LOOK BACK IN HISTORY & LOCAL HISTORY BOOKS
Look Back in History
Articles by Carol Van Boxtel, History Room Volunteer
Aunt Vivian’s phone call from Green Bay, Wisconsin early on a Saturday morning in 1949 brought a surprise I will never forget the call– a chance to see Margaret O’Brien, my favorite movie star, in person. My aunt wanted my parents to bring my two younger sisters and me to Green Bay to see Margaret O’Brien. My parents were reluctant, they weren’t moviegoers. At eleven years old, I started to beg and plead and encouraged my sisters to join me. We tried to explain how important a movie star Margaret O’Brien was.
I just saw her in Secret Garden and she starred in Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis. She’s the greatest childhood star since Shirley Temple and she’s a year older than me.” I turned towards Dad who was reading the morning Milwaukee Sentinel. “Please Dad, please? We’ll never get a chance like this again. Please? You can visit with Uncle Jack.”
To say Dad wasn’t thrilled was an understatement. After listening to three pleading daughters dad ultimately gave in, only because he wasn’t going hunting or fishing. My sisters and I started screaming and jumping up and down as Mom told Aunt Vivian, we would meet her at Nau’s Department Store, the largest department store in Green Bay.
Nau’s Department Store wasn’t busy except for the elevators where a dozen people were lined up waiting to take the elevator to the second floor. Margaret was scheduled to appear in the children’s department on the second floor at 11 a.m. When the elevator opened my jaw dropped. We were at the end of the line, which wormed up and down almost all the aisles in the men’s department. I couldn’t see the children’s department. Dad groaned as Mom checked her watch. It was only 10:00 a.m.
Several elderly sales clerks in black tailored dresses and clunky black shoes with hair tightly pulled back in buns policed the restless line of children and adults. In stern voices, the clerks constantly reminded the children to stand quietly and not run around the store. One brave mother asked a clerk how long Margaret would sign autographs. She informed her that the movie star would sign autographs for one hour. Anyone left in line after one hour would not get to see her.
I clutched my autograph book, a birthday present from my girl friend. The line was too long. Aunt Vivian assured me that I would get her autograph. Dad shook his head and joined Uncle Jack browsing through clothes in the men’s department where there were no lines. He periodically returned to see if we had moved up in line.
This was the first time I stood quietly, not complaining. I knew Dad was waiting for an excuse to pull us out of line and leave. A glance up and down the restless line revealed a majority of girls wearing expensive $15-$25 Margaret O’Brien dresses of cotton and taffeta with ruffles and smocked yokes. Large ribbons pulled back their hair, just like Margaret O’Brien’s hair. Mom smiled and reassured me that my three-dollar school dress from Nagan’s Department Store and braided pigtails were just as fashionable. I didn’t buy that.
Suddenly the room burst with excitement as Margaret O’Brien arrived and sat down at the table. Two tall men stood about four feet behind her. Mothers grabbed their daughters’ hand, and the line started to move. Tightly clutching my autograph book, I wormed up and down the aisles of Hanes underwear, Arrow shirts, and rows of ties, some with matching handkerchiefs. At 11:30 a.m. I saw the children’s department with racks of Margaret O’Brien dresses on both sides of the department’s entrance. At 11:40 a.m. I saw Margaret O’Brien wearing one of her own fancy dresses as she sat behind a small table signing the inside hem of a girl’s dress. Ten people were ahead of me. I opened my autograph book to the page I wanted signed and listened as the elderly sales clerk issued final instructions.
“Please move along. Margaret O’Brien will only autograph her dresses. If you aren’t wearing one of her dresses, you may purchase one off the racks on either side of the line.” The mothers of the girls ahead of me in line scrambled to find dresses in the right sizes and quickly paid for them. Panic stricken, my sisters and I looked at Mom. She had that stern look and shook her head no. I clutched my autograph book and passed by Margaret O’Brien. I thought Margaret would at least glance up and smile at me, but she didn’t. Margaret O’Brien was already reaching for the dress the girl behind me had purchased and signed her name on the hem.
While growing up my sisters and I and our neighborhood friends had the luxury of attending two movie theaters. On Sundays we attended the Vaudette and on Friday nights we attended the Rialto theater next to the Hotel Kaukauna on the north side. Mom gave us a quarter and the movie cost 14 cents so we were able to buy a box of Juju’s or a Tootsie Roll or pool our change and share a box of popcorn. Every movie I attended the usher would walk down the aisle with his flashlight reminding us to be quiet. He was forced to do this several times during the movie.
We walked to the
Rialto theater from Dixon Street on the south side. After the movie was over, we waited in the Hotel Kaukauna lobby for a ride home. My grandma worked as a clerk at the hotel until 9:30 pm. Dad would pick her up in his 1938 Pontiac and there was no limit on the number of kids we could squeeze in the back seat of our car
The Rialto building was rich in theater history which went back to 1905, when the Nugent brothers, Earl and William, opened the first motion picture theater in a building on the site of the Rialto Theater on Lawe Street. They rented the building from D. Brothers and converted it into Nugent’s Five Cents Theater. Later they purchased the building and converted it into the Bijou Theater.
The Nugent brothers were the sons of Alfred and Eva Nugent, who came to Kaukauna in 1885 from
Chilton. Alfred died in 1903 an Eva and her sons continued to live in Kaukauna. The boys attended high school and Northwestern University. Both were talented musicians and became widely known as the composers of popular songs and music. They formed an orchestra about 1897 which was the most popular musical organization in the Fox River Valley.
The Nugent brothers became licensed members of the Motion Picture Patents of New York City. The company controlled output of the leading American and European film makers and each picture before it was released for sale was subject to censorship.
In 1905 the
Nugent brothers opened the first motion picture theater in the Fox River Valley. Besides short silent movies the Nugent Brothers performed along with other vaudeville acts they hired. Ads described reels of silent films with live vaudeville and music acts between the silent films. The object was to give Kaukauna the best show house in Wisconsin. In 1911 contractor Frank Vander Linden laid 539 feet of cement between Nugent’s Theater and John Street. People were happy with this improvement.
In 1912 the Nugent brothers decided to extensively remodel and add on to the theater. The back of the building was extended 20 feet and a large 30 x 120 foot movie screen was placed in the center of the wall, instead of the side of the wall where it was previously mounted. More seats were added. The projection booth was moved to the second floor and enlarged and an electric machine and projector added. A small waiting room and a bathroom for ladies were added. The public were happy to have a furnace installed in the building. Capacity increased by 35 seats.
One of the first performances included
several Kaukauna High School class vocal selections and McKee and Huen, in addition to the regular movie program. A year later, in 1913, Earl sold his interest in the theater to John Scheer and purchased the Gem theater at the corner of Broadway and Walnut Streets in Green Bay. Within a year, John decided to return to the jewelry business and Earl’s mother, Eva, bought his share and would continue to manage the theater. Scheer took over the E. C. Griswold jewelry store on Wisconsin Avenue. He previously was employed in a jewelry store in Appleton.
William Nugent was involved in numerous community endeavors and many times dedicated a percentage of revenue from film and performances to various revenue fund raisers such as the benefit of the ladies Jubilee Clubs No.12 & No. 15 of St. Mary’s Church, Congregational Church of Appleton, Young Ladies of Holy Cross Church. At Christmas William had special programs and handouts for children.
An orchestra pit
was added in front of the curtain. All side walls were covered with burlap. At the same time a canopy was built over the entrance to the theater and over the sidewalk to the curb. Global electric lights were installed on the canopy. The floor and seats were raised.
In 1917 the theater was open on Wednesday through Sunday. In December 1917 Nugent’s Bijou theater was destroyed by fire in the evening when the audience was gathering for the evening performance. The fire started from the explosion of a film in the film booth. Strong northwest winds hampered the efforts of the firemen. The crowd passed out in an orderly manner and no one was injured. Eva and William Nugent did not rebuild but sold the theater to Conkey and Cleveland.
The new owners completed extensive repairs, with special attention paid to safety provisions and the comfort of spectators. The Bijou Theater reopened about five months after the fire. Within a year the owners remodeled the theater. The screen was enlarged and made of plaster and built into the wall. The work was done by Robert Luckow and Reinhard Schermitzler, local contractors. The carbon lights were replaced with the latest 900 watt movie incandescent lamps. These were the same lights installed on President Washington’s ship.
The Conkey-Cleland Bijou gained a reputation as one of the progressive institutions of Kaukauna for the manager’s well-chosen pictures which suited the community at large. The theater continued with community sponsored programs, especially safety concerns. Special vaudeville acts and the Kaukauna High School orchestra played several times between movie reels.
By 1922 Conkey-Cleveland sold their theater, the Majestic, in De Pere to George Delaney of Seymour so they could devote all their attention to the Bijou in Kaukauna. Another round of remodeling took place
over the next year. A new picture machine booth was rebuilt and moved to the second floor to accommodate the two machines. Benches were installed at the doors for people waiting for the second show. The length of the building was increased to contain a larger orchestra pit which contained a piano, pipe organ, a five-piece orchestra and 17 effects for describing silent movies with appropriate music. The interior was redecorated and an entire new front rebuilt for a cost of $2,500 ($37,313 today).
In 1927 Conkey-Cleveland sold the theater to W. A. Kempen, who formerly operated a movie theater in Berlin. He installed new electric lights and new seats. The Bijou theater was renamed the Rex Theater.
In December 1927 Kempen sold the Rex theater to Frank Matz of Abbotsford and Lydia Andrews, Arnold Metz and Walter Metz, daughter and sons of the owner. Lydia Andrews came from California where she had been associated with a motion studio in Los Angeles.
By July 1929 Samuel Ludwig, a veteran motion picture
man and distributor of talking devices in the United States and organizer of the Ludwig Film Exchange of Minneapolis purchased the Rex theater. His son, Victor, became the new manager.
Ludwig installed equipment for showing “talkie pictures.” This was the end of vaudeville and musical acts appearing between films.
In 1929 Ludwig leased the Rex theater to W. R. Vincent of Oconto Falls who had been in the motion picture business for the last 19 years. In November Vincent sold the Bijou theater to Fred Beck of Kaukauna. The theater was closed for remodeling which included a new screen, new projection machines, larger amplifier, and new seats. The theater reopened in December 1929 for four days a week as the new Colonial Theater under the management of Naomi and Thelma Becker.
The first of many
movies starring actor, Hugh O’Connell, who grew up in Kaukauna was shown.
In 1934 the theater was sold to Bill Lemke of Chicago who was assistant manager of the Publix Theater in Florida and owner and operator of a theater in Indiana. A new sound system and projectors and lighting system were installed. The exterior of the building was improved with new display boards and a ticket office.
Shortly after the Colonial Theater was sold to Fred Becker and two years later Becker sold the theater to Mark Morgan of Milwaukee. Morgan announced that
he would raze the present theater and construct a new theater on the site. Smith and Brand, Appleton architects drew up the plans with seating capacity of 600. The theater would include air conditioning, upholstered seats, the latest movie and sound equipment, glass front and canopy. The theater opened in 1937 as the Rialto Theater. The opening movie was “Come and Get It” which was taken from a novel written by Edna Ferber, who was born and raised in Appleton. Rube Rosenblatt was hired as manager. Women eagerly awaited the showing of “Star in My Kitchen,” an annual cooking show. The show provided step by step directions in making meals at home. The theater passed out the recipes used during the show to the audience, which was mostly women.
Manager Rube Rosenblatt encouraged children’s birthday parties and looked forward to presenting a birthday present to the birthday child. 151,00 people attended the theater in 1938. During the year, a new cooling unit was installed and construction of a huge lounge room known as the Green Room was added.
The Rialto and Vaudette presented benefit movies and collected 1,200 articles of food for the city poor.
In 1939 F. J. Pechman and the Rialto
sponsored a personality and beauty contest. Parents had their child’s photo taken by Pechman’s Studio and shown on the Rialto movie screen and people voted. Jimmy Funk won the personality prize and Patsy Siebers won the beauty division.
In 1940 $240 ($4,286 today) was stolen from the theater safe on the second floor between 11:45 pm and 9:30 am. The side exit door facing Hotel Kaukauna had two holes bored through the door and some object inserted to lift the safety lever. Police figured it occurred after the street light in front of the theater was turned off along with the rest of the street lights making the alley between the theater and hotel very dark.
In 1941 Walter Holt, a projectionist at the Rialto, became the manager of the Kiel Theater and Francis Biselx, who was the projectionist at the Kiel Theater, returned to Kaukauna to take over Holt’s job. Shortly after returning Biselex was drafted into WWII and Alden Pratt from Dodgeville became the Rialto Theater Manager. Within months Pratt resigned and Tom Reilly was hired as manager.
During the war years the Rialto took part in a blackout training session for residents, book
collection for military bases, selling war bonds and raising money for the Red Cross.
In 1944 Walter Holt, manager at Kiel Theater became the manager of the Rialto Theater, a position he held before going to Kiel. The theater continued showing the latest movie releases. Once television hit the market, movie goers declined and in 1965 after 55 years of showing movies, the theater closed its door. The last film shown was “Becket” with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. The building was sold by Marcus Theaters to Fox Cities Realty, a corporation owned by the Gustman’s interest.
Today the lot at the northeast corner of Main Avenue and Third Street is a city parking lot. Yet over the years this lot was a bustling place for many businesses. The credit of constructing the largest department store on the south side goes to August Mill, prominent Kaukauna businessmen, who built the Mill Block over 125 years ago.
August Mill was born in Prussia and emigrated to America with his parents in 1850 at the age of 16. He settled in Sheboygan working on a farm. Several years later Mill moved to Centerville where he purchased a farm and built a grist mill with his brother. When the Civil War broke out. August enlisted with Co. E 45th WI Vol. Infantry stationed at Nashville, TN, returning to Centerville when he was discharged.
August married Johanna Martens in 1862. The couple would raise seven sons and two daughters.
Seventeen years later, in 1883, August Mill and his family came to the Village of Ledyard to engage in the mercantile business. Upon arriving in Kaukauna, he purchased a general merchandise business on Second Street where the Central Block (Pechman building) was located. Business was so prosperous that within a year he purchased the property on the corner of Third St. and Fourth Avenue (now Main Avenue) and built a two-story brick building. The structure was 50 feet in length facing Third Street and stretched 80 feet from Third Street to the alley. At that time, the area streets were mud roads and the sidewalks were boardwalks. Once the building was built the Village of Ledyard graveled the roads in the downtown area.
The second floor contained three apartments while the first floor was for businesses. The store, August Mills Dept. Store, carried a large assortment of everything in the line of dry goods, groceries and notions. This included toys, candies, mufflers, silk handkerchiefs, colored water sets, vases, parlor hanging lamps, shoes, boots, caps, cloaks and muffs.
When August Mill opened his business he adopted a new business method at the end of the year, buying and selling strictly for cash. At the time, the butcher shops in the villages of Ledyard and Kaukauna had just adopted the cash system and reduced their prices by one to two percent per pound on their meat.
Mill’s credit business for the year averaged $40,000 ($1,111,111 today). At the time it was estimated that the cost of doing a credit system on the books totaled seven and a half percent. August Mills intended to lower prices on his entire stock, showing the public that he meant to give their customers the benefit of purchasing for cash.
In 1890 August Mill took into partnership his sons Arthur, Otto and Robert and the business was renamed A. Mills and Sons.
Adolph and Fred (Alfred) Mill, August’s sons, opened a music store in a part of the Mill building. In July 1898 Fred and Adolph joined the Turner Dramatic Company at New London to play in the band and orchestra during the company’s summer season. They returned to Kaukauna in September 1898. In addition to operating a music store, the brothers played in the Mill and Earl Nugent Orchestra. The musicians were in demand for picnics, civic celebrations, the KHS Senior-Annual dancing party, weddings and other social functions in Kaukauna, Wrightstown, Manitowoc and throughout the area.
In August 1898, after 14 years of operation, August Mill closed his store, partially due to financial problems. An auction was held and the store inventory sold. A month later, on September 17, 1898, the Martens & Overbeck Company opened a dry goods store at the site. The store carried ladies,’ children’s and men’s wear. The store’s fall ad read “headquarters for fleece lined underwear, percales, bleached cotton and toilet soaps for 6 cents. Light flannels for 4 cents and 500 yd. spool of cotton for 3 cents.” Julius Martens, one of the owners, was the nephew of August Mill.
The Salm and Veruert (now spelled Verfurth) Boot and Shoe store opened for business in July 1895 in a building next to the South Kaukauna Post Office on Main Avenue. When the senior partner, Joseph Salm, died in 1902 Verfurth purchased the interest and moved the business to the corner site in the Mill Block when it was vacated by Martens & Overbeek in 1902.
Over the years other businesses that located in the Mill Block included: The first Farmer and Merchants Bank which was housed in the building on the side by the alley. Started in 1911, the bank transacted its business in the Mill Block building for a decade and when it outgrew its present quarters, it purchased the building across the alley, then owned by the First National Bank.
Kaukauna Building and Loan transacted business beginning in 1911 in that portion of the Mill Block nearest the alley. Hugo Weifenbach was its secretary conducting the Building and Loan business from a desk in the back room. He held the position in addition to his duties as bank cashier. Weifenfach stayed in banking for 23 years before devoting full time to the Kaukauna Building and Loan.
Kaukauna Drug Company (eventually became Look Drugstore) owned by Otto Look moved into one of the store sections. Along with the drugstore, Look had a music shop at the back of the building where customers could listen to the latest Red Seal records on fashionable victrolas located in private booths. Look also sold eye glasses.
The Mill Building served as a site for an egg warehouse operated by Sidney Klurfiled of Milwaukee. His business was located in a small area between Goldin’s hot dog stand and Gantter’s store. The site was used by Klurfiled for storing eggs purchased from area farmers as well as a center for egg distribution to the area and the Chicago market.
Charles Collins opened a barbershop in the space vacated by the bank. The back of Collins’ shop was used as a training site by Jack Zwick, a Kaukauna boxer, who had as his sparring partner, Gene Ditter.
The Mill Block was sold to the First National Bank in 1920 and acquired by the First Realty and Investment Company in 1921.
Located in the center of the store was Abe Goldin’s hot dog stand. He had started the business following graduation from college in 1930. He featured hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream and pop. Goldin remained in business for one year.
On November 21,1931, the store caught on fire and the building was seriously damaged. The fire was discovered by Sylvester Esler (he eventually became fire chief) who passed by the building about 2 am. The upstairs occupants who escaped the fire were the Wynn family, William Gantter, A. R. Mill and Robert Mill. Three businesses were destroyed including Gantter Newsstand, Klurfiled Produce Company and Schelezewske barber shop. The loss was estimated at $25,000 ($409,836 today). At the time the building was owned by the First Realty Company which was a partnership including John Coppes, Julius Martens, Peter Renn and . E. Raught. The building was rebuilt with John Coppes as the the contractor in charge and Albert Luckow as the carpenter contractor.
Following the fire in 1931 the greater part of the building was rented by the Kaukauna Times Printing Company. Other businesses located in the building until the 1944 fire included an IGA store, Stroetz Cash Food Market, Marion Hauschel Tavern, Foxgrover Barbershop, Larry’s Market and Gus Electrical Company.
On January 6, 1944, the First Realty Investment Company building was almost destroyed by fire. The fire started in the basement of the Stroetz Food Market when a kerosene stove used to heat water exploded. The fire spread through Foxgrover’s barbershop and throughout the two-story brick Veneer building. Marion Hauschel Tavern adjacent to the First Realty Company building was severely damaged.
The Stroetz family’s living quarters on the second floor and their store on the first floor were destroyed. At the time of the fire three fourths of the Mill Block was owned and occupied by the Kaukauna Times Printing Company. The building was separated from the rest of the block by a fire wall which protected the Times structure from severe fire damage. Major damage was due to water and smoke. The Printing Company still got the paper out for the day. After the 1944 fire the second floor was not rebuilt. The Kaukauna Times Printing Company remodeled and constructed an addition to the building. During the 1940s three more additions were added.
Dave Hartjes, owner of Hartjes Electric Co. purchased the corner formerly occupied by the Stroetz Grocery Store and Bemke Tavern building, and moved his business across the road from 109 E Third St.
Beauty Shop owner Bea Weigman, whose business was located in a small shop at the back of the Kavanaugh Barbershop on East Second Street moved into the area vacated by Larry’s Market in 1952. She opened a small gift shop in the same year. After five years at this site, Bea built a shop adjacent to the family home on West 11th. Street.
- C. Ditter & Sons installed a central heating unit in the 1940s which was still in operation in 1981.
One June 7, 1981, fire broke out in the Mill Building occupied by the Kaukauna Times Printing Company since 1933. The fire was reported by a citizen who lived a half block away and heard an explosion and could see flames coming out of the building.
It took approximately five hours to completely extinguish the blaze. The blaze destroyed about 40 percent of the building and caused $100,000 ($275,482 today) in damages. The destroyed portion of the building was the part of the building rebuilt after the 1931 fire.
The building was not rebuilt and today the site is a city parking lot.
Our house was on a hill on Dixon Street and the most exciting activity to observe through the east window in grandma’s room occurred in winter. It was delivering coal to our coal bin directly below my grandma’s bedroom. This large window afforded a year round view of the houses and stores below the hill on Dodge St. Across the tracks was the canal and power plant and in winter you could see the workers poking ice between the racks. Sometimes when there was a lot of ice on the racks, we could see my dad along with the rest of the line crew performing this task. Once the leaves were off the trees Kaukauna High School was visible and on Friday nights, we could see the football game. In fall the leaves provided beautiful colors of red, orange, yellow and brown and sometimes from grandma’s window I could see just which leaves I wanted to save between the pages of a book. Kids taking a shortcut to High School had worn a path down the hill and this made a terrific sledding hill in winter. The only bad part was that the hill ended in the back of Weyers Implement among all the old tractors and equipment. These were fun activities to observe from the window but paled in comparison to watching the coal truck deliver coal to our house.
Coal delivery day was a day of great anticipation for my sisters and I, as we watched for the Appleton Coal truck to come up Dixon St. Usually, we had a few neighbor kids over to watch the event since grandma was working and would never know we were all in her bedroom.
What made delivering coal such an event? Knowing that the coal truck was going to get stuck on the side of the hill and would need a second coal truck to pull the first truck out. Preparation for a winter coal delivery included orders from our dad that my two sisters and I needed to shovel a path down the hill around to the coal bin below grandma’s window. The path needed to be wide enough for the truck to back down the side of the hill. This was where most of the snow drifted and we hated shoveling it out. Fighting and whining didn’t lessen the job because mom would say as she always did; “you better have it done before your dad gets home” and we knew she was right.
Once my sisters and I had shoveled a path down the hill, my dad would haul out several large metal tubs of ashes from the furnace the day before delivery (We started saving the ashes about a week or so before the coal truck would be coming). Using a shovel, he started spreading the ashes and if it were windy much of the ash blew down the hill. Sometimes a bucket or two of sand from one of the sand barrels on the street was spread. My dad even put out several long planks in case the driver needed to put one under the spinning wheels of the truck.
I don’t know if we always got the same driver, but I am sure each driver was positive he could make it back up the hill. We sat on the radiator by the bay window in the living room waiting for the coal truck to come up Dixon Street and then ran into grandma’s bedroom. We kept our noses pressed against the window, vying for the best viewing spot. The coal truck would pull ahead of the driveway and stop. The driver would let his helper get out and slowly walk down the hill, checking how slippery it was and how much of a curve he had to make. Once he felt everything was fine, he motioned for the driver to start backing down as he guided him. Finally, the truck was directly below the window and we would wave at the coal men who always smiled and waved back. The boring part was watching the men raise the back of the truck and shovel the coal through the window and into the coal bin. We thought that it took an awful long time to unload all the coal. Finally, the back of the truck was lowered down and the driver got into the truck.
This was it! This was what we had waited all morning for. Slowly the driver started out and at first it looked like he might make it up the hill and we were worried. He couldn’t spoil the highlight of our day. Part way up the hill we started to breathe a sigh of relief as the truck tires started spinning. Both men would then go through the usual procedure – – – putting sand and gravel under the wheels, trying to shovel away more snow, putting a board behind the back wheels, backing all the way back down and trying to gun it up the hill, but inevitably there would be a familiar knock at the front door. Covered with black soot, the driver would ask if my mother would call the office and ask them to send another truck.
Now the excitement increased as we waited for the second truck to arrive. A rope or chain was attached between the trucks and finally after several tries, the truck slowly climbed the hill and was back on the road. The only reminders of our exciting activity were the tire tracks and ruts in the snow and fingerprints and nose smudges on grandma’s bedroom window.
Eleazer Williams claimed he was the Lost Dauphin, ruler of Native Americans, missionary and historical author. Others felt that Williams was a “professional Native American,” who cultivated political interests and persona in order to survive during a time of shrinking options for Native Americans. His adventures eventually led him to Grand Kakalin and the Kaukauna area. Williams was born in 1788 in Sault St. Louis, Quebec, the son of Thomas (Tehorakwanken), a Puritan minister and Mary Ann Williams. He was raised in the Catholic Iroquois settlement of Kahnawake along the St. Lawrence River. Educated at Dartmouth College, Eleazer trained for missionary work at Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he worked as a missionary among the Oneida Tribes in New York.
Following the revolutionary War, the Episcopal Church revived their missions under the leadership of Bishop John Hobart. He commissioned Eleazer
Williams to work among the Oneida as their Catechist and Lay Reader. Williams was a very energetic and dynamic individual who was a master of the Indian language and a natural orator and speaker for the Oneida Native Americans who attended his services. At the time there was increased pressure on the New York tribes to relocate from New York to the wild west, specifically Wisconsin. Williams felt that the only solution for the tribe was to move to a distant place where they could pursue traditional tribal life. Eleazer Williams developed a plan and presented it to his superiors who gave their approval. The plan included resettlement among the western tribes in Wisconsin. In 1821 Eleazer Williams was part of the delegation which visited the Fox River Valley and Green Bay. The delegation selected land on the east bank of the Fox River where the rocks and rapids impeded boat navigation farther upstream to Lake Winnebago. The site known as Grand Kakalin, was guaranteed to bring lots of traffic past them and had commercial possibilities as a transshipment point. The land was owned by the Menominee Tribe.
On August 18, 1821, Solomon, son of Hendrick Aupaumut and an Oneida delegation went to Green Bay and purchased 6.7 million acres of land beginning at the foot of the Kaukauna Rapids on the east or south side of the Fox River, extending up to Little Chute and inland 2-1/2 miles. A settlement of French Canadians, also known as Metis, north east of the Grignon property and in the Green Bay area did not approve of the Native American move. They viewed Eleazer Williams as an opportunist who wanted to create a tribal village in the Fox River Valley with him as king. Despite the protest from the French-Canadian settlers President Monroe gave his approval in 1823 to the Menominee-New York tribal agreement which granted the New York tribes 6.7 million acres for less than $4,000 ($81,633 today) in goods.
In 1822, Williams established his home in Grand Kakalin strengthening his claim to a tract of land at Little Rapids by marrying 14-year-old Madeline Jourdain, daughter of a successful blacksmith and a Menominee woman. She came with 4,800 acres of land that would become part of the Williams Tract.
Eleazer was ordained a deacon in 1826 and served as a deacon to the Oneidas now living in the Green Bay area. Soon the Oneidas were attending his services and looked upon Eleazer as a spiritual leader. To show their appreciation the Oneidas granted Williams 8,750 acres of land, one of the largest parcels of land on the Fox River. The land abutted on the river at Little Rapids, where there was valuable waterpower now improved by the Lindauer Pulp Mill. During 1823 this property was deeded over to Williams wife, Madeline. Eleazer built a cabin overlooking the Fox River. His home consisted of three-legged stools in place of chairs and only bunk beds, without carpets or rugs on the floor.
In 1832 the Oneidas become disenchanted with Deacon Williams accusing him of neglecting them. The Oneidas dissolved their association with Eleazer, and the Bishop of the Episcopal Church forbade Williams from representing the church in Wisconsin.
By the end of the 1830s Eleazer began to claim that he was the “Lost Dauphin” of France. Eleazer did have a chance encounter with Prince de Joinville, the third son of King Louis Phillipe. While touring American, Prince de Joinville visited the Green Bay area and Eleazer Williams was on the same steamer. Eventually Williams became an open pretender, tricked his mother into signing an affidavit that he was an adopted son and started signing his writings “Louis Dauphin.”
Williams was an author who published many books. Some question whether all Williams facts are true or were the authors beliefs. Published works included a spelling book in Iroquois, a Mohawk or Iroquois translation of The Book of Common Prayer, Prayers for Families and for Particular Persons translated into the language of six Iroquois
Nations and The Salvation of Sinners through the Riches of Divine Grace.
Eleazer Williams owned the largest collection of books at that time in the west. In later years he was found to be living in destitute conditions. He took armfuls of his books and walked from Kaukauna to Green Bay and sold the books to obtain money for households’ expenses.
Williams died alone in poverty and obscurity on the reservation at St. Regis and was buried at St. James Cemetery in Hogansburg, New York on August 28, 1858. In 1947 his remains and tombstone were moved to Holy Apostles Cemetery in Oneida, Wisconsin. His tombstone at Oneida indicates that he was a Freemason.
In later years Charles Stribley, head of office management and on the board of directors at Thilmany Mill, visited Eleazer Williams’ home where he photographed the cabin and surrounding area. One of Charles’s photo of the cabin was used in a book by a Menasha writer. Stribley purchased 14 books from Josephine Williams Phillips. Josephine’s mother, Nanny, was a young American Native adopted by Eleazer and his wife. Nanny Williams fell heir to their property near Little Rapids and she lived there with her daughter Josephine until her death. Josephine married Josiah Phillips and raised a daughter and son. Except for one year that she spent with her son in California, Josephine lived on the family land until her death in 1924. She was buried in South Lawrence Cemetery in De Pere.
Eleazer Williams’ plot of 19 acres of land at his home was designated Lost Dauphin Park by the State of Wisconsin. It was later taken off the list of state parks and the house was burned. It remains designated as Lost Dauphin Park with the land remaining state owned. The rest of the land was sold.
The Kaukauna Fire Department is celebrating 100 years on Saturday, October 1. I had the good fortune to meet with the firefighters over a two year period while I was drafting the book on the history of the fire department. The entire department went out of their way to provide the information I asked for and more. We shared many a good laugh over some stories which I did not include in my book. Following is a short version of how the fire department continued to advance to the department the city has today, one which provides us with the highest level of emergency and medical care in the area.
In 1922 the City disbanded the privately owned volunteer fire companies on the south and north side and established a professional municipal fire department. Eight full-time firemen were hired and split into two shifts. The men worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off with no vacation or holidays. Their first raise was in 1926.
The department was located in the new municipal building at the bottom of the Lawe Street Bridge.
The first formal education and training occurred In 1945 when the firemen attended formal classes at the Kaukauna Vocational School once a week for 11 weeks. Topics included firefighting techniques, mechanical procedures for minor repairs needed on the fire trucks and a basic Red Cross First Aid Course.
The Central Labor Union started a campaign to raise $3,012 ($41,833 today) to purchase an
ambulance. Donors’ names were printed weekly in the Kaukauna Times. The campaign fell $200 ($2,778 today) short and the city council voted to donate the last $200. Initially the ambulance was kept at Gustman’s Chevrolet Garage. If an ambulance was needed, a call was made to the Kaukauna Fire Department. The fire department called Art Gustman or A. Kronforst who answered the call and drove the ambulance or called for additional drivers.
The 1950s remains the deadliest fire period in the history of the fire department. Besides numerous minor fires and the loss of six children, a large number of businesses burned. The most famous was Hotel Kaukauna along with the S & B Bowling Alley, Gambles Store, Avenue Bar and Pechmans, Fox River Veneer Co. (located in the general area of the current fire department), Fargo’s Furniture Store, Nitingale Ballroom, Gordon Clothing and Badger Tissue warehouse.
During the 1960s the city council finally gave approval for temporary help to fill in for firefighters on vacation. Yes, college students were hired to replace full time firefighters while firefighters were on vacation.
The 1970s was a decade of politics, blood, sweat and tears. I was working as a nursing instructor in the Education and Training Department when I was asked to help coordinate and teach the first EMT/Paramedic course in the area with Dr. Loescher and Dr. Moore. Forty-four Outagamie County emergency workers signed up for the course. Six were Kaukauna firefighters from Kaukauna and included Everett Bovee, Joe Gasper, James Kiffe, Jerry Kobussen, Bruce Mathis and Wayne Vanevenhoven.
Thus started an uphill battle to keep the firefighters in the class and continue with the paramedic training. Opponents claimed that the additional equipment and radios needed were not budgeted for, the men were not hired to perform advanced procedures that even RNs did not perform, you couldn’t take someone with no medical training and expect them to perform life-saving measures. Who would replace the men when they were attending classes, what if every firefighter doesn’t want to train to become a paramedic? The city had a hospital and two other hospitals were close by. How would this affect staffing? Every day presented a new challenge.
Bruce Mathis remarked that paramedic status would not have happened without the help of other members of the fire department who
often sacrificed days off to come in and work several hours while six firefighters went through training. When it was impossible to schedule the men off for classes, classes were conducted at the fire department.
The Kaukauna Education Association strongly supported the need for paramedics and felt strongly the training would provide a higher level of emergency care for the city and spear headed a campaign to raise $7,777 for IV equipment, updated radios and other equipment needed. When more equipment needs arose, the KEA raised more money.
The Kaukauna Community Health Associates donated $1,600 to the Kaukauna Fire Department to purchase two trauma bags and two pulse oximeters. Many other organizations and individuals donated money for needed equipment and training.
The six Kaukauna firefighters completed 25 sessions dealing with emergencies, heart attacks, practice divided between St. Elizabeth Hospital, Appleton Medical Center and Outagamie County Center in the emergency room, psychiatric unit, ICU, orthopedic, surgical and medical units. The men completed a self-study unit from the American Journal of Nursing offered to RNs at St. Elizabeth Hospital. This was the first and last class to practice inserting naso-gastric tubes down each other.
In December 1979 Kaukauna, a city of 12,000, became the smallest city in Wisconsin with a municipally operated paramedic ambulance service.
The 1990s saw a shift toward increased programs for the public on fire prevention and handling emergencies. It was noted that for $85 of their taxes city residents received a full-time professional fire-fighting force, an excellent ambulance service and an emergency/rescue team 24/7.
2007 saw the first female firefighter hired.
Today firefighting certification and paramedic certification are required when applying for a position within the department.
Today a large portion of training and education is done at the fire department.
Throughout history firemen were noted for the excellent meals they prepared without any cost to the department. Kaukauna Fire Department was no exception. The public was always invited to the special meals. Owen Roberts in the 1930s was known for his booyah. The chicken and beef were supplied by Leherer’s Meat Market. The firefighters provided all the rest of the ingredients. Owens would made at least six gallons of booyah at a time.
The firefighters were noted for their tasty wild game meals. Fireman Carl Engerson and his brother Police Officer Harold Engerson and Smokey (Melvin Jerry) Mainville from the Electric Dept. line crew provided deer and small wild game. City officials and many workers eagerly looked forward to these meals.
In the 1940s-50s the fire department was noted for their turtle soup made by firefighter Mark Kilgas (Muskrat Mark). He caught the snapping turtles along the river. The hose tower for hanging and drying the fire hoses was used for hanging snapping turtles with their heads cut off to bleed out.
To quote former Fire Chief Paul Hirte, when I asked him in 2014 where the department will be in the future, he said, “We are positioned with dedicated firefighters,
paramedics and chief officers who provide our community with progressive fire and EMS operations, hazardous materials response, special rescue operations and prevention programming making KFD a true full-service agency.
An appropriate quote from Mark Strand states “The future is always beginning now.” As the Kaukauna Fire Department heads into the next 100 years, Kaukauna is very fortunate to have Chief Jake Carrel leading the way. When asked where he sees the department in the next several years, Chief Carrel replied: “Firefighting, fire prevention and EMS remain a top priority, but our firefighters and paramedics are facing many new challenges and hazards that most of us were not taught in the fire academy. This includes active shooter response and a much more active role with law enforcement, pandemic response including administering vaccines and playing a more active role in the public healthcare system. Our Kaukauna firefighters have a strong commitment to public service and responded to these new challenges with skill and professionalism.”
Prohibition in Wisconsin started on January 17, 1920, and ended on December 5, 1933, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment ended the long struggle between those in favor of prohibition, known as “drys” and those who relished their beer, known as “wets.” Wisconsin’s first effort at prohibition occurred in 1863 when the people voted to prohibit the sale of liquor. This law was vetoed by Governor Barstow.
The Temperance movement tried to sway Wisconsinite’s to support prohibition, but never succeeded. As far back as 1906 antiprohibition groups passed through Kaukauna holding rallies. One rally was held in the Epworth home and according to the Kaukauna Times the hall was filled to hear sermons on the evils of alcohol. Other antiprohibition groups passed through the city pitching a large tent and publicizing their sermons. The tents were usually filled with citizens. During the early 1900s there were approximately 20 saloons in Kaukauna patronized by much larger crowds than the crowds attending prohibition rallies.
Many factors played into the majority of citizens against prohibition. A large German population, the number of breweries, especially in Milwaukee and in Outagamie County and Catholic Bishop Sebastian Messmer. In 1918 Pope Leo XIII appointed Bishop Messmer of the Green Bay Diocese, archbishop of Milwaukee where he banned antiprohibition sermons and speeches in Catholic schools, churches or halls.
In 1921 Chief R. H. Mc Carty received a copy of the new Prohibition Law and informed the citizens by publishing the law in the Kaukauna Times. “ No liquor shall be sold or kept for human consumption on a premise without a license. In rooms covered by a license all windows and doors must be unobstructed by screens, blinds, paint or other articles so that there is a clean view of who is in the room.” The license cost between $50 and $100 ($694 and $1,389 today). Owners who did not have a license could be fined. Vehicles used for transporting alcohol could be seized and sold. Anyone giving away or carrying liquor for sale would be arrested and fined. “Hip liquor,” (carrying alcohol on a person’s body) was not permitted.
It was never illegal to drink alcohol during Prohibition. The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, the legal measure that included the instructions for enforcing Prohibition, never barred the consumption of alcohol – – just making it, selling it and shipping it for mass production and consumption was prohibited. The Volstead Act defined specifically what was illegal. This included beer, wine and other types of liquor if the content of alcohol in those beverages exceeded one-half of one percent.
During prohibition, many breweries began to make “near beer” while others tried to make soda, ice cream and cheese. Many breweries went bankrupt, while organized crime took over the black market distribution. Evidence strongly suggests that several local residents sold liquor to organized crime members from Milwaukee and Chicago.
Political parties and religion pitted families against those for and those against
prohibition. In 1921 Bishop Paul Rhode of the Green Bay Diocese (1915-1945) came out in support of prohibition. Returning home from a visit to his home country of Poland he compared the workers of Poland where alcohol flowed freely to the workers in American where alcohol was prohibited. Based on first hand observation he noted that “the American is a man with a clear brain. He arises on a Monday morning and goes to his work with a clear conscience and clean mind. He does his work cheerfully and efficiently. In Europe on a Monday morning, it usually takes the average workman half a day to sober up. As a result, his work suffers and also his mentality. His mental attitude toward life is not that of the American.” Bishop Rhode continued to inform local Catholics about the perils of alcohol.
Prohibition became a major point in campaign speeches. In 1930 Dr. W. C. Sullivan, Kaukauna dentist and mayor from 1926-1930, was a candidate for congress in the Ninth District and urged the legal return of beer to bring prosperity to Wisconsin. He favored a plan where barley used for beverage purposes would be purchased from one selling agency for a fixed price. He was not elected.
Laws and lectures against prohibition did not deter the flow of liquor and moonshine in Kaukauna and the surrounding area. If you knew the right person or business, liquor was available. As more arrests took place one had to wonder who the informants were and there evidently were people willing to turn in neighbors or friends. No mention was made on whether the informant received a reward.
The City of Kaukauna did not strongly support the prohibition law. Very seldom were the Kaukauna police involved in any raids conducted in Kaukauna. Citizens could legally obtain alcohol by obtaining a prescription from their physician. At the time there were six physicians in Kaukauna: Dr. Charles Boyd, Dr. Frank Donaldson, Dr. G. F. Flanagan, Dr. Edward Mayer, Dr. William Nolan and Dr. H. B. Tanner. Dr. Tanner wrote many alcohol prescriptions which are on file at the State Historical Society. There is a strong probability that several other physicians could have written alcohol prescriptions.
In 1926 Wisconsin voters approved a referendum amending the Volstead Act that allowed the manufacture and sale of beer, wine and other liquor with a 2.75 percent of alcohol. This did not deter patrons and locals involved in making moonshine. Homemade liquor had a much higher percent of alcohol.
Incoming President Franklin D. Roosevelt had the Volstead Act amended in April 1933 to have a beer, or two, while they waited for the 21st Amendment to be ratified. The first team of Budweiser Clydesdales was sent to the White House to give President Roosevelt a ceremonial case of beer.
Once Prohibition ended Kaukauna needed to implement the following criteria the state had approved: Wholesale and retail license were to be issued by the governing boards of cities, towns and villages, with fees ranging from $50 to $500 ($962 to $9,165 today) at the option of the grantors. A retail class A license permits its holder to sell intoxicating liquor only in original packages and for consumption off the premises. Local residents in the moonshine business on a large scale were not in a hurry to give up a profitable business and continued manufacturing and selling illegal alcohol for the next several years.
The newspaper listed a large number of federal agent raids. In order to draft an article and not a book, the author selected the following list of interesting agent raids.
- In 1923 Federal and county officials seized stills and mash in large quantities and charged John Powers and William Powers who lived in the Town of Buchanan.
- In 1926 Henry Muthig pleaded guilty to selling alcohol at his Kaukauna soda parlor and was fined $100 ($1,408 today).
- In 1929 Charles Clune, Town of Buchanan, was fined $500 ($7,353 today). The sheriffs raided his property and found a small building which contained a 75-gallon still and 800 gallons of mash.
- In 1929 prohibition officers made several raids on soft drink parlors. At least two parlors (one was the Zwick parlor) were raided and issued citations
- In 1929 federal prohibition officers arrested six defendants at Greenleaf. Those arrested included Mrs. Anna Coenen, Leonard Coenen, John Wallschlager, Henry Baeten, Timothy O’Day and Edward Zimmer. All were bound over to federal court later in the year and fined.
- In 1929 federal prohibitionist agents arrested four Milwaukeeans, and one Grand Chute resident on the farm of Henry Van Handle, northeast of Little Chute. The agents seized two large stills and a big manufacturing plant, one of the largest ever seen by the agents. Over $22,000 ($323,529 today) of equipment and alcohol was confiscated. The plant had the capacity to store 900 gallons of moonshine and the other about 500 gallons was obtained as it was being poured into a huge vat concealed in the barn. Agents also confiscated yeast, corn syrup and sugar. Eighteen-year-old Ralph Lyons, as a result of overhearing a conversation about a job opening in an Appleton restaurant, obtained the job of watching the boilers and checking the run-off in the distillery. He was paid $50 ($735 today) a week. He was arrested.
- In 1930 Tony Wonders of Little Chute was arrested on charges of violation of the prohibition law for serving liquor in his supper club. His lawyers managed to get the charges dismissed in federal court. Prohibition agents followed a shipment of alcohol from Cedar Lake Resort near West Bend to Tony Wonders Supper Club, now a soft drink parlor. The agents smashed 30 barrels of beer, along with whiskey, gin and moonshine.
- In 1930 a man was shot twice, and five arrested when federal agents held a raid on a farm four miles southwest of New London. The injured man shot, when he resisted arrest, was Arnold Derks of Little Chute. Others arrested included John Derkes, Arnold’s brother, Howard Siats of Appleton, George Zilspke and Joseph Kiesner from New London. The still had a capacity of 1,500 gallons with smaller stills for testing the finished product, 40,000 gallons of mash, three horse-power steam boiler, an immense oil burner, 200 100-pound sacks of sugar, 100 pounds of yeast and other materials.
- In 1930 two Appleton soft drink parlors and two parlors from Calumet County were raided. Howard Campbell and his bartender was arrested at his soft drink parlor at Waverly Beach on charges of serving liquor and ordered to appear in court several months later. Federal agents padlocked the parlor until the court hearing. The case against the men was dismissed when federal prohibition agents failed to show up at the hearing.
- In 1930 a distilling plant, valued at between $50,000 and $75.000 ($746,264 and 1,119,403 today), located on the Joseph Bauer Jr. farm about one-half mile northwest of Sherwood was completely destroyed by three squads of prohibition agents. The plant was the largest and best equipped alcohol plant found in Wisconsin. The agents confiscated eight large vats containing about 75,000 gallons of mash, two huge stills built from the basement to the roof and capable of distilling 140 gallons per hour, a 60-horsepower steam roller, ten tons of sugar and three tons of yeast. An automatic electric light plant was found and two walls had been drilled to furnish the necessary water. About 15,000 gallons of alcohol was on hand.
- In 1932 Fred Nettekoven, Richard Hammen and Joseph Fink Kaukauna, were arrested and charged with transportation of liquor. The men were arrested by Officer Harold Engerson when he caught the two men removing 50 gallons of liquor from a truck in an alley.
- In 1933 Federal agents investigated a cement plant owned by Mrs. Edward Vandenberg The agents discovered 60 gallons of liquor, 100 gallons of mash and a washtub still with a capacity of 100 gallons. E. L. Vandenberg was charged with possession and manufacture of intoxicating liquor. He was placed under a $1,000 ($19,231 today) bond. The plant was located on Canal Street across from Thilmany Mill.
- In 1934 four Kaukauna men were arrested by prohibition agents on a charge of selling moonshine. They were Erin Weber, 418 Whitney St., William Chopin, 409 Whitney St., George Walsh Dixon St. and Irvin Besaw. A prohibition agents dressed as a bum purchased one pint of moonshine at each house. Weber, Chopin and Besaw were given a choice of paying $300 ($5,556 today) or spending nine days in jail. The men took the jail time. Walsh was charged with two counts and given a choice of paying a $500 ($9,259 today) fine or 150 days in jail. He chose to go to jail.
- In 1935 agents raided the farm home of Joseph “Polly” Lehrer, on Hwy 55, east of the city limits about 5 p.m. No alcohol was found on the premise. Polly Lehrer told the agents that he was in the excavation business and asked the agents if they wanted to stay for supper. The agents stayed for supper.
- In 1936 agents raided the farm of Frank Verboomen, town of Kaukauna and found a 100-gallon moonshine still. They also found 34 gallons of unstamped moonshine, 20 boxes of oak chips for coloring and 150 gallons of fermenting mash. He was given a choice of paying $1,200 ($ 21,429 today) fine or four years in the state prison. Verboomen paid the fine.
“True Patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going “– Robert Reich. Kaukauna citizens are firm believers that the brave men and women of the military should be honored for their sacrifice. The only question over the years was how to honor these citizens. It didn’t take long for citizens to make known that the least the city could do to thank the local men and women for their unselfish deeds was to establish a historical marker or monument as a constant reminder of the sacrifices these men and women made to keep America a free country.
The first veteran’s monument in the City honored the Kaukauna Civil War Veterans. The tall soldier monument stands in Veterans Memorial Park.
The monument was erected through the persistence of the Woman’s Relief Corp (W.R.C.), an organization of local women whose family members had served in the Civil War. The group organized a fund raising campaign, raising enough money for the base before WWI halted the campaign. That’s when Sarah Lord, widow of Dr. O. G. Lord, former Kaukauna physician, announced she would donate the rest of the money.
The W.R.C. removed the buildings and landscaped the triangular piece of land across from Park School in preparation for the monument. The area was named Lawe Street Park (now Veterans Memorial Park.)
Sarah Lord chose an Appleton Monument Company after viewing the Civil War Soldier the company designed for Marinette, Wisconsin. She chose the inscription for the granite base which reads: “Presented by Dr. O. G. Lord to the members of Paul H. Beaulieu Post No. 247 G.A.R.“ The monument was officially dedicated on Memorial Day, 1917.
The second recognition was a historical marker for Kaukauna’s two Revolutionary Veterans. This is an official Wisconsin State Historical Marker authorized and recognized by the Wisconsin Historic Markers. The marker was originally located on Highway “K,” a quarter mile west of Kenneth Avenue.
Two veterans of the Revolutionary War, Aupaumut Hendrick and Jacob Konkapot, are believed to be buried in the area near Buchanan Road. On Flag Day, June 14, 1928, the Appleton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution unveiled a marker in honor of Captain Hendrick Aupaumut, Revolutionary War hero. Later Kaukauna realized that the marker should include Jacob Konkapot and added his name. The marker located originally in what has since become a residential yard was moved. The house was sold and the new owner didn’t want the marker in his yard. The owner contacted the Outagamie County Historical Society to move the marker.
In 1992, Mayor Neil Steinberg formally requested on behalf of the City of Kaukauna to relocate the Revolutionary War Veterans Historical marker to Thelen Park, about 150 yards from the original location. The city is responsible for its safety and maintenance.
In 1942, Mayor Lewis F. Nelson appointed a committee of citizens to “complete a list of all men and women of the city now in service in WWII and those who will enter service, and to plan and supervise the erection of a suitable honor role on which to list these names. The costs of constructing the honor roll to be borne by the city.”
The committee decided on an honor roll which was a replica of Mt. Vernon. The site chosen was on the high school grounds (now River View School) facing Main Street. Initially 700 names were painted on the honor roll and included city and rural Kaukauna men and women serving in WWII.
By 1962, the honor roll had reached the point of “no return.” It was supported in the ground with cedar lighting poles which were weakened by deterioration, the panels were warped and many of the names were illegible. It was apparent that something had to be done, a civic marker of pride had become shabby and beyond repair. As plans for the high school addition were planned, it was also apparent that the honor roll location would no longer be suitable.
There was also a concern of listing all the names and why it was inadvisable. How could the names of those in the Korean Police Action, which was an undeclared war, be determined and added. The WWII list which appeared on the honor roll was not complete. If in the future wars were fought, which has occurred, there was no room for additional names.
On February 23, 1961, Mayor Joseph F. Bayorgeon appointed a committee to investigate and develop a plan for a new war memorial which would honor all men and women who had fought in any war.
The new monument, a granite and stone bench monument, was inscribed with the words: “Erected to the veterans of all wars who helped preserve our liberty.” The war memorial was placed on Main Avenue in front of Kaukauna High School (now River View Middle School) in the same area as the old Honor Roll and dedicated on November 11, 1963. Now all veterans were honored. Up until this time there was no monument honoring WWI veterans. In 1999, when Highway 55 was rerouted through Kaukauna, the granite war monument was moved to the Veterans Memorial Park near the Civil War monument.
After years of planning and construction, the new Veterans Memorial Park Ring of Honor in Kaukauna was dedicated on October 20, 2012.
The completion of this memorial was truly a community effort. Civic Engagement Class students from Kaukauna High School spearheaded this project and assisted in the design. They also did a great amount of fundraising to bring it to completion. Memorial stones were purchased by families to honor their individual heroes. Local veterans and members of the VFW Post and Legion Post were consulted and aided in guiding their work.
The memorial is referred to as the Ring of Honor. The stones have been placed in a huge circular ring in a concrete base. A large star is the center piece of the floor of the design. A marble podium is permanently attached to its center, honoring all veterans. Nine large flag poles have been erected and fly the flags of POW MIA , Army, Navy, Marines, United States, State of Wisconsin, Air Force, US Coast Guard, and National Guard. The entire memorial is landscaped. This memorial is located in Veterans Memorial Park.
Michael Hunt’s estate was valued at $369,620 ($9,726,842 today) when he died in 1910, making him one of the wealthiest men in Kaukauna. Never married, Michael was an astute businessman involved in general merchandise and real estate. Yet, very few people, if any, have heard of him or associate him with the history of Kaukauna.
Born in the county of Sligo, Ireland on March 27, 1838, to parents, John and Anna, Michael came to the United States with his parents and siblings shortly after birth. The family settled in Clayton, Jefferson County, New York. Ten years later three older brothers moved to California. In 1850 his parents moved part of their family to Green Bay in summer and the rest came in December.
Patrick Hunt, Michael’s older brother, moved to Kaukauna a year ahead of his father and was instrumental in selecting land to purchase. John Hunt purchased property on what became the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Desnoyer Street. He contracted with Mr. Fowler, who lived near the sulfur springs to do the carpenter work on the building which would serve as a store and dwelling.
Kaukauna at that time was a wilderness. The area was thickly populated by Native Americans who were early traders at the Hunt store. Canoes and Durham boats were the principal means of bringing freight to Kaukauna in those days. Native Americans would unload and pack the freight on the backs of their horses and travel up past the rapids to Lake Winnebago. The immense quantities of all kinds of goods were piled at the big warehouses at the foot of the Kaukauna rapids. The overflow of freight was stored on the land nearby and covered with big canvases until it could be moved upstream.
A dense wilderness of trees and brush covered all the north side extending down over the hill to the clearing made on the flats at the Grignon property and when a load of lumber for the Hunt house came by water it was unloaded near the Grignon flat. A second load of lumber was unloaded nearby. The area was so dense that the first load of lumber was never found. John Hunt described Kaukauna in the 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer as a “population of 200 with 30 dwellings, three stores, four hotels, one sawmill and a Baptist and Catholic Church.” Michael Hunt’s family was considered one of the pioneer families who settled in Kaukauna.
Hunt’s store was the first general merchandise store in the area. The store for a long time was the center for the whole town to gather and exchange news of the day and buy their plug of tobacco, brown sugar and rice. John and later Michael would get into many a heated discussion with some of the scattered settlers on politics of the day. Asa Rice, Town of Kaukauna pioneer and A. C. Black, Kaukauna pioneer were frequent visitors at Hunt’s store. Hunt, Rice, and Black formed the first Republican party in Kaukauna and were in such a small minority that it was as good as declaring for an open knock down fight as to own up that they were republicans. Asa Rice ended up with a crippled hand he got smashing the nose of one of the opposite party.
Those were the days of wild cat banks when if you took your pay in money for anything one day it would be worthless in less than 24 hours. Everyone carried a bank note reporter with him to prevent accepting the numbers of worthless bills in circulation. A time when farm products and provisions were considered better pay than money for if they fluctuated slightly, they still remained of some value.
A month after moving into their new home, the children were enrolled in school. The school was located in a store building near the Butler-Dietzler Hardware Store at 216 Wisconsin Avenue. Mr. Oakly was the teacher during the winter months of 1851-52. Michael attended school for a few years and then worked at his father’s store as a clerk, a position he held until his father died in 1863 and he assumed the management of the store.
It was said that before the Civil War the Hunts purchased large supplies of pork, flour, calicos, etc. and that the increase in value of these goods when sold established the foundation of Michael’s fortune.
In 1850 John Lawe built at his own expense a substantial bridge across the Fox River, which was of great convenience to the farmers and inhabitants on both sides of the river, as well as those throughout the Kaukauna area. It was located at the foot of Kaukauna Street. He hired John Hunt to care for the bridge and collect the toll. When the Kaukauna government built a wooden dam in the 1850s, the Lawe’s bridge was washed away by the high water. John Lawe was never compensated for the loss and the bridge was never rebuilt.
Hunt saw a business opportunity and started the first ferry across the Fox River at this point. Tolls were paid at his store. The ferry boat ran across the river at a point just above the government dam and was the only way of crossing the Fox River for several years.
By 1870 Michael Hunt had closed his store and was involved in real estate and had become one of the largest and wealthiest landowner in Kaukauna. Colonel Frambach, first mayor of Kaukauna, wanted to establish a bank and needed stockholders. Hunt was one of the major stockholders in establishing the First National Bank of Kaukauna. He served as vice-president and on the first board of directors. At the time the national banking laws were constructed so that the depositor was protected by the stockholder, and any loss the bank sustained fell upon the stockholder.
In 1880 Joseph Vilas, president of the MLS&W Railway and the chief promoter of developing Ledyard, purchased all of Island No. 2 from Hunt. He paid $9,000 ($219,512 today) and acquired all the water and power rights and a large tract of land on the south side. Two years later Hunt built several homes for rental property on lots he owned on the island. The same year Peter Rademacher purchased an acre lot on Lawe Street from Michael. In 1888 Michael purchased land valued at $400 ($10,526 today) from George Kromer. Over the next few years, Hunt continued to purchase and sell real estate on both sides of the river.
Michael and his sister, Susan, who lived with him, decided to build a new home and in 1903 contracted with John Benotch to build a new residence on a lot west of their current residence on Wisconsin Avenue. The house was described as “a modern structure the main structure 16×20, the front wing 16×20 and a rear addition 16×6. The building was fitted with hardwood floors and modern conveniences.” The old house was razed and the timber, which was of excellent quality, was used to build the new house.
In January 1908 Michael became ill and a year later was admitted to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton where he was treated for six months. His sister, Susan, cared for him when he came home. No matter how ill Michael Hunt was he continued to buy and sell real estate with the help of his nephew, John Hunt of Neenah. John was a frequent visitor and handled all Michael’s financial concerns. One of Hunt’s largest land purchase occurred just before his death.
Joseph Klein was involved in the family dairy business and worked as a lawyer in the law office of Humphrey Price in Appleton. Joseph decided to quit his job with the law firm and enter into the milling business. He built a mill on the water power canal on the south side.
At this time Joseph owned 80 acres of land on the south side. In 1883 he platted the Klein addition to the city. The 14 acres known as Klein Park formed part of his land holdings. His father either gifted him the land or Joseph purchased the land from him. As a result of several bad investments early in 1910 he was forced to sell the Klein lots and park and the mill property to Michael Hunt. The mill never operated again. Eventually through litigation and tax sales the mill property passed into the hands of the Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company.
Michael died at home in April 1910 following one of his largest land purchases. His funeral was held at Holy Cross Church and his body transported on a special car on the interurban line to Neenah where he was buried next to his parents.
Michael named nephew James Devoy as administrator of his estate. When Michael Hunt’s will was entered into probate, it was valued at $369,620 ($9,726,842 today). The full inheritance tax was $9, 090 ($239,211 today) with a five percent discount if paid in full within the year, which was done. Funeral expenses were $208 ($ 5,474 today). The administrator expenses were $7,485 ($196,974 today ). Half dozen relatives received $1000 ($26,316 today) and the rest of the money was divided between his sister, Susan, niece Mrs. John Montague and James Devoy, nephew and administrator of the will. Each received over $100,000 ($2,631,579 today)
It took several years to settle the will since a majority of the money was tied up in real estate which needed to be sold. Most of the lots were sold through the Watson Agency. At first the lots did not sell due to the excessive asking price. A large full page ad in the Kaukauna Times advertised over 100 lots for sale in the Klein Addition and Central Addition at 60-75% of their value. A person could buy a lot by paying five dollars ($ 132 today) down and one to two dollars ($ 26-53 today) weekly. The lots sold in a short period of time.
James Devoy approached the City of Kaukauna to purchase the Kline Park area. The city asked if the Hunt estate would donate the Klien Park area to the city. Devoy denied the request. In the end the city got the lowered price but was forced to purchase 18 lots surrounding Kline Park in order to purchase the park property. The city proceeded to sell the lots to people who would immediately build on the lots.
Regenfuss Brewing Company purchased 10 lots from the Hunt estate across from the brewery. The land ran from Desnoyer Street to the C&NW tracks. The brewery wanted the land to expand whenever their growth warranted. The rest of the lots in this area were sold to individuals.
The Hunt estate owned lots on the Wrightstown Road just outside the city limits. A boys’ campfire which was started on the top of the hill above the lower sulfur spring got out of hand and burned down a vacant house, barn and shed, known as the John Bauer place. The land was eventually sold.
Michael Hunt had no direct descendants and once all his real estate was sold and the estate settled, the Hunt name faded into the old history of Kaukauna.
The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad came through the north side of Kaukauna in 1862 giving Kaukauna direct communication with the Chicago market. By 1870 there were two large flour mills, two large factories, Diedrich Sawmill and Reuter Brothers Spoke Factory located on the island. The business boom caused the Milwaukee, Lakeshore & Western Railroad (MLS&W Ry) to build tracks through the south side area along the river. The MLS&W Ry was designed as a manufacturer’s railroad rather than an agriculture line.
Once the superintendent of the MLS&W Ry noted the continued building of mills and companies along the river, he decided to move the railroad’s headquarters from Manitowoc to the south side of Kaukauna. At the time, the heavily forested south side consisted of a small flag depot and several farmhouses. Two hundred railroad families moved from Manitowoc to the south side of Kaukauna causing a housing shortage. Railroad families quickly occupied the few hotels
and boarding houses. A large number of single railroad men moving to the area could not find housing. In 1892 the Thompson Club YMCA was erected to the east of the south side depot. It was a gift from F. Thompson of New York City, who was a major stockholder in the ML&W Ry Company. The Board of Directors of which Dr. Tanner was president, formed an association committee to operate the Thompson Club YMCA of which C. J. Maes and A. D. Maes were put in charge.
In 1872 the first railroad YMCA in America was organized in Cleveland as a partnership between the YMCA and railroad companies to provide overnight lodging and a meeting place for railroads. The workers could not afford to stay at a hotel and usually paid for a bed at a tavern or boarding house of questionable values. Drinking and fights were common occurrences, especially on the weekend when many ended up in jail.
The YMCA mission was to meet the physical, mental, social and other needs of the railroad men. In order to bring about changes in the railroad men the committee felt that the YMCA must engage communities in three areas of impact, youth development, healthy living and social responsibilities.
The Thompson Club YMCA built on Second Street in Kaukauna was an immediate success and the board of directors which included A. M. Zimmerman, president; Ferdinand Kowalke, treasurer; E. S. Glass, Secretary; H. B. Tanner, Charles Hartley, George Fulton, William Cambier, John Fredenell and C. H. Cordel, decided to enlarge the club house. In 1899 a 30×90 foot addition was added for a cost of $7,000 ($102,941 today). The money was raised through donations from citizens as well as the Northwestern Railroad. Cornelius Leenbouts, architect, bid out the jobs for plaster work, marble work, steam heat and plumbing. Joseph Baily from the northside was awarded the plumbing contract. When the addition was completed, two nights of festivities were held to celebrate the expansion, with music provided by the Nugent-Chamberlain Trio.
The Thompson Club YMCA main room was used for various meetings, gymnastics and
educational classes. The association committee set up classes in electrical power, machinery and the practical application of air brakes. Debate teams were organized, bible classes were held and help in writing letters was provided. An orchestra was formed, and the men practiced twice a week. The bowling alley was a great hit. The basement housed a first-class bathroom with three tubs and shower. Under the leadership of Supervisor Charles Puehler, the Club had coffee, meals, beds, baths, games and all the latest magazines for the railroad men who were from out of town. Membership to use the facilities was $3 ($88 today) per year.
On January 3, 1901, the junior department of the Thompson Club YMCA was organized. Blair Hartley was named president and his brother Ralph Hartley was vice president. George Krahn was the secretary and Harold Tanner was treasurer. The junior division held meetings twice a week in the afternoon after school. The meetings consisted of exercise and games.
The Junior YMCA members went to “Camp Winnebago” located on the north shore of Lake Winnebago in July 1901. This 20 acre camp provided five tents for 15 boys from Kaukauna. The boys enjoyed boating, fishing and swimming with a campfire at night.
In 1904 the State Young Men’s Christian Association of Wisconsin yearly report on the Thompson Club YMCA stated “Our present membership is 160 and we have an average attendance of 200 men daily using our rooms. Over 51,000 lunches and meals were served in our lunchroom and 3,000 letters written home.” The revenue from the room rent for the year was $7,167 ($199,083 today). By now Ray Paschen was in charge of running the YMCA.
Over the years the Thompson Club YMCA bowling alley had become quite successful. During the busy season over 40 games a day were bowled netting a profit of $153 ($4,250 today) a month. The association committee decided to enlarge the present bowling alley in the basement. At the same time Dr. Tanner and Mr. Hartley owned the
Princess Bowling Alley located next to Haas Hardware on Third Street and decided to sell the bowling alley. The business was losing money due to the competition from the other local bowling alleys. The association committee purchased the Princess Bowling Alley with three bowling lanes. The committee moved the building and attached it to the rear of the Thompson Club building. An entrance was made through the reading room.
Later in 1929 fire of unknown origin caused a great deal of damage to the south side depot. While the depot was being repaired a temporary ticket office and waiting room was set up in the Thompson Club YMCA.
Once the railroad moved its headquarters out of Kaukauna, attendance at the Thompson Club YMCA dropped sharply. The club house became a place for retired railroad employees who enjoyed playing cards, smoking and visiting. The Thompson Club YMCA continued as a clubroom until the 1960s when the city purchased the property and the building was demolished. Today the site is part of the parking lot for the Kaukauna Municipal Building.
The new Princess Bowling Alley situated on the Donahue property, next to Haas Hardware on Third Street opened to the public on Christmas Day 1902. The business was owned by Dr. H. B. Tanner and Mr. Hartley. The contract to build an iron veneered building, 25×100 feet in dimensions, had been awarded to Albert Luckow, a well-known and respected Kaukauna contractor.
First the hill behind the building needed to be graded down to provide a solid foundation and raise the building to the level of the wooden sidewalk. The bowling alley was fitted with three Brunswick, Balke & Collender alleys, all of regulation length. There was plenty of room left, not only for the bowlers but spectators as well, and an amphitheater with opera chairs on one end.
Dr. Tanner hired Frank Bartsch, originally from Chicago and presently living in Appleton, to manage the bowling alley. The Princess Bowling Alley was open every day and evening. However, ladies could only bowl on Monday and Thursday afternoon. The bowling alley was closed during July and August.
Several bowling leagues were formed including the Kids, Elite, High School and C.&N.W. Office Club which bowled against leagues from Appleton, Neenah and Menasha. The average person was not familiar with the bowling terminology and the following bowling dictionary was published in the Kaukauna Times.
“A “quad” means four strikes in succession, a “blow” is to miss a single pin and to pick one pin off a bunch of three or four is termed a “cherry pick.” Some of the local finger ball bowlers are adept at picking cherries, hence many low scores. When a bowler faces a “railroad” – one pin behind another – he becomes as nervous as the engineer approaching an open bridge at full speed. To miss a “railroad” is an error.
“Breaks or splits sometimes improperly designated “railroads,” are the bete noir (sic) of the game. A number of splits are impossible to make. These are termed “wide open splits.” It is infinitely more difficult to make a split than a one-pin spare, and the player should receive not only the “glad hand” but also substantial recognition in the score.”
The Princess Bowling Alley was well patronized, especially by the railroad men. During the summer of 1903, the entire Princess Bowling Alley was renovated. The
alley beds were planed down, the building repainted, a new system of gas-lighting stalled and new pins and balls were added. A new addition was built furnishing a drawing room exclusively for ladies. Businessmen took notice of how the bowling alley was making money. Two of the area businessmen, John Hiting and Jacob Ruppert decide to build bowling alleys in the same area.
The following year John Hiting sold his stock of groceries to the Julius J. Martens Company and converted his building into a bowling alley. Heiting installed three Brunswick, Balke & Collender alleys. The second story was converted into a meeting room with the intention of adding pool and billiard tables. The new bowling alley was located to the west of Martens Department Store and next to Gerend Millinery Shop, across the street from the Princess Bowling Alley.
Jacob Ruppert owned a saloon on the south side of Second Street about the third building west from Crooks Avenue. He remodeled his saloon, adding several bowling alleys.
The fierce competition between the three bowling alleys ended with all three businesses going broke and closing. Dr. Tanner and Mr. Hartley were lucky enough to sell their bowling building which was moved to a new location. Where was it moved? Next month’s history article will disclose where the building was moved.
Some family Christmas traditions have gone to the wayside and usually for a good reason. So, it was with our family in the late 1940s. By the early 1950s we discarded the tradition, yet laughingly reminisce about it every year. What was the tradition? Drinks, cookies and candy for everyone stopping at our house on Christmas Eve. Sounds good, except all of the visitors stopping were on work time. The day started very early.
Six-thirty am. I have to get up. It is Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes tonight. The sound and smell of percolating coffee (which I am allowed to dunk my toast in, but not drink) and bacon and eggs draw me to the kitchen.
Mom stops pouring her coffee as she glances up. “Why are you up so early? I hope you didn’t wake your sisters.”
“I can’t sleep,” I reply as I reach for the box of Frosty Flakes. Dad said we had to take care of all the visitors today.
Dad looks up from the table. “Make sure nobody gets missed. I’m counting on you girls.”
“We’ll get everyone,” I respond while pouring milk on my cereal. “I will sit on the radiator and watch out the window.” I take this job Dad is entrusting to my sisters and me very seriously.
Seven-thirty am, and my sisters and I press our nose against the bay window as the first visitor approaches. The milkman climbs out of his truck with two quarts of milk and a carton of whipping cream. I run and open the door.
“Merry Christmas. Dad said to come in and warm up and have a Christmas drink.”
The milkman smiles as he sets the milk down and enters the hallway. “I guess I can take a quick break.”
I grab the cookie platter and my sister grabs the candy dish. Mom opens a bottle of Old-Style beer and inquires if he would like a shot.
“Nope, too early. This is fine. Thanks much.” He munches on a cookie. “Best cookie I ever had,” and smiles at my sisters and me. “I hope Santa brings you girls everything you want.”
Queenie Zipper Midnight, our black mutt smells the next visitor and begins barking and jumping at the front door, catching her paws in the curtain.
“Tie that dog up under the sink,” Mom yells as she starts towards the door. “And remember it’s your sister’s turn to open the door.”
The mailman hands my sister the mail as he accepts her invitation to come in. The mailman chit-chats with Mom while drinking a shot and eating a piece of fudge. He wishes us a Merry Christmas and leaves.
There is a time lag after the mailman. Enough time for a shoving match between us girls for the best seat on the radiator. Mom’s voice resonates from the kitchen.
“I want you girls to stop fighting and if you don’t, just wait until your father gets home.”
“It’s not my fault,” I yell as I spy the next visitor.
The meat man delivers two brown bags of meat. My sisters and I once more assume the role of very angelic children and answer the door. He prefers the cookies and candy, but then decides to have a quick shot of brandy. We smile as he tells my mother how lucky she is to have three helpers.
A few minutes later I spy the grocery deliveryman coming up the steps. Once inside, Mom asks if he wants some homemade candy and nods towards me. I grab two bowls off the dining room table and the deliveryman selects several pieces of candy and drinks a bottle of Old Style.
The time is eleven am and the highlight of the day is fast approaching. I run to the refrigerator to grab four bottles of beer. My sisters start yelling that they get to carry one bottle.
“Stop fighting and give your sisters a bottle,” Mom yells from the kitchen.
Reluctantly I give each one a bottle. I still have two bottles and the bottle opener. We watch the garbage truck start up Dixon Street, then run outside and set the beer and bottle opener on top of the covered garbage cans. Racing back inside we claim our seats on the radiator with noses pressed against the window. We watch the garbage truck stop in front of our house. The garbage men open the beer and make a toast towards us. After drinking, they empty the garbage cans and set the bottles on a snowbank, waving to us as they drive to the next house.
The biggest group of the day stops late in the afternoon just before quitting time. The big line crew truck and small truck from the Kaukauna Electric Dept. pull up in front of the house. Dad, a lineman, opens the door as the group comes in and stands around in the hallway. Mom and Dad pour Christmas drinks while my sisters and I joke with the men as we pass around the cookies and candy. The line crew makes a point of telling us how helpful we are and asking what we want for Christmas. As in previous years the line crew signals the last Christmas Eve visitors.
After, Dad asks if we took care of everybody and bursting with pride I answer, “Yes.”
John Brill was born March 26, 1844, in Germany. One of ten children, he came to the United States with his parents in 1852 and settled in Milwaukee. Brill attended school in Milwaukee County near his family’s farm before his family moved to the Town of Buchanan on Kaukauna’s rustic south side.
As a young man John worked as a lumberjack helping to clear the way for the Milwaukee, Lakeshore and Western
Railroad tracks on the south side of Kaukauna. Next, he worked for Webster & Lawson, a Menasha company selling logs and later worked in Kaukauna for the Reuter Brothers Hub and Spoke Factory.
Brill married Caroline Mueller in 1871 and two years later he was able to purchase 240 acres of heavily timbered land in section 23 Town of Buchanan adjoining the Kaukauna city limits, He built a log cabin and cleared off the land into a soil rich farm. The land included the site of Electa Quinney’s 1828 free school and the Statesburg Cemetery of the Stockbridge Native Americans. Revolutionary war veterans Hendrick Aupaumut and Jacob Konkapot and the Reverend Jesse Miner had been buried there. Hendrick Aupaumut and Jacob Konkapot are believed to be buried in the area near Buchanan Road. In June 1884 Jesse Miner’s remains and tombstone were removed to Kelso Cemetery. This removed the last visible evidence of the cemetery on the Brill farm.
John Brill became a partner in a variety of business ventures in Appleton and Kaukauna, using his accumulated wealth to encourage other German American businessmen such as Helf Brewery. In 1872 Brill was managing the Farmer’s Home, a small hotel at 215 W. College Avenue. (Former St. Patrick Bookstore site.) The hotel provided lodging to farmers and travelers who also needed care and feed for their horses. John hired young boys to tend the horses and drive the hack which met frequent trains at the Appleton depot. A saloon was
located in the front of the building with a large dining room and kitchen in the rear. Three meals a day were served daily in the dining room. On special event days the additional log tables were set up outside to accommodate the large crowds. When old enough, John’s daughters helped out in the dining room along with their mother.
The original building dated from the late 1860s was destroyed by fire in 1879. The new building was erected in the early 1880s and renamed Commercial Hotel Co. The name was changed because the hotel had become a popular place for salesmen and local businessmen While managing the Commercial Hotel, Brill met a German immigrant named Altendorf who was running a Sample Room on South Appleton Street. By now Brill was selling and buying real estate and he sold Altendorf a beautiful piece of property on the riverbank just west of La Follette Park. Before the turn of the century Altendorf developed Eden Park. (Eden Park was covered in a previous history article.) Before the turn of the century Brill, along with his uncles Mathias and Peter, platted Brill’s addition of 42 acres to the City of Kaukauna. Brill’s growing prosperity from breeding and selling blooded stock was apparent in his 34’ x 70’ barn with a basement. John sold all of his land except 15 acres where he planned to build his house.
In 1885 Brill commissioned noted regional architect, Charles Hove, who designed many buildings in Appleton, including the Temple Zion, the Volksfreund Building and several commercial buildings in the College Avenue Historic District. Brill asked Hove to design a two-story handsome brick home with no expense spared to make it one of the handsomest residence in the county. The house, characteristic of the Queen Anne Style, consisted of 12 rooms and all the modern conveniences, including running hot and cold water and a large furnace. The house was veneered with cream
colored brick, with numerous wood decorations painted to correspond. A veranda was built leading from the front of the house to the rear on the west side. The main front entrance led into a large hall, from which a broad stairway led to the second floor. The observatory on the roof allowed John to view the city and surrounding area.
On March 29, 1988, the Brill House at 608 Buchanan Road was entered in the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of Interior. Today the house is privately owned. Brill Road is named for the representative and productive German American family.
John Brill was a trustee & treasurer of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. He was an excellent silent partner for his friends, especially those of German descent who needed financial help, such as the Helf Brewery. He contributed generously to projects, especially the building of St. Mary’s Church. In politics he was a Democrat, receiving local and state recognition for his activities. Brill was assessor of Buchanan Township 1868-1869 and 1870-1871, served many years as town chairman, was twice elected sheriff of Outagamie County 1875-1876 and 1879-1880; and represented the Second Assembly District in the State Legislature.
John and Carolyn would raise six daughters. During the late 1890s the couple adopted a small boy they named George John Brill. George was one of 400 New York orphans from a private institution that were sent on the orphan train to Milwaukee where the children lined up in front of the depot All the children were taken except for two girls and three boys who
were sent on the orphan train to Kaukauna. George was one of the three boys. In Kaukauna, the five children stood in front of the depot as prospective parents looked them over. The two girls were adopted by the Gilson and John De Bruin families. The boys were adopted by John Brill, Killian Zink and Michael O’Connell. (O’Connell, named his boy Hugh and he would go on to become a famous movie star in the 1930s.)
When George Brill was 18 years old, he joined the Navy and made a career out of it. When his parents died, they only listed their daughters as survivors and there was no mention of a son. When George died, he did list two of his sisters that were still living.
In 1906 John had a stroke which entirely incapacitated him for business but did not prevent him from enjoying visitors. He died in 1916. In his own lifetime John Brill was commended for his “active interest and energetic management” in the progress of Outagamie County and was “considered the representative German Citizen of Kaukauna.”
The Appleton Post Crescent paid tribute to Brill in part stating, “When John Brill entered the door there came with him the freshness of the fields, the strength of its forest oak and the resolution of the winds and water.”
Once the snow fell, the kids on Dixon Street went sledding on the hill next to my family’s house. The hill provided a sledding challenge in more than one way. Weyers Implement Company was at the bottom of the hill and old tractors and farm equipment were scattered behind their building. Between Weyers Implement and Van Lieshout’s Garage was a narrow path to Dodge Street. Most of us kids did not have sleds and used a piece of cardboard or, if lucky, a piece of linoleum. The bigger the cardboard or linoleum, the more kids that could pile on.
All of us kids were intent on earning the title “Best Sleigh Rider.” The best sleigh rider could slide down the hill as fast as lightning and maneuver between the farm equipment, slow down between Van Lieshout’s Garage and Weyers Implement building, stopping before hitting Dodge Street. Yes, a number of us did hit a piece of farm equipment, but none of us sustained major injuries. Very rarely did anyone from Weyers Implement come out and tell us not slide into their equipment since we could get hurt. In 1958 the building was torn down to make room for the Farmers and Merchants Bank. One of Kaukauna’s oldest building and its history was gone. History that went back to 1890.
The original structure was built about 1890 on Dodge Street. A large sign across the front of the building read “Kircher and Kirwin. Horse Shoeing and Blacksmithing.” Over the years John Kircher and David Kirwin built up their business to the point that it was necessary due to poor health of Kirwin to hire another employee, Peter Ludwig. Eventually Kirwin sold his business interest back to John Kircher and moved to California for warmer weather.
John Kircher and Peter Ludwig continued to operate the blacksmith and wagon carriage shop on Dodge Street. Business was excellent as most farmers brought their tractors, farm equipment and wagons for repairs. Kircher felt that the blacksmith trade was too hard to grow old in. When Kircher decided to sell his blacksmith shop and work for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad shops, Peter Ludwig purchased the business in 1905.
In April 1908 Peter Ludwig and Paul Ott formed a co-partnership under the name of Ludwig and Ott. The men
continued blacksmithing, horseshoeing and rebuilding wagons and sleighs. Exactly one year later Peter Ludwig attempted suicide in Calumet County by kneeling naked in the middle of a large pile of burning brush. His arms and legs were severely burned before he was rescued from the fire. Shortly after Ludwig was committed to the State Mental Hospital. The business and building reverted back to John Kircher who was interested in selling.
In 1910 John F. Timmers of Freedom rented Kircher’s blacksmith shop and purchased the tools. One year later Timmers purchased the building on Dodge Street for $1800 ($46,154 today) and by the end of the year changed the name to Farm Implement Company. In 1913 Timmers incorporated the business with John Adrians and Henry Siebers. Timmers, Adrians and Siebers came from farms in Freedom and were experienced blacksmiths and horseshoers and knew the needs of the farmers. Henry Siebers, from the Town of Kaukauna, was well versed in the sale of farm machinery and became the leading salesman. The name was changed to Kaukauna Implement Company.
Horses were shod for fifteen cents ($3.95 today) a shoe. Plow points were sharpened for twenty cents ($5.26 today). Businessmen using horse drawn carriages for deliveries were good blacksmith customers. One of the best customers was Luther Lindauer. He operated twelve horse-drawn wagons. The horses had to be shod before 7 am and Lindauer’s drills sharpened before he could start working at his quarry located on the island.
Farmers sat around the wood and coal stove waiting for their plow points to be sharpened. They talked about their crops and passed a two-quart bucket of beer around which was filled at the Kromer (now Verbeten’s) Saloon.
The new company handled a full line of buggies, wagons, sleighs gasoline engines, cream separators and everything in the farm machinery line from a plow to a threshing machine. The implement company became a dealer for James Bar Manufacturing Company, which carried barn equipment.
Around 1911 two employees, William and Louis Tennessen left the implement company and established their own farm equipment company on Second Street. Later the building would become part of Carsten’s Elevator.
Kaukauna Farm Implement Company expanded its original structure through the purchase of adjoining property from the Green Bay and Mississippi Canal Company. The addition was used for office space with the main floor used primarily as a blacksmith shop. The second floor was used by William Klumb, who owned and operated a wagon shop next
door, to paint his wagons. The main use of the second floor was as a display room for farm equipment and as a theater for silent films. The films were shown in conjunction with the annual spring demonstration of new equipment.
The spring demonstration was so successful that Timmers added two more days. He also enlisted women, considered as expert cooks, to cook up daily lunches for a reasonable price. In order to keep farmers in town all day Timmers raffled off prizes in the late afternoon. As the years went by more farmers gathered for the spring showing. It was through these gatherings that the first pig fairs were held in Kaukauna on Dodge Street.
Kaukauna Implement Company sold some of the first gasoline pumping engines, feed grinders, barn equipment, washing machines, milking machines, silo fillers and tractors. Alfred Timmers, mechanic, was sent to Chicago for training in repairing equipment and special lines of war work. If needed, the company would make military equipment during WWI, which the company never had to do. Alfred was awarded first honor for selling the greatest amount of James Bar equipment.
For one year the Kaukauna Implement Company was a sub-agency for Ford cars during the time William Van Lieshout was located in Hollandtown. As the Ford dealer, Timmers took the parts of the cars that were shipped to Kaukauna and assembled them on the second floor of his building. He had to hoist the parts through a large opening at the rear of the building by a windless hand operator. There were no elevators at this time.
John Timmers built up a flourishing business and Kaukauna Farm Implement Company became one of the leading and most progressive businesses in town. Timmers decided to retire and sold the business to Henry Heger who was engaged in the farm implement business at New London. The company retained its name, and the business was placed in the hands of a corporation.
Two years later in January 1923, John Timmers came out of retirement and bought the old Kaukauna Machine Works buildings on the island. He tore down the foundry part of the plant and remodeled the machine shop into a warehouse and storeroom. He became a dealer for Deering, McCormick and International farm equipment. In August of that year Timmers Farm Implement office and warehouse building on the island was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.
Eventually Hugh Collins purchased the property from Hegner. In 1923 Weyers Implement founded by Herman and Lawrence Weyers rented the Kaukauna Implement Company building from Collins. The business included a blacksmith shop and implement dealership. At this time, the company
concentrated on selling International Harvester farm implements. The Weyers brothers also purchased the stock of Kaukauna Implement Company. New and used cars were added to the company’s product line in 1925. The company’s name was changed to Weyers Auto & Implement Company.
February 1926 Weyers Implement Company bought the building at 231 Dodge Street from Hugh Collins. The owners announced that they were looking at extensive improvements. The company would continue to sell International Farm equipment and accessories and service farm machinery, tractors and cars. Weyers Implement quickly acquired a reputation of being service-oriented.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s International Harvester added trucks to their line and so did Weyers Implement Company. The heading on their sales slip was “Good Equipment Makes a Farmer Better.”
In 1941 the United States was drawn into WWII. With the war came rationing of gas, tractors and machinery. During this period keeping equipment in good repair and having extra parts on hand was of primary importance. Weyers Implement worked hard to meet the needs of their customers during this period.
January 1942 police were called to Weyers Implement to investigate a robbery which occurred during the night. Burglars entered the building and stole equipment valued at $191 ($2,851 today). The equipment included an electric pumpjack and a universal vacuum pump. Burglars had several hours lead since the robbery was not discovered until the following afternoon. The robbers were never found.
The early 1940s saw two minor fires at the company. In 1942 the Kaukauna Fire Department was called to extinguish a blaze that occurred when a welding torch ignited gasoline on machinery which was being cleaned. The following year the fire department responded to a rubbish fire which was extinguished with only minor damage.
In 1951 Lawrence Weyers died of heart attack at 51 years of age. Clayton, Bob and Clifford Weyers formed a partnership to carry on the family business, even though it was mortgaged, and a large debt was owed to International Harvester for inventory. Clayton did the bookkeeping; Clifford was in charge of the parts department and Bob took care of the repairs and services. All three were responsible for sales. The business now had one focus: farm machinery sales, parts and service. The main line of farm equipment was International Harvester. Clifford was noted by International Harvester as one of its top salesman of farm equipment and parts.
The business had outgrown its location on Dodge Street by the 1950s. Lack of parking was a major problem. Bob organized a move to the family farmette on Highway 96 east of Kaukauna. With the help of family and friends, a Quonset hut, which was popular during WWII, was turned into a business. The other farm buildings were used for storage. In 1958 the Farmers and Merchant Bank purchased the building on Dodge Street and demolished the building and built a new bank. When the Weyers business location on Hwy OO had no space to expand or add parking, Bob convinced Pat and Gene Lambie to sell acreage from their farm located between Highway 41 and County OO and the firm moved into a 20,000 square foot building. In the late 1970s the name was changed to Weyers Equipment, Inc. under the leadership of the next generation of Weyers – Gary and Keith. In 1983 the last phase of the business was sold to Gary and Keith Weyers, and the company was called Weyers Equipment, Inc.
January 1996 Bob Weyers retired after 47 years in the farm implement business. Bob reminisced over how his father had instilled the work ethic in him as a child. As a young boy Bob did chores on the family farmette after school and on Saturday. By the time Bob was fifteen he was setting up machinery and going on service calls with his father, Lawrence. He was the one who taught Bob how to set a plow to make a perfect furrow; how to start and repair bailers; and how to start a planter so the fertilizer and seed flowed in the right proportions into the ground. In those days there was little cash flow; sometimes his father was paid with a cow, pig, chicken, etc.
From the very beginning service to their customers was the number one priority. Today the company continues to provide quality service and sells new and used equipment.
Standing on our back porch my sisters and I could see the farmers angle park their trucks on Dodge Street below our house. The trucks were older, some quite rusty, but all were filled with dogs, farm animals and home-made wares. Once parked the farmers lowered the tailgate and covered it with a blanket on which they arranged their jars of jelly, marmalade, honey, canned goods and fresh produce from their garden.
By 8:00 a.m. my sisters and I decided it was time to pick up the neighbor kids and walk down to the pig fair. Dodge Street was blocked off from Hwy 55 to where Second Street intersects with Dodge Street. We mainly looked for dogs tied to the side of a truck, new puppies, usually in cardboard boxes, baby chicks and bunnies in cages. Everyone was friendly and smiled as they asked if we didn’t want a new pet. They always offered us a great deal – – even free. We would run back home and beg mom to let us get a dog or puppy. (We already had a dog.) Month after month mom never faltered with her resounding “no” answer.
I remember several local people were concerned with how some of the animals were tied up or caged. As the years went by fewer and fewer farmers brought their products to the pig fair. Even the local people stopped coming down. Few farmers took time to visit stores and restaurants. Eventually the pig fair was seen as more of an eye sore than desirable. It was no longer the money maker for the city that it had been years ago.
Back in 1910 the main businesses on Dodge Street were John Timmers’ Implement Company and Klumb Wagon Shop. At the west end of Dodge Street there was a large triangle area in the center of the street that provide a large water trough for horses and hitching posts around. Some can remember the concrete triangle in the center of Dodge Street where it intersects with Hwy 55. That was the location of the water trough. Farmers enjoyed that they could tie up their horses and walk to the Implement and wagons shops.
As years went by more farmers gathered for John Timmers’ annual spring demonstration of equipment. In 1913 Timmers changed the name of his company to “Kaukauna Implement Company.” Farmers’ were transitioning from horse and plow to gas driven tractors. Eventually free musical entertainment was added, with Camel Schermitzler and Mike Corcoran being two of the more well-known entertainers. Special events were held for the women and children. It was through these gatherings that the first pig fair came to be held on Dodge Street.
In the early 1920s Dr. William Sullivan, who would serve two terms as mayor in the late 1920s, and Julius Martens, owner of Martens Department Store, were the main push in encouraging the city to take over the farmer’s fair. Martens felt that his retail business and the rest of the businesses in Kaukauna could benefit from the fair. Working with the Farmers Tri-County Fair Association (farmers paid a dollar a year dues) the first fair was set up.
Farmers came from Outagamie, Calumet and Brown counties, Sherwood, Forest Junction and Hilbert. The farmers brought their pigs, horses, chickens, Honey and Maple syrup, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, dogs, and garden produce. Every inch of parking space in the downtown was taken, cars were parked up on the hill and on vacant lots. As
predicted many farmers and their families visited Kaukauna retail stores and restaurants. The farmers’ children were given free entertainment at the Vaudette Theater. Corcoran’s Saloon on Third Street provided a heated hall with tables and chairs, as a rest room for women and children. Families could eat their lunch in the hall and get a cup of coffee.
By now the “Farmer’s Fair” had become one of the largest in the state. At the October 11, 1924, Tri County Fair, the Winnebago’s, Menominee, Chippewa, Pottawatomie and the Lac de Flambeau Native Americans representing five different tribes pitched their tents around the Thompson YMCA House near the southside depot creating a complete village. A parade in the morning included war dances, fortune tellers and Native Americans singing songs. A large American flag was carried by 300 children.
The farm fairs required extra police to direct traffic and assist people. Once the fair was over the city department worked to clean up the streets.
The crowds continued to grow, and the Kaukauna Merchants offered Fair Day Bargains and Dollar Day deals. In 1935 the event was officially called the Pig Fair. At several pig fairs over 3,000 pigs and hundreds of horses were brought to town. Parking became an issue as well as lack of space for vendors. By 1943 there was no space to expand parking or increase the number of vendors. The implement business, now Weyers Implement, needed to expand due to its successful business.
In the late 1940s the Moose Hall was built on Dodge Street and in 1947 Gordon and Mark (Sparky) Van Lieshout build a large Dodge dealership garage between the Moose Hall and Weyers Implement. By this time Dodge Street was no longer a desirable spot for the pig fair. Weyers Implement moved to the northside in the early 1950s. The building was demolished to make way for the new Farmers and Merchants Bank. Larry Verhagen bought the Moose Hall and remodeled it into a grocery store. The fair drew small crowds. The few farmers coming into town weren’t spending much money at the local businesses and the city decided to discontinue the pig fair. The street that once was filled with livestock and farm produce once or twice a month was now parked full of cars and trucks patronizing new businesses.
In March 1885, Ledyard and Kaukauna merged into the City of Kaukauna and Colonel H. A. Frambach was elected the City’s first mayor. In Mayor Frambach’s inaugural address he outlined the immediate needs of the city including a designated meeting place for the council. He stated, “Your attention is also called to a fire department with sufficient equipment and a substantial place for the council to meet, either by renting or building a council chamber.” An election was held to determine whether $20,000 ($512,821 today) in bonds should be issued for building and furnishing an engine hall, council chambers and jail. Citizens approved the bond purchase along with $3,000 ($76,923 today) to purchase a fire engine and firefighting apparatus.
The council members represented the north and south sides of Kaukauna and were determined to protect their side of the river in council decisions. The council was relentless in not allowing the new municipal building to be built on either side of the river. The answer was the island, centrally located and accessible to the north and south side.
Shortly after, the new city hall was built on the island on the corner of Oak Street and Island Street behind what is now River View Middle School. The city built a high tower over the city hall to serve as a lookout for fires and to use to dry hoses. The fire department was assigned one room and had to store their engine and equipment in Charles Colwais’s livery barn on the island. The Police Department was housed in a small building on the Lawe Street Bridge near Oak Street.
By 1920 the Kaukauna Electric & Water Department’s rapid growth forced the utility to rent additional office space from the city. Kaukauna was able to use this money to help build a new municipal
building. In November 1920 Mayor Raught presented a $100,000 ($1,388,889 today) proposal to build a first-class municipal building. The building would contain municipal offices, storage and office rooms for the Electric & Water Department, a community room and a swimming pool. The Electric Department would provide and maintain the pool for the citizen’s benefit.
The mayor recommended placing the building at the bottom of the Lawe Street Bridge on the island, making it available to both sides of the river. The municipal building, completed in 1921, was referred to by many citizens, who felt it was too large, as a “pipe dream” or “building castles in Spain.” The first floor included the police department, fire department, post office and the Electric & Water Department. The second floor contained the city offices, council room and Kaukauna Vocational School, which later moved. The swimming pool was located in the basement under the fire department. The area was dark and cold. The pool water was so cold that when the state checked the pool over, the city was told to use warmer water. Eventually the pool closed, and the fire department used the area as their living area.
By the 1970s the municipal building no longer met the space needs of the city and the need to expand became a high priority. Location was no longer a prime concern. The primary concern was what was the most cost-effective option. Cooperation between a company and the community made the inception of the new municipal services building possible, and at a great savings to the taxpayers. The decision to relocate municipal services came after the announcement of the Badger Northland Corporation’s plans to build a new plant in the city’s industrial park on the north side. The Badger Northland Building was located at 215 West Third Street. Architects Sauter, Seaborne, Paynter and Duszak transformed the Badger Northland building which was used for manufacturing farm equipment into a new municipal services building. All of the city offices and departments were moved in June 1974 to the newly remodeled building. An open house was held on June 22, 1975, and citizens viewed the expanded offices and departments which included:
- city offices–main floor Second Street entrance – offices of mayor, city clerk/treasurer, city assessor, municipal justice, city inspector, city engineer. Council chambers, mayor, engineer and inspector were on second floor.
- police department-northeast corner of building-reception desk for public offices, interrogation room, photo Lab, records file, police garage facing Reaume Avenue.
- fire department- facing Third Street-fire trucks, ambulance, offices, living quarters, dormitory, locker room.
- health, recreation and welfare departments-west end of main corridor- reception desk for public offices, art instruction room, community room (also Golden Agers headquarters), dance studio.
- park, street and sanitation departments-west end of building-vehicle garage, maintenance shop for park department, storage area, sign shop, tool room, offices. All city vehicles were kept under cover in this large building.
The City of Kaukauna continued to see a growth in population and its geographical area. The growth increased the demand and level of service provided to its citizens. The growth in services strained the ability of the municipal building to accommodate the increased needs. The city had outgrown the remodeled Badger Northland building.
In 2015 the city created a new 49,000 square-foot municipal services building housing the police station, city offices and
municipal court. The municipal building shares the new campus with the fire station and recreation department. The consolidated campus was built with a focus on reducing energy consumption and meeting space needs for the next 50 years. All of the City offices and departments were moved in June 2016 to the new facility located at 144 W. Second Street. An open house was held on July 13, 2016, for citizens to view the new offices and department which included:
- City Offices-east side of building-offices of mayor, city clerk/treasurer, city assessor, municipal, city inspector, city engineer, human resources and council chambers.
- police department-west side of building-reception desk for public offices, interrogation room, photo lab, records file, police garage.
The new fire department was completed in 2017. The building included a remodeled
section of the old Badger Northland building and a new addition added across Second Street. The final remodeling phase of the old Badger Northland building was completed in 2019 and houses the Kaukauna Recreation Department.
The Kaukauna municipal services building was awarded the 2017 BUILD award from Associated general Contractors (AGC) of Wisconsin.
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.