Maple sap is one of the first crops harvested after a long Wisconsin winter, and is typically extracted between mid-March and mid-April. Ideal conditions to flow sap are cool evenings with temperatures in the 20s with warm days over 40 degrees. There are 5 species of maple trees which produce sap; however, it’s the sugar maple (the Wisconsin state tree) that produces the most flavorful syrup. Groves of sugar maple trees were known as sugar bushes.
A tree should be at least 12 inches in diameter and about 40 years old for best production. Up to 3 taps can be placed on each tree, 2-4 feet above the ground. Each tap can produce 10 gallons of sap per season, with some premium trees putting out 50-plus gallons. The sap is dripped into covered buckets which are collected when full. It takes 40 gallons of raw sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup. The season ends when the trees begin to produce buds.
One of the earliest records of the use of maple syrup and sugar dates to the mid 1600s from around the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence River where it was used for barter by Native Americans. Early settlers called it Indian Molasses. A druggist visiting the New England area from England wrote of a tree “whose juice weeps out of incisions and if permitted to exhale (evaporate) its superfluous moisture, will congeal into a sweet and saccharin substance.”
Maple sap is collected and taken to “sugar houses” where it is boiled down to remove the water and produce the pure syrup. Often times, at least in the past, these sugar houses were located in a valley, making it easier for horse-drawn sleds to transport the sap for rendering. The boiling process increases the sugar content up to 66%, which also causes a chemical process to darken the fluid and give it a maple flavor.
Pure maple syrup contains no preservatives and is typically used to enhance the flavor of pancakes, waffles, yogurt, hot cereals and ice cream.
A 1911 speech to the Sauk County Historical Society recounted the recollections of John Rooney and how he and his sisters tapped into “Nature’s Storehouse.”
“In the spring of 1858 myself and two sisters, Margaret and Annie, tapped a few maple trees on the north branch of Honey Creek.” He noted that in that area, there still remained tepee poles from an old Indian encampment. “We caught the sap in tin pans and boiled it on the stove in our home. We got a fine quality of maple syrup that sold for $1.50 ($36 today) per gallon in Prairie du Sac.”
They sold ten gallons and kept two for themselves. Their mother wanted to sell an additional gallon, but John writes that, “As my sisters were great lovers of sweet things I persuaded mother to keep the two gallons.”
The following spring, the family again sought out maple trees along the stream. “But it was too far to carry the sap,” noted Rooney, “So we made a small camp and borrowed a few stove kettles to boil in, my mother gathering the sap near our home.” He and his sisters took care of the outlying camp where they boiled down the sap. “Besides, school friends visited us and we got a good deal of amusement out of camp life.” Deer would often visit the stream, and seemed oblivious to the sugar camp also on the nearby banks.
The spring harvest of maple sugar continued as John grew older; and in 1869, his methods had improved. “We caught the sap in troughs that held about 10 quarts, drew the sap in a barrel on a bobsleigh with one horse and boiled the sap in kettles. We had five of those kettles in an arch made of stone. Each kettle held thirty gallons. We strained the sap through a cotton cloth to get the leaves out before boiling. When the sap was boiled to thin syrup we cleansed it with eggs and then strained it through a woolen cloth.
“From 1870 I always made sugar with my father-in-law, he doing the boiling while I gathered the sap,” wrote John. “We had a 14-foot pan and sometimes boiled constantly for 48 hours without letting the fire in the arch go out.” He also noted that the people in Prairie du Sac were mostly from the east and that they were all “Great lovers of maple sweet.” In 1870, he and his wife took 300 pounds of maple sugar to town and sold their entire load on the spot.
Another special treat for the young folk was what we today would call snow cones. “When the young people came in we always sugared off and if there was snow [we] had “wax” and warm sugar to eat. The wax was made by putting the warm sugar on the snow or on the ice.”
Mr. Rooney concluded his speech with the following observation, “Thus the early settlers were enabled to make a neat sum before spring work, besides having many social gatherings that few of the people of the present day  get with our advanced form of civilization.”
Sugar Camp south of Baraboo, April, 1924. L-R: William Hazeltine, Eugene Heukr, Rev. E.C. Heukr.
Mission of Gratitude: Sgt. Harry R. Sansum
A Local WWII Hero Remembered
By Bill Schuette
The Myasis Dragon began its bomb run over Merseburg, Germany, flying into heavy flack as it approached the designated target. The bomb bay doors were opened and Myasis Dragon was ready to drop its ordnance upon command. Visibility was excellent as the bombers lined up to release their payloads. A multitude of fires and explosions were visible below as each plane made its run.
Merseburg was the target of the day and 39 crews were dispatched to hit the Leuna Synthetic Oil Plant, an eight hour round trip. It was not a favorite target of combat crews because of the heavy artillery positioned around the plant. “Friendly fighter support was good,” noted a report at the post flight briefing. “Anti-aircraft fire was very intense and accurate—probably the most ever encountered by 303rd BG(H) crewmen,” it continued.
The Myasis Dragon, a B-17G, was part of the 303rd Bombardment Group, known as the Hells Angels. During WWII, they were part of the 8th Air Force stationed in Molesworth, England from 1942 until 1945. Their motto was Might in Flight, and the title was surely earned during their record 364 combat missions.
Twenty-six year old Sergeant Harry R. Sansum, a native of Baraboo, Wisconsin, was a waist gunner on the Myasis Dragon. As the plane leveled off over the target, the crew could see anti-aircraft tracer fire coming at them from the ground below. As they closed in on the plant, the first of three shells hit the Myasis Dragon’s number three engine blowing it apart. The second hit just below the radio compartment as T/Sgt. Girman, the radio operator and gunner, loosened his flak jacket and clipped on one of his parachute rings. The last burst entered the open bomb bay door and exploded between two bomb racks. The plane was immediately engulfed in flames, disintegrating as it peeled off and went into a vertical dive. Sgt. Girman later described seeing the aircraft melting before his eyes. The explosion showered several nearby aircraft with burning metal.
As the Myasis Dragon descended to its inevitable fate, T/Sgt. Girman, and Sgt. Reid Bishop fell through the air entangled in a large section of aircraft debris. In a written report, they later recounted what happened during that fateful descent:
“One piece of the falling wreckage included the ball turret with Sgt. Reid Bishop inside. T/Sgt. Girman was unconscious. His foot was caught in the runner of the ball turret gunner’s hatch, trapping Sgt Bishop inside. Soon, however, T/Sgt. Girman fell free and Sgt. Bishop was able to open his hatch, grab his parachute, connect it and free himself from the wreckage. T/Sgt. Girman regained consciousness as he hit denser air, and remembers seeing Sgt. Bishop's chute open at almost the same time as his, maybe 1,500 feet above ground.”
They both landed near Torgau, about 30 miles east of Leipzig and were immediately captured and sent to a German prisoner of war camp for nine months.
After his repatriation at war’s end, Sgt. Bishop reported having seen the body of Harry R. Sansum lying on the ground near where he (Bishop) had landed. Sansum was not wearing a parachute. The other six airmen on the plane also perished. The date was August 24, 1944.
For his service to his country, Sgt. Harry R. Sansum posthumously received the Air Medal and Purple Heart. Eugene Girman died in 2004, and Reid Bishop, a year later.
Fast forward seventy years to March, 2014. The Sauk County Historical Society received an e-mail from Martin Maijntz a resident of the Netherlands. He wrote that he is a member of the Fields of Honor database, a Dutch non-profit organization. “This foundation has set as its goal to honor American World War II servicemen who have fought and died for the freedom of others and have been buried in overseas American Cemeteries,” notes its mission statement. Their objective is to research each serviceman buried there and give a face and history to the names of those who perished in combat defending their freedom.
Martin Maijntz’s interest in WWII is not just curiosity, it is very personnel. He writes that, “My grandfather (from my mother’s side) got killed at the age of 34, by a grenade while he was picking apples for his hungry children, just a few days before the liberation of our hometown. This happened during a fight between the Germans, and the American liberators. Marie’s [Martin’s wife] dad joined the Dutch Resistance, was betrayed and put in a concentration camp in Germany. Luckily, he survived the ordeal.”
Martin continues, “My grandparents from my father’s side adopted Harry’s grave at Margraten War Cemetery many many years ago. When my grandfather died in 1962, my father resumed his responsibilities in taking care of Harry’s grave. When my father, an ex-marine, died in 2009 I adopted Harry’s grave and I’m now taking care of it.”
As part of his dedication to that mission, Maijntz began researching the history of Sgt. Sansum. His search eventually led him to contact the Sauk County Historical Society in Baraboo for more information. He was specifically looking for any surviving relatives.
Linda Levenhagen, Office and Research Manager, and Bob Doepke, research volunteer, began searching the Society’s archives for any information on Sgt. Sansum. They were able to locate 1944 newspaper items which chronicled the death of Sgt. Sansum. After finding the names of his siblings, a search of city directories and marriage records at the Register of Deeds office revealed a living relative, Patti Kay Beach, one of the great-nieces. Mrs. Beach is now in direct contact with Mr. Maijntz.
Martin Maijntz concludes his letter with, “All in all, we feel it is the least we can do for these heroes, who gave their lives to liberate our country!”
JACK R. HILLARY CREW - 359th BS (crew assigned 359BS: 16 July 1944) (Back L-R) 2Lt Jack R. Hillary (P-KIA); 2Lt William Robertson III (CP-KIA); 2Lt John E. Rice (N-KIA); 2Lt Rocco De Filippis (B-KIA) (Front L-R) Sgt Neldon Reid Bishop (BT-POW)(1); S/Sgt George E. Paul (E-KIA); Sgt Harry R. Sansum (WG-KIA)(2);S/Sgt Eugene E. Girman (R-POW)(1); Sgt James R. Watson (TG-POW) Photo courtesy of www.303rdBG.com.
Sauk County Free Shows Fondly Remembered
By Bill Schuette
Before the advent of television in the 1950s, a form of entertainment that attracted many residents of rural Sauk County communities was attending outdoor movies. Families would journey to small towns and villages such as Ironton, LaValle, Plain, Loganville, Hillpoint, North Freedom and Cazenovia to take in a show.
These “free shows,” as most called them, began in the late 1920s and were offered once a week from June through Labor Day. Ironton held its shows on a natural slope in Liberty Square. Delbert Winn, in his book History of Ironton, notes that, “One night someone parked in the entrance to a private dwelling and after angry words on both sides, the owner went to the house and got his shotgun. The village president was called and he calmed them down and removed the gun.” One presumes that the show went on as usual without further incident.
Bob Ulrich, who grew up in North Freedom, recalled that as a small boy in the late 1920s, he'd watch the outdoor movies on a screen hung on the side of a building in a vacant lot located where the new bank building is located today. People sat on folding chairs, and enjoyed popcorn provided by a local entrepreneur who had a small stand nearby. He said that one movie in particular about a train robbery frightened him to the extent that he sought refuge in the security of his father's lap. It's possible that what young Ulrich viewed was a silent film called The Great Train Robbery, the first movie produced that had a real plot. The final scene depicted one of the cowboys drawing his pistol and firing directly at the audience.
Ulrich also remembered that after the movie, people would remain in town until 11 or 12 p.m. Dances were held in the local taverns and halls on show nights. He said the free shows would draw patrons from surrounding communities such as Rock Springs and from as far away as Baraboo.
The village of Loganville also hosted the free shows. A projectionist would arrive at sunset and put up his equipment on Walnut Street.
Since the street was inclined, he located the projector about halfway up the hill and put the screen on a rope hung between two taverns. (In later years, the screen was attached to a pipe frame built onto a trailer.)
The downward slope provided a natural theater setting and people sat on raised planks or blankets and folding chairs. Many brought their own popcorn and other snacks. If patrons were lucky and arrived early, they could park on the upper part of the hill and watch the show from the comfort of their car. The crowds were usually large.
The evening's entertainment consisted of a short comedy or cartoon, another short subject, and finally the main feature. The movie started at dusk and ran for several hours with an intermission at the midpoint. Half the people would then make a mad dash for the restrooms or for a snack. Ice cream cones were a very popular treat with two dips costing a nickel.
David Burmester, who helped his father, Al, in the grocery store they ran in Loganville, recalled that when he was old enough to assist in the store he and his brother would often dip over 200 cones during an evening. He said, “We would work up to the start of the show, sneak up until intermission, then come down and work and go back up for the rest of the movie.”
Farmers would come to town on show night to do their grocery shopping, so businessmen were therefore quite happy to support the shows. But as time went on, people did the majority of their weekly shopping in larger surrounding cities, and the village grocery stores ended up selling mostly ice cream and pop. “It was a lot of work with very little profit,” noted Burmester.
Village merchants each donated about $5 a week to help defray costs of the movie. In the spring, Burmester remembered, the first businessman contacted by the projectionist said that he would go along with the program if the others did. Then the projectionist would tell the rest of the merchants that the others had said yes, so the first ones agreed too. No one wanted to be left out when sponsors’ names were read over the loudspeakers at halftime.
Another method of revenue enhancement was to take up a collection at intermission. The projectionist would become quite distressed, however, when people would leave for refreshments just when he wanted to pass the hat. When that happened, he would restart the film to draw the crowd back, and then suddenly stop it to take up the collection. When stones began appearing in the basket, a flashlight was carried to monitor what people were putting in.
Another problem patrons had to deal with on show night was apple bombs. A few of the village's more rambunctious youngsters thought they would create a little excitement by placing firecrackers inside apples from a nearby tree, and tossing them into the crowd. After a few minor injuries from flying applesauce, the projectionist threatened to terminate the movie if the mischief didn't stop.
The free shows continued through the mid-50s in Loganville, until the state of Wisconsin decided that the village could no longer use the street as a theater because it was too close to the state highway. Television was also beginning to draw many away from the shows and their time had come.
However, while they lasted, the free shows provided an evening of good family entertainment. Neighbors would get together and gossip, kids had a ball chasing each other up and down the hills and around the parks, and all had a thoroughly enjoyable outing. The films usually weren't much good but that didn't seem to matter. It was the atmosphere that is so fondly remembered by those who were fortunate enough to spend a night at the movies under the stars.
The Great Train Robbery
Al Burmester, left, and his son, David, often dipped 200 cones during a free show in Loganville. At the end of the film, The Great Train Robbery, a cowboy aimed his gun at the audience and pulled the trigger, frightening many movie-goers.
A Glorious 4th of July
by Bill Schuette
The first Independence Day celebration that occurred in Reedsburg transpired barely a year after the founding of that village. It was 1849, and there were few materials with which residents could demonstrate their patriotic enthusiasm. They had no flag pole, and in fact, they lacked even a flag. What to do? Our pioneer forefathers being the industrious and innovative lot that they were weren’t going to let the jubilee of their glorious liberty pass by uncelebrated.
Their story is chronicled in The American Sketch Book, History of Reedsburg - 1875.
As the men commenced to locate and raise a "liberty pole” from which to fly the stars and stripes, the women went about trying to locate enough cloth from which a flag could be constructed. Since most of the men wore blue denims, it was a possible source of raw materials. However, after much wear, the denims lacked the color with which they were originally endowed. Buckskin patches were commonly sewn to the seats and knees of the pantaloons as reinforcements.
Seamstresses cut out the unfaded denim beneath these patches, and stars were formed from the bright blue fragments of cloth. The white stripes as well as a backing for the flag were made from the women’s undergarments. That left the red stripes. These were cut from the tails of the men’s shirts, shortening them a bit in the process.
All the ingredients were present and the sewing began. But soon the women ran into a problem, they did not know how to make a five pointed star. So instead, all the stars on the flag had six points. "That won’t do," said Horace Croswell after viewing the completed flag. Horace, as the story continues, "Was the ladies’ man at that period, and general confidant. To him the women confided the secret, showing him the flag." He insisted that, "The national star has only five points.” So the six pointed stars were removed, one point cut off and the remainder twisted into the proper shape. A young lady, Agnes McClung, embroidered the following couplet which was attached to the flag: "The star spangled banner, long may it wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."
It was customary for all to gather at a sumptuous repast to help celebrate the great day. But, since groceries were few and no one family had all the ingredients to make so much as a pie, all chipped together and a presentable dinner was arranged. In fact, it was more than presentable. The writer noted that, "The dinner, the like of which had never been tasted in this part of the world before, was highly enjoyed, and the remains of it were given to the Indians, that they might make merry too."
Rev. A. Locke gave the address for the day, however he could not remember the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but his listeners bade him "proceed and never mind it."
The celebration commenced in the new mill, which at that time did not have benefit of a roof or floor. A few boards were placed upon the ground and the first dance ever held in the village of Reedsburg lasted well into the night. Celebrants promenaded into the wee hours by the light of flickering tallow candles.
Baraboo pioneers also celebrated the birth of our nation, but in a unique and dangerous fashion. An article by R.T. Warner in 1910, describes the tradition:
“In those days [ca. 1852] we always had a big bonfire on the public square in the evening. But they did have a novel sort of fireworks in those days, the throwing of fire balls. They procured a large number of balls of candle wick which were soaked in turpentine and lighted and then all the boys and some of the men vied with one another in seeing how far and how high these blazing balls could be thrown,” wrote Warner. “It took an expert to pick up a ball and throw it quick enough, to avoid being burned and blistered by the blazing fire balls.
“At one time I remember the courthouse was set on fire, one of the burning balls having lodged on the roof, setting fire to the shingles. But the destruction of the new courthouse, it was new then, was happily averted. Someone, I think it was Frank Graham, having procured a ladder, carried up a bucket of water and extinguished the flames.”
Native Americans were also eager participants in 4th of July celebrations in Sauk County, noted Warner. “There was one feature of these fourth of July celebrations of the early times that always interested the juvenile element which was the shooting of pennies by the young Indians from the Indian camps, who generally visited Baraboo on the Fourth. These were the kids of the Winnebago [now the Ho Chunk] tribe, from 5 to 15 years old, who were usually on hand with bows and arrows to shoot the old fashioned copper cent.” A penny was placed atop a stick set in the ground with a slit cut in it to hold the coin. Participants were lined up behind the stake at a distance of ten paces, and required to “toe the mark!” At a signal from one of the adults, they commenced shooting.
Warner continues, “As soon as one of them got a penny he put it in his mouth and it did not take long for some of them to get a mouth full of pennies. This sport was continued as long as the stock of pennies held out.”
Loganville 4th of July Parade late 1890s
Lodge Float in Lime Ridge
Our Telephone Heritage
By Bill Schuette
Today we have cellular and smart phones, private lines and touch tone telephones. We can communicate almost instantaneously with anyone in the world by simply pushing a few buttons.
But before Alexander Graham Bell's 1876 invention, the fastest means of communication was the telegraph, and the telegrapher still had to locate and hand-deliver the message to its recipient. Mr. Bell's device, however, allowed people to communicate one on one with no long delays between sending a message and receiving an answer.
In 1887, Dr. F. D. Hulburt installed the first telephone in the city of Reedsburg. Shortly thereafter, another 25 astute businessmen connected to the same phone line.
Dr. C. A. Rood, in 1896, had installed a line from his office to Mr. Young’s drug store. A news article of the day reported that “it talks like a thing of life!” Another item noted that through his perseverance, Dr. Rood was attempting to impress upon the citizens of Reedsburg, the benefits of a telephone exchange. A phone had been installed at the depot and the writer noted that “...the more [that] are put in the more demand for them...seems certain the switchboard will soon need to be enlarged, and then will come connection with Baraboo, Madison, and the rest of the world.”
As Reedsburg grew, more businessmen, and private individuals too, came to realize the necessity of instantaneous communication, and the convenience it offered.
In June of 1896, a new hundred-drop switchboard was installed to accommodate the growing numbers of telephone subscribers. A toll line had recently been run from Baraboo, through North Freedom, Rock Springs and on to Reedsburg, to connect these outlying communities.
Ed and William Stolte installed a switchboard at their hotel in 1898 and formed the Reedsburg Telephone Company.
Before the 1920s, if you wanted to call someone else, you had to go through a switchboard and an “operator” would connect the call for you. Each party had a “jack” on the board, and when someone called the operator, a little metal flap dropped down above the jack. The operator would place a metal tipped cord into the jack and answer your call. She—they were usually young ladies—would then place another cord into the jack of the party you wished to call and ring them up. If they answered, the two jacks would be interconnected.
The telephone was still a luxury during the early 1900s and only large businesses and doctors could afford them.
As the century matured, lines were strung throughout the state and then into rural communities. The party line allowed more than one person to share a line thereby negating the necessity of stringing private lines to each residence.
However, by the early 1930s, the Depression undid much of the progress that had been made, as subscribers dropped their phone service. Less than a third of American homes had telephones by 1933.
It seems normal today, to initiate a phone conversation by saying, “Hello”. But in 1910, Bell’s Telephone Engineer magazine decried the use of that undignified greeting. The article went on to say, "Would you rush into an office or up to the door of a residence and blurt out ‘Hello! Hello! Who am I talking to?’ No, one should open conversations with phrases such as ‘Mr. Wood, of Curtis and Sons, wishes to talk with Mr. White...’ without any unnecessary and undignified ‘Hellos’”. The company ultimately relented and dubbed their operators “Hello Girls”.
Eventually, the telephone became a necessity, much as electricity did by the late1930s. Friends and neighbors could communicate by simply turning a little crank on the side of that marvelous wooden box, and speaking into the mouthpiece. To call up another party on your line, you had to consult the phone book for their “ring”. A small crank was connected to a generator inside each phone box, and when turned, it sent out a low pulsating voltage which rang your party’s phone. Each subscriber had his/her own special “ring”. For instance, one party might be alerted by a long ring and two short rings. Or someone else might answer to three shorts and two longs. Of course, all phones on a party line—six to eight—rang when someone wanted to contact another party. It was not nice to listen in on the conversations of others, however it was a pastime which most could not resist. These listeners were dubbed “rubbernecks”, and it wasn't long before everyone knew everyone else's business. There were no secrets on party lines.
A poem, entitled “The Rural Telephone” published in the Reedsburg Free Press in 1903, elucidates some of the pitfalls that might arise when one lifted that receiver and dared to listen in.
Neighbors not far from here,
Put in telephones last year;
Farmers all "talked up" fine,
And were heard along the line.
All you had to do was ring,
Every bell went ting-a-ling;
One for Sampson, two for Boggs,
Long and short call for old Scroggs.
Every neighbor has his call,
Twist the crank and that was all.
Mighty nice when work was through,
To gossip for an hour or two.
With your neighbors, one by one;
Mighty nice but lots of fun.
To hear some other two
Telling what was not for you.
Every time the signal rang,
To the phone each farmer sprang.
Slyly grinned and softly took,
The receiver from the hook.
Other people's secrets dear
Poured into his large red ear;
Slapped his leg and said, "I swan,
Telephonin's lots of fun."
Somehow in a week or two,
Troubles then began to brew;
Farmer Jones got fighting hot,
Heard Scroggs calling him a sot.
Farmer Scroggs got angry too,
Heard Smith telling what he knew;
Smith heard Johnson telling lies;
Paid him off with two black eyes.
Johnson heard young Isaac Boggs,
Underbid him on his hogs;
Boggs overheard a sneaking churl;
Talking love to his best girl.
Women, too, were in the muss,
Every one from Scroggs to Jones.
In glass houses throwing stones.
Now the line has silent grown,
Wires rusted, poles o'er thrown.
Twenty friends were deadly foes,
Each one full of grief and woes.
Each too mad to speak a word,
'Cause of things they overheard.
Baraboo Operators ca. 1916
Reedsburg Operators ca. 1940s
THE GHOUL OF PARFREY’S GORGE
The following story was presented before the 1914 Old Settler’s meeting by Marshall Thomas Martin, M.D. of Merrimac. Whether a true story or not is for you to decide.
I had been riding nearly all day in the burning sun. It was the Fourth of July. My celebration had been a ten-mile drive to operate on a little boy who had received a pistol-shot wound at the hands of a playmate.
The night was more oppressive than the day had been. A black bank of ominous clouds was slowly rising in the west, and soon obscured the red crescent of the moon only a few days old.
Everything was dull and lifeless. The air was thick and motionless. The crickets chirped lazily, as if it was an effort. The frogs in the fens croaked listlessly. The mosquitoes were dazed, and their usually intense falsetto was almost inaudible. There was an occasional lightning-flash, which was so distant that it seemed sluggish in its rippling course.
When about half way home, I passed near a most weird though picturesque glen. The proximity revived in my mind the many tales recounted regarding the uncanny though beautiful spot by ancient residents at their evening gatherings in old-fashioned log houses.
The glen is a rock-bound defile three quarters of a mile in extent, with precipitous sides rising sixty to one hundred feet above a small rivulet that winds and gurgles on the flinty floor of the ravine.
Instinctively, I touched the horse with the tassel on the end of my whip and hurried by the desolate and haunting locality.
Reaching home, without any untoward event, I lay down on a couch in the office to ponder over the labors of the day.
I had my gaze fixed on a human skull that graced the top of an oaken bookcase, when the office-door opened with a slight creak, and there entered a most beautiful girl, apparently about eighteen years old. It seemed that I was acquainted with my visitor, although it was some seconds before I could get matters arranged in my memory. It was little less that forty years since a face like that had come before my vision. The one who arose in my mind was a schoolmate a generation passed, and she had departed this life more than three decades before, when about the age of this young woman now sitting daintily in my waiting-room.
I attempted to rise; but, with a graceful gesture, she motioned to me to remain on the couch.
She was the first to speak, and, with a most mellifluous voice, she said: - “I am Azubah. After your removal from Brookville, my parents sent me to the academy in Sunnyside. While there, the students became greatly interested in religious matters. My father and mother being firm believers in Spiritualism.
“In a sort of desperate endeavor to enliven the monotony of existence, I eloped with a journeyman printer entirely out of my social and intellectual sphere.
“During our weary honeymoon, we visited this gruesome gorge, the mouth of which you lately passed so near and so hurriedly. We clambered up the east bluff to look down into the darkling abyss. Having gone about half the length of the glen, we came to a large pine-tree growing on the brink of the precipice. It leaned far over so that its top was much beyond the edge of the opposite wall. A wild impulse seized me, and, reckless of the results, I rushed impetuously toward the tree, telling my husband that I would cross on it to the other side. I ran up the slanting and almost horizontal trunk until about the middle of the chasm, when my feet slipped, and I was dashed on the mossy crags fifty feet below.”
At this point in her recital, I made a herculean effort to rise, and managed to stagger to my feet. I walked unsteadily toward the lovely apparition. Before I reached her, she had gracefully left the cushioned chair, opened the creaking door, thrown me a kiss with her tapering fingers, and vanished as noiselessly as had been her advent into my presence.
A few moments later, as I was striving to collect my tumultuous thoughts, there came a resound knock at the street-door. I hastened to open it, and, in the darkness, saw a young woman on horseback. She had reached from her saddle and struck the door with butt of her riding-whip. The rider’s face looked strangely like the girl who had so lately occupied my attention; but I gave the resemblance no thought because of the imperative message that she bore. She said that I was wanted immediately up at the gorge, where a man had been injured by a fall among the rocks while out hunting.
As fast as possible, I hitched up a younger horse and started rapidly on the five-mile trip.
The storm was just commencing, a few stray drops of rain were striking my carriage-top like shot. The lightning was vivid and incessant, revealing a long line of fluffy clouds in advance of the jetty stratum betokening a strong wind.
I tied the horse to a tree, took my medicine-case, and went cautiously on among the rocks. As I neared the black and yawning portals of the gorge, the young woman who gave me the call suddenly appeared, and taking my valise, requested me to follow.
The deluge was now nothing less that appalling. There came a dazzling flash, followed by a reverberating crash of thunder that shook the hills. During this blinding lightning, I caught a glimpse of a large pine-tree inclined almost horizontally across the chasm.
I looked for the young woman, but she had disappeared. I called wildly, but no answer came.
I heard a wail like the cry of a tortured child. It was repeated. I turned toward the sound, only to hear it once more. My blood ran cold; I could not move a muscle. A quick motion among the leaves, a wild shriek, a heavy body launched against me, a hot breath on my face, and I toppled over with the impact. There was a sense of falling, falling, falling, and then all consciousness was gone.
With the returning glimmer of sensation, I found, by the lightning, which still came in an occasional mellow glow, that I was lying on the ground in a watery place some distance out from the jaws of the gorge. I was stiff and sore, one arm and several ribs were broken. I managed to get to my horse, and rode slowly and painfully homeward.
The following morning, a report came to town that a gigantic wildcat was discovered dead, on the top of one of the gnarled boulders at the bottom of the gorge just above the seething, roaring waters of the swollen stream.
Parfrey's Glen ca. 1900
Parfrey's Glen Today
The Hair Wreath
by Bill Schuette
This is the time of year when many of us hang pine wreaths on our front doors to celebrate the holiday season. Over 150 years ago, wreaths of a different kind were created and displayed, but for an entirely different reason.
During the Victorian Era (1837-1901) European and North American women spent much of their day in the home. To pass the time, they indulged in “fancy work”, which they could display for their friends and neighbors and to decorate their otherwise mundane homes. One form of this fancy work consisted of making ornate creations from hair, similar to the older custom of placing a lock of hair of a loved one in a locket. Wreaths, lockets, bracelets, earrings and even toothpick holders would be fashioned out of hair. Women’s magazines depicted different patterns that could be used for these creations.
Back in the day, many women had long flowing hair, so there was a plentiful supply of raw material to work with. The tresses were woven around thin wire and formed into delicate designs of flowers, floral sprigs and leaves. Wooden or glass beads, buttons, and sometimes, seeds, were also included in the final product. Wreaths could be formed into horseshoe-shapes, a Victorian symbol of good luck, with the open end facing up to catch the luck. The resultant wreath was mounted on a silk or velvet background and placed in a fancy shadow box frame. Many of the wreaths extended to 18 inches or more in diameter.
Locks were commonly taken from family members or friends to be woven into the design, as a remembrance, since photographs were rare or nonexistent then. Horse hair was sometimes used to fill out a design. Women could also purchase strands of hair from catalogs or local stores. Locks of blond, black, brown or red hair would be carefully woven into the design. A sign or note was placed inside the frame to indicate the name or names of the persons being memorialized.
Hair receivers or keepers were fancy porcelain containers used to save the fallen or clipped locks of individuals and were usually identified as a jar with a hole in the cover to insert strands of hair.
Originally, hair wreaths were made from the hair of deceased loved ones as an honor and remembrance, and the strands placed at the center. As another family member died, their hair would be placed into the center, and the previous lock would be moved to the outside. Hair wreaths with the deceased’s hair would usually be displayed with the open end up towards heaven. The usual mourning period would be one year. Smaller broach-sized wreaths were often woven from the deceased’s locks, and warn during the mourning period.
Eventually hair wreaths were created for sentimental reasons, and given as gifts to friends and loved ones as keepsakes.
Young girls made scrapbooks which included the locks of schoolmates. Valentines were also created with a few strands of the givers hair inside as a token of affection. Autograph books sometimes included a small wreath produced from the signer’s hair.
Queen Victoria presented her children and grandchildren with jewelry made from her hair and Napoleon had a watch chain made from his wife’s hair.
Even today, parents often save a lock of hair from their baby’s first haircut.
Hair wreaths can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending upon how elaborate the design.
The Sauk County Historical Society has an intricate hair wreath, donated in 1950, on display in the museum’s Pioneer room. It was made by Modora Todd Premo around 1861.
Sauk Co Historical Soc Hair Wreath
Mourning Broach made from hair
A Country School Christmas
By Bill Schuette
As the warm, sunny days of autumn gave way to the cold, snowy days of winter, country school students adapted to the change and looked forward to outdoor games, which only a snowfall could facilitate. A favorite was Fox and Geese. A circle with spokes radiating to a hub, was tramped into the snow. A fox was chosen and would chase the geese around the circle. If caught, they would retreat to a holding “pen.” The last person caught would then become the fox, and the game would begin again.
Another favorite winter pastime was sledding on a nearby hill. Kids would bring their sleds to school, and at recess time, trek to the nearest slope. One, sometimes two, would mount the sled, push off and ride with the wind to the bottom. All too soon, the sound of a distant bell would call them back to the classroom. Mittens and socks would be placed near the tin-clad stove to dry for the next round of outdoor adventures. The smell of drying, woolen mittens is not something students of a country school soon forgot.
The anticipation of the Christmas season in a country school was always a big event. Preparation for the holidays began in late November with the teacher suggesting gifts that the students could make for their parents. These gifts usually required some assembly, so work began and everyone pitched in to make that special creation.
Art classes were devoted specifically to the production of holiday decorations. Pictures of bells, holly, Santas and angels appeared on the windows of the schoolhouse. Paper garlands and snowflakes would add a festive air to the tree.
Pupils would place their names in a bucket, and then draw out the name of a classmate for whom they would get a special gift. Oh, how exciting it was if you drew the name of your best friend.
At recess, kids would secretly gather on the playground and discuss what they would get for their teacher. The decision being made, the cost would be shared among them all.
But, the most exciting part of the whole season was the Christmas program. The teacher would select a play and assign the parts. There would be numerous practice sessions where lines would be recited until they were well rehearsed for the big night.
The school board would put up a stage and string a wire across the room to hold a curtain.
Props were gathered and costumes made. The lower grade students would have verses to recite and holiday songs to sing.
As the day approached, anticipation would become intense as kids practiced one last time.
On the night of the program, parents would gather at the school and squeeze into the desks arranged before the stage. Sometimes there would be standing room only. The tree was seen in all its splendor with the decorations so carefully crafted by the hands of students. In the days before electricity, candles were placed on the branches and lighted especially for the occasion. A careful eye was always on the lookout in case a candle burned down too far.
As the program progressed it didn’t always go as planned, but those incidents were a delight for the audience, and the kids usually took them in stride. And then, it was over.
From outside the school, came the sound of jingling bells, and a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho.” How did that jolly old elf know when the program was over? No one ever knew, but he bounded into the room with a bag stuffed with surprises for everyone. Gifts were exchanged, a bag of candy was handed out to all the kids, and then Santa left as he had arrived, back into the dark, cold night from whence he came.
Parents and kids, brothers and sisters put on their warm coats and woolen mittens and retreated to their cold cars for the trip home, tired and happy, with memories that would last them a lifetime.
An Incident at Reedsburg
By Bill Schuette
It was the day after Christmas in 1873 and the citizens of Reedsburg were not in a festive mood. A crowd of angry townspeople had gathered at the railroad depot to protest the forced deportation of a well-known family from the area. The family consisted of the wife, children and grand-children of A-Ha-Cho-Ka, or Blue Wing, chief of the local Winnebago tribe (now known as the Ho-Chunk), who’s village was located near the town. A squad of U.S. soldiers, led by Captain Hunt, who had been sent down from Sparta, were attempting to carry out an order to relocate the Indians to a reservation in Nebraska. Things were not at all going well.
Two days before Christmas as dawn broke across the cold bleak landscape, Captain S.A. Hunt, an official Government agent charged with the task of removing the remainder of the Indians from Southern Wisconsin, and Sheriff Pool, crossed the Wisconsin River Bridge at Portage, leading a detachment of 51 U.S. troops. They were headed in the direction of the Baraboo River, near Crawford Bridge.
At about the same time, representatives of area Winnebago tribes had gathered in the hills near Portage and were in the midst of an annual pow-wow and celebration. A feast of dog meat and venison was prepared. Decked out in war paint and feathers, the Indian braves danced a dance of war. They were determined to resist yet another removal of their families from ancestral hunting grounds and homes. A council of war discussed how they might withstand this onslaught of the “pale-faced ambassadors.”
During the height of the Winnebago celebrations, soldiers descended from the hills and upon the unsuspecting Indians, taking them by complete surprise. The entire band of 100, along with their chief, was surrounded and taken captive. Suffice to say, the Indians refused to acquiesce and follow their predecessors to reservations out west. However, bowing to threats from the soldiers, they were lined up with their families and possessions, and marched to the Portage railroad depot. There they were loaded onto the cars, along with 42 ponies and adequate provisions for the journey and sent to Sparta, the gathering point for all Winnebago captured by Capt. Hunt.
The days that followed were fraught with gloom and sadness, as Sheriff Pool and his hired men gathered the wives and children of braves who had not attended the pow-wow. Several days later, two or three dozen departed for Sparta to join their husbands and fathers.
When the residents of Reedsburg found out what had happened, they were outraged. Blue Wing and his family had eagerly welcomed by early white settlers into Sauk County. His greatest qualities, according to his contemporaries, were his good nature, kindness and integrity. He always dealt fairly with his white neighbors, and was often invited to spend the night with settlers when he came to visit. He was a citizen of the United States and a landowner.
Sunday Chief, the head of another Winnebago family, had served his country in the army and been honorably discharged. That should have exempted him and his family from the forced exodus. Several citizens hurriedly fired off a letter to Capt. Hunt, imploring him to rectify the injustice, and immediately return Sunday Chief and his family to their home.
At about that same time, soldiers were rounding up other Indian families in the Reedsburg area and placing them in confinement. Among them were Blue Wing’s wife, children and grandchildren.
An article in the Reedsburg Free Press, dated January 2, 1874, decried the outrage: “Our people were ‘mad’ when it was first known, and as the day progressed they got ‘madder and madder,’ and about six o’clock in the evening a writ of habeas corpus—an order issued to release a party from unlawful restraint—was sworn out before Esq. Hunt, Court Commissioner, and placed in the hands of Deputy Sheriff H.D. Buel, who proceeded to the Reedsburg depot, accompanied by quite a large number of our usually quiet but now thoroughly aroused citizens, determined to see the writ obeyed.”
The 100th anniversary booklet Reedsburg Remembers, written in 1948, recounts the day’s events as follows: “Horace J. Smith, who was a silent listener to the parley and touched by the streaming tears of the Indian women, at once collected six or eight sturdy companions, and with them went to the depot, where the Indians were gathered in charge of the officers waiting for the train. Smith told the agents that he and his squad had come to see to it that the Indians were not put aboard the cars. Rolling up his shirt sleeves, he further stated that an outrage was being committed, and that if any further attempt was made to take the Indians there would be trouble galore in which he and his group would take an active part.”
Again from the Free Press we learn that, “At first the officer having the Indians in charge, declined to pay any attention to the writ, but seeing the determined front of the crowd, he thought better of it, and released the persons demanded, who were taken before Esq. Hunt, and after a fair hearing, they were discharged.”
The Free Press correspondent continues, “The officer proceeded west on the Saturday evening train, with his squad and the balance of his prisoners, telegraphing ahead that the citizens of Reedsburg had wrestled a number of them Indians from him by force of arms; which was a most untruthful and unjust report.”
The heroic actions of Reedsburg’s citizens that day helped, in part, to convince the U.S. Government to abandon its inhuman policy of Indian relocation.
One hundred and forty-plus years have come and gone since then. Memories of those heart-rending events have all but faded with the passage of time. However, it is important that we should remember those gallant Reedsburg pioneers, and the brave Native Americans who stood up for their American rights as citizens, and thwarted the illegal and ill-informed actions of a few who were guided by unjust laws.
Re-enactment of Removal
Winnebago camp in Sauk Co.
Traveling Medicine Shows of Yesteryear
By Bill Schuette
Today many of our miseries and ailments can be alleviated by the simple act of swallowing a pill, but during the latter part of the 19th century, people were not so fortunate. Medicine was an emerging science which was on the brink of the wonderful discoveries which we take for granted today. Folk medicine was very popular then, and many homespun remedies were applied to the discomforts of the day. In this setting, it was easy for anyone claiming to have a miracle cure to sell his wares to an unsophisticated clientele. There were few laws to protect the public from false claims and harmful ingredients. Traveling medicine shows were a common sight to our great grandparents, who also attended the performances for the entertainment they provided.
The tent shows usually set up shop at the edge of town and invited all to come and participate. Local residents were coaxed up onto the stage to sing and dance. Winners were chosen by applause from the audience and rewarded with “valuable prizes” which usually consisted of the medicines, salves and ointments that the practitioners sold to the gullible. As P.T. Barnum once observed “There’s a sucker born every minute.” An item in the August, 1891 Reedsburg Free Press reported that the citizens of the village of Loganville were treated to the passage through town of one of these annually appearing medicine shows. “Loganville seems to have a great supply at present of the so called ‘doctors’. Whenever a fake appears in a locality there are always victims and the greater the fake the greater the mystery, but people like to be humbugged. There is no reason now for having rheumatism, fever sores, cold feet or liver complaint when you can get an ounce of chopped leaves, roots and gums for one dollar, that is said to cure you!” Another common ingredient in these elixirs of life was a large percentage of alcohol or whisky. It's no wonder people felt better after consuming a dose of this miracle medicine.
In September, our Loganville writer wearily notes that “The medicine show is still here conducted by the ‘super human’, entertaining a small crowd, largely children. But the wonderful cures fail to materialize except in the mind of the one who vainly attempts to lecture. From appearances, wealth is not accumulating immensely,” noted the correspondent, “and the talk of going duck hunting seems more appropriate.”
A week later we learn that, “The glimmering medicine show has faded away, have folded their tents and have left for greener fields. No one mourns their departure except those who have paid their hard earned dollars for the three cents worth of physic.”
The science of medicine, in 1892, had progressed to the point where it could offer a cure for the oft’ manifested malady of over indulgence, and one of Loganville’s noted healers had a corner on the market. “Dr. Skiff has opened an office for the ‘Improved Gold Cure’ treatment, and is already giving patients ‘Gold Jabs’. The success of the Gold Cure for drunkenness is daily being manifested. Many a man is being saved a premature death, and many a home made happier,” claimed the good doctor.
Another report from Loganville in 1906, mentioned that there was a medicine troupe in town one day, “but they left on account of the good health of the people there.”
In the early 20th century, people were becoming more discerning and informed, and they relied less on the patent medicines and more on the advice of qualified physicians. Commercial pharmaceuticals were also being produced in large quantities and the home remedies peddled by the medicine shows were history. These shows then began relying more on entertainment to attract crowds.
In December of 1910 it was noted, “The Quaker Medicine Company, who had been giving free entertainment at Westedt’s (hall, Loganville) for the last two weeks, gave their last entertainment Monday evening. Many local contestants were awarded prizes: Mrs. Dr. Westedt received a silver sugar bowl in the ladies nail driving contest, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Fisher Sr. received the silver cracker jar being the oldest married couple to get upon the stage, Miss Ida Gall received the gold watch and chain given in the amateur contest and Anna Schrank received the silver water pitcher for being the most popular young lady.”
Traveling medicine shows persisted in some form or another, up until the 1930s, when radio and motion pictures supplanted the entertainment aspect of the performances.
If people really believed that these concoctions cured them, perhaps they did have some beneficial effect. There’s scientific evidence concerning the healing properties of the mind, and if ailments weren’t too severe, perhaps people really did feel better after a few swallows of the wonderful concoctions peddled by these intrepid snake oil salesmen.