WOODBURNERS TO DIESELS
The following text is excerpted from the 1956 Centennial Days celebration program, Woodburners to Diesels, written by Dorothy Kundert. It provides a very detailed picture of the early days of Brodhead’s history.
To know and to understand the Brodhead of today, by comparative value, it is necessary to know the “biography” of the present city, with a bit of the history of some close by pioneer settlements,-settlements that contributed largely to the individual stature of this typical, truly American city. For the land lay fallow, and theirs was the planting.
Simply to create a point of starting, let us review the abundant word of mouth stories, confirmed by some scanty records of the first known people that inhabited the area. It is believed that a superior people dwelt here originally; a people whose monument only, are “some few mounds and tum uli, scattered here and there, containing bones of what appeared to be a race of giants-it is not unreasonable to suppose that they were predecessors of a division of the half civilized race from whom the Mexican Aztecs descended.” It is known that mounds and relics from these “Mound duilders” were at one time abundant throughout the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. A subject of much controversy among archaeologists and scientists of today, this is a challenging story to be ferreted out by interested researchers.
Suffice it to say that some fifty similar mounds have been counted extending from the old Decatur to the Exeter area, and that early white men digging in some of the mounds, found skeletal bones of what seemed to be a giant race of man.
Upon the invasion of the white man, the Indians in the area were belligerant Sacs and Foxes, members of the Algonquin family. Displaced by the Winnebagoes, it is their story that is most familiar to us, within our time. Rich in Indian lore, we find the frequent Indian influence in the naming of settlements; of the Sugar River, which played such an important part in the lives of the Indians, fur traders and pioneer white settlers, as a means of transportation, communication, water power for saw and grist mills, and the abundance of food found in its waters. The “Old Man River” of Brodhead of today, still serving its people, via the Race, with the power to generate electricity for their excellent municipal electric power plant, still offering great recreational facilities to the people of today, though high powered speed boats of today have replaced the canoes, rafts and fiat boats of yesterday.
“Toon-a-Sook-ra,” or “Sugar River,” was named, it is said, by both Indians and French “Coureurs des Bois,” and traders of the times, because of the beauty of the glistening sandstone river bed which so closely resembled sugar, and because of the abundance of maple trees along its banks, which the Indians tapped each spring to make their maple sugar. Long after Brodhead proper was settled, bands of Winnebagoes still camped at a deep, clear beautiful spring near Pine Bluff, on their way north, trapping muskrats and other game, swapping Indian made articles for articles of necessities from the white settlers in the rural areas and later in the village of Brodhead.
After a few days or weeks they journeyed, some by canoes, others with their ponies and dogs, along the old Indian trail around Pine Bluff, on up to what is now known as Decatur Parks. Below the dam at Decatur was the site of a large Indian camp. Above Old Decatur, on the present Porterfield farm, can still be found remains of another big Indian spring. The ruin of an ancient Council House stood near the Parks as late as 1847, when it was destroyed by prairie fire. The Indians of the neighborhood had here tilled the soil, for so long a time, that early white settlers claimed that when they later made an attempt to cultivate the old Indian fields, they found the fertility of the land greatly depleted.
White settlers saw the smoke of many Indian fires curl heavenward from the top of Pine Bluff, and legend still has it that Black Hawk and his men rode the trail around the Bluff into Decatur.
The first known map published of the area was known as a “Map of the U. S. Lead mines, on the upper Mississippi River, 1829.” Although Green County, of course, was not laid down as the county as such until seven years later, two Indian villages, both Winnebagoes, were located within what are now the boundary confines of Green County. One is called “Spotted Arm’s Village,” (about eight miles north of Exeter), and one is called “White Breast’s Village.” On a map of 1839, White Breast’s Village gives place to “Centreville.” It is the further story of “Centreville, and the story of Clarence Village, which developed east of Sugar River at Pine Bluff, that play an integral part in the biography of Brodhead.
Before continuing with their stories, it is interesting to note that in May of this year, 1956, a Mrs. W. E. Clinton, Topeka, Kansas, an American Indian of the Pottawatamie tribe, did research in early Green County land conveyances at the Register of Deeds office in the Court House in Monroe, searching for the earliest land valuations. Indians ceded large acreages of land in Illinois to the government. Green County is on the fringe area. Such information as she finds will be used as a basic of prosecution of Indian claims now in the Court of Claims at Washington, D. C.
The place where Centreville was platted was a very favorable location for a village, and its origin as a “paper city” is a story typical of the times.
The speculation in Western lands was rife by eastern Americans from about 18301850. Everyone was eager to make money, and as this was a time when most existing states were permitting an almost unlimited issue of state bank notes, it made money seem to be plentiful.
One of the favorite speculating schemes was to layout a city in the “Great and Growing Northwest,” as this area was known, and to sell lots to speculators in the east. Such was the story of Centreville. A plat was drawn and exhibited in Detroit, Milwaukee, and several large eastern cities. It was depicted as a city containing churches, mills, warehouses, and blocks of stores. It was even shown to be visited by steamboats, bringing goods to the inhabitants, and taking their produce and manufactures to market. Many speculators and investors bought lots. Gradually they all learned that they had been swindled into paying large amounts for land they could have bought from the government for $1.25 an acre, and, to their sorrow, that there was no growing, bustling city.
Records show that American statesman, Daniel Webster, was among the speculating group. His name is found on early land deeds in both the Decatur and Clarence areas. In fact, legend has it that he at one time made a trip through this area, to look over his holdings, and “was very shocked to find that instead of flourishing farm homes and a hotel to stay in, that there was rather a goodly number of Indian tepees dotting the landscape.”
When the unsettled state of the country was made known, although their titles were unquestionably good, it is believed that not one of the purchasers of Centreville lots ever claimed a foot of the much lauded city.
Apparently the general publicity did the community no harm, and the general stories circulated by trappers, traders, white visitors and early white settlers, through word of mouth, or by letters to families and relatives in the east, had its effect. The lush beauty of the mounds and prairie countryside, fertility of the lands, the abundant water, ample timber, game, fish, wild fruits and nut trees, the great profusion of flowers, truly presented the Garden of Eden as it was poetically described.
The exciting stories of the lead mining area were already well established. All tended to bring an influx of migration and immigration to the area.
Sturdy “New Americans,” who settled the New England coast, shaped by desire for freedom and better living, had, by the challenge of seasons, climate, and working the stubborn New England soil, developed and inculcated their own seeds into the culture, industry, independence, free town meetings, free schools, churches, and the development of skills to meet the needs of their new world, and there were those from among these who now sought the freedom and the opportunity of the new Northwest.
Most of Brodhead’s first settlers that came to stay, came from these families in New York State, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, either directly or from families who had earlier settled along the frontier route through the Ohio, Indiana, Illinois territories, imbued with a desire for further freedom and further opportunities. They brought the courage and the seeds of America to the new Northwest with them. Later several families came from Ontario, Canada. Just as the Yankees and the Scotch dominated the state in its territorial days into statehood, so they dominated the Brodhead area, in the settlements at Decatur, Clarence, Scotch Hill, Avon and scattered localities.
With the influx of German immigration in the middle fifties, and the Scandinavian element in Wisconsin, largely Norwegian, and the arrival of the Swiss, we find their outspreading influence to be an exceedingly important element. They were splendid citizens and great contributors to economic and civic welfare, and the fusion of new blood, new strength, new ideas was felt here as elsewhere. The father of one local Brodhead businessman claimed in the 1880’s it was necessary for him to understand English, German, Norwegian, the Swiss dialects, and the Scottish bur-r-r’s!
On the threshold of Brodhead proper, as we know it today, were two special settlements of historic significance, Clarence and Old Decatur, rivals for prosperity. Just east of Sugar River, beyond the junction of Highways 11 and 81, stands the present well built structure of the present Clarence School. First settled in the spring of 1841 by William Sherry, the old village was located in Section 2, and at one time was a very lively community, indeed. The school district Number 5 had been organized in 1840 and in 1841 a log school house was built on the north side of the road. When it burned, a new stone structure was built on the south side of the road, replaced in 1916 by the present school. With the exception of the first school in Clarence, held in her home and taught by a Mrs. Kettle, (no relation to “Ma and Pa”) all the teachers up until this time of the Civil War were men. This is worthy of note because they former students of Harvard and Yale. For this reason, the studies offered were of high order, including advanced arithmetic and algebra, with occasional classes in astronomy and geometry.
Friday afternoons were given over to programs at which orations and readings from the country’s finest literature were given. Shakespeare’s plays were enacted and the standards of this free school were very high.
Church services were held here by the circuit riders, and it was the scene of all pioneer community activities, from making bandages and fixing boxes for the soldiers during the Civil War, -to Spiritualist meetings and political activities.
James Sherry, brother of William, built a log house and blacksmith shop near the school house. A. D. Tenney platted a part of the land and sold lots. B J. Tenney opened a small store on the present lVIcNair place, as was the hotel, operated by William Green. The postoffice was established in Mr. Tenney’s home. On the present Brandenburg property was a steam powered furniture factory, owned by H. C. Green, which made bedsteads, chairs, desks. Several articles made here are still owned by Mrs. James Allen in Brodhead, whose great grandfather, William A. Warner, owned land in the adjoming area. Across the road from the school you may still see the remains of the stone foundation of the blacksmith shop once owned by Chester Smith’s grandfather, Doctor Peter Springstead, father-in-law of William Sherry, settled here. The first physician in this area, the second in Green County, he later moved to and became the first physician in Brodhead. (He was a surgeon in the War of 1812).
Originally called Tenneyville, the name of the village was changed to Clarence in honor of “Squire Derrick,” another early settler, for the name of the town he had resided in the state of New York.
At first there was no bridge across Sugar River. Closest to the river was the Jacob Ten Eyck log dwelling. He kept a raft which he used to pole people in the community and “travelors” across. The story is told in the family that at one time Rachel Ten Eyck answered a call, and, poling across the river, found Jesse James waiting.
A bridge was built across the river a few years later. Each spring it washed out. Finally, in 1864, the old Clarence covered bridge, a 130 foot span type Howe Truss, was built. It seems regrettable that this old landmark was destroyed in 1931 when the present new bridge was erected to meet the needs of our time. Mr. Frank Engebretson, residing in Brodhead, has kept it alive in the minds of people through many paintings of it. A fine reproduction now hangs on the wall of the lobby in the Bank of Brodhead. Mr. Engebretson has a likeness painted on his barn on 5th Street in Brodhead.
Just east of Clarence, on the former Charles A. Warner property, now owned by the Zietz family, there is a point of interest which you may visit today, by going straight south out of Brodhead from Center Avenue, past the airport to the old Highway 81, running east and west. Standing about 15 rods east of the Zeitz farm house is a huge old burr-oak tree, known as “Half Way Tree.”
As late as 1861, an Indian chief, with some of his tribe, camped twice each year, on the banks of Sugar River, where it flowed through the Warner land. It is remembered that some of the Indians could talk English, and that they liked and never molested the Warner family.
One day the Indian chief, standing at the door of the farm’s little blacksmith shop, where he had come to get a gun and some other things repaired, pointed to the burroak and said, “You no cut that tree.” The Indian then explained to Mr. Warner that the tree marked the point half way between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. Mr. Warner promised the Indian chief that as long as the tree lived he would not cut it. When he sold the property, in 1913, to the present owner, they, too, were glad to agree that the tree should not be destroyed. And so it stands today, as a sentinel, alone in the field just off the road, to remind this generation of the Indian trail that ran from northeast to southwest.
The Indians had arrived at the distance between the two places by measuring the number of moons it took them to walk from the lake to the river. Later, when the distance was actually surveyed by white men, they found that the middle point is Magnolia-just over the line into Rock County. The Indians had been surprisingly accurate in establishing their half way tree, for the burr-oak stands just about two and one half miles from the correct half way mark.
Returning to Clarence village, we find it was, in 1856, a flourishing, bustling place. boasting of some twenty homes and places of business, with pride in its established security. Also certain that it would be the future metropolis of southwestern Wisconsin. Clarence’s rival, Centreville, later called Decatur, stood about five miles farther up on Sugar River, and was just as certain it would be the future metropolis. And, as has been mentioned, Centreville, though originally a “paper city,” was a very favorable location for a village.
The first settlers in Decatur township had settled on Jordan prairie, near the little Jordan creek. The first claim was that of John Moore of Ohio, made in 1839, on section 20. By 1841 two of his sons-in-law, a Samuel Rowe, a Robert Mattox, and E. T. Fleek, had established lands. In the winter of 1841-42 a postoffice was established. Mr. Moore was postmaster, and he named it in honor of Commodore Decatur.
The village of Decatur was laid out, in 1848, on the same site as Centreville, by William Jones. He had already built his dwelling house there, and he next erected a hotel. However, he never recorded the plat. A few years later, Mr. I. F. Mack, who had been a prominent attorney in the east, bought the greater part of the village. He platted eighty acres and had it recorded as Floraville, in compliment of his high regard for his mother-in-law. (Which story should put a good end to all present day mother-in-law stories!) But Mr. Jones insisted that the village should either be named after his mother-in-law or restored to the postoffice name of Decatur, and in 1852 an act of legislature established the name Decatur to the election precinct, the village and the township.
By 1857 Decatur had a postoffice, school, flourishing grist and sawmills, five stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a shoe shop, stage coach line and about four hundred inhabitants. With their citizenry background similar to that of the village of Clarence the continued prosperity of Decatur seemed impregnable.
All this, then, is the threshold story of Brodhead.
For years after Brodhead became a town, it still seemed incredible that with fertile country around, with two very much alive, well located villages, that section 25 became the site of the new town which developed into the Brodhead of today, while Clarence and Decatur became ghost towns. And assuredly the story of the development is unique. Going back into time, we find that during the ice age, in the drainage of the old glacier, there was apparently a defect at this region. The consequence was an old glacial lake of several miles extent, the dry bed of which now forms what is known as Sand Prairie, and in the center of this lies Brodhead. The only desert spot in southern Wisconsin, except for a scattering of a few native oaks that had somehow survived the prairie fires, the area was a treeless sand.
For many years after Brodhead was settled it is said that crops withered and died in the scanty soil; kinneburrs flourished in the city and town, “-so thick a dog could not walk there, and livestock suffered.” Only the old settlers knew the heroic toil and courage that went into the long fight to change the arid sandy wasteland into the beautiful garden spot that is Brodhead today, with stately trees, beautiful homes, lush lawns and flowers. Many hundreds of trees were planted; countless tons of black earth were brought in to fill the land, and finally the flowers and trees and grass grew.
One cannot know this story without remembering the biblical passage from Isaiah: “-and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing-” Truly did Brodhead blossom as the rose-blossom abundantly.
What then, happened in the community that was responsible for the location of Brodhead? It was, of course, the railroad.
In January of 1856, Mr. E. A. Clinton, who was doing some hustling in the planning of the railroad across Green County for the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad west to Decatur, sought to learn what the Decatur people had to offer toward the inducing of the railroad to come their way.
Receiving no encouragement from them whatever as to the right-of-way, and their refusal to raise some $7,000 in stock subscriptions, he visited Clarence and several other villages attempting to stir up interest and action, with similar results. Finally Mr. Clinton came to the present site of Brodhead, determined to see what he could do here. After some negotiations, a combination was effected. Where Decatur had flatly refused to give the money or to donate land for a right-of-way, and settlers of Clarence had acted in a similar way, each self confidently secure in their little Edens, Brodhead property owners were ready to act.
Land here was owned by half a dozen men who donated the right-of-way and grounds for the depot. Mr. Edward Brodhead, of Milwaukee, chief engineer of the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad, was one of the promoters. E. D. Clinton, I. F. Mack, John P. Dixon, John L. Thomas, John L. McNair, E. A. West and Erastus Smith were others.
The town was platted, one mile square, in the spring of 1856, and the railway and depot grounds were located. Up until this time there had been only one house, a log structure, owned by Samuel Lampson, located here. The town named its streets alter the names of the original village land owners. Though, for the practical purposes of our time, the streets are now identified numerically, one misses the nostalgia of the first given names. Clinton would have been an appropriate name for the village, but Clinton Junction had been named for Deacon Clinton, and it seemed only right that Mr. Brodhead should now have his turn in an honor of this kind, as he was one of the most interested persons in Brodhead’s growth.
Immediately a boom for the new town set in. Recognizing the handwriting on the wall, store buildings, all the business, and the best houses were moved from the would-be metropoli of Clarence and Decatur to Brodhead.
The next year, the bridge where the first bridge in the county was built, was taken down. Built in 1842, it was located a little northeast of the site of the village of Decatur, at the place where the river was crossed by the Indian trail from Sand Prairie to the northern part of the county, and by the territorial road from Janesville to Galena. The bridge was moved farther south to shorten the road to the “all-swallowing” town. And that it was to boom is shown in the fact that in the first 18 months after the town was platted, lots were sold to the value of $112,000, and at the end of her second year Brodhead had a population of over 600.
Lumber for the first new buildings was hauled from Milwaukee by ox-team. It is remembered that what was the first lumber yard in Green County was soon established.
Built by Laird, McLaren and Company, there has been a continuous lumber yard there right through to the present Roderick Lumber lard.
Two brothers, Thomas and John Hendrie, had owned and operated the flour and feed mill at Decatur. There was no water power at Brodhead, and in order to induce the Hendrie Brothers to move their milling business over here, the gigantic enterprise of digging a canal, the present mill-race, three and one-half miles long and 80 feet wide, was undertaken. Capital was raised by subscription, in amounts from $500 to $5, many citizens also contributing day’s labor.
Just four years before, Decatur had refused to contribute money or land to induce the railroad to come here, and now Brodhead, with many of the same citizens, raised a cash bonus of $8,000 toward the cost of the Race. In 1862, when the work was about two-thirds done, the digging was stopped for lack of funds to go on. It was at this time that Stephen and H. B. Stewart bought a half interest in the property for $7.000. Citizens helped to raise money through benefit dinners and dances. Digging of the ditch resumed, the stones and water wheel arrived. In May, 1863, the flour mill was finally put into operation, at a cost of $28,000 for the enterprise.
Power, too, was now available for the foundry, several small wagon shops and the Norwegian plow factory, which soon followed. The factory was a wing ding, able to turn out 25 plows a day.
There were the usual questions as to which way the village should grow. At first business seemed likely to keep south of the railroad, and Messrs. Clinton and Dixon, each had a natural desire to lead it into the street bearing his own name. But Martin Mitchell, (a businessman from the village of Decatur, and the first clerk in the town) and a few others, happened to build north of the railroad in the street between these rival streets, and this halfway ground became the nucleus of the village. During the early building era, dwellings had gone up in the new town in the summer of 1856 as fast as workmen could be found to put them up. Before the end of that September Messrs. Sherman and Clinton had erected two good stores and were preparing to build others. Messrs. Laird and Coffin were ready to entertain all guests of the village at the Manly House, Messrs. Clinton’s grain warehouse, and a number of stores appeared in 1857. L. S. Fisher opened a boot and shoe shop in the house later occupied by Charles Beattie. The house still stands today.
The first house built and occupied as a dwelling was built by R. H. Rugg, in 1856, just west of the Asbury Cooley residence, now owned by the Coplien Nursing Home. The first brick building was the three story double building on the west side of Center Street. It was built by Laird and MacLaren in 1856-57. Being of Scotch descent they named it the Caledonia Building. The large double hall in the third story was known as Caledonia Hall. Here the young people went to dances. There were dances, too, in the ball room of the Clinton House, the Manly House and in old Keith Hall on the south side.
Five residences began to make their appearance. Gradually the business section of the town changed to the north side. Since August, 1869, Brodhead has had a bank. The stockholders were Ephriam Brown, J. V. Richardson, Edwin Ludlow and Mrs. Thomas Hendrie. It grew out of the necessities of the place. With good manufacturing facilities, Brodhead had the advantage of being at the point of shipment for a part of Rock County as well as for a large part of Green.
Brodhead today has two exceptionally fine banks, the original Bank of Brodhead, and the Green County Bank. Progressively meeting the needs of the community, it is noteworthy to mention that during the critical years of bank failures, and the bank moratorium, the doors of the two Brodhead banks never closed, and continue in their solid, healthy condition.
There were religious meetings here from the first. For some time after the village was started, the Congregationalist was the only religious society. The Methodist denomination was next, both churches of which recognized their Centennial year with a joint program, in May. Edward Brodhead, for whom the village was named, had promised that the first congregation to build a church would receive a bell from him. The Methodists captured the prize, a fine $400 Meneeley bell, weighing 795 pounds. Mr. R. J. Brodhead, Madison, a grand nephew of Edward Brodhead, with Mrs. Brodhead and son David, were guests at the joint Congregational and Methodist Centennial dinner and program held in Brodhead last May 19th. This bell in later years became cracked. Although it was sent to Milwaukee, where it was recast, it is claimed that it lost its beautiful tone in the process. When, much later, a tornado ruined the steeple, and it could not be replaced, both the steeple and bell were removed.
It is interesting to note that the general architecture of homes and business places patterned the New England style. So, too, is the “Square,” still so called today, typical of the early New England Square.
Other bits of old New England remain as picturesque evidences of the original homes of the settlers who founded the city a century ago. A fine example is on old Exchange Street, just west from the Square, stands a large green shuttered house, “The Beckwith Place.” It is almost an exact replica of “Fisher’s Inn,” built more than one hundred and fifty years ago in Bowdoinhaur, Maine. Used for many years as a main stopping point on the stage run between Portland and Augusta, the building, still in existance, is now occupied as a residence.
The Brodhead replica, modeled after the Inn, boasts a fascinating history all its own. It was built by Loring S. Fisher, who came to Brodhead from Maine when the town was founded. Mr. Fisher was a descendant of the Loring family. The east half of the present dwelling was a hotel building that was moved over from Decatur village, and continued to operate as a hotel. The west portion, built from new lumber “upright beams of oak,” and “maple siding,” was added two years later and served as the living quarters for the family.
In building the home, Mr. Fisher followed the plans and proportions of the Inn, which his father had built in Maine. He copied, also, the construction methods used in the cold climate of his native state. The house, with its double layer of plaster and lath, became one of Brodhead’s first “insulated homes.”
The home which was used as a hotel until 1913, has remained in the Fisher family since its construction. Today it is occupied by Miss Helen Beckwith, granddaughter of Mr. Fisher. Its 26 rooms are divided into rooms and rented separately. A shoe repair shop is housed in the basement.
And what of the people who inhabited the village. Drawn by the stories of the growing community, families from Decatur, Clarence, Scotch Hill and other scattered areas, became established in the community. Citizens of Waukesha, Deacon Clinton’s former home, were the first from out of the country to ally themselves with the new town. The next comers were Vermonters, and more family relatives and friends from the eastern states, and the influx of German, Norwegian and Swiss families, already mentioned.
From the beginning, through all the early years of the new century, the railroad and the depot were the focal point of interest and activity for the people in the community. The depot had been built, and in the fall of 1857, thanks to the farmers, to Deacon Clinton, to Messrs. Graham, the contractors, and to J. T. Dodge, the engineer who had charge of the work, the railroad reached Brodhead.
In the summer of 1857, when the depot building was nearing completion, before the partitions were put in, folks of the community staged a play there. It was called “The Lady of Lyons.” The country around had been scoured for talent. Today’s viewers of TV, motion picture theatres, outdoor theatres, and radio listeners, can scarcely realize the intense interest and enthusiasm aroused by this first dramatic performance ever given in Brodhead. Many of the young people had never seen a play before. They walked and drove in from many miles around to see the great performance. The old depot was crowded to the doors. The only lights were tallow candles. The Brodhead Band furnished the music.
After the play there was a dance, with all the old favorites, Money Musk, Virginia Reel, Quadrilles, Military Schottish, Waltzes and many others, with lively old fiddlin’ tunes along with the band music.
Imagine the excitement of that day on September 15, 1857. At last the day had come! The first train was actually due to arrive! How quietly, how matter of factly, has the diesel driven engine of today been accepted, compared to the first wood stoked engine, with its shrill braggart whistle blasting the air, its cord pulled bell donging sonorously, that puffed pompously along side the station platform, surrounding the area with clouds of smoke! The train’s arrival was met by band music and a huge crowd tooting horns, and cheering.
Six passenger and three or four freight cars, had met the Milwaukee train at Janesville, and the fine crowded coaches and entire train, “pulled through by John Fore, engineer and machinist,” returned to Brodhead for a dinner presided over by Judge A. N. Randall, local attorney. The dance which followed was furnished music by the Brodhead Band, the Monroe Cornet Band, and a Clarence Martial Band. It is remembered that the train locomotive was the type built by William Mason, in 1860, for the Milwaukee Road.
There were two through passenger trains, each way, twice a day, from Milwaukee to Mineral Point. There was one freight train, twice a day, except on stock days, when more freights were added. It is remembered that in February, 1858, the dullest month of the year, the freight shipped from Brodhead amounted to 896,014 pounds. Monroe, Brodhead’s senior by twenty-two years, shipped 1,212,206 pounds during the same time.
One combination freight and passenger train suffices in service for Brodhead today, the latter one full coach containing baggage and one half passenger and smoking car accomodation. On stock days, extra cars are added as needed. The area serviced is now from Janesville to Mineral Point.
For years to come the depot served as a community house for the folks of Brodhead, for many special gatherings, outside political lectures and other activities.
It is remembered that in later years, when William Schempp was owner and editor of the local newspaper, that he used to go so far as Orfordville on the eastbound train, and come back on the westbound, circulating through the coaches, jotting down names, bits of information, incidents and stories to be used as news in his publication.
Through the early years of the new century, the arrival of the evening train was a special highlight in Brodhead. Many an evening meal was hurried so that the entire family might go down to meet the train, to see whom had been where, and why; to pick up news of the day, and then to move on to the postoffice to wait until the evening mail had been sorted.
In 1868, Manager Merrill of the now called Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, reported that the road had carried 5,767 passengers from Monroe to Brodhead, 5,164 from Brodhead to Monroe; that the local grist mill had shipped 19,833 barrels of flour east; 456 barrels west, besides a large quantity which had gone by wagon to Footville, where it was put aboard the C. & N. W. In addition 50,897 bushels of wheat, 15,449 of rye, 1,464 of barley, 71,809 of oats, and 26,902 of corn had been shipped east from Brodhead.
In 1865, Murdock and Willis shipped 20,000 pounds of homemade butter to Boston, which they had taken into their store from farmers in the area.
Excursions to Milwaukee, Madison, Whitewater and elsewhere became popular, and the Methodists, Presbyterians, and the Brodhead Band, as well as groups of businessmen, engaged as much as two railroad coaches, usually under the leadership of Messrs. Roderick, Taylor, Hutchinson and Lakin, at $1 for children and $2 for adults for the round trip, which included a basket lunch and several hours of sightseeing at the point of destination. Through these excursions, enough money was realized to promote several worthy local enterprises.
Many colorful stories dot the development of any frontier town. Brodhead was no exception. Perhaps a lesser side, yet in common with other typical Northwest settlements, are the stories that emanated from “Smoky Row,” the street just north of the railroad depot. Tame, by comparison with the gruesome headlines that depict the tragedies and baser side of the world today, nevertheless, Brodhead found itself coping with the frailities of man.
“Smoky Row” was probably so named because of the clouds of smoke that poured from the train engine’s stack, and settled down upon the area. Smoky Row! Where respectable women were never seen after sundown; where more than one shooting affair took place; unpunished murders involving poison and ground glass, shootings; nightly games in Room 13; and local stories of arson, wheat stealing, grave robbing, counterfeiting and horse rustling were told and retold.
Intemperance became a problem. One night the depot agent was knocked down and a “billet of wood” hurled through the window of the train, hitting a passenger. The decency of law abiding people was by far in the majority, and the outraged citizens expressed themselves through the local organizations, specifically the Good Templers, * the church congregations, and stirring articles in the local paper by Editor Mack. A series of revivals brought, in the spring election of April, 1866, a victory for the drys, and the Smoky Row misdemeanors faded, at least to a minimum haze. * (in a flourishing condition and in their own words “Out to raise a breeze on the calm surface of Brodhead’s liquid stream.”)
A so called “floating population” had been much in evidence in the general community, and especially through the Clarence and Decatur areas. Actually, they belonged to the country at large. It is known from among them was an organized group of counterfeiters and bands of horse rustlers. They operated through Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, when the area was sparsely settled.
Stories are told of horses that were stolen in southern Illinois, driven as far as they could be during night time, hidden in caves along the way, including caves along Sugar river, fed and cared for until it was safe to move them, then cautiously taken west into Iowa, or north around the Blue Mounds area, and into the northern lumbering camps. Occasionally horses were abandoned, left to fend for themselves, or to die, because no one dared to come back and claim them.
It is remembered that a local man bought a fine looking horse from a trader, and paid cash. Later a man came from Chicago, proved the horse was his, and claimed it. The horse had been taken right off the street in Chicago.
While the “queer” money, or counterfeiting, was in progress, businessmen accepted no money from certain areas without the “detector” and microscope being consulted.
Soon after 1850 the visits of the transient classes ceased, and the unlawful practices stopped. When, a few years later, another gang of counterfeiters began operating in Monroe, the government stepped in and brought the business to a sudden end. Counterfeiting presses were supposedly found in the Clarence School area, a Monroe dwelling, and a spot in the Pecatonica.
Today the horse has been replaced by mechanized machinery and is no longer a beast of burden. The horse of today has become very popular in the sport of racing, shows and as a pleasure to people who enjoy the outdoors.
Today our medical men, believing in that old tradition “That the outside of a horse is good for the inside of man,” advise horseback riding to their patients.
The population of today is growing by leaps and bounds and where can you find one child who does not cry, “Daddy, I want a pony.”
The popularity of the horse of today is attested by the many organized saddle groups who conduct trail rides and shows throughout the summer and fall months.
The Green County Boots & Saddle Club is a very active group, Robert (Bob) Condon, owns and operates the Circle “C” Ranch at Brodhead’s edge, Conrad Bosshart, Decatur, not only deals in horses, but operates a leather shop, Charles H. Vogel, livestock dealer, ships truckloads of horses each spring for his ever demanding market in this area. Helen and Joseph Stencel established the first and only breeding farm of American Saddle Bred Horses in this area. Named Rani-Jo-Jean Farm after their daughters, Jo-Ann, Rani Jo and Lila Jean, it is a touch of Old Kentucky, with its white board fences and mares and colts grazing and frolicking in the meadows. Yes the horse of today is here to stay, but not as a beast of burden.
One of the greatest eras of excitement in Brodhead concerned the pearl industry, which unfolds an interesting story. Extravagant visions experienced in the minds of DeSoto, Ponce de Leon, and other Spanish explorers, seem to have taken substance and substantial fact in this industry. There is scarcely a mineral mined today in the Mississippi Valley or Lake region, but that was located by some of the Spanish prospectors and their French brethren, who had a keen scent for valuables, mineral or otherwise. They took back to Europe with them, specimens of their finds and spun glowing stories, including the magnified and embellished story of a river, “paved with pearls of all colors of the rainbow and of priceless value.” Our records indicate that this river was our Sugar River, the river of so much importance to the City of Brodhead.
Among many explorers who started out to find these riches was, it is said, a young French nobleman, seeking to replenish his impoverished purse. After a journey of innumerable hardships along Niagara River, through Green Bay, along the Koshkonong, his guides, failing to dissuade him from going further, deserted him. The nobleman went on alone, and finally made his cheerless camp, one bitter night, at the base of the bluff near which now stands the Brodhead Creamery.
Using a part of his buckskin garment, he recorded on it a scanty history of his adventures. Overtaxed by fatigue and exposure, he died during the night. A generation later the blackened, decaying record, and fragments of his bones, were discovered bv another party of explorers.
Nearly two centuries more went by, and a vagrant outcast discovered the secret of the river. Eventually the knowledge of possible wealth became common property. Great was the commotion on Sugar River! Searchers came in droves-of all ages, nationality, color or condition. Using hands, feet, rakes, sticks, any thing that could help catch a clam, the people stirred the river mud from source to mouth.
Clams were slaughtered by tens of thousands and gave up pearls by the score, ranging in value from cents to thousands of dollars each. Values were learned. Buyers appeared. Not less than $250,000 worth were taken out of Sugar River. In the meantime one buyer in Brodhead bought and sold about $125,000 worth, thus making a lively home market for this class of products, as he and others were always ready to pay for any pearl in sight. The energy and persistance with which pearl hunting was pursued, made thorough work of exterminating the pearl-bearing clam, and it is the exception when a pearl of any value is found today.
In May of this year, the colossus of the circus world – John Ringling North’s “Greatest Show On Earth,” made its debut at Madison Square Garden in New York. In Wisconsin, the state that was the early proving ground for the Ringlings, Wisconsin’s famed “Historymobile,” sponsored by the state historical society, left Madison in early April to go on tour with a new and colorful exhibit, “Sawdust and Spangles; the Circus in Wisconsin.” This season the story has special significance for residents of Brodhead, for The Al Ringling not only “slept here,” but he lived and worked here, and is well remembered by some few oldsters in the community.
Al Ringling was the oldest son of a German harnessmaker who had come from the old country to Milwaukee, where he married, and then to Chicago, where Al was born. From Baraboo to McGregor, Iowa, the family eventually setled down in Prairie du Chien.
The Panic of 1873 resulted in poor business and scarce money. Hard times hit the Ringling family. Al decided to leave home in search of a better job. There seemed no alternative, as the family could use every penny that he might be able to send back.
Antone Durner and Sebestian Laube of Brodhead, owned a wagon and carriage shop, and were well known throughout Green County. It is here that Al Ringling arrived, after a prolonged look for work, and was hired as carriage painter and trimmer. He made leather tops, side curtains and dashboards for carriages and buggies.
In the 1870’s, there were no circuses as we know them today. Several horse drawn wagons occasionally took an unreasonable facsimile of a circus to the larger cities.
Al Ringling loved a circus: he loved juggling and practicing acrobatics. He roomed at “Exchange House,” the present home of Miss Helen Bechvith, just one block from the square. In his room on the third floor, south, he kept his juggling and tight rope apparatus, installed a trapeze and bars. His feats of ability soon spread across the countryside. Sometimes he put on impromptu acts, on the bank corner, or wherever he chanced to be. If he gained an audience of adults along with the children, he sometimes passed his hat. He encouraged the children to put on their own shows, even as he and his brothers had done at home.
Juggling anything handy at first, balls of yarn, or wrapping twine, pan lids, balancing a carriage whip, tools and implements, on his nose or chin, gradually his skill increased. He stretched a tight rope from an old building on the north side of Exchange Street to one on the south side, and his tight wire acts became a regular part of Saturdays, if the weather permitted. The street would be jammed with admiring townspeople and farmers, and he opened up a whole new world for the children. Sometimes Al had piano music along with his acts, furnished by Johnny Hunt, who was also good at sleight of hand. Sometimes he dressed up in pink tights.
One of his most daring stunts was to successfully balance on his chin a 70 pound old fashioned, wooden framed hand plow. On one occasion he carried a small stone half way across the tightwire, then built a fire, cooked his supper,-well, at least a piece of meat anyway,-ate it, and proceeded to the other side. Most assuredly, he was one of Brodhead’s most popular citizens.
Filled completely with a desire to go on the road with his own show, Al had frequently maintained that some day he would have the biggest show on earth. So it was not surprising, along about 1877, that Al took extended leaves of absence from his shop work and went on the road for days. His companion, a stage struck farm boy from near Avon, was a ventriloquist and puppeteer named, Fred White, known professionally as Bob VVhite. Their acts and puppet show “Babes in the the Woods,” were shown at school houses mostly, and rural churches. Invariably they came back broke.
His unexpected leaving and returning tried the patience of his employers. Up to 1882 Al had brought out the tight rope each time he returned to Brodhead and his work. The time seemed expedient to make decision as to his future. He left Brodhead in 1882 to form his own show, the story of which is well known to everyone who loves a circus.
Should you care to, you may visit the former Durner & Laube Carriage Shop, standing on East Exchange Street, now owned by John Wish. It is used to store farm implements. Joseph Laube, a former part owner, 83 years old, still lives in Brodhead. It is believed that the spot where Al Ringling carved his name on an interior wall, is still legible.
The first wagon made for the Ringling Circus is said to have been made here. For many years after the big show was on circuit, Al had his wagons repaired at this where he had worked so long ago. Until late in the 19th century, the circus each year showed alternately in Brodhead and Monroe. And finally the inevitable happened. There were not enough sidetracks to bring the circus to Brodhead, Al Ringling’s, local boy, “Biggest Show on Earth.”
The War Years
Undoubtedly war is a monstrous wrong, and yet the winning of human rights has come about in the whole history of the world bceause men have been willing to fight, if need be, to die in them. It has been said that the United States has to be “kicked into a war,” but when other means have failed, she has met the gage of battle.
Ancestors of Brodhead’s first settlers met their situation in the War of the Revolution and the War of 1812. From the Civil War, down through the Spanish-American War, the World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the present cold war, Brodhead has continued to play an honorable part.
Not unmindful of the heartaches and tragedies imposed upon the soldiers of these wars, and their reflections in the home community, there are some bright spots that are remembered warmly in the community. When the Civil War began, Wisconsin as a state was just 12 years old. At that time Green County had a population of 19,808. Her enlisted total in the war was more than 2,500 men.
The history of the heroism and the gallantry of all the Union Soldiers is a familiar story. It is a historic fact that Wisconsin troops were among the best. In his “Memoirs,” General Sherman says, “We counted a Wisconsin regiment as equal to an ordinary brigade.” Green County contributed 168 men to the famous 3rd Wisconsin Infantry.
A great favorite of General Sherman and his men, was a Regimental Band of this 3rd Wisconsin Infantry, which had its origin in Brodhead. This is the story as related in part by the late Miss Jessie Sprague:
The Brodhead Band was organized in 1857, before the railroad came. There were very few bands in this part of the country, and it was much in demand by towns far and near. Most of the places could be reached only by wagon road, so the band had a special wagon made to use on these trips. It was truly a gorgeous wagon, modeled after the circus wagon of the time. It was built and painted at the Spencer wagon shop in Brodhead.
The fame of this bandwagon and the Brodhead Band spread all over this part of the country. In the summer of 1858 the band was hired to play at Freeport at a political meeting, in all probability the Great Lincoln-Douglas debate. At any rate, we may be very sure that the Brodhead Band, leaving by way of Clarence that early morning, no doubt attracted as much attention along the way, perched aloft in their fine new uniforms, their famous bandwagon drawn by six prancing gray hon:eD, as did Abraham Lincoln riding soberly to Freeport to take part in that historic debate.
When the Civil War broke ont, the band enlisted as a Regimental Band, with the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry. Later, when the regimental bands were discharged, they re-enlisted as the 1st Brigade Band with the 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps, and served through the entire war.
Some of the boys in the band had good voices, and they were called upon many times during the war to furnish singing at burials and religious services, and one surmises, at other less solemn gatherings of the Boys in Blue.
One of their members, Colonel E. O. Kimberly, who had a fine tenor voice, sang “Sherman’s March to the Sea,” from manuscript. His greatest song, however, was considered to be “The Sword of Bunker Hill.” Colonel Kimberly was later appointed singer for the National G. A. R. and sang at encampments all over the state.
The band went with Sherman on his famous march through Georgia to the Sea, and headed the 3rd Division at the Grand Review in Washington at the close of the war, where it was enthusiastically received, as it was in many places where it went on tour, including New Yorlc City.
In a condensed history of Brodhead American Legion Swann-Gehr Post No. 197, compiled by its historian, Francis Gombar, it states that the year 1920 might be used to mark the end of an era for Brodhead, and, it might be added, was typical of the situation which existed in a greater or lesser degree of many similar American small cities and towns.
“The decade that the city had just finished represented a period of great change during which almost every function of the city had been effected. The Folk Depletion of the area had started, where the younger people had been forced to move to other environments to find work; the old Civil War groups that had dominated (and to which we insist had helped to bring the strength and prosperity of Brodhead to the given peak at that period), were dead, or in the ‘slackcned pace cf aged years;’ the Spanish flu epidemic had disseminated the population of some of its strongest men. The ex-servicemen returned to a city which had greatly changed while they had been away, and tensions were great among them.”
After many meetings and turbulent situations, and the combined efforts of community servicemen, the Post organization was accomplished. Banded together through common understanding and intention, it has been active organization, a healthy expression in the community. It established practical plans for some of its civic betterment projects.
“-Like an old, the Post kept functioning up to the end of World War II, tempers were short and things were at a low ebb. Thence a great change took place. The veterans of that war returned home and many joined the Post; almost overnight the Post was rejuvenated. Things were almost exactly like they were back in 1920 with the exception that no organization problems had to be solved, and there were some oldtimers, who still attended the meetings, who could at least attempt to show the new group errors which we had committed in the past. The illustration which shows the present condition of the Post is that the V. F. W. and the Legion jointly sparked the present Centennial celebration and as a result the city has risen from the former ghost-town like trance and turned into a bustling area which approaches a boom-town’s enthusiasm.”
Whatever is to be the future destiny of America, beginning with the confines of their own community such as Brodhead, extending to unlimited spaces, though the problems are not identical to former frontiers, never have the challenges to the pioneer, who must meet new horizons, been greater than they are today.
Having already met three wars within their time, finding themselves in the throes of tensions, economic, political, industrial, and world-wide turbulence, it is good to know in Brodhead that youth and seasoned maturity, through active responsible civic organization, present “city fathers,” the alert Chamber of Commerce, and Junior Chamber of Commerce members are working together, ready and eager to assume their responsibilities to the community and the problems of their time.
A kind story which came out of World War II well exemplifies the human qualities of the oft described Main Street, small town America; a story which greatly enriched the lives of all whom it involved, and the sort of thing that helps one to keep faith.
From the warmth of their own hearts, their faith and understanding in the youth of today, Belle and Austin Harlow, of Brodhead, reached out beyond their personal duties and responsibilities to encourage and sustain every young man or woman who went into World War II service, and there were some three hundred of them.
Brodhead was represented on every battle front, with men serving in all ranks from Private First Class to Lieutenant Colonel, and in the Navy, from Seaman First Class to Captain.
On the home front, the Harlows kept a complete individual record of every person in service, the date of induction, the unit or outfit each one was with, and his or her progressive location throughout the world, throughout the war.
They published a newspaper four times a year, copies of which went to every individual in service. How many times, in, who knows what remote place, did some serviceman’s spirits brighten to hear his name at mail call to receive this hometown newspaper, or because it may have been his turn to receive a letter from Belle or Austin Harlow. For somehow, they found the time to actively correspond with over 200 service people.
On the home front an active club for war wives was organized and held regular meetings in the shop on Main Street, which was also the meeting place for servicemen or women home on furlough.
Dozens of pictures of service people, their wives or husbands, wedding pictures, and baby pictures of the new generation, presently adorning the walls and tables at the store and at home, attest to the deep affection of the Harlow “children” for their efforts.
The Middle Years
This story has made no effort to present a complete, concise, civic, business, professional, community structural outline. A complete Brodhead directory of businesses, civic organizations, churches, professional people, and general associations, is listed elsewhere in this booklet. However, it would be amiss, indeed, if it did not present a general description of the development and enterprises in the earlier years, and note the influence of progress in Brodhead today.
Having already dealt with the boom development of the first years up to the Civil vVar period, by the turn of the century Brodhead had become a thrifty, important, prosperous, inviting southern Wisconsin city. It was natural that it should be, by nature of its location as a natural seat of trade; good transportation facilities, the advantage of ample water, healthful climate, a rich surrounding agricultural area. and the well directed labor of its citizens.
The first directed energy of the early settlers was to satisfy the need for a church and some means of education for their children.
To consider the religious development first:
The early settlements of Decatur and Clarence had already organized religious meetings within their villages. Itinerant preachers, the circuit riders of several denominations, held meetings with comparative regularity in their schools or certain homes, performed marriage ceremonies and baptismal rites, attended funerals when possible.
The earliest preachers were not always trained to the profession. They often derided book learning and relied upon inspiration. What they lacked in erudition they made up in zeal and imagination. Their favorite topic was the day of judgment. They were, however, preachers that spoke to the purpose, flashing conviction tight into the hearts of their hearers. Through them, and meeting in common worship, the settlers developed their religious strength in the community.
Gradually organizations were formed for various denominations, and by the time the majority of the families from Decatur and Clarence were absorbed into the founding of Brodhead, the new village did not need to wait for religious denominations or services to develop. Two local congregations, as previously mentioned, also jointly recognized their centennial year; the ministers and these and continuing Protestant denominations and the Catholic congregation, who in 1867 had bought the old school house and extra property to house their services, all had ministers in residence. The days of circuit riders, the era of camp meetings and revivals, disappeared with the changing times.
Truly representative, the importance of the church in the lives of the people whom they serve, we find a steadily growing membership in all of them with several fine new churches and parsonages having been completed in the past few years, and scarcely a church or parsonage that has not been remodeled and expanded.
There are presently seven Protestant and one Catholic church in Brodhead.
The early settlers were Christian minded people because as each community was founded a suitable plan of worship was established and with the founding of Brodhead came the churches. Christianity was a large factor in the lives of the community as is evidenced by the large number of churches that were always in existence. The thinking of the people of a community is reflected by the goodly number of churches it supports. The Methodist was the first to be established and then the Congregational. These two congregations are celebrating their 100th anniversary along with the City of Brodhead. Rev. Wilbur J. Leatherman is the pastor of the Methodist Church and the Rev. J. C. Robertson pastor of the Congregational. Years ago the Presbyterians conducted services in Brodhead and the church and parsonage was purchased by the Evangelical United Brethren in 1921. The prior church of the E.U.B. became too small and was sold and converted into a residence. Again the parish grew and it was necessary to build an entire new edifice. This was accomplished in 1953 under the pastorate of Robert A. Boettcher, its present minister.
The Baptist Church was founded in 1867 and its property was purchased in 1920 by the Bethlehem Lutheran. Remodeling has made this structure a modern church and its members are very active in the community life of Brodhead. Rev. Carl Thompson is the present pastor.
Catholic services were conducted in homes of the early days until a school was remodeled as a church in 1867. The present modern edifice of St. Rose was constructed in 1941. A new rectory was constructed in 1950 under the pastorate of Rev. Andrew Breines, who also was editor of the Catholic Herald. The church received its name St. Rose after the first child that was baptised in it-namely Rose Laube Searles. Rev. Wilfred Schuster has been the pastor since 1953.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church conducted services like all other denominations in homes, schools and its records commence about 1912. The church has remained a part of the community and in 1955 the church dedicated a new parsonage. Its present pastor is Roland Hillemann.
Episcopal services likewise were conducted in homes until a church was built. The congregation disbanded and the property was purchased by the Brodhead Assembly and is now known as Gillett Memorial Gospel Hall. This group of worshippers held meetings starting in 1935. They purchased their present site in 1937 and have conducted regular services ever since. Ministers of the Faith are invited to conduct services and while no pastor is in regular attendance, the parishoners themselves conduct services under the able and faithful leadership of William J. King.
The Assembly of God was organized in Brodhead in 1949. There is no resident pastor at present but the Janesville Assembly will conduct summer services in Brodhead.
The Church of the Nazarene was founded in Brodhead in 1953. The congregation is without a resident pastor at present.
The First Lutheran Church was constructed by Mr. and Mrs. E. K. Berg and was a gift to the Orfordville Lutheran Congregation. Mrs. Berg was a great aunt of Tallie Everson. This group of worshippers affiliated with the Bethlehem Lutheran congregation. The church was sold and converted into a residence.
The Avon Community Church was founded in the Town of Avon and many residents of the City of Brodhead are members of this congregation. People retiring and moving to Brodhead continue their affiliation with this group. Rev. Will Smith is its present pastor.
The Greenwood Cemetery Association was founded in the early days and it stands as a memorial to those men who had forsight in selecting its location and area so that one hundred years later it still serves the community as a final resting place for our loved ones.
The influence of the excellent schools that had been established in early Decatur and Clarence, the high caliber and educational background of their teachers, already described, was absorbed into the community of Brodhead. From the beginning it offered a high level in its schools and education.
In 1857, school district No. 6 was organized, with E. A. West, director; J. T. Sherman, treasurer; and A. Hitchcock, clerk, elected as their first officers.
A room was rented and a school taught. The district needed a new school house. In 1859 the people finally agreed upon a building and location (later purchased by the Catholic congregation), and arranged it into three departments.
In 1866 citizens organized to build an academy. This scheme was later abandoned, and an application made to the legislature of the State of Wisconsin for a special charter for the organization of a school district in Brodhead, and provide for the establishment of a high school, in connection with primary schools, all to be sustained by tax, and made free. The charter was granted March 27, 1867, and Brodhead became an independent district.
In the same year, a school building was erected at a cost of $14,000. In 1896 a four room building, costing $4,000, was erected on the south side of the railroad track, to accomodate the children of that portion of the city.
In 1907 the main building was replaced by a large two story structure, the lower floor containing “spacious and well lighted” rooms for the grades. The upper floor to house the high school.
The plentiful laboratory facilities, a good reference library, a large gymnasium, adequate well kept playgrounds, courses in manual training, sewing for girls, a four year’s course in agriculture, in addition to the common cultural courses, all indicate Brodhead’s progressive educational system.
The schools of Brodhead have always been famous for the excellence of the work done. That the men to supervise them are wisely selected is to note that among them were men who became further recognized in prominent positions; Albert Salisbury, afterwards for many years president of Whitewater State Normal School; H. C. Buell, superintendent of Janesville City Schools; H. S. Youlker, director of practice in the Oshkosh State Normal School; Francis H. McGovern, who became governor of Wisconsin; H. D, Laube, professor emeritus of the College of Law, Cornell University. Brodhead can boast of one of its own sons having dedicated his life to serve the local schools. Carl T. Pfisterer has faithfully served the Brodhead school system as superintendent of schools for 32 years. He not only taught your son and daughter but your grandson and granddaughter.
The school building houses both high school and elementary grades; -an accredited school, it continues to offer progressive, extensive courses.
The September school term of 1939 was postponed for two weeks awaiting the completion of the present addition. The local school district with the help of Federal Aid completed our present addition at a cost of approximately $200,000.00. At that time it seemed that the addition would adequately take care of the school facilities. In less than 20 years the district finds its school rooms overcrowded, due to increase of population, annexation of adjacent farm areas and the changes in modern education. The school district is faced with further and immediate building expansion.
The district comprises the City of Brodhead and parcels of land from Spring Valley, Spring Grove, and the town of Decatur.
The County Normal School, an institution for training rural teachers, originated in Wisconsin. Recognizing the need for special training of teachers for rural schools, the Legislature, in 1899, provided for the establishment of two such schools as an experiment, at Menomonie and Wausau. The plan proved so successful and the schools so popular that the legislature made provisions for expanding the program.
In 1909, the legislature enacted a law requiring a minimum of six weeks professional training for rural teaching.
Supt. of County Schools J. C. Penn persuaded a sufficient number of county board members to have a special session to consider the possibility of obtaining a normal school for Green County. With state aid available, the board members voted on June 20, 1909, by a two-thirds majority, to establish the school.
S. A. Schindler, of New Glarus; M. L. Karney, of Brodhead; with the third appointed board member, Superintendent Penn, were designated to select a temporary location. A spirted rivalry arose, Brodhead, Monticello, and Monroe all seeking the honor. The board finally fixed upon Brodhead and the Normal School was opened here, September 13, 1909, in the upstairs of the Peter Kurt’s building next to the post office.
The permanent location was later fixed at the county seat, Monroe, and is now, by act of legislature, called the Green County Teachers College, offering a two year course instead of the inital one.
Agriculture has always been important to the community from the very beginning. However, it was not in quite the way we think of it today.
The major interest of the earliest pioneers was confined to raising enough to supply the immediate needs of their families, food, shelter, clothing, with plenty of water close by. A garden planted with whatever seed they had brought with them, or were later able to exchange with neighbors; some wheat, corn, oats, raised for their cereals, with a little extra grain to add to the ample pasture and hay for the meager number of stock.
Raising chiefly for their own needs, they expected to consume everything raised on their farms. The fertile prairies, as they continued to be plowed and sowed, produced greater and greater yields until, as a surplus existed, they found an outlet for it in the nearby mining areas and lumber areas further north. It is said that some enterprising farmers, before the railroad came, would load a train of wagons with wheat, oats and pork–take it to the lumbering camps, dispose of it at satisfactory prices, and return home with a load of pine shingles and finishing lumber.
When the times changed, and the mining and lumber camps were supplied by fertile fields closer to home, local farmers sought the more remote markets, Milwaukee, Mineral Point, Galena. This meant that the farmer, driving his ox driven wagon of wheat. headed for one of these markets, “camped out, doing his own cooking along the way,” and if he was overtaken with a “spell” of weather, he was lucky if he got home without being in debt. Sometimes the entire proceeds of a load of wheat would be eaten up in expenses.
By comparison, one can understand the great importance attached to the coming of the railroad. It meant quick transportation for surplus crops, getting them to market in a matter of “eight hours, where it took from two to three weeks by ox team.”
Wheat growing was the principal crop industry as late as 1880. After a scourge of chinch bugs, farmers turned their attention to other crops as a source of income. Gradually diversified cropping developed. Corn became a prolific crop, which resulted in the natural increase in hog raising, it, too becoming a leading industry, along with the grazing of cattle for the beef market.
In the Brodhead area sheep raising became important. During the stimulus to the wool interest caused by the Civil War, many farmers went into sheep husbandry. The climate and soil proved to be of such a nature that it produced sheep and wool of a very desirable quality. Brodhead became a point for wool buyers to congregate. They bought from a large adjacent territory. In 1893, it is said that at least 300,000 pounds of wool were shipped from here. All this added materially to the agricultural interests and income of the community.
” .. For a number of reasons, the want of an efficient dog law, a proper discrimination on the part of Congress on behalf of the farmer,” sheep raising lessened. The past few years, however, sheep raising shows a noticeable increase in the area.
It is said that almost anywhere on this continent, where a hill of corn or potatoes can be made to grow, that some kind of tobacco can be raised! However, there are but a few favored localities where the most desirable kind of cigar tobacco can be successfully produced. The city of Brodhead is surrounded by good tobacco lands. William M. Fleek, packer and dealer in Havanna Leaf established a tobacco factory in 1880. Tobacco raising is still an important crop in the community, though it is not raised nearly as extensively as it used to be.
To secure an ideal tobacco, it is necessary for a quick, steady, uniform growth. Lack of moisture at critical periods is fatal to first-class results. A dry spell often nearly ruins a crop, while plenty of moisture makes it highly profitable.
T. S. Sherwood in his “City of Brodhead, 1893” enthusiastically acclaimed the benefits of farm irrigation, especially in the sandy soil of this area. He stated that easily twenty to forty acres of this land could be easily irrigated, with one flowing well, which in case of drouth or dry weather, would keep the ground moist under the growing plant.
He advocated irrigation for other crops, saying, “There is no part of our country where irrigation can be made more profitable than here. With a stream of water flowing from an eight or ten foot well, forty acres can be protected from any dry spell, and the average production can be increased four fold, bringing increase to the value of the land as well.”
Water levels have dropped greatly since Mr. Sherwood’s day, and a general system of irrigation for agriculture could not be effected quite as easily now. That it is a practical, profitable thing to consider, however, is interestingly proved today at the Pine Bluff Fruit Farm, southwest of Brodhead. Operated by Albert (Bob) Ten Eyck, is a system of irrigation for his crops, diverting and utilizing water from Sugar River. Three other successful truck farms, showing a growth in fruit and garden agricultural tendencies, are well known throughout the area. (Bob is a descendant from the Ten Eycks who had the first log dwelling east of the river, as told in the Clarence Village story).
The first farmers, here as elsewhere, not understanding the science of farming, had greatly depleted the fertility of much of the lands. Farming, as then practiced, was a quick method of land exhaustion. Straw stacks were invariably burned, the value of manure was not known. The aim was to secure the largest crop for the smallest outlay of capital, without understanding regard for the future. Farming today has become a science, which any good farmer can tell you, with many new grasses introduced, soil testing, fertilization, and good soil practices for restoring and maintaining good crop land.
Dairying was the natural interest to enter Brodhead’s agricultural scheme of things. The dairy industry brought prosperity here as it did to the rest of Green County. Along with dairying and stock raising, came a better understanding to farming.
With an abundance of milk, it was not long until cheese factories and a creamery appeared on the horizon. In 1870 it is noted that M. S. Twining, from New York State, established a cheese factory five miles north of Brodhead. Possessed of a fifty cow herd, he made nine tons of cheese one year from an average of 3,200 pounds of milk per cow.
In January, 1882, the Brodhead Creamery was organized by some of the principal farmers and businessmen of this vicinity. The first year about 75,000 pounds of butter were made. “The farmers about Brodhead are to be congratulated on this institution with its practical business like management, for there is no branch of agriculture of more importance to the farmer than dairy interests.”
Today there are a goodly number of individual and corporation cheese factories, and the long established Goldenrod Creamery.
Brodhead is still primarily an agricultural community; its prosperity dependent largely upon its rural agricultural area. It is still a big livestock town, buying and shipping large numbers of cattle and hogs.
Travelling south from Brodhead on the Rock-Green County Line one would think that he was entering the northern part of the state. One sees acres and acres of evergreen trees of all sizes and species. This Christmas tree project was started by M. W. Meienburg and his brother-in-law, C. H. Rusterholz. The project has assumed vast proportions and has rapidly developed into a very thriving enterprise.
Manufacturing & Industry
Brodhead has, however, been above average in the number of manufacturing concerns it has had for the size of the community. Among these was the manufacturer of the celebrated plows and cultivators that made known the name of the city and its works far and wide.
This industry was established by the Norwegian Plow Company in 1873 later transferred into hands of Brodhead Manufacturing Co., and in 1887 Mr. G. M. Pierce became sole owner of the plow and agricultural part of the plant. He manufactured a large quantity of plows and other implements and large numbers of the Glow Tobacco Transplanters.
F. F. Pierce, proprietor of the foundly part of the plant, manufactured a superior line of pumps of his own invention.
Mr. J. W. Dies in his Brodhead Foundry and Machine, established in 1876, was reputedly an important factor in the growth of the city. Here they were prepared to repair, or construct new, almost anything made of steel or iron, “-specializing in his foundry of thimble skein, iron columns and a full line of castings; also the repairing of steam engines and harvesting machines.”
The Bartlett and Sons Wagon and Carriage Works, manufactured carriages, wagons, sleighs and cutters, with a general blacksmithing and repair department.
O. J. Barr manufactured carriages and farm wagons in varieties to suit the demands of the trade, besides a large business in cutters, sleighs, bicycles.
A similar shop was originally founded by Mr. Laube in 1867, subsequently joined by Antone Durner.
“In 1856, a Mr. Gosling, who operated a blacksmith shop was displaying his new invention, which does entirely away with the usual manner of resetting a tire on a wheel. The loose tires are placed in this machine, and contracted to proper size by pressure and welding.”
“In 1870 C. G. Spaulding manufactured a refrigerator with zinc and packed with charcoal and sawdust that sold for $7.00 and couldn’t be beat for keeping things cold.”
“Loucks and Monell were now manufacturing 3,000 sleds, 3,000 animal pokes and 6,000 Northwestern hand corn planters a year.”
This generation is not without its inventive ability. A local son, Stanley Knight, perfected a tree planting device, widely used, and introduced a very satisfactory new type of unloader wagon and manure spreader.
The manufacturing of implements, carriages, wagons, has been replaced by up to date implement business and car dealers, the village smithy by numerous garages.
In recent years there has been quite a flurry of small industry. Presently operating is the R. C. Allen Company, manufacturing business machines, typewriters and office equipment.
Truly representative of the trend of the times is Capital Plastics, Inc., now operating in Brodhead. It is one of the few concerns in the United States engaged in manufacturing plastic molding compounds. While it is not a large production firm, a great deal of interesting experimentation is conducted in the various processes of making their product. The plastic consists of synthetic resin and filler combination. A syrup is made using the raw materials, formaldehyde and urea and other essential additions.
This mixture undergoes aging and reaction processes, and then is mixed with cellulose. Finally it resembles a pure white sawdust, soft, fluffy and moist. Dried in ovens, subjected to further chemical tests, ground, with extra additions, the cured plastic flour resembles wheat flour when fresh from the mills.
The product leaves the Brodhead factory as Spectron and Star dust molding materials. An uncolored powder is shipped to the Rochester, New York, factory for button manufacture, tile colored granular material in making colorful cosmetic bottle and jar caps, jewelry and watch boxes, lazy susan trays.
The dressy, attractive buttons made for use on clothing for both men and women, are durable and not harmed by dry cleaning or hot irons.
Employing from 18 to 30 people at the Brodhead factory, it is an excellent example of what could happen in further industrial development here.
At one time the Sugar River clam shells were shipped in large numbers to factories making pearl buttons, but from “Buttons and Bows” -to the new plastics-it tells its own Centennial story.
Merchandising, like all other forms of industry or endeavor, progresses with the demands of the time and the ever changing will of the people. Today Shopping Centers -Super Markets -are replacing the cracker Barrel Store of yesteryear.
Brodhead merchants have advanced with our ever changing times and Sidney and Norabelle Stair were the first in Brodhead to establish a Super Market outside the regular business district, providing ample parking space, and along the theme of the Shopping Center. The original structure was erected by them in 1948 and additions have been added in 1952, 1954 and 1955. The name Stair has been associated with the grocery and general merchandise stores in Brodhead for over 72 years.
Sidney is one of the descendents carrying the banner of his ancestors.
The importance of settling where an ample supply of water existed has already been described. Meeting the needs for earliest settlers, was the wooden pump at the old town well on Brodhead’s Square, and a tank where the horses drank. There were no drilled wells in those days, and the town well, as were individual family wells which began to appear, were dug wells.
“The town well was stoned or bricked up, and it must be there now, under the modern pavement of today.” A public fountain stood at the approximate location until recent years.
As the population of Brodhead increased, the question of water supply assumed proportions. After much discussion and careful investigation, it was determined to have an artesian well. Doctor Davis, in his Centennial paper says, “The water supply for the city was first furnished by two eight inch artesian wells. When these began to lose their efficiency, a battery of shallow drilled wells near the plant were put into operation as an auxiliary to the artesian supply. In 1935 a new 20 inch artesian well was drilled and cased with wrought iron down to solid rock, and continued from there with a 15 inch hole down to 995 feet, or to solid granite, from which we are getting our present water supply.
The water was originally pumped by two Fairbanks-Morse reciprocating pumps rated at 45 gallons each per minute. Now, however, a new pumping station has been completed and houses a new deep well pump, a standby gas engine to be used in emergencies, and corrosion control equipment which has proved very successful. This project cost, installed, $8,500.00.
Up until 1921 the water supply was forced through the mains by direct pressure which proved to be very inefficient. Since 1921 the present water tower was built–height, including tower and tank being 144 feet. This has provided very efficient service, regardless of how many consumers use it at a time. The mains and new fire hydrants have been added to as required, throughout the city.”
The typical story of lighting was experienced in the community, “braided wicks in saucers of fat;” the lighted resin soaked pine knot; “coal oil,” as kerosene was called; gas lamps; and finally electricity. The modern generation of our time, with all the benefits of today’s electricity and push button controls, can never quite realize the thrill experienced when the first electric drop cord, hung from the ceiling in a home or a place of business, with one meager bulb inserted in the cord socket. Simply push a button – and there was light! No more smoky kerosene lamp chimneys to clean, no more fragile gas mantles to handle gingerly, no more smelly lamps to fill!
The first electric utility was acquired by the city from Mr. George Pierce, during the mayorality term of “Win” Pengra. Eventually a power house, modern for the time, and a revamped electric system, was effected. Two modern A.C. units were instaIled. The commission in 1927 installed a modern lighting system in the business area.
The municipal utilities have proved very beneficial, the Water and Light Commission turning over to the city an average of from $7,000.00 to $10,000.00 a year on 6% earnings and taxation of the utilities, showing excellent administration.
This Centennial year is an eventful year or the Water and Lighting Commission, with the new pumping station south of the power house, and the recently installed street lights that flood Brodhead’s business district with fluorescent lights for her Centennial birthday party.
The latter project called for 21 poles and 25 fixtures. The new lights are three times as powerful as the replaced lights. Beautiful all-aluminum poles hold the fluorescent fixtures 30 feet above the street. There is an outlet on each pole for decorations or for other desired uses. The cost of the project is in the vicinity of $16,000.00 to be absorbed by the Power and Lighting Commission, at no cost to the taxpayer.
Wisconsin Power & Light Company recently completed work at the plant to increase their supply of electricity to Brodhead. This will necessitate a job of reorganizing the switchboard at the local plant, according to Dale Johnson, efficient and progressive plant superintendent.
The Brodhead plant produces 20% of the electricity used locally, and the Wisconsin Power and Light Company the remaining 80%. The extra power “takes the jolt when heavy motors cut in.”
With perfected utilities, sanitation requirements were extended as needed.
There are no known records recording any type of fire protection for Brodhead from 1856-1870.
After Brodhead was incorporated as a village, the newly elected village board named W. A. Wheaton the Chief Fire Engineer. The village clerk recorded the statement that “property owners in the business district must have buckets in the proper place for fire protection.”
Through the years, under able leadership, the department has developed from the first hand drawn hook and ladder unit purchased in 1872 into “a volunteer department second to none” in 1956. A vote of appreciation is extended to Frank H. Dedrick, fire chief for 25 years before retiring, a record unequalled.
“The first new engine house was located where Bjork’s Restaurant now stands, near the railroad station. Beside the station a seventy foot tower was erected for the fire bell, and the town curfew bell also hung in the tower. Years later, when the fire department moved into the present station, the old engine house was moved to the edge of the city.”
In the early years, from 1884, the department had two “storage cisterns,” warranted to hold one year, which they built at strategic locations for the fire protection of the city. One of these cisterns is said to still be beneath the street on Tenth Street in the 500 block, near the high school, and to be in as sound condition as when it was built.
It is said that malcreants were locked in one of the freight cars in the depot yards, until a primitive jail was built on Lot No. 3 in Block 109.
The present jail is located in the city hall building.
F. M. Ties, who reached retirement a few years ago, has the longest record for serving as police chief, a span of more than 25 years. Duane Youngblood, and his staff of three, now efficiently serve the city.
Police officers are Clifford Ames, Frank Garwell and Agendrew Heffner.
With an efficient telephone exchange, a small but excellent public library, hotel, a system of fine parks, planned recreation activities, fine churches, civic and cultural activities, a splendid weekly newspaper, exceptional medical advantages, a briskly progressive business district, beautiful residential areas, Brodhead, with a present population of 2,016, is a city which continues to rank far above the average for its size.
The city still retains a bit of the old–a great deal of the new. To review a few of these:
Perhaps it may seem strange but in keeping some of the old, the residents of Brodhead can point with pride to their telephones hanging on the wall. The same type phones are now being universally advertised among collectors items of antiques.
Though the village of Decatur was absorbed into the growth of Brodhead, the beauty spot of the old Decatur site and surrounding area has, through the years, played an important part in the recreational activity of the city. Mr. H. C. Putnam, “With great appreciation of the beauties of this picturesque, natural park, with its delightful grove and wooded knolls, the crystal spring and winding river, and being mindful of its easy access from Brodhead, just three miles away; of the delightful drives and boating, secured title to a choice part of the park. It was named Camp Putnam.” Building a cottage first, for his family, Brodhead friends and neighbors who visited them were so impressed with the healthful recreation, that it was not long before other cottages and club houses were erected.
The fame of “Decatur Park,” as it was soon called, rather than Camp Putnam, spread far and wide. It has been a popular recreation spot, fishing, boating, swimming, not only for Brodhead, but for families from miles around, for nearly fifty years.
Today Brodhead has a Boat Club–and it is not unusual to see (and hear!), from 20 to 30 motor boats heading for Decatur Park via the Race. Should you care to drive along the road that follows the side of the race to the Parks-you will find still standing in old Decatur, the one room stone school house built in 1850, and still operating as a rural school; taught this past year by Mrs. Robert Ryan. Another remaining building is a residence now being lived in by the Harold Roenneburgs.
You can see the dam built to course the river through the race so that early Brodhead mills and manufacturing plants might have water power, and to generate the dynamo for the present municipal electric and power plant in Brodhead.
In direct view, too, is the Decatur Lake Country Club, with its beautiful golf course.
Brodhead also maintains a North and a South Side Park. Known as Putnam Memorial Park, it stands within the north edge of the city, near the Race bridge. The South side park is to the right of highway 11 as you come into Brodhead from the southwest.
Just across highway 11, on the north edge of the city, is the fine park built by the Brodhead American Legion Post. It is used by the high school for an athletic field and by baseball teams.
There is now a city summer recreation plan, with a summer recreation director employed by the city. This past year a band director has been employed to give more summer recreation activities and six concerts during the summer months. Possessed of a fine high school band, in May Brodhead was host for the first time to the district band tournament which brought 12 bands together in competition.
The churches take an active interest in all community enterprises. Their Centennial preparations are a fine example. Among other things, the “100 Year Festival of Music” was sponsored by the clergy of the community, the music for the choir composed of the many community church choirs.
The Garden Club members, through their program proj ects, are veritable custodians to help maintain and further the garden-like beauty of Brodhead, bringing assurance that “-The rose-Shall continue-to bloom.”
A hotel built in 1868, the Young House, by John A. Young, has operated continuously, under various managements and is presently owned and operated by Roy McBride. A fine three story structure, it was always a leading hotel in Brodhead and the area.
Rooms are presently available for travelers, and for roomers who live regularly at the hotel. It now houses a public dining room, a tap room, and a coffee bar-where at one time or another one may meet most of the businessmen or women of Brodhead, enjoying the “coffee break,” the institution created by this generation.
Brodhead’s excellent weekly newspaper,
“The Independent-Register” (now owned and published by Dan Markham and sons) is the outgrowth of two separate papers, originally published under the names of the “Independent” and the “Register.”
~ Marshall Dan (Danny), the older son, was the second athlete from Brodhead to win letters for athletic prowess at the University of Wisconsin. Danny was the star on the basketball teams of 1948, ’49 and ’50. Danny was acting captain of the team in 1950. His special column founded and edited by him called “Around the Town,” appears weekly in the paper.
– Francis Gombar received a letter for Cross Country and his was the first.
The “Independent” was established in 1860 and owned by a joint stock company, with I. F. Mack as president. Because most of the stockholders never paid up on their shares, Mr. Mack was practically the sole owner. It was owned by the senior, and later junior, Mack for some time.
After an interesting “life,” it was, in 1908, purchased by Steele and Schempp, and merged with the “Register.” The “Register” had been established in 1883, by Louis A. Sprague. After his death it passed through several hands until it came into the possession of Schempp and Steele, and was then, as stated, by them merged with the “Independent.”
(And what a pleasure it was, in the preparation of this Centennial story, to peruse some dozen scrap books filled with newspaper clippings that were published as far back as the 60’s!)
In these days of rigid legal requirements, long years of study and specialized medicine, it is hard to realize how little was required to entitle one to practice in pioneer days.
The average oldtime practitioner had seldom seen the inside of a medical college. He learned his art under the direction of another practitioner; served as apprentice to an older man, learning by observation, experience, and such medical books as were available. “The principal physician based his practice on the belief than when blisters, calomel and lancet will not save a man, nothing will save him. Physicians seem to have been distinguished by peculiarities in dress, rather than by their practice. There was one who always was called the calico doctor, not than there was anything unusual at that time in the calico coat he wore, but the name was distinctive because his principal rival always wore buckskin clothes and a coonskin cap.”
“The physician was never called by the pioneers except in extreme cases. Much of the treatment of diseases was performed by the mother or grandmother of each family, or for the entire community by some old lady who had a local reputation for skill. Every family had its smpply of ‘roots and herbs’ for the treatment of the most common diseases. Some of the most common among these were boneset, wormwood, pennyroyal, smartweed, tansy, sarasaparilla.”
Again, however, Brodhead was far above average, with Dr. Springstead, an accredited doctor, moving immediately from Clarence Village to this city, and continued through the years to attract further professional men-and to offer continued excellent professional service.
Medical advantages today continue to be superior for the size of the city and for the large surrounding area to which they administer. With the trend toward clinics, this need was met in 1950 with the construction of the Stuessy Clinic, offering complete medical diagnostic facilities, treatment and emergency operating rooms.
Most of the buildings in the substantial business district are buildings that were erected by the turn of the century. The buildings were constructed “to last.” Some few new ones have been built, and others extensively remodeled, mostly in the interior, housing every manner of business needed to meet the material necessities, the recreation of the people, and their community.
Brodhead attracts a large shopping area.
This is easily understood, because extensive stocks offered in all the stores and shops are comparable to those found in much larger cities.
Along with the “butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker,”-as the old rhyme goes, and the “doctor, lawyer, merchant chief,” Brodhead has fine representation in the field of law.
The law profession has developed into an intricate system since the pioneer “Justice of the Peace,” in territorial days, who seldom had formal education to prepare him for the profession. He was usually selfeducated, or had been apprenticed to some graduate legal advisor. He owned a few law books, and “-read and administered the law.”
The present City Attorney, Joseph L. Stencel, is also attorney to the Centennial Corporation Committee. With the newly elected Mayor, Carl Synstegard, the regular city officers, Brodhead’s active Chamber of Commerce, the various lodges, organizations, committees, and individuals working “way beyond the line of duty,” the pre-planning and activities have been highly enthusiastic and successful. That the Centennial birthday party will be a further success, is assured. There is no doubt that it will enter the realms of history as one of the finest accomplishments in Brodhead.
One of the most noteworthy experiences in the Centennial planning was the “Kickoff” Centennial Banquet sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, honoring eight men who have served Brodhead for at least 50 years. It also served as the official opening of the Centennial Year, and established June 21, 22, 23 and 24 as the Centennial Days. It was held in the Knights of Pythias quarters the evening of January 30 and served by the Pythian Sisters. More than 200 residents of the Brodhead area attended.
The eight honored guests were Dr. F. H. Davis, dentist and a former mayor; Dr. A. N. Lawton, veterinarian and a former mayor; B. H. Roderick, lumberman and banker; F. H. Dedrick, hardware merchant; D. L. Amerpohl, former merchant and banker; M. J. Condon, former meat market operator and livestock dealer; G. E. Dixon, former newspaper publisher; and J. W. Laube, former blacksmith and hardware merchant.
Joseph Stencel was the successful master of ceremonies; Truman Olin, president, spoke for the Chamber of Commerce; Frederick Duchow, president of the Centennial Committee, gave a comprehensive outline of the plans of the committee; a bearded quartette, G. N. Swartz, Joe Koller, Dr. Jack Hanson and Paul Haraldson sang three songs. The high school orchestra furnished dinner music. Dean Peterson, a member of the Brothers of the Brush, presented the guests with beard and shaving permits.
A gift of gold cuff links and tie clasps was presented to each guest. “Certificates for meritorious citizenship, and fifty years of unselfish service to the Community of Brodhead,” were presented by Dwight I. Pierce, chairman of the banquet committee. Reverend J. C. Robertson gave the blessing. The certificates were hand lettered by artist Frank Engebretson, who has gained national and international fame as a barn muralist.
Mrs. Donald Edwards and Mrs. Duane Youngblood sang a duet and led in the community singing.
But the real highlights of the evening were the talks by the eight honored guests, historical in most part, they included humorous incidents that kept the gala occasion in an uproar until the last minute of activity.
Four of the seven guests are still in very active business, Dr. F. H. Davis, dentist, Dr. A. N. Lawton, veterinarian; B. H. Roderick, lumber dealer and banker; F. H. Dedrick, hardware dealer. The death of Mr. Dixon in the interim since the dinner saddens the community.
Dr. Davis, as oldest living ex-mayor, was proclaimed “Centennial Mayor.”
The oldest living residents in the city today are Mr. Charles Ramey, 95. The Rameys originally came from Windsor, New York, in an ox drawn wagon. He resides with his daughter, Mrs. Ralph Krueger. Mrs. Lillian Johnson, 95, lives with her daughter, Mrs. E. L. Dixon. She was born in Brodhead in 1861, the daughter of F. M. Holcomb, who came from Connecticut in 1853.
Life is a continuing challenge, and with purpose, becomes an exciting, satisfying, meaningful experience.
It has been such an experience in the past story of Brodhead.
Entering the new century, there is every indication for a bright and successful future.
Well located on highway 11, Brodhead offers triple opportunity for individual and business transportation; the highway and good surrounding roads; the airport landing field just south of the city; the Milwaukee railroad. The same railroad through which Brodhead established its birthright; which has served all through its history, and still meets the needs for shipping freight and livestock; and for minor passenger transportation.
With a substantial agricultural program, further stimulation in industrial effort; possessed with the stabilities a well balanced small city has to offer, there is a “quickening” in the community.
Combining the steady, mature influences, and the courage, confidence and zeal of the younger generations, Brodhead will continue to ” … achieve much to be remembered by the passing generations.
I am truly appreciative to the many Brodhead people who granted interviews, and for all the family records, scrap books and countless other sources of data made available.
Drafted at a late date to compile and edit the Centennial story, it grew, a bit as Topsy, as good material long buried in trunks was found and rushed to me.
Whatever the resultant loss in literary effort it gains through the zeal of the people and their material.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I especially wish to offer my sincerest thanks to R. C. Lyons and Joseph L. Stencel who so ably assisted me in the preparation of this article.
They are so imbued with the Spirit of Success for the Centennial that their devotion to the cause is far beyond a human’s expectation in civic endeavors.
The preparation of this history, in the allotted time, would not have been possible without the assistance, untiring efforts and the willingness to do of Ray and Joe. To them I am greatly indebted.