LOOK BACK IN HISTORY & LOCAL HISTORY BOOKS
Look Back in History
Articles by Carol Van Boxtel, History Room Volunteer
Karl Brenner was born in Germany, February 24, 1845 to John and Mary Brenner. His mother died when he was a young boy. At the age of 20 Karl and his family came to the United States where he enrolled at Northwestern College in Watertown to prepare for the teaching profession. After he enrolled in the Lutheran Teacher’s Seminary at Addison, Illinois. He graduated in 1870 and accepted a teaching position at the Lutheran parochial school in Hartford, Wisconsin. Brenner worked at two more schools before accepting a teaching position at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School at Kaukauna in 1891. Nine years later, he resigned due to poor health.
Shortly after, John Brenner entered in the coal and wood business. In 1902 Edward Grebe joined Brenner in his business which was renamed Brenner & Grebe Fuel & Supply Company. Grebe was born in Milwaukee in 1878 and came to Kaukauna in 1900. Brenner and Grebe Company became a well-respected business and served not only the local citizens, but the surrounding area as well. Brenner & Grebe rented the land, office building and two warehouses on the corner of Depot & Draper Street from Charles Ristau. In 1935 Brenner & Grebe purchased the property and buildings for $8,100 ($45,000 today). A stave factory was originally located on the site, later replaced by a blacksmith shop before the fuel supply company.
In 1923 Brenner and Grebe opened their business of producing colored bricks at that
time called the Shope pressed bricks. At that time, this type of brick was not well known in the area until several prominent residents used the brick. Mr. Niesen had a fireplace made of Colonial Rug texture bricks and Albert Luckow; well-known local contractor was using the brick. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church ordered 50,000 face brick. In 1924 the company was turning out 361,000 bricks a month.
After investigating a Milwaukee Shope Plant and viewing over a 100 homes and businesses built with Shope brick, Brenner and Grebe decide to start up a brick company. The plant contained three rooms and two machines which could turn out thousands of bricks a day. Customers could order the bricks in any color they desired. The owners joked that they could match any color from a necktie or dress.
The brick was made of clean sand, gravel and concrete, with the addition of an iron oxide coloring to give the required color to the face. The process was simple and turned-out perfect bricks all the time, while clay bricks made in a kiln had a number of imperfect bricks. The brick was weather resistant, color fast, fire resistance and would not crack or split.
In 1927 the government engineer on the Fox River awarded Brenner & Grebe Company the contract to rebuild the retaining wall on the canal. The cost was about $50,000 ($ 714,286 today) and required 6,850 barrels of cement, 5,200 tons of stone and 2,600 tons of sand.
December 29, 1930 John Benotch, a contractor who built Holy Cross Church and the Wertheimer/ St. Paul Home on Wisconsin Avenue, purchased the Brenner &Grebe Fuel Company and renamed the company Benotch Fuel & Supply Company. At the time, people burned hard coal and wood. In the early days’ firewood was a big item. Women were very selective in the type of wood they used for cooking and baking. For example, maple wood burned very hot and was used for baking angel food cakes. In a short time, the people shifted to high- grade Pocahontas, soft coal which Benotch Fuel & Supply Company carried.
In 1942 the Lang’s, now living in the Stribley Mansion, asked John Benotch for help in
replacing worn tiles in the roof. Benotch did not sell the tiles needed and tried to locate a company that did sell the tile which was installed in 1909. He located the Luclowici-Celadon Company in Chicago and forwarded the information to Mr. Lang.
In November 1975, the Benotch Fuel and Supply Company was sold to a Kimberly industrial cleaning firm, Cops Services, Inc. Henry Cops, operator of the firm stated that the company would continue to operate the coal yard and supply outlet at 413 Depot Street. At the time Benotch supplied coal, masonry supplies, sewer pipe and drain tile, paint and decorating supplies.
Once Cops took over, he added a large inventory of industrial tools and hardware in order to begin a complete industrial supply – business. The company employed 60 workers who handled commercial cleaning for businesses and industry. Eventually Cops move to the old Municipal Building at the bottom of the Lawe Street Bridge and the land was sold.
Katherine Foley Sullivan lived in a large two-story house on the corner of Dixon Street and Metoxen Avenue. She lived across the street from my family home and rented out the upstairs since she was seldom home. Kitty-gram, as the neighborhood kids called her, always found out what was going on in the neighborhood by talking to us kids, not our parents.
Kitty-gram was seriously interested in the neighborhood kids whether it was good or bad. When she walked to the edge of her sidewalk and called for us kids to come over by her, we knew that we were in for a stern lecture. She would lead us to her flower bed and admonish us for picking her flowers. “Do not pick my flowers, they are there for everyone to enjoy.” Then the sternness melted into a smile and Kitty-gram would ask what we planned to do that day. Were we going to the library? What books were we reading?
The corner of her yard had bushes on two sides with a large spruce tree in the middle. It made an awesome camp, large enough for about six kids. The problem was that we trampled down some of the bushes. After Kitty-gram reprimanded us and she wasn’t home, we were careful not to step on any bushes. We also limited the number of kids that could crawl under the spruce tree at one time.
One day the neighborhood kids were congregated on our front porch when Kitty-gram came across the road and asked if we would help her deliver some leaflets to houses on the south side. Afterwards she would give us a treat. The word “treat” solidified the request. Kitty-gram immediately divided the eight of us into groups of two and assigned each group to several blocks. We were to put the flyer on the doorknob or stick it between the doors. Under no circumstances were we to put the flyer in the mailbox. That would be breaking the law. I don’t think that any of us realized we were delivering democratic flyers.
Once back at Kitty-gram’s house, she ushered us into a small bathroom to wash our hands and then we stood around the oven in the gallery-type kitchen. Kitty-gram made us a treat that she brought back from England which was soda crackers with cheese on top and placed under the broiler. We loved the treat and felt so important when she allowed us to have seconds.
I, along with the others in the neighborhood, could not understand why she hired a young person to cut her lawn that had been picked up several times for stealing. In fact, the rumor was that this person had stolen from Kitty-gram. After researching her life, I understand and applaud her rationale in giving young people a second chance. I am sure that this young person had many life-learning discussions with Kitty-gram.
Katherine Foley was a sister to Mrs. F. W. Grogan who lived on the city’s north side. She was born in 1880 in Juneau, WI. Katherine graduated from the
University of Wisconsin and completed a post graduate course at the University of Chicago. She taught in Minnesota and Indiana high schools before her marriage. In June 1916 Katherine married Dr. William C. Sullivan, Kaukauna dentist. Dr Sullivan devoted his life to public service and politics. He served as mayor for two terms from 1926-1930 and had the distinction of the only father-son combination to serve as mayor. His father served as mayor from 1888-1890.
Katherine had a constant interest in public affairs. She volunteered as a reader for children’s story hour at the Kaukauna Public Library and was very active in the Red Cross during WWI. The local Red Cross met in the lower room at the library where they rolled bandages and knit caps and mittens. She was active in the Outagamie Democratic party organization. Widely read and attracted to intellectual pursuits, she was a regular attendant at lecture programs at Lawrence College through the years and was considered a gifted teacher.
In 1921 the State appointed Katherine to the Educational Bonus Committee for Kaukauna which included Chairman M. P. Mitchell, Secretary Katherine Sullivan, Elliot Zekind, L. G. Schussman and B. G. Prugh. The goal of the committee was to acquaint ex-servicemen from WWI with the opportunities for education offered to all servicemen by the state. The committee planned to organize classes at the vocational school to meet the servicemen needs based on the questionnaire they filled out.
Katherine became field director for the Red Cross and participated in flood relief work throughout the nation. She constantly found work for the unemployed and personally talked to students considering dropping out of school into completing their education. Along with helping the unemployed or poor she continued to teach the young how to help themselves and how to become independent.
In 1921 Katherine became a member of the Democratic State Central Committee. Her work and passion with the youth impressed the political people at the state level. In 1927 child welfare became so unpopular in Wisconsin that a bill was brought up in the legislature to have the department which was established in 1920 abolished. Sullivan fought hard to prevent the passage of the bill. She strongly believed that with proper guidance in youth and on through to manhood and womanhood, there was a small chance for crime. The bill failed to pass.
In 1933 Governor Schmedeman appointed Katherine to a six-year position on the State Board of Control. Sullivan was chairman on public relief of the Wisconsin Conference of Social Work. The governor also appointed Katherine to represent the state at the International Congress of Women in Chicago in connection with the Century of Progress Exposition under the auspices of the National Council of Women.
When not traveling Sullivan was active in the Professional Woman’s Club in Kaukauna. She used the club as a means to discuss child welfare and means to deal primarily with children who are mistreated, undernourished, in queer situations, delinquent and misguided.
In October 1933, the superintendent of Taycheedah, woman’s prison near Fond du Lac was suspended and the governor appointed Katherine to the State Board of Control which was in charge of the Wisconsin Industrial Home for Women at Taycheedah. While she was president of the Wisconsin State Board of Control, she managed the directories of the state government’s board of charitable and penal activities, one of the largest departments of the government and which spent $4,000,000 ($76,923,077 today) of the taxpayers funds each year. Katherine mentioned to friends that this was the most difficult job she ever had, and she had had some difficult assignments.
Her job allowed her to visit her Kaukauna home on weekends. She traveled 2,000 miles a month regularly visiting each of the 17 institutions maintained by the state. Katherine’s principal interest during her four years on the board had been the promotion of educational services in state institutions, especially the state prison and reformatory school at Green Bay. She worked hard to get qualified and trained staff in the institutions. In 1946 Katherine was elected President of the Fox River Valley District and Professional Women where she continued to fight for programs to help the area youth.
In July 1966 Katherine left Kaukauna to take care of a friend in Madison who was sick. While at Madison she was stricken herself and died in October 1966. Her funeral service was held at St. Mary’s Church in Kaukauna with burial in St. Joseph Cemetery in Appleton. She was 82 years old. There were no immediate survivors.
John Corcoran, former 4th Ward supervisor and local historian who had been associated with Katherine in democratic party work commented, “We have lost a respected friend and citizen. She devoted her life to her friends, especially to youth. She will live in the hearts of those who knew her.”
Many older Kaukauna residents are able to tell you where the Stribley Mansion (now privately owned) is located on Wisconsin Avenue. But few are aware of the Stribley’s Florida mansion, the Casa Rio Villa. Charles Stribley’s strong work ethic and dedication to Thilmany Mill allowed him and his wife to enjoy a northern and southern mansion.
Charles Stribley was born near Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1867. When he was 16 years old Stribley came to
Madison to study telegraphy. His first job was as a night operator at Appleton for the old Lake Shore Railroad Company. In 1889 Stribley left the Lake Shore Company to become the operator of the new telegraph station built at Kimberly to accommodate the new Kimberly Clark Mill. Charles was so intrigued with the paper mill that two years later he left his job to work in the Kimberly Mill.
On June 22, 1882, Charles Stribley married Emma Lehman. Her parents were pioneer Appleton residents and well-known. Charles and Emma lived in Appleton. The depression hit in 1893 and Stribley was laid off. His next job was that of a scaler for the Appleton Wood Supply Company where he worked in 1897. At age 30 he came to work for Oscar Thilmany as a bookkeeper and assistant. The Thilmany Mill manufactured ground wood pulp. Charles and Emma continued to live in Appleton.
Charles took the scoot, a caboose attached to a switch engine, out of Appleton at 6:30 a.m. to the mill and took the 9:45 p.m. train back home. Several Sundays he would walk to Kaukauna and work in the office, taking the last home. Before Stribley left work, he would walk through the mill to check if everything were ok and talk with the workers, who he addressed by their first name. He continued to take on additional jobs including production man, salesman, inventor of new methods and promoter of new products.
Oscar Thilmany knew that he had hired the right man to manage and grow the mill business. Oscar wanted to retire and return to Germany
where he would build a small castle. Slowly he shifted responsibility to his young assistant and within two years Stribley was managing the mill. He is credited with switching from direct water to steam power on the paper machine, installing the first paper machine in 1899 and making the first paper.
His method for patching breaks in a paper roll was the result of a fishing trip to Watersmeet, Michigan. Charles stopped at a clothing store to buy a cheap pair of corduroy pants to wear in the water. When the cuffs got wet, the cuffs fell off the pants. Stribley went back to the shop to complain and the shop owner said the cuffs on the cheap pants were glued on, not sewed. Charles immediately asked to see how the glue worked and took a sample of the glue back to the mill. He glued two sheets of paper together and found it held the paper. He worked with the millwright and used the glue to patch a break in the paper.
In 1901 Oscar Thilmany hired Monroe Wertheimer as president of the mill. Stribley was appointed to the Board of Directors and stayed with the company until his death in 1941. He leased the Union Bag Mill and transformed the mill into a converting mill.
A year later the Stribleys moved to Kaukauna. The address was the corner of Division and Grignon Street, most likely Capt. Meade’s house. Charles bought a lot on Wisconsin Avenue started to work with the Milwaukee firm of Van Ryan and De Gelleke to design his home.
The three-story red brick home was built in 1910 fronting the Fox River to the south and facing
Wisconsin Avenue on the north and is the largest and most elegant residential structure in Kaukauna. Structurally the house was built for the ages, solid masonry to the top of the second floor, brick veneer above. The red tile roof has been a landmark for the home. Edumds Manufacturing Company finished the interior of the home. The company had finished the interior of the Wannamaker building in Philadelphia.
Several rooms were finished in mahogany, the second floor in quarter sawed oak, and birch and the third-floor ballroom in California redwood. Five hundred electric lights were installed. A low brick wall and cast-iron fence originally surrounded part of the two-acre yard. The carriage house has a tile roof and upper-level apartment with a fireplace. Stribley’s chauffeur, Art Gustman, and his family originally occupied the apartment.
The interior of the house was a showplace of fine materials and furnishings, including room size oriental rugs and antiques. The “Lion Table” with its rectangular top of mosaic colored wood and heavy leg carved lion heads was 500 years old when Stribley purchased it in Germany. The tall, massive octagon dining table was brightened with brass embellishments. The dining table and high oak chairs with tooled leather seats and back were over a hundred years old when purchased. Several other uncommon features in this early Twentieth Century house included a central vacuum system, intercom telephone line and closets with automatic lights that turn on when the door is opened.
The Stribleys were socially active and involved in community activities. Mrs. Stribley published a song titled “Like a Bit of Fallen Sky” in 1927. Charles donated the land for the Outagamie Teachers College. He collected coins and antique books. He had about 14 books he obtained from Eleazer William’s home near Little Rapids, The library of books owned by Williams, in 1840 was the largest collection of books at that time in the west. Reverend Williams was looked up to by the people in this area. He died in his sparsely furnished cabin where he had been selling his books in order to purchase groceries.
Both Charles and Emma were avid trap shooters. They belonged to the Kaukauna Gun club, the Northeastern Wisconsin Trapshooting league and several gun clubs in Florida. Both usually placed first or second in the tournaments they entered. The Kaukauna Gun Club introduced clay pigeons in 1929 and Charles took first place in the first tournament the club held.
His gun was an exceptional one-of-a-kind L. C. Smith De Lufe grade trap gun. Stribley had the gun made to order and designed most of the engraving on the gun which included gold inlaid. It was engraved
“C. W. Stribley May 28, 1901.” The gun was auctioned off in 2013. The selling price was listed between $65,000 and $90,000.
The Stribleys first came to Fort Myers in 1918 for a vacation. Charles was looking for a good fishing area. They stayed at the Bradford Hotel and kept returning to the area for the next several years finally deciding to build a home in Fort Myers. Charles purchased land on Mc Gregor Boulevard, giving him 300 feet of frontage property on the Caloosahatchee River next door to Henry Ford and two houses away from Thomas Edison.
In 1922 Henry Ford bought 135 feet of waterfront property from Stribley, who in turn purchased 100 feet next to his original property from the Harview Hartman estate. Stribley immediately hired workers to start building a 5-1/2-foot-high sea wall, the highest in the area. The area was filled in with 9,000 yards of earth. A 40 x 50-foot boat basin was built extending into the Stribley property.
Charles Stribley hired Van Ryn & De Gelleke, the same architect firm that built his mansion in Kaukauna to build his Florida mansion. The Spanish 5,044 square-foot Mission-style house was finished in white stucco and red tile roof. The villa had five bedrooms, 6-1/2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining and living room, 4-car airconditioned garage, patios and verandas, bell towers, seven fireplaces, herb garden, invisible edge saltwater pool with a cabana, water and boat basin. The swimming pool has a fresh water supply from a flowing well. The grounds cover about five acres, partly planted with grapefruit and orange trees. The river front was planted with tropical plants and trees.
The Stribleys spent the winters at their villa and were socially active in the Fort Myers area. The local paper would report on their activities and when they were heading north for the summer. Charles and Emma, along with the Fords, Firestones and Edisons, were on the reception committee which welcomed President-elect Herbert Hoover and his family to Thomas Edison’s estate.
On October 29, 1933, shortly after arriving at the villa, Mrs. Stribley fell down a flight of stairs and was taken to Lee
Memorial Hospital where she died. Emma was cremated and her ashes buried in her parent’s plat in Riverside Cemetery in Appleton. Charles died on August 1, 1944 at St. Elizabeth Hospital. He was cremated and buried next to his wife.
The Stribley’s had no direct descendants and his will left varying percentage of Thilmany stock to Karl Stansbury, Charles Seaborne, Elmer Jennings, Guy McCorison and A. M. Schmalz. A trust fund allowed Mrs. Stribley’s sister-in-law to live in the house until her death. At the termination of the trust, Mr. & Mrs. A. M. Lang (Mrs. Lang was Stribley’s niece) received, along with the furniture and property on Wisconsin Avenue, the Casa Rio Villa at Fort Myers. The Kaukauna mansion was sold and is privately owned. The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance in 1984.
The Florida Villa was sold and in 1996 was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Homes as the Casa Rio Villa. In 2008 John Carbona, who holds six patents, and 21 Trademarks purchased the casa Rio for just under $1.7million. He invested $172,000 ($413,462 today) in updating the house. Carbona became interested in the life of Charles Stribley and obtained Stribley’s logbook containing his detailed accounting of the $171,968 ($16,054,356 today) he spent on building the Casa Rio Villa. In 2012 the villa was up for sale for $6.6 million. Today the villa is still up for sale and the asking price is $5.1 million. The historic Casa Rio was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
In 1962 a pioneer business dating back to the founding of Kaukauna became part of the parking lot at Kaukauna High School, now Riverview Middle School. That business was Renn & Co., dealers in wood and coal, lumber, ready mixed concrete and building materials at one time or another for 51. The business was started in 1886 by Kaukauna millionaire and former mayor Luther Lindauer. The legend on the door of the Renn office was Lindauer’s. It read: “Dealer in horses, stone, brick, sewer pipe, lime, ice, wood and coal.” Lindauer had the words sandblasted in the glass at the old railroad shops. In 1901 Lindauer sold the business to B. H. Hayes who in turn sold it to Peter and John Renn in 1911.
John Renn was the oldest of seven children born to Joseph and Anna Faust Renn in Prussia, Germany. He came to the United states with his parents in 1847. The family first settled in Nebraska where Peter was born. The family moved to the Kaukauna area and settled on a farm. At the time, the area was heavily wooded with a few Native American trails and a few farms.
Peter was 16 years old when he went to work at Combined Locks Mill. Later he worked at a mill in Niagara Falls. After two years Peter went west because of his health and entered business college where he picked up ideas for starting his own business while working in Oregon.
In 1907 Peter entered the ice business when he and Henry Ashauer bought John Mc Morrow’s ice business for $4,500 ($118,421 today). The sale included the ice houses on the northside of the river below where St. Paul’s home was located, the wagons, horses and all the other tools and appliances used in cutting and delivering ice. The business operated under the name of Renn & Ashauer and occupied land along the power company canal leased from the Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company.
Several times when cutting 28-inch ice above the dam a team of horses broke through the ice and drowned before they could be rescued. Renn always bought his horses from Luther Lindauer. The cost of replacing the horses was $400 ($11,111 today). Several other times the men were able to save the horses. A pneumonia epidemic spread among Kaukauna horses and the Renns had three horses contract the pneumonia virus.
Eventually Peter bought out Ashauer and joined his father, John, in the ice business. In 1911 B. W. Hayes sold his wood, coal and cement retail business to Renn & Co. who operated the new business along with their ice business. Peter
sold wood for cooking while his brother John cut the wood. During the first year Renn & Co. supplied the Lutz Brothers Ice Co. in Appleton with ice when the company ran out of ice. Eight teams delivered ice to Appleton daily for over a week. Only a third of the ice for Kaukauna customers was used up. In 1912 Renn & Co. began filling the ice houses of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Co. who contracted for 1,000 tons annually. Renn & Co. began to advertise to farmers the line of clay drains, carried at their yard. Many local farmers had excessive water on their land and couldn’t plant on the land. The business was an immediate success.
In 1913 the company installed a new road or wagon scales in front of their office in order to comply with instructions from the state inspector of weights and measures. For years, the company was a stopping place for many truckers who depended on it for weighing in their operations from this area. It was eventually purchased by Badger Northland, Inc.
The Renns had the first ready-mix concrete set up in the city. John, the father, had an excellent knowledge of the characteristics of cement, believed in the principle of the central mixing station that could
supply a radius limited by the time it would take hauled cement to set. The mixing stations were fed from the silos. Shortly after Renn & Co. and Kaukauna Lumber and Manufacturing Co. landed a contract with Outagamie County to cement concrete highways including the Town Line Road, Sniderville-Green Bay road, Askeaton and Little Chicago Road. It took 17,500 barrels of concrete. Cement came in 125 carloads and all of it was delivered by teams of horses to the place where it was needed. Later Renn would purchase a one-ton truck to deliver supplies.
By 1917 Renn & Co. had updated their equipment. The company electrified their wood and coal conveying system and their wood-sawing outfit. Ice was cut with an eight horsepower 26-inch circular saw which cut the time harvesting ice by two-thirds. The company also started harvesting the ice from the stone quarry. Sixteen men were employed in the ice business.
A new building for coal storage and woodsheds covering 10,000 square feet was built in their yard on the island. When completed the company could transfer wood and coal from either of two tracks directly to the sheds, under cover all the time. The side next to the tailrace was used to store cordwood, the other side for coal storage. Renn erected a new building 80 x 60 feet and a garage to the north of the office building under which a heating plant was installed to heat both the office and garage buildings.
The four brothers, Peter, John, Joseph and Henry enjoyed hunting and fishing in the north woods. The brothers purchased 160 acres of woodland in Forest County near Long Lake for recreation and business. The brothers hired a crew to cut cordwood for their wood yard.
b In 1920 Peter, John and Emma Renn incorporated the company and capitalized at $50,000 ($625,000 today). Renn & Co. entered a new industry of making concrete blocks. Fifteen men were hired to make 150 blocks a day. The demand increased and the company purchased a machine to make the blocks. The Renn & Co. product met the rigid state test after samples of each style of brick were sent to Madison for examination and testing. The Concrete Product Association of Milwaukee awarded Renn & Co. a certificate of quality. At that time only 100 companies in the United States held this certificate. Peter Renn’s personal guarantee backed by the state, was responsible for the growth of his business. One of their large jobs was supplying brick for the new Lutheran church. During the same year, the famous Renn silos, which were a mid-town landmark were built. The silos were used for storing Pocahontas coal and sand for easy unloading into trucks. After WWI people went to central heating and burned Pocahontas coal instead of hard coal.
After the death of John Renn in 1920, Peter took over the ownership. Peter served as director of the Farmers and Merchants bank for many years and was considered an elder statesman to businessmen of the city. Often when a businessman was in financial difficulties and asked Peter who might sign a note for him. He said, “give it to me,” and in an almost off hand manner, endorsed it.
During the depression Peter was one of the group of businessmen known as the First Realty Company. They assumed obligations for business properties that were mortgaged and kept them alive until they were sold. He fought to keep the downtown alive. Renn leased land to Flanagan & Laughrin of Bear Creek. The land was on the island just west of the Badger Mill which had been razed. The company planned to build a new building to house their local pickle station.
One of the enterprises that was carried along was the old basket factory on land now occupied by the Kaukauna Fire Dept. and recreation dept. In 1929 Mr. Conont, first principal of Kaukauna High School moved from Two Rivers back to Kaukauna after purchasing the basket factory. He entered the basket business about 35 years earlier with the Tanner Brothers Basket Co.
In 1931 the basket factory was placed in receivership. Dr. W. Sullivan, president of the company appeared in the role of the plaintiff. Peter Renn was named receiver by the court. The factory had operated continuously at no loss during the time Peter was in charge. It was impossible to continue under those conditions and satisfy the creditors. Renn managed the company for over a year until a buyer could be found. It became the Fox River Veneer Co. and operated until it was destroyed by fire in October 1953.
Peter Renn died in 1930 and the family continued the business with his son, Edward, as manager. When the city purchased the property to enlarge the high school it became eminent that the business would have to move. In 1962 the Renn & Co. location became part of the new high school. Renn & Co. continued their business of building and remodeling which they had been doing since 1956.
Many older residents associate Michael Klein with the Klein dairy farm. It’s taken for granted that when referring to Michael, it is the first-generation Michael. Research turned up that the first-generation Michael had two sons named Michael and Joseph. Joseph, had two sons named Michael and Joseph, third generation. All were actively involved in the dairy business. Several second-generation Klein’s changed their name to Kline. Throughout the Klein family’s business enterprises, you will find both spellings. Both spellings are direct descendants of Michael Klein who came over from Germany.
Dairying was a key local and state industry and prominent among the Dutch and German farmers settling in the Kaukauna area. In 1842 this was what brought Michael (1803-1889) and Mary Gross Klein and their four children from Germany, with his brother Mathias and six other German farmers. They settled in the Town of Buchanan south of Kaukauna. The area, now in the city limits, was a heavily wooded wilderness with about a dozen farmers scattered around the area. Once known as Statesburg when the Stockbridge Native American Tribe occupied the area, the area was reduced to a few traders after the Stockbridge Tribe moved to Brothertown. Pioneer Michael Klein bought 40 acres of land from the government and when he died in 1888, he owned 120 acres of land from Tenth Street to the Fox River and three blocks wide, including the present day La Follette Park area.
Michael and his wife raised 10 children on the farm. In later years several of the Klein children changed the spelling of their name to “Kline” Joseph, Mary and Catherine are listed in the Outagamie County Pioneer record as “Kline.” The boys helped clear the farmland experiencing all the hardships associated with pioneer life. For six years Michael had no team of horses and everything about the farm had to be done by hand in a very primitive manner. Flour and other necessities of life had to be purchased from Green Bay, the nearest town. The boys walked to Green Bay on an old Native American trail and carried the supplies back home on their back. One entire winter the family lived on peas since the bad weather stopped the boys from walking to Green Bay.
In 1882 two years before the south side was incorporated as the Village of Ledyard Michael’s son, also named Michael, built a farmhouse which still exists on Sullivan Avenue. A room once used to store dairy products is located off the kitchen of the lower apartment. Although some changes have been made to the house (upper and lower apartments) it still retains many of its original features including the turret, exterior siding and interesting multi-colored glass panes with incised designs. Now situated on a small lot near the Golden Ventures Apartments, the house is the lone reminder of the once vast Klein Dairy.
A few years later first-generation Michael signed a note involving a business enterprise that failed and it looked like the family would lose the dairy. That’s when his married daughter, Catherine, decided that if the family worked together, they could save the farm. The farm had been selling milk on a small scale in Kaukauna and Catherine decided that the guys would work the farm and the women would take care of the milk. The Klein family went one step further and started to deliver milk door to door. A can of milk was placed on a horse-drawn cart and customers along the route would bring out a container and request milk from a pint dipper or a quart dipper. The second-generation sons Michael and Joseph continued the dairy business after their father’s death in 1888. They added a milk house and an icehouse.
Over the years the Klein family established a 14- acre private park, called Klein Park on the site of present day La Follette Park. The park was a popular picnic area enjoyed by the locals. Many businesses and local organizations held celebrations on the grounds.
Michael’s son, Joseph, second generation, decided to enter the milling business after working in the law office of Humphrey Price in Appleton. At the time, he was involved in the dairy business and owner of eighty acres of land on the south side. In 1883 he platted an addition to the city called Klein’s addition. The 14 acres of woodland known as Klein’s Park formed part of his land, and he still owned considerable real estate, including many desirable building sites around the park area. He evidently was gifted or purchased the land from his father.
An experienced miller, Joseph, in 1883, built a large flour and feed mill on Kaukauna Water
Power Company’s canal. The Kline Mill was the second manufacturing institution to locate on the canal after Badger Paper Mill. Later Brokaw Paper Mill built on one side of the flour mill and a foundry and machine shop built on the other side. The area was across the street from the Carnegie Library. That land has changed over the years as the canal was rerouted several times between Main Street and the Badger Mill.
The mill was equipped with the latest machinery, including ten sets of Steven rolls and two grinding stones. The building was 40 x 60 feet, four stories high including the basement and cost $20,000 ($500,000 today) and produced 125 barrels of flour per day. Kline hired five men to cover around the clock shifts with a monthly payroll of $200 ($5,000 today). Two grades of flour were made. Kline’s Best was the leading brand and the favorite with housewives.
Second-generation Joseph invested in other business enterprises over the years. As a result of several bad investments in 1910 he sold a large amount of acreage, including Klein park to Michael Hunt. Next he was forced to mortgage the mill. Michael Hunt, a prominent Kaukauna businessman, acquired the mill and it was never operated again. Eventually through litigation and tax sales the property passed into the hands of the Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company. In 1915 William Rohan of the Town of Buchanan bought the mill and award Albert Luchow, local contractor, the contract to raze the structure. Rohan used the materials to construct a large barn on his farm. Pat Rohan used part of the materials to build a new home.
In 1921 second-generation Joseph Kline was the first person to move to the Mc Cormick Memorial home in Green Bay where he remained until his death in 1932.
The third generation, also named Michael and Joseph, took over the dairy in 1921 and it remained Klein’s Dairy in the 1930s and 1940s. On February 1, 1927 Joseph Klein (third generation) sold the dairy and house to Matt Juengling, a Kaukauna resident who was employed for the last 12 years at Thilmany Mill. Due to unforeseen obstacles (never officially made public) which made the transfer impossible, Joseph Klein resumed ownership of the dairy on February 2, 1927.
Joseph continued selling off acreage and sold 16 lots to local people. He continued to farm the land until 1949, then began to rent the land. Eventually the land, dairy business and house were sold. Golden Venture apartments occupy part of the Klein property.
What happened with Klein Park? Why did it take the common council 16 years to approve the purchase of the park acreage for La Follette Park? Watch for next month’s article which will cover the history of La Follette Park.
Many locals remember when Van Zeeland Implement Company was located on Hwy OO, now 2401 Hyland Avenue where Dawes Rigging and Crane Rental Company is located. The implement company started out in 1935 when brothers, Bernard, and Leonard Van Zeeland, formed a partnership and bought the Peter Mitchell building on the corner of Lawe and Division Streets. Today a BP service station is located on the site.
The Van Zeeland brothers grew up on a farm near Mc Carty’s crossing (in the area of the Out-O-Town Club.) The two brothers, along with brothers Frank and Norbert, were partners in the Game Farms, largest grower of pheasants in the world.
The Van Zeeland Implement Company acquired a dealership in tractors and farm equipment from the J. I. Case Company located in Racine, WI. The first employee hired in 1935 was Ray Ederer, a paper mill worker. The business was so successful that Bernard and Leonard were forced to look for a larger place. In 1937 they purchased land from Herman Krueger on new Highway 41, now Highway OO or Hyland Avenue. A 100 x 40 – foot steel building was erected and a second employee, Howard Verbeten, was hired. Tractor sales increased every year through the 1940s and the company carried an average of $15,000 ($222,988 today) in repair parts and supplies.
World War II impacted the business. The company needed more storage space but was only able to add a small addition due to the lack of available building materials. The company could not order any farm wagons since companies producing farm equipment were now producing war equipment. Bernard and Leonard did not let that stop them. They invented an all steel farm wagon designed to provide additional strength on hillsides with heavy loads. The brothers were awarded a patent for the Lo-Load wagon on February 13, 1940. The company was able to purchase enough steel to build the wagons.
Business continued to prosper, and the company added on to the building in 1941 and in 1945, along with a complete modernization of the original building. In 1949 the brothers acquired the Hudson automobile dealership. By 1950 it was necessary to add a building for the car dealership. The Hudson dealership was discontinued in 1958 as the implement business continued to grow.
On December 31, 1948, the Van Zeeland Implement Company was reorganized into a corporation. The officers were Bernard Van Zeeland, president; Leonard Van Zeeland, treasurer; Ray Ederer, vice-president; and Howard Verbeten as secretary. During the 1940s nine employees were working along with the four owners.
George Huss hired in 1947, wrote up his first experiences at Van Zeeland Implement Co. “One of my first duties for Van Zeeland Implement was to deliver new and used farm implements. On one of the first trips to deliver a tractor, I had an experience that was a little unexpected. I was 17 years old at the time. Some of the jobs that I had to do were new to me and I learned on the job.
“While attempting to load the tractor onto a trailer, I found that the hand brake on the tractor would not stop the tractor when it reached the front of the trailer. Due to the dirt, oil, and grime on the flywheel the brake did not hold. The trailer was a tilt bed and as the weight of the tractor came forward, the momentum made the tractor move forward faster than I expected and tilted the trailer down. As I pulled the hand brake to stop, the front wheels dropped off the front of the trailer hitch. The bottom of the tractor hit the trailer bed; the oil pan was pushed up to the crankshaft. We had to jack the tractor up and push it into the shop to repair the pan. This was a job that caused a previous employee to leave Van Zeeland. He felt it was a bit too risky. I survived the experience and made the best of a scary situation.
“On another delivery trip, I took a new combine out to a farmer in the Shirley area. The trip out went smoothly. However, on the return trip while coming down the steep hill on Hwy 96 in Greenleaf, the old thrashing machine that I was pulling back to the shop started to side-tract and tried to pass me up. I was driving a 1945, three-fourth ton Ford pickup with dual wheels. By the time I got the truck and combine stopped the tires of the combine were up against the back of the truck. A farmer came along and helped me to straighten the two out. The problem was caused by the load pushing against the truck with a hitch that has two pivot points. Again, experience is a good teacher.”
With its 40 x 60-foot repair room and the large repair parts stock, the company became one of the most valuable “servants of the farmers” in Outagamie Company. Van Zeeland Implement Co. continued to specialize in the sale of J. I. Case farm tractors and machinery. In 1943 the company offered a machinery repair course to area famers.
In the early 1950s the company began to hold yearly Farmer Appreciation Days which were a big hit with the farmers. Food and entertainment drew a large crowd for the appreciation days. The event was held at the Nitingale Ballroom north of Kaukauna.
The Nitingale Ballroom, built by Sylvester Esler in 1928, had become an institution in the Fox Valley area for 26 years providing residents and tourists with top name bands including Glen Miller, Sammy Kaye, the Dorsey Brothers and Lawrence Welk. Jerry Ederer remembers sitting by the check out when the Dorsey Brothers played, and he checked coats when Lawrence Welk played. The big hit at the Farmers Appreciation Days was Cousin Fuzzy’s Band. The band packed dance halls in six states and appeared live on three TV shows a week. Cousin Fuzzy recorded on the Polkaland label and made several albums with a mixture of polkas, waltzes, schottisches, and modern tunes.
Van Zeeland Service went above and beyond according to one customer. The customer purchased all 15 farm tractors and one Hudson Hornet car from the implement company between 1949-1977. The farmer said he received superior service and the company had loaners. Never was there a day when the hay was dry and equipment needed repair, that the work would not get done. The farmer’s wife was never agreeable to new equipment purchases so one year the farmer asked Van Zeeland’s to remove the new tractor number 730 and replace the new decal with the number 630 from the old tractor, hoping his wife would not notice.
In 1956 Leonard Van Zeeland, 44 years old, died unexpectedly while on a fishing trip. He left behind his wife Ruby and eight children. Following Leonard’s death. Bernard and Ruby decided to sell their interest in the implement business. Bernard would continue with his brothers Norbert and Frank to operate the Fox Valley Pheasant Farms in Kaukauna and Crivitz. The Van Zeeland Implement Company was incorporated in 1956 with Howard Verbeten as president and Ray Ederer as vice-president and secretary. The company continued to sell a large number of case tractors and farm implements and received several sales awards over the years.
Jerry Ederer, son of Ray Ederer, started working at the implement company part-time in 1954 and 1955 during summer vacation from school. He started working full time in 1956. In 1968 Jerry Ederer, Clarence Smet and Cleon Huss bought out Ray Ederer and Howard Verbeten. Ray continued working until 1980 and Verbeten worked until 1970. The company reorganized with owners Jerry Ederer president, Cleon Huss, and Clarence Smet. Cleon Huss started working at Van Zeeland’s when he was 14 years old. Clarence Smet grew up on a farm outside Kaukauna. When his brother, Francis, took over the farm, Clarence went to work for Van Zeeland Implement Co. in 1951, with a break from 1951-1956 when he enlisted in the Korean War. Business continued to expand and in 1970 another building was built to house equipment following a fire.
On March 11, 1985 Jerry Ederer received a letter from J. I. Case Co. notifying him that Case was terminating Van Zeeland Implement Co.’s dealership with Case 90 days from the notice. The letter stated that “Case’s recent acquisition of the agricultural equipment division of International Harvester has resulted in a duplication of farm implement dealers serving certain market areas. Where such duplication has occurred, Case has been forced to choose between the dealers in the affected area on the basis of their respective marketing strength, considering all factors which materially contribute to such strength. On the basis of this evaluation in your case, Case has concluded that your dealership is the weaker one. This relative deficiency in marketing strength is the cause for the termination effected by this notice.”
Jerry Ederer contacted lawyers Brian Butler and Gary Young, from the law offices of Stafford, Rosenbaum, Rieser & Hansen in Madison. Young wrote the Fair Dealership Law for Wisconsin. The Fair Dealership Law said that agriculture dealers cannot cancel a dealership without good cause to do so. The case went to court. In a decision handed down April 22,1986, the Outagamie County Circuit Court ruled that J. I. Case Company did not have good cause to terminate a dealer on the basis that the dealer was in a “conflict” area, resulting from its acquisition of International Harvester. This was the first court decision made under the Fair Dealership Law concerning the termination of agriculture dealers. Van Zeeland Implement Company won the lawsuit. Jerry Ederer remarked that “if Case Implement did not notice us before, they do now. It went well for us.” Following the court case, the present owners decided to close the business on December 31, 1986 and sold the land and buildings.
The arrival of summer found the Kaukauna kids frequenting their favorite swimming hole along the Fox River. At the turn of the century the south side kids swam near the piers where riverboat excursions docked below Eden Park by Brill Street. The north side kids swam in the river at the foot of a ravine that bordered what is now Riverside Park at the west end where cows from Black’s pasture came down to drink. A fallen Oak tree provided a pier to jump off of.
Some kids, after playing baseball behind the Carnegie Library would slide down the slick dam planks and swim below the dam until the new dam was installed. The problem was the swimming holes were never clean. There were no sewerage disposal plants in the valley until the 1930s. The river was contaminated with discharge from mills, garbage, dead fish, and slicks of oil from surface water draining from oiled streets. August brought dog days turning the water into green pea soup. The city knew that the water was highly contaminated as far back as 1885 when the city was contemplating using the Fox River for drinking water. Dr. Tanner, strongly against the idea, sent a sample of water to the University of Michigan for testing. The report stated that “the sample was too heavily charged with organic matter of nitrogenous composition to be suitable to drink. The proportion of abluminal ammonia being enormous it is condemned as unfit for potable use.”
Once the locks were built, hundreds of young and old residents gravitated to the fourth lock. In 1922 the city hired the first lifeguard, Jack Wheaton. There were no dressing rooms at the fourth lock. Boys went below the bank on the east side of the lock and left their clothing in a neat pile on the grass. Girls found privacy in a large clump of bushes between the waste gates and the road. Sometimes they went behind opened umbrellas or dressed in Mitchell’s barn across the road. Eventually swimming was banned by the Federal Government who owned and operated the locks.
Since the turn of the century Kaukauna residents talked of building a swimming pool to keep their children free from pollution and the dangerous current of the river. Before World War I, M. A. Wertheimer, one of the owners of Thilmany Mill, was interested in a swimming pool and offered to contribute money toward building a pool. Werthieimer wanted a safe swimming place for his children. He had roped off a section along the river behind his home to keep them safe from venturing into deep water. The common council did not act on his request.
An answer to the demand for a pool was met in 1920 when Mayor Raught presented a $100,000 ($1,250,000 today) proposal to construct a first class municipal building containing the fire department, police department, city offices, storage and office rooms for the Electric and Water Department, a community room and a swimming pool be built at the bottom of the Lawe Street Bridge. The Electric Dept. would provide and maintain the 28×48 foot pool. The pool opened in 1922. Even with lights on, the pool area was dark, dreary, damp and small. Due to the low ceilings no diving was permitted. If you were not in line at least a half hour before opening, you would not get in. If you did not make the 1:00 pm-2:30 pm time, you stayed in line until the 3:00 pm-4:30 pm period. At first colored swimming suits were outlawed lest they dye the water. Showers were taken before entering the pool. The noise was almost unbearable. The water was icy cold, direct from underwater mains and not warmed by the sun. Numerous complaints poured into Mayor Sullivan about how cold the water was. Following an inspector’s examination of the pool, he stated that the air and water in the pool was the coldest water in any pool he had visited in his territory which comprised 17 states. He recommended increasing the pool temperature by 10 degrees.
As the depression hit the valley the slowdown of business led the old Lindauer and later Niesen quarry to abandon the quarrying enterprise. A combination of spring water and seepage filled the 60-foot deep cavity in the earth. The city felt that this would be an ideal swimming hole and furnished lifeguards, bath houses, diving boards and a raft in the center. The quarry was too deep for small kids.
Development of the lower river waterpower and construction of the city of Kaukauna power plants at the old Outagamie mill site in 1937 ended the quarry as a swimming place. It was flooded with fast waters of the flowage to the new hydroelectric plants.
Successor to the quarry swimming hole was the Mid-Channel pool, which was just across a narrow strip of rock from the quarry in the old riverbed. Here the city installed diving boards, bath houses and ladders and furnished lifeguards. It prevailed as the swimming center until 1946.
Mid-Channel was never a fully satisfactory place. The portion fenced off for small children varied in depth with the flow of the river. The bottom was a litter of jagged rocks, broken glass and pieces of scrap and frequent debris such as tin cans that were washed down. The deep part was immediately adjacent to the swift power plant flowage.
Water tests by Kaukauna doctors and by the state department of health continued to show the presence of dangerous quantities of bacterial, particularly bacillus coli, which is also found in sewage. Cases of skin rash was prevalent among swimmers.
In the 1930s, in addition to the 4th Locks pool, Reichel’s ice pond (located where 1000 Island Environmental Center is) was officially used as one of the swimming pools in the summer. Two shelters were provided for bathers to change in. Hours were posted for girls, boys, women, and men. The police department received frequent complaints of boys swimming nude after hours, but by the time the police got to the pond, the boys were gone. Later the city acquired the property and in 1948 drained the pond to use as a dumping ground.
The Kaukauna Woman’s Club appeared before the common council in 1934 recommending that the city construct a swimming pool and appeared again before the council in 1937. That year the quarry swimming area closed down because of blasting for the lower river hydroelectric project.
Aldermen agreed to the need but estimated that the cost would run from $8,500 ($146,552 today) to $225,000 ($3,879,310 today) with Public Works Administration Assistance
paying part of the cost. The city approved a 20×30 foot wading pool at La Follette Park. The pool was available to small children only. This did not deter older kids from using the pool. The kids crawled on their knees and it took awhile before they were noticed and kicked out. The Woman’s Club was asked to select a site for a wading pool on the northside. The pool was never built. Older kids and adults continued to use the mid-channel site.
In 1942 the Lions Club staged a golf jamboree and donated the entire proceeds to the city to pub towards building a swimming pool. At the same time Thilmany Pulp Makers Local 147 contributed to the growing swimming pool fund. WWII halted the construction of a pool until after the war.
Through the persistence of Mayor Joseph Bayorgeon, the decision of a swimming pool was left up to the residents through a referendum. In 1946 seventy-two percent of the residents voted for the pool and the common council finally approved the construction of a new pool. A large number of citizens approved the second referendum for the swimming pool bond issue. The site chosen was the top of Beaulieu Hill and work started in August 1949. An excavating accident marred the excitement around the pool. Van Daalwk Excavating was digging a water main trench when the ground around the water main trench caved in and buried 45-year-old Joseph Kappell. He was killed instantly.
July 1950 the new pool was dedicated. Thousands of residents were on hand for the dedication ceremony despite the rainy day. It was not long before the new pool was overcrowded and two swimming periods, from 1 pm-2:30 pm and 3 pm-4:30 pm, were implemented.
By the 1980s the Kaukauna swimming pool needed major repairs. Communities were installing water slides and other amenities desired by its patrons. The common council approved major renovations and the pool was completely overhauled. When the newly remodeled pool opened in June 1991, the dedication brochure listed the amenities of the pool. “The pool is 13,500 sq. ft. (surface area). 380,000-gallon capacity tank. The temperature controlled (heated) water will vary from 0’0’’ to 12’3’’ in depth. The pool includes an 8 lane, 25-yard competitive swimming area. The diving area will include a three-meter, one meter and deck level boards. Other pool amenities include concession facilities, a wet and dry sand area, a sand volleyball court, sun arbors, floor fountains, water raindrop, spray creatures and a 245 foot singly flume waterslide with a 30-foot drop. A concrete deck will surround the entire perimeter of the pool with an extensive irrigated grass beach area. Outdoor lighting will be available for evening use.”
Today the Kaukauna Swimming Pool continues as the top summer recreation program in the City of Kaukauna.
When William Klumb moved to Kaukauna in 1879 there were practically no buildings on the south side. However, with the railroad coming, the south side began to build up and Klumb decided to establish his business in the fastest growing section of the city.
William Klumb was born in Cedar Creek, Washington County on January 13,1859. It was there that he learned his wagon making and woodworking trade. He came to Kaukauna when he was 20 years old. The very next morning after his arrival, Klumb went to work for Kramer Wagon Shop located on the former site of the Bank of Kaukauna at the corner of Lawe and Wisconsin Avenue. He started at 75 cents ($18.75 today) a day and board and soon after was making $1.25 ($31.25 today) a day with even better board. Despite the good pay, he quit after five years to go into business for himself. He purchased a lot on the south side, now occupied by Greenwood-Fargo Home at 500 Hendricks Avenue and built a shop. Klumb was convinced that hand made wagons were much better than the machine-made wagons primarily because of the wood that was in them.
Klumb married Amelia Foster from Appleton and they raised four children. He was a republican and became well-known as a servant of the people in public offices. He served as city alderman for several years and was city treasurer for four years. William was a charter member of the Immanuel Evangelical and Reformed Church. During his lifetime he was active in the church and served as deacon and treasurer.
In October 1885, the North Kaukauna Volunteer Fire Department was organized into two divisions, 12 members in the fire company and 15 in the hook and ladder company. William Klumb was appointed fire chief. The fire department was located in the city hall building located on Oak Street east of what is now Riverview Middle School and Island Street. Klumb served as fire chief for one year and was paid $100 ($2,778 today).
Klumb’s business prospered. In 1877 Klumb moved his business next to Timmer’s Implement Co. at 235 Dodge Street. The family occupied the second floor of the building. He made about 25 wagons a year which sold for $45-$50 ($1,250-$1,389 today). Top buggies went for $75-$125 ($2,083-$3,472 today). In addition, there were sleighs, cutters and bobsleds at varying prices. He also made mail carrier wagons for carriers including Levi Pupert, John Kobussen and Ted Smits. His equipment in the rear of the shop consisted of hand saws, circular saw, joiner, planer, sander, turning lathe, pulleys and motors. For a time Klumb used the second floor of Timmer’s farm implement building for painting his wagons.
As the public started buying trucks and automobiles, Klumb started working on repairing the wooden tires needing repair. Usually he was replacing wooden spokes. Klumb did not move into the auto repairing business when autos were made out of steel. Business started to decline as farmers switched from horse and wagons to tractors and people replaced the horse and buggy with a “steel car.”
On December 6, 1938, the Klumb building, wagon shop and residence at 235 Dodge Street burned. The fire started from a defective furnace. The blaze caused approximately $5,000 ($89,286 today) to the shop and residence. Members of the family escaped the flames but lost all their clothing, personal belongings, and furniture. Klumb carried $3,000 ($53,571 today) insurance on the building and contents. There was approximately $90 ($1,607 today) worth of damage to the Lummerding building located east of the Klumb building, The Lummerding damage was caused by excessive heat which damaged the roof and by brick from the chimney of the Klumb building when it fell through a window into the Lummerding building. The Klumb family moved to 415 W. Ninth Street and William Klumb retired.
Following a six-week illness William Klumb died in 1943 and was buried in Union Cemetery.
John Jansen, born in the province of North Brabant, Netherlands was 14 years old, in 1835, when he accompanied his parents to America. He lived with the family of Captain James Boyd in Brown County and learned to work at heavy tasks in the woods and in sawmills in Oconto County. In 1868 Jansen moved to Kaukauna, a wilderness penetrated only by Native Americans and a few early settlers. He operated a sawmill for the F. E. Gardner Lumber Company which he considered “a poorly equipped and operated sawmill.” Jansen felt that with such a heavy growth of timber in the Kaukauna area he could start his own business. Not having enough money to carry out the project he secured the partnership of John Stovekin, who along with his brother, Henry Frambach, built and operated several paper mills, including the Eagle Mill, in the area.
Jansen continued in partnership with Stovekin until 1868 when he bought the entire company. The mill was located on the site of the Thilmany Pulp and Paper Mill (now Ahlstrom-Munksjo). When the Chicago fire of October 1871 caused a demand for lumber the Kaukauna Lumber & Manufacturing Company was able to furnish much of the demand due to the new machinery which could handle pine and hardwood. The bank of the Fox River for a considerable distance above and below the plant was frequently lined with logs waiting to be sawed.
In 1882 Jansen sold one-half of the company to Henry Hewitt and renamed the company Hewitt Brothers & Jansen. Two years later they built a large sash, door and blind factory. The company quickly gained a reputation for the best quality sawed lumber in the area. During 1885 the lumber company had contracts which included lumber for 13 new homes, a large boarding house in Ashland, new Catholic church in Gillette, two houses in Iron Mountain, interior of Holy Cross Church, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church remodeling and the Wertheimer residence.
In January 1888 the Hewitt Brothers & Jansen Lumber Company’s warehouse burned down. The fire department contained the blaze to one building. Damage was estimated at $5,000 ($131,579 today) and was covered by nine insurance companies. Most insurance companies only insured to a maximum of $500-$1000. Large companies had to purchase insurance from several agencies until they felt their company was covered.
In 1894 Jansen bought out his partner, Henry Hewitt, and discontinued the manufacturing of sash, doors and blinds. He purchased 2-1/2 acres on the island from Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company for $400 ($12,121 today). A new and larger plant built on the land included a sawmill, planning mill and woodworking plant with a lumber yard. The company employed 30 workers. Jansen reorganized and incorporated the company with his sons, John and Joseph, in 1898.
Besides operating its own planning mill, sawmill and wholesale and retail business, the company also dealt in coal, lime, cement and plaster. Eventually they were forced to discontinue their very large coal and wood business due to their increasing trade in better grades of lumber. It was impossible for workers to handle nicely finished wood products with so much coal dust around. During this time there was a steady stream of farmers from the surrounding area hauling logs in wagons and sleighs to the mill. Most of the logs averaged three and four feet in circumference. At times up to 100 people a day would visit the mill to watch the workmen saw the logs.
The Kaukauna Lumber Company continued to enlarge, purchasing property at the west ends of Second and Third Street where they constructed buildings to store lumber. Between 1910 and 1919 the lumber company added larger drying kilns and a second floor. A large lumber storage shed one block in length was built from Elm Street to Maple street. A storage shed was built near the railroad sidetracks to protect lumber from the weather when unloaded from railcars. The railroad company replaced the trestle near the company to handle heavier freight cars for shipping in larger loads of logs and shipping out more sawed lumber
The company was known for their drying of lumber with moisture instruments that automatically supplied the correct moisture in drying and speeded up the drying process. Kaukauna Lumber and Manufacturing Company was
one of the largest mills in the state. The company installed the first electric saw in the United States and was the first electrically driven lumber mill in the world. The plant was rated by factory inspectors as the best equipped and safest woodworking plant in the vicinity.
The company manufactured bank and office fixtures and high grades of interior decorations and did about $300,000 ($9,090,909 today) business a year. It furnished products for some of the leading architects in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and the City of Kaukauna.
On January 12, 1913, fire broke out on the mill property and flames were so high and intense that it was impossible to get closer than 100 feet. In 2-1/2 hours the fire destroyed the machinery, sawmill, planning mill, cabinet making room and drafting room. The lumber yard and sheds escaped because they were situated nearly a block from the company. Damage was estimated at $25,000 ($625,000 today) and was partially covered by insurance. The cause was thought to be electrical wiring. The company rebuilt in 1914 and installed a complete fire suppression sprinkler system. The automatic sprinkler system saved the mill from another major fire in July just after they had started up.
After John Jansen retired, he lived in Combined Locks until his death in 1918. His sons John Jr. and Joseph continued to run the mill. In 1905 a new office building was erected which housed paints in the back. The second floor was devoted to bracket work. By now the company consisted of nearly a dozen buildings and resembled a small village. All the lumber was stored in three large warehouses.
John Jr. died in 1927. Joseph, last of the Jansen’s in the company, died in 1935. Peter Bergman was named president of the Kaukauna Lumber & Manufacturing Company and held that position until the company was sold to the Lieber Company in 1945. He began working at the lumber company when it was located on the island when he was 15 years old as a general laborer. He was in the employment of Jansen and his sons through the growth of the mill and was general manager from 1936 until the company was sold and he retired. During his 49 years of employment Bergman took one week of vacation and three days off when he got married.
In 1936 the Kaukauna Lumber & Manufacturing company was purchased by the Nelson Machinery Company of Green Bay and was immediately resold to a Mr. Young of Bear Creek who moved some of the machinery and equipment from the sawmill to his sawmill in Bear Creek. He continued operating the Kaukauna Lumber Mill for custom sawing. The mill was sold because of the sharp decrease in the number of logs sawed. In earlier years 600,000 feet of logs were sawed into lumber in a year. In 1935 only 60,000 logs were sawed. The circumference of the logs decreased over the years from three to four feet to 14 inches. The company employed 30 workers.
Damage of $2,000 ($34,483 today) was caused to five buildings at the yards of the Lumber Mill on June 17,1937. The fire was discovered by employees of Thilmany Mill and the Powerhouse who reported the fire. The fire destroyed the cement shed containing 1,000 cement bags and a cement bag cleaning machine. A large quantity of sewer pipe stored in a shed was destroyed and a tool house was also destroyed. Bergman stated that the buildings would be rebuilt as soon as possible, and the cement bag cleaning machine was replaced.
In June 1940 the common council voted to trade land adjacent to a lumber shed on Kaukauna Lumber Company property for lots and buildings owned by the company at the west ends of Second and Third Streets. In addition, the city received a parcel of land near the pumping station for possible extension of the city water system. The lumber company received land on the Island in exchange.
In February 1945 the Kaukauna Lumber & Manufacturing Company business and property on the Island was sold to Lieber Lumber & Millwork Company of Neenah. The Lieber Lumber Company operated until 1963 when Kaukauna Electric & Water Department purchased the property for $42,500 ($348,360 today). The property was used to expand the city water and electrical facilities.
In 1897 the people of Wisconsin started to discuss the question of bringing the standard of country schools on a basis with that of the city schools. Normal Schools were well attended, but the needs of the country schools were not being met. The Normal Schools prepared its graduates to teach in the city schools and it was difficult to obtain good teachers for the rural schools.
The advantages of establishing a modern rural county training school were:
- The country child could share his store of knowledge of country life.
- The child could incorporate his knowledge of country life into the activities and instruction at school.
- The course of study for rural schools included subject matter adapted to rural life.
- The rural school had 20 classes of 10 and 15 minutes while the city school had fewer classes and a longer time frame.
- Rural schools offered all eight grades.
The state legislature decided that the county training school was a necessity and in 1889 the state legislature enacted a law establishing two training schools in the state. Over the next 23 years 30 counties in Wisconsin established training schools that trained teachers for rural schools. The Outagamie County Board decided that Outagamie County should have a training school and in 1912 voted to establish a school. Appleton and Kaukauna competed to provide a site for the school.
A committee composed of Mayor John Coppes, Charles Stribley and E. T. O’Brien developed Kaukauna’s proposal which Charles Stribley presented. The City of Kaukauna would furnish the grounds and building known as the Casino building. The city would deed the property over to the Outagamie County Board for training school purposes for as long as they maintained a training school. Kaukauna would make the necessary repairs and remodeling. Kaukauna also would give $600 ($15,385 today) in cash to the school board. Students would have full permission to do observation work and practice teaching in any and all grades of Nicolet School. In return the training school would furnish teachers as supply teachers without pay, during the absence of any of the regular teachers. The institution would be supported by the county and state and not cost the city anything for maintenance. The county board voted unanimously to establish the county school in Kaukauna. The building was the old annex or Casino at the corner of Main Avenue and Ninth Street, used as a public grade school before Nicolet School was constructed.
The first class opened on September 16, 1912. Leo Schussmann was principal and teacher. Miss Josephine Driscoll was the other teacher. Two courses were offered; a two-year course for eighth grade graduate students and a one-year course for high school graduates. Both courses certified the students as rural schoolteachers. Students in the first class encountered two major problems, the building was without heat well into the winter and transportation was a problem for many students.
In spring 1913 eight students graduated. The eight girls were given their diplomas, inscribed with the class motto “Honor waits at labor’s gate.”
In the beginning the school had to accept students who had completed the requirements established by law. This meant that an eighth-grade graduate could enter the school. In 1916, 53 students were enrolled; three were 15 years old, 15 were 16 years old, 12 were 17 years old and the rest were 18 years or older.
The school board realized the importance of attending high school for at least two years before applying to the training school. Shortly after the Outagamie Training School Board passed a curriculum change which required a student to complete two years of high school before applying to the training school. Kaukauna High School offered a new course of study preparing the students to enter the training college.
In 1916 the county board decided that a new training school should be erected on the north side. The site selected was on a hill facing Wisconsin Avenue in the rear of Hotel La
Salle (later Hotel Kaukauna). The land was donated to the school by Charles Stribley. The building was two stories high. The first and second floors were classrooms and offices. The basement included a gymnasium and the manual training department. The new school was made of steel, marble, cement and bricks and was considered “absolutely fireproof”. The city completed work on landscaping the area around the county training school. When completed the local citizens voiced their approval except for the view from school windows. Across Wisconsin Avenue the land leading down to the river was filled with rubbish, tin cans, old stoves, ashes and garbage. The city cleaned up the area. The class of 1917 graduated from the new school with four boys and the rest girls. Fourteen students graduated from the one-year program, 26 from the two-year program and six from the three-year program.
For several years the school worked with the community in presenting an annual county school fair. The displays show cased the work of the home and farm. Women displayed crocheting, knitting, sewing, cooking and preserving. Different aspects of farming were demonstrated. The young boys were instructed in how to grow potatoes and were given seedlings to plant and raise potatoes. Many private homes in Kaukauna rented a room for very little cost to students.
By 1919 the school was trying to increase enrollments. A major concern for most of the students attending training school was room and board. Some students requested a part time job while attending school. One student, Gordon Smith, from Royalton spent the little money he had to build a small hut in which he lived during the school year. His father, a carpenter, built a 6 x 12-foot hut on land several blocks from school. John D. Lawe owned the land and offered the site to the student.
1935 was the last year the Rural Normal College offered the one-year program. By 1943, there was a shortage of 500 teachers for rural schools in Wisconsin, mostly due to the war. Workshops designed to provide speedy training were held at Oshkosh State Teachers School. In 1945, only nine girls enrolled as first year students at Outagamie County Training School. In addition, there were 11 students already in school. The normal peacetime enrollment drew students from Brown, Calumet, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca and other counties. The students only expense in attending school was transportation and room and board while living in private homes. The war curtailed many activities the students were normally involved in. Because of the war the sophomore class was allowed to go on to summer school and then teach. The shortage of students almost resulted in the closing of the college. When the war ended enrollments started to rebound. Many students went on to four-year colleges to finish their degree. The major obstacle, scarcity of rooms to rent, continued due to the large number of returning veterans who were also looking for housing.
Among the most effective educators who guided the school was Walter Hagman, who served as principal from 1919-1951. He was especially noted for overcoming adversity, setting high standards and receiving statewide recognition. Hagman introduced a major course change. Rather than force the study on the student, the teacher must attempt to get the student interested in it. The teacher shifted the responsibility from themselves onto the students to make them leaders instead of an old fashion boss. Teachers were making $75 ($962 today) a month.
In 1946, more than 100 Kaukauna High School students signed a petition to open the youth center in the Rural Normal Training School for high school students. Walter Schmidt, recreation director, was in charge of the youth center. It was opened on Fridays from 8pm -11 p.m. The center had a soda fountain, pool tables, ping pong tables and music for dancing. By the mid -1950s the youth center was moved to the high school.
Up until the 1950s the school was known as the Outagamie Rural Normal College. The name changed to Outagamie County Teachers College.
Over the years the tuition costs went from zero to $10 ($128 today) in the 1940s eventually to $25 ($207 today) per semester. This allowed students to obtain their first two years of college for $100 ($826 today) before transferring to a four-year college.
Outagamie County Teachers College closed in 1972. When the school closed its doors on June 30, 1972, more than 3,000 men and women had graduated. Shortly after, the building was razed. The land is owned by the city.
One former Kaukauna citizen has the distinction of recruiting the largest number of young men for military training in Outagamie County. This prominent individual, well liked and respected was Olin G. Dryer, principal at Kaukauna High School from 1923-45. In the 1920s Dryer believed in the importance of educating the youth and strongly supported the Citizen’s Military Training Camp (CMTC). When offered the opportunity of a part-time job as Recruitment Captain, Dryer immediately accepted the position. He encouraged Kaukauna’s young men between the ages of 17 and 24 to sign up for summer training. The application required a physical examination, inoculations and a certificate of character from a reputable citizen. Dryer would provide the certificate of character for Kaukauna applicants.
Citizen’s Military Training Camp started in 1913 as a military training camp for civilians to promote good citizenship and national defense. Participation was voluntary and the men attending paid their own way. In his address to Congress in 1914, President Wilson showed his support for CMTC. He said “We must depend in every time of national peril, in the future as in the past, not upon a standing army, nor yet upon a reserve army, but upon a citizenry trained, and accustomed to arms. We should encourage such training and make it a means of discipline, which our young men will learn to value.” Four camp sessions were held that year.
The camps continued to grow and in 1920 Secretary of War, John Weeks, approved the permanent establishment of voluntary training camps and directed the War Department to include the operating expenses in its annual budget. General Lenihan from the war department stated “The object of the camps was to bring together young men of high type from all sections of the country (of wealthy and poor parents alike) in the same uniform and on a common basis of equality, under the most favorable conditions of outdoor life; to stimulate and promote the most patriotism and Americanism and, through expert physical direction, athletic coaching and military training to benefit the young men individually and lead them to a better realization of their obligations to their country.”
In 1921 applications were four times greater than the capacity of the camps and by 1924 the number trained exceeded 30,000. Young men in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois were assigned to Camp Custer, Michigan; Ft. Brady, Michigan; Camp McCoy (Sparta), Wisconsin; Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; or Ft. Snelling, Minnesota.
During 1926-1930 Olin Dryer recruited half of Outagamie County’s yearly quota of 28 men. Most of the young men attended camp two or more summers. Some of the recruits from Kaukauna during this period included: Francis and Joseph Bayorgeon, Dan, Jack and Jim Collins, Wilbur Derus, Kenneth Downer, Robert Driessen, Carl, Jack and Ross Farwell, Richard Ferguson, Donald Grebe, Francis and Robert Grogan, Herbert Haas, Kenneth Heindl, James Lang, Sylvester Lehrer, Clarence Leithen, Leonard Macrorie, Robert Main, John Mau, Marvin Miller, Robert Minkebige, Edward, Herbert and Vernon Mislinski, Vernon Mullen, William Nelson, Herbert Niesen, Gerald, Harold and Norbert Noie, Richard Otte, Fay Possen, G. Shepp, Raymond Smith, Gilbert Starke, Leon Stein, Gilbert St. Mitchel, Arthur, Robert and Wilfred Vanevenhoven.
Incentives for signing up for summer camp included free transportation to and from camp, wholesome food, uniforms, athletic equipment, and laundry services. The Army Medical Department placed at the disposal of the students its efficient organization of hospitals, doctors and nurses. This service was seldom used since the sick rate was practically negligible.
Military instruction and fundamentals such as order, neatness, punctuality, courtesy, and a willing obedience to lawful authority constituted the basics of camp routine. There were four courses – Basic, Red, White and Blue. First year men were given elementary drills and instructions. Most of their work involved outdoor sports to build up bodily strength. Advanced Red, White and Blue classes offered instruction in infantry, cavalry and field artillery.
A typical camp day included mornings devoted to military drills and formations, lectures on citizenship and instruction in the use and care of military weapons and equipment. The afternoon included athletics and competitive games. Each of the companies had organized teams in football, wrestling, boxing, swimming, fencing, tennis, track and field sports.
Official visitor days at the end of each camp session provided an opportunity for family, relatives and the public to view camp life and training procedures. In the afternoon visitors were entertained by a series of demonstrations in the various use of arms. Following the review parade, camp trophies and championship medals were awarded to the winning teams. Certificates and medals of “Excellence” were awarded to individuals for physical training, citizenship, hygiene, sanitation, first aid, drill rifle marksmanship, military courtesy and duties of the soldier. Each year college scholarships were awarded to successful students. Lawrence, Ripon and Beloit colleges and University of Chicago and DePaul took part in the scholarship program.
Jack Farwell, captain of the 1925 KHS football team played on the 1926 Badger team in a CMTC championship match. The team lost, but the Kaukauna Times noted, “Farwell’s triple threat work as the outstanding member of the losing squad, was one of the highlights of the game. Whether passing, kicking, running with the ball, or on the defensive, Farwell was in the thick of the battle, and is said to have played one of the best games ever played in these CMTC. games. Late in the third quarter one of Farwell’s straight and true passes was completed for the only score made by the losers.”
In 1927 Sylvester Jansen, Little Chute, was awarded a sharpshooter’s medal for setting two records; one of them was 48 hits out of 50 tries and the other 96 out of 100. Charles Liethen was cited as high scorer in 1929.
The army’s CMTC program started as a modest alternative to the system of national defense training and provided about 30,000 young volunteers with four weeks of military training in summer camp each year between 1921 and 1941. During this time the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) started on college campuses, providing another source of leadership and defense training. By 1928 ROTC was available at 325 colleges and growing at a fast pace since volunteers received free college tuition. Enrollment for the CMTC program slowly dwindled and in 1941 the program ceased, and the ROTC became the main program for military volunteers.
During WWII Olin Dryer kept in contact with the Kaukauna boys entering service and wrote letters to many of them. Olin kept the letters he received back from the men and in later years donated the letters to the Kaukauna Library. Those letters are on the library web site under local history – military letters.
New York erected a tree in Madison Square Garden and Chicago erected one in Grant Park on the lakefront. The tradition of the municipal Christmas tree in the United States started in the early 1900s. Shortly before December 25, the largest tree that could be found was erected in a park or public square and strung with lights, which spread a glow throughout the holiday season.
The Library erected Kaukauna’s first municipal Christmas tree 104 years ago on December 23, 1915 at the municipal park (now Central Park). The community or municipal tree was the idea of Miss Mingle, schoolteacher and supervisor of music in the public schools. Instead of going home to Illinois during Christmas vacation, she remained in Kaukauna to see the project through. Miss Mingle’s enthusiasm spread and soon the City Council, Elks, Odd Fellows, Masons, Eagles, Advancement Club, Knights of Columbus, Kaukauna Woman’s Club, Woman’s Relief Corps, Eastern Star, Lady Macabees, Royal Neighbors and Kaukauna Electric Dept. pledged time and money.
A large crowd was present for the lengthy tree lighting program. Nobody seemed to mind standing in the snow with the cold wind blowing. At 7:00 pm all the bells of the city began to ring and the lights on the tree were turned on and a municipal program followed. The program consisted of music by the high school band and Christmas songs sung by the Masonic quartet, Congregational choir, St. Mary’s choir, public grade school children and the boys’ and girls’ Kaukauna High School choir. Unfortunately, a freight engine ding-donged its bell almost continuously while St. Mary’s choir sang.
In 1916, the Kaukauna Trades and Labor Council took the initiative to continue the municipal Christmas tree tradition and donated $25 ($625 today) towards the purchase of a big evergreen. A tree, which the Kaukauna Times stated, “will be the center of the common celebration of the Nativity by the people of this city.” The Trades and Labor Council appointed William O’Connell, E. C. Driessen, Edward Whittier, and C. E. Raught to their committee, which would work with volunteer committees from other organizations.
In 1918, local organizations didn’t plan a tree lighting program. The Kaukauna Electric Department turned on the lights in the city and the municipal Christmas tree on Christmas Eve night. A notice in the Kaukauna Times stated “the value of our tree is purely aesthetic and through the holidays it will stand brilliantly lighted at night, as a sign that Christmas joy has spread throughout this city and that the whole community has yielded to the spirit of peace and goodwill.”
In the early 1920s, Kaukauna’s municipal tree disappeared until 1926, when Dr. W. C. Sullivan, mayor of Kaukauna, once again initiated the community tree. He designated the site across from the municipal building on the Lawe Street Bridge for the Christmas tree. The Kaukauna Electric Department set up the tree and covered it with 200 electric light bulbs.
By the 1940s Kaukauna homeowners donated a live evergreen tree growing in their
yards. Some of the trees were over thirty feet high and the city workers and line crew cut the tree and set it up on the bridge. Over the years, the tree lighting ceremony moved to the same date in November that officially started the Christmas shopping season.
As far as City Hall remembers, the community Christmas tree was moved to the library grounds in 2000. In 2003 Mayor Lambie bought an artificial tree, which city workers decorated and set up in a permanent spot in Canal Park. Once the Hydro Park was established several “Christmas trees” were decorated with lights and the nativity scene placed in front of the trees.
This year we are back to the true community Christmas tree thanks to Alderman Tim Roehrig who donated the community Christmas tree. The tree was removed from his yard and set up in Hydro Park. Hopefully, Kaukauna’s Community Christmas tree will greet residents and visitors for many years to come.
Everyday hundreds of cars drive across the Lawe Street Bridge in Kaukauna oblivious of the results of a three-year community project from 1927 through 1930. This project coordinated by the Kaukauna American Legion Post 41 involved businesses, doctors, lawyers, merchants, laborers and executives. What was the project? Building the river wall stretching between the Lawe Street bridge and Wisconsin Avenue (Veterans Memorial) bridge.
In 1927 government engineers examined the existing stonewall and found it was deteriorating from the pressure of the water in the river. The government report concluded that a new reinforced concrete wall was needed. The city was concerned over the cost and that’s when the American Legion Club stepped in and volunteered to coordinate and see the project through. The Legion appointed Bub Wagnitz chairman of the labor committee and Carl Hilgenberg foreman of construction operations. Both men immediately contacted businesses and men to donate their time and equipment.
Through the efforts of J. O. Posson, head of the Kaukauna Electrical and Water Dept., the local Legion Club obtained permission from the Green Bay and Mississippi Canal Co. to blow down the old Little Badger Mill, an old landmark along the canal bank east of Main Avenue and use the rock for the building of the wall. Once permission was granted, employees of Mike Niessen’s stone quarry dynamited the structure. The second obstacle requiring removal was the old stone pier near the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge. Joseph McCarty Construction Company volunteered a huge shovel operated by Al Youngburg and a crew of men to raze this structure. After the shovel removed the stone of the old pier, the shovel was sent up the river to the scene of the Legion Club’s operation on the stonewall. All the work was done from barges anchored in the river.
After McCarty Construction Company removed the old wall; Meyer Construction Company moved in and installed the forms for the concrete and stonewall. The Legion Club posted weekly volunteer work schedules, called “work festivities”, in the Kaukauna Times. The schedules included several weekday evenings and weekends starting at 6:30 am. Legion members and friends were encouraged to bring picks, shovels, and crowbars.
Volunteers moved the rocks from the Little Badger Mill site to the river wall area, lifted and placed the rocks in the concrete forms. The Fire Department reported minor casualties daily, such as Ed Hass received bruises on his thumb and Art Schmalz injured his thumb when caught beneath the heavy rocks.
Expecting twenty to fifty volunteers, Bud Wagnitz adhered to the old slogan, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and advertised that all workers would be treated to refreshments and home cooked meals. Over the three years Joseph “Camel” Shermitzler, Ed Klarer, Ed Rennicke, Heinie Olm, and Burby Behler took turns preparing grub in the kitchen. Meals included stewed chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed string beans, bread and butter, celery, radishes and onions. Louis F. Nelson (mayor 1937-44) donated money for purchasing groceries.
At the end of three years the river wall was noted as “one of the strongest and finest appearing on the Fox River.” The wall extended two feet above the level of the roadway and had an 18-inch top. 2,284,800 cubic pounds of rock, amounting to 14,280 cubic feet or 1,143 tons were placed in the wall. The wall was 24 feet in height. Pictures of the crew were taken for the Badger’s Legionnaire Magazine.
The city repaved Oak Street. A private donor contributed $100 ($1,167 in today’s money) towards landscaping the “Legion Park,” the area between the river wall and Oak Street in front of the high school, now Riverview Middle school. Volunteers planted grass, shrubbery, trees and some flowers. The Legion Club held two fundraisers to pay off the remaining debt for landscaping. Dale Andrews held a miniature golf tournament at his Dixie’s Day-Nite golf course at the junction of 41, 55 and JJ. Hilgenberg held a bowling tournament at his bowling alley.
In November 1930 several hundred residents attended the dedication of Legion Park. Dale Andrews, commander of the Kaukauna Legion, presented the park to the city mayor, B. W. Fargo. One of the featured speakers was John Lawe, Kaukauna’s oldest citizen at the time and a civil war veteran.
The retaining wall surrounding the municipal building was built in part by the state and the city. The state built and paid for the section of wall by the Lawe Street Bridge at the same time they replaced the bridge in the 1930s. The city repaired and paid for the remainder of the wall.
By the 1960s water damage to the wall from freezing and thawing posed a safety concern. Bob Natrop, city engineer drew up plans to replace the section of river wall between Lawe Street and Wisconsin Avenue bridges. The city didn’t contract out the job. Instead the city hired a worker with experience in building a river wall from Oudenhoven Construction Co. He worked with a crew of six city workers. The workers removed the river rock and set up forms for a concrete wall, completing fifty feet a day. Once forms were in place, the concrete was poured.
Several years later another city crew replaced the river wall from the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge to the train trestle by Thilmany’s.
The site of the present- day strip mall near Seventeenth Street and Crooks Avenue now houses a variety of businesses. That wasn’t always the case. Back in 1946 the City of Kaukauna purchased what was farmland from the Lehrer Brothers to build housing for military personnel returning from WWII. At the time housing was at a premium, whether buying or renting.
The City applied to the government for Quonset huts to provide temporary housing. The Federal Public Housing Authority awarded the City of Kaukauna 13 huts. Each hut was divided in half so two families could live in it. My Uncle Dick (Rinert) Wenzel was one of the returning military personnel who was lucky enough to move into Quonset Hut 21 with his wife, Eva Hoffman Wenzel. Dick and Eva were the last ones to move out in 1951 to a home they built on Green Bay Road.
In 2007 while working on family genealogy, I asked Aunt Eva to write up what she remembered about living in the Quonset Hut. Following is her story:
“There were no other houses available for us to live in. (We lived with my in-laws for several months before the huts arrived.) There were two apartments in each hut. One in the front facing Highway 55 and one in the back facing a woods. We lived in a back apartment and our house number was #21. There was a road running around the 13 huts.
“The inside – from side to side included the living room, dining area and kitchen. The kitchen included an icebox, kerosene stove, space heater and hot water heater. All water was furnished free. Some of us used our stored refrigerators and stoves. The rent was $25 ($281 today) a month. Some disabled vets were charged $15 ($169 today) a month.
“Going down the hallway was a small bathroom on the left side. This included a toilet, sink and metal shower. On the right
was a medium sized bedroom, and at the end of the hall was a small bedroom.
“There was not much storage space or shelving in the kitchen for dishes or food staples. Babies were bathed in the deep sink and dried off on the wooden counter or the table.
“Many families-built storage sheds on the front of their hut. Some also had fences around the front of their property so their kids could play safely outside.
“The children all played well together and, on many occasions, had their own parade around the buildings. There were bikes, doll buggies, wagons or anything else. The park in the woods had swings, sandbox and slide.
“There were no telephones to be had after the war and we had to wait awhile until one pay phone was installed at the end of the back road. That was a big relief and was appreciated and well used by all residents.
“The sheds contained among other things – the washing machine, a wringer type, and rinse tubs. These were hauled into the kitchen when used. The laundry, in good weather, was hung in the woods. In bad weather, lines were strung across the living room, kitchen area and down the hallway or wherever we could find space to dry clothes. Those were “steamy” days because the clothing was not spun dry as it is today. Sometimes it took a couple of days to dry everything.
“Everyone, adults and kids seemed to mix well. There never seemed to be genuine fights or arguments. I can’t remember much discipline with the kids playing outside.
“Most families lived there a couple of years. We stayed there 5 years until we could start building our own house, which we moved into before it was finished. I think we were the longest ones there. We moved in 1951.
“Things I remember:
1. Dick Wenzel was hired to take care of the oil burners in all the huts.
2. Hickory nut picking in the woods.
3. One resident once caught her husband’s tie in her vacuum cleaner and couldn’t get it out. She was running up and down the back road with the vacuum cleaner, asking everyone for help. It was funny – I think she finally took it to a filling station and the tie was removed.
4. Dr. Kasten, a resident, piloted his own plane and would fly over the huts every so often, very low, until his wife came out and waved to him. Then he would dip his wing and fly away.
5. Two male residents (one was Dick) sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, facing the woods, one very hot night, drinking a beer and talking until the wee hours of the morning.
6. Talk about HOT – the first time I had my in-laws for supper – it was so hot that when I served the Butterscotch pie for dessert it was just a puddle in the plate. I was so embarrassed.
“Small as they were at the time, those huts were very much appreciated. They were home.”
Luther Lindauer was referred to as one of the wide-awake hustling men of Kaukauna. Many questioned how one individual could attend and master such extensive operations which were so diversified and complicated. Luther was born September 1, 1860 in Stockbridge, Wisconsin to German American immigrants. His father was involved in the cabinet making business and operating a farm. Lindauer lost his left hand in a planning mill accident. After that he attended school in Stockbridge until he was 17 years old and moved to south Kaukauna.
Two years later Luther’s father sold his farm and moved to Kaukauna and opened a furniture store at 206 Third Street in which he was very successful. By this time Luther was involved in several businesses and did not join his father in the furniture business. During the winter and spring, he drove a team of horses for the hub-and-spoke factory and in summer worked on the South Kaukauna water canal. He hauled wood for M. Mulholland & Brewster for the power canal project.
On December 25, 1883, Luther Lindauer married Lucy Ellis, daughter of early pioneers in the state. Lindauer and Lucy would have five children, including a set of twins. He built a home on the corner of Fourth Street and Crooks Avenue. Later owners of the house included Charles Raught, H. F. Weckwerth and Mc Carty Law firm. The house was razed, and an office building constructed on the site.
Luther began dealing in lime, mortar and sand in 1884 helping to literally build South Kaukauna. Two years later he started a lumber and coal business to the south of where Riverview Middle School is located. He sold the business to B. H. Hayes, who in turn sold it to Peter and John Renn in 1911. At the same time Luther added the ice business with an icehouse near the dam, later adding a large icehouse on Wisconsin Avenue near the Wertheimer home. In 1887 Lindauer and Rhode, started up a large brickyard on the north side along the Fox River. The brick plant alone cost $11,000 ($289,474 today). Over 20 men, besides teamsters, were employed turning out 34,000 cream colored bricks a day. What horse drawn wagons did not haul up Augustine Street, river barges took to Green Bay and Appleton from the dock at the plant site. Lindauer also built a boarding house on the property where many of the workers boarded.
In 1890 Lindauer bought the Kaukauna Stone quarry with Mr. A. A. Kern. In addition to developing native materials of the area, he built four miles of sewer in Kaukauna and did the masonry work for the Lawe Street Bridge and its approaches.
Luther was active in the political arena. He was elected Kaukauna mayor in 1890. At that time the mayor’s term was one year. Luther served three terms as mayor. He continued in politics after serving as mayor as Fourth Ward Alderman for five and a half terms. Luther was a candidate for Congress in 1908 and served on the first Kaukauna Police and Fire Commission. Later he served as a county supervisor.
Lindauer was involved in the construction of many Kaukauna buildings and developed the Lindauer and Rupert Block (where Bastian’s Dime Store was located) on Second Street in 1892. The building was 50 feet wide and 94 feet long. The first tenet was George Fargo and Sons who leased the entire first floor and opened their second furniture store. Their first store was located at 400 W. Wisconsin Avenue.
On January 12, 1885, fire destroyed the building. Fargo’s loss was about $5,000 ($128,205 today) and was not
covered by insurance. His policy expired January Seventh. The total loss of the building was $135,000 ($3,461,538 today). The Elks Club and nine other organizations held their meetings on the second floor and were forced to relocate. Lindauer rebuilt the building.
Along with the businesses he established, Lindauer continued his business as a dealer in roadster and draft horses. In 1893 the Kaukauna Times mentioned that Lindauer left for the south to purchase a carload of draft horses. He planned to use several of the teams himself and sell the rest. Prospective buyers waited in anticipation for his return since Lindauer had a reputation as a good judge of horse flesh. The Kaukauna fire department usually purchased their team of horses from Luther.
The earthquake which hit the San Francisco area in 1906 severely damaged Lindauer’s two brothers’ property. Luther left immediately for San Francisco and had a difficult time traveling to his brother, Gus’s land. Gus had major damage to his house and his livery stables were destroyed. The three livery stables were four stories high and extended across three blocks. Gus had 416 horses and lost a portion of the horses. Some horses were stolen. Gus’s daughter was lost for 29 days and finally located in a hospital at Oakland. Luther returned to Kaukauna after three weeks.
Luther purchased several farms between De Pere and Mackville where he kept his horses. His largest farm, called Little Rapids Stock Farm was located at Little Rapids where he raised livestock. In 1911 A. Luckow, well-known local contractor, built a house and barn on the property. The house was occupied by the employees who worked on the Lindauer Farm. His cows were noted for breaking records in the milk they produced. In 1917 Luther sold three Holstein heifers for $25,926 ($508,353 today).
In 1908 Luther and O’Connell built a wood pulp mill at Little Rapids. Lindauer sold the mill in 1918 to the Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company. The Canal Company wanted to make sure that the Canal Company would control all the waterpower on the Fox River not in use at the time. The Lindauer-O’Connell Company ledger is part of the collection of Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company papers gifted to the Kaukauna Public Library by the Kaukauna Utilities. Two interesting notations were made on December 5, 1911. One was the payment of $583 ($15,342 today) water rent to Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company for the water rights to power his mill. The other entry documented $250 ($6,579 today) interest paid to the bank of De Pere. Next Luther purchased the Merrill Pulp and Paper Company and the Grand Rapids Paper Mill at Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Whether it was entertainment or the competition and thrill of winning, Luther Lindauer owned and raced horses throughout the country and at the Kaukauna Racetrack which was in the area where the Out-O-Town Club is located. Lindauer hired Mr. Maley, well-known racehorse trainer and driver. Maley drove the sulkies in races for Luther for over 30 years. In 1914 Luther sold his trotting horse, Ernest Axtell, for $5,000 ($648,150 today). Axtell took six first places, three seconds, one third and one fourth place in 1914. His winnings amounted to $3,220 ($80,500 today). Horse Review Magazine noted that Axtell was the sensation of the trotting turf during 1914.
In 1911 Luther purchased two lots in Riverside Cemetery in Appleton. He contracted with Wolf and Hegner of Appleton to construct a mausoleum on his lot for $8,000 ($200,000 today). The mausoleum was built of Vermont granite and had an interior finish of Italian marble. The structure contained nine catacombs. Two massive granite pillars were built on either side of the entrance to the mausoleum. Two massive granite vases were placed on each side of the entrance. It was the first of its kind built in Outagamie County and was noted as one of the finest structures in Wisconsin.
In 1912 Lindauer sold two farms, an 80-acre farm at Mackville which included all the stock, tools and machinery with house, barn and outbuildings to
Peter Ambus. The other farm was part of his Little Rapids Stock Farm, consisting of 74 acres and located across from the farm of Anton Stiltyes, who bought it and increased his acreage. There were no buildings or improvements on this section of land.
During 1912 fire struck at the brickyard and destroyed everything, except the boarding house. The fire and competition from stronger cement-reinforced bricks forced an end to this business. After the fire William and Anna Micke, who had purchased Dr. Lord’s hobby farm in 1904, purchased adjoining property from Lindauer. The land included the Lindauer and Rhode Brickyard along the river.
Over the years Mr. & Mrs. Lindauer frequently traveled to California where a few former Kaukauna residents lived. One resident was Col. Frambach, former mayor and owner of the Eagle Mill, who had purchased a home in the Wiltshire District in La Haba, California for $50,000 ($980,392 today). In 1917 Luther bought a lot in the district for $9,000 ($176,471 today).
The following year Lindauer started selling off his Kaukauna properties prior to permanently moving to California. One of the properties was the mausoleum he had built in Riverside Cemetery. Luther sold the mausoleum for $9,000 ($150,000 today) to H. Hegner and Herman Voecks. (This is the name on the mausoleum today). Most likely it was the same Hegner that helped construct the mausoleum. When Luther moved to Kaukauna there were three buildings on the south side. When he left the population for both sides of the river was 6,000.
In California Lindauer operated a stone quarry and furnished building supplies. He converted a weed choked piece of property into a fine orange grove. A California magazine stated that the land Luther cleared was on a slope, allowing him to plant more trees. As he cleared more land, he planted cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, plums, avocados, apples, quinces, apricots, kumquats, prunellas and nectarines. The La Habra area soil was excellent for growing fruit.
There was a high crime rate for thieves who robbed orchards. Thieves stole enough fruit to sell it and make a nice income. Lindauer posted his property. To deter the thieves Luther and other orchard owners, chained a few bear traps to their trees, especially avocado trees, and covered the traps with grass and dirt. Each trap weighed 50 pounds. The giant jaws, with 1-1/2-inch teeth could only be opened by applying screw clamps to the powerful springs. Some thieves carried hacksaws in case they got caught in a trap.
In 1926 Luther drilled several oil wells on the property he bought. Oil Well No. 2, known as the Big Bear, struck oil, pumping 2,500 barrels a day. It was one of the best paying gushers in the west until it burned out in the early 1930s. The other wells continued pumping.
On December 15, 1921 Luther Lindauer’s son, G. L. Lindauer, married socialite Madeline La Habra, whose father was one of the elite La Habra’s establishing the area. The California newspaper Headline stated: “Millionaire’s Son and Orange County Belle Marry, Surprise Friends. Uniting one of the pioneer families of Orange County and a wealthy Wisconsin family, Miss Madelene of La Habra became the bride today of G. L. Lindauer, son of Luther Lindauer, millionaire paper man, formerly of Kaukauna, WI, but now residing in La Habra. The wedding came as the climax to a romance which had its inception among the sunny Southern California orange groves after the wealthy young man had come to make his home in this section of the state.”
Luther and his wife continued to visit Kaukauna friends and relatives and many Kaukauna residents visited the Lindauers in California. Luther Lindauer was 75 years old when he died on August 11, 1936. He was buried in a mausoleum at Loma Vista Memorial Park, Fullerton, Orange County, California. His obituary summed up his life. “The energetic character may be briefly described as the architect of his own fortune and one, who endowed with an intellect that intuitively grasped and mastered the most intricate business and financial problems, and an executive ability of such quality as to put in force and successfully complete every enterprise to achieve great distinction as a citizen, financier and politician.”
My mother attended the Kaukauna Vocational School evening sewing and millinery classes for many years. I remember when she made pheasant feather hats. When dad brought home a pheasant from hunting, mom cleaned the bird and my sisters and me sorted the feathers into different jars. She made hats for her sisters and friends. Fur coats became fur stoles, a parachute Uncle Jack brought back from WWII provided material for many blouses. She was very proud of completing the Red Cross Home Nursing Course. The courses definitely met the need of the homemaker and that was only one of the school goals.
The Kaukauna Vocational School was organized in the fall of 1919. The first director was M. P. Mitchell and there were six teachers. Board members included M. A. Wertheimer, Theodore Weber, Leo Schussman and Joseph Jirikowic. The main objectives of the Vocational School were to prepare people for entrance into fields of normal employment and to upgrade people and increase their efficiency when already employed. The adult courses were designed to contribute to home management and efficiency and for general culture.
Once the school was organized the only question remaining was where to locate the school. At the time Wertheimer was president of Thilmany Pulp and Paper Company and had purchased the bankrupt Hotel La Salle (later Hotel Kaukauna) for the Thilmany Company. He intended to continue using it as a hotel. His main goal was that the city would use the first floor and basement for municipal offices and programs for the citizens. The city could not agree on using the building and turned down the offer. Wertheimer then offered to provide space for the vocational school in the Hotel La Salle.
In October 1919 two crews remodeled the lower level of Hotel La Salle so the Kaukauna Vocational School could move into the building and start classes November first. The crews installed equipment for classes in machine shop, woodworking and mechanical drawing for the boys’ department and cooking, sewing and home nursing for the girls’ department, with correlated academic work in mathematics, English, civics and other related subjects. The vocational school paid a yearly rent of $1972 ($29,433 today).
The vocational school held their annual exhibit of work done in the day and evening schools in the Hotel La Salle on March 24, 1920. Citizens were encouraged to see what their vocational school was doing, the housing quarters provided in the hotel and the equipment that was installed. The exhibits included clothing apparel sewed by the day and evening classes, stylish hats created by the millinery class; mechanical drawings from the machine work by the boys in day school, shorthand and light refreshment by the cooking department.
By June 23, 1921 Thilmany Pulp and Paper Mill had disposed of the Hotel La Salle property to Paul Pagel only after the city had assured Wertheimer that the vocational school would be allowed to stay in the hotel until June 1922 (actually took a year longer) when the school would move into the new municipal building.
In March 1923 the Kaukauna Vocational School moved into the new municipal building at the bottom of the Lawe Street Bridge. The school, along with city offices and council room occupied the second floor of the municipal building. From 1925-1937 the vocational school paid the utility commission a total of $35,950 ($536,567 today) in rent.
At this time Mitchell resigned and A. T. Hudson succeeded him until 1927 when he resigned. William T. Sullivan succeeded until 1943 when he was granted a leave of absence to serve in the navy. By 1927 the Vocational School had added papermaking courses to men in the paper industry. Courses included handling the Fourdrinier machine, pulp and paper classes, paper mill chemistry and elementary and advanced electricity.
In 1940 the city, vocational school and the NYA entered into a cooperative arrangement for the construction of a standard workshop. The NYA was a New Deal Agency sponsored by the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States that focused on providing work and education for Americans between the ages of 16 and 25. If it became necessary in national emergency to produce materials for the federal government, the government would stand the entire expense of operating the shop and buy all the material needed for production work.
Kaukauna was given the distinction of being the first city in the United States to receive a NYA workshop made of prefabricated steel. One of the criteria was that the city had to own the property, which the city did own. An 80 x 140 feet building was shipped and erected on Oak Street next to the high school. The building included machines, bench metal, sheet metal, gas and electric welding, blacksmith and radio and electricity shops for training. The building equipment cost $80,000 ($428,571 today). NYA paid half of the operating cost of the building and Kaukauna Vocational School paid the other half which included light, heat, power and supplies. The city’s cost was $8,500 ($33,036 today) in furnishing the foundation, cement floor, plumbing, water and sewer, heating and electricity. The city workers were able to do most of the work, saving the city a large sum of money.
During 1940 the Krogh Supply Company built a foundry building on Gertrude Street to be used by the vocational school and NYA to train foundry workers when the United states started to step up war production.
The vocational school continued using the NYA shop facilities until June 30, 1943, when the government discontinued the program and gave the NYA six months to liquidate. In 1944 Congress directed that vocational schools utilizing NYA facilities could continue using the facilities on a loan basis for the duration of the war and six months after. Kaukauna Vocational School continued to use the workshop and equipment on a loan basis. Eventually the Property Utilization Division of the Treasury Department turned the property over to the Kaukauna Vocational School. Acquisition of the building and equipment provided a basis for giving the City of Kaukauna vocational training unequaled in any city of its size in the state.
The foundry building and equipment owned by the NYA on Gertrude Street was bought by the Roloff Company in May 1944 and shortly afterwards went into production, turning out iron castings.
Between 1957 and 1962 an additional transition of the vocational areas of woodworking and drafting classes was made, while the home economics classes used rooms in the vocational wing. The Kaukauna High School provided the teachers for the girls. In 1957 the driver education courses were taken over by the vocational faculty and teachers of related courses in Kaukauna High School, but in 1960 vocational faculty assumed the entire responsibility for the driver education program.
Courses offered Kaukauna High School students and taught in the Kaukauna Vocational School included machine shop, welding, auto-mechanics, electronics, drafting, woodworking, special slow learner classes and special accelerated classes for advanced students.
With the reorganization of the vocational districts on July 1, 1967, the Kaukauna Vocational School became part of a much larger unit, District 12. The former vocational school facilities were absorbed by the Kaukauna Public School system and the courses became part of the high school curriculum. District 12 paid rent for rooms and equipment used from the high school, if it offered classes locally.