At our September 29, 2014 meeting, Tim Plum presented his video documentary on the “History of the Turner House” between Brodhead and Albany. Tim has graciously allowed us to post the video here. Enjoy!
–by Pat Weeden
Those of you who were able to attend the March 31, 2014 meeting of the Brodhead Historical Society heard a very interesting presentation by Doug Tomas of East Troy, Wis., who talked about his “great uncle Berg”, TSgt. Charles L. Berg who was the flight engineer of a B-24 bomber, “Ready, Willing and Able” in WWII. The B-24 was part of the 512th Squadron, 376th Bomb Group, the “Liberandos.” Since Doug’s presentation, the story has taken a surprising, and very local twist. First, some of Doug’s original story is below:
“Sadly, “Ready, Willing and Able” and its crew were shot down on a mission over Vicenza, Italy in northeastern Italy on the 28th of December, 1943. On that mission, three squadrons of the 376th Bomb Group, with a total of 17 B-24s, were attacked before getting to the target by a large number of German fighters that shot down all six aircraft of the 512th Squadron, and two each from the 514th and 515th Squadrons. My great-uncle, and four others of the crew, were killed that day. Five crew members survived. I was very fortunate in my research to be able to contact all five survivors.
Along the way, I was contacted by Giuseppe Versalato in Vicenza, Italy, who was researching these bombing missions over his city. We became very good friends and pen-pals, and exchanged quite a lot of information over the years. Not long ago, Giuseppe informed me they had determined that a known B-24 crash site from the 28th of December, 1943, was that of my great-uncle’s aircraft, based on information I had provided him about the crew, and the notes in a priest’s diary, who had gone to the crash site to attend to those who were still onboard.”
Doug spoke about traveling to Vicenza, Italy, visiting several crash sites from that day in 1943 and attending a ceremony attended by U.S. military personnel and local dignitaries where a memorial marker was placed near Berg’s crash site.
The day after Doug’s presentation, things got more interesting. Most Brodhead Historical Society members know Winona Walters, one of our original members and our first curator. Winona couldn’t attend the previous day’s meeting but had heard about Doug’s story and wanted to contact him. An excerpt from Winona’s e-mail to Doug is here:
“Dear Doug: My name is Winona Walters and I am a member of the Brodhead Historical Society. I was unable to attend the meeting last week, where you presented a talk about the above subject.
My oldest brother’s name was Sgt. John Albert Swearingen, 376 Bomb Group, 512 Bomb Squad. He was in a B-24, piloted by Lt. Paul Brown. The name of their plane was Mizpah. They were shot down over Vicenza, Italy on Dec.. 28, 1943. The three officers on board were kept alive and captured, but any crew member that survived the bailing out were killed by Italian soldiers. The enlisted men who died there were said to be buried in a field by the Italians.
I would appreciate hearing from you if you have any other information about what happened to my brother’s remains. It was a source of great sorrow to my parents and his siblings to not even know where his body lays.”
If you’re paying attention, you’ve noticed that both men were in the same B-24 squadron and shot down on the same mission. As Doug would tell me later, “…a shiver went down my spine when I read Winona’s message.” Doug tells the rest of the story (to date) here:
“Last night, we went to Winona’s home in Brodhead, and met with her, her son, and his daughter (her granddaughter), and shared with her the information we had found, and especially the information Giuseppe had from his research.
The information she had was they had never been able to locate her brother’s body after that mission over Vicenza. What actually happened, was that he had not been able to bail out of the aircraft, along with six other crew members, and after the crash and fire, the Germans, and later the U.S. Army, were unable to positively identify each body. So he, as well as his other crew members were, and still are listed as ‘missing’, where ‘unidentified’ or ‘unknown’ is a more accurate description.
We did find documentation that they had been buried at the military cemetery in Vicenza. This was the same place my great-uncle was buried, and Giuseppe had taken me to visit when we were in Italy. Later the men’s bodies were moved to the U.S. Military cemetery in Mirandola, and postwar, again moved to now the U.S. military cemetery in Florence. So I was able to share with her 70 years later, we do know where he is buried, but not specifically which grave.”
Doug was able to show Winona a picture of the marker at the cemetery in Florence that had her brother’s name engraved, “Sgt. John Albert Swearingen”. She and her family had never known about this. It is quite an amazing story and it all came from a coincidental guest speaker at one of the regular meetings of the Brodhead Historical Society.
Don’t miss another meeting!
In the Fall of 2012, this 1958 painting by F.H. Engebretson was given to the Brodhead Historical Society by the family of Franklyn II “Bud” and Kathryn (Kay) Condon. A phone conversation between Carol Gombar and Pete Condon gave us the following information.
During 1958, an addition was built onto the (Bud and Kay) Condon house at 407 W. 2nd Ave. in Brodhead. This added onto the rear of the house and made an upper “boys’ dorm room” for Pete and his younger brothers. Their parents arranged for Mr. Engebretson, a neighbor who painted signs, barn murals and also pictures in other sizes, to paint two pictures right on walls upstairs. One was in the large “dorm room”, and one* in the room of the eldest son, Franklyn III. It is not known who selected the topics or themes for these paintings, but it is likely that Mr. Engebretson chose the themes, and the parents approved them.
This painting, from the larger room, was done in mostly exterior enamels and/or house paints (Mr. Engebretson’s usual method) on half-inch drywall wallboard which was on an outer wall of the room. When the painting was finished, carpenters built desks and other items around it and on other walls for the convenience of the boys. Pete remembers: “Dad would go upstairs every day where Mr. Engebretson was painting, and sit and watch, and companionably talk to him. Finally, Engebretson said to him in exasperation, “If you want me to get this painting done Bud, you’ll have to go away so I can think while I work!” Dad did, and everyone was pleased with the painting when it was done.”
In the fall of 2012, when the family decided to give the painting to the Historical Society, it was not definite that it could be removed safely from the wall. Pete Condon supervised the work, cutting around the perimeter, removing nails that went through the drywall construction, and re-gluing small painted pieces that had flexed free. It was laid flat on the floor and a backing of exterior-grade plywood was applied with non-acidic glue, and the framing subsequently applied to the front. It is now very heavy, requiring special handling and hanging methods.
When not displayed for public viewing, this picture will be carefully stored in one of our climate-controlled facilities.
*The second painting, in Franklyn III’s room, was painted directly on a lath-and-plaster wall surface and is not removable for preservation.
—Jerry Phillips, President, Bayfield Heritage Association
Why is that so many of us only get interested in “local history” at the passing of our parents or other family elders? Invariably, we wish that we had taped their stories, or had at least taken notes. This is certainly true of both me and my wife, Mary May Stuessy Phillips, (Brodhead class of ‘62) as we both lost parents young in life without recording their amazing life stories.
But, after someone’s death, we’ve lost the opportunity to get that first person account. And this is the “meat” of local history, the stories of those folks who lived through the ups and downs of our communities and responded to the important events with their stories, their memories. This dilemma is certainly not unique to any one town, but perhaps there is a solution to prevent further loss.
One of the most successful projects I’ve been involved with has been a “community profiles” project to video aging members. Carried out under the umbrella of the local history group, the Bayfield Heritage Association (BHA), this ongoing project simply involves having a group of local history society volunteers develop a running list of potential interviewees that the group then systematically tapes responding to a list of researched questions. After almost thirty years of this ongoing project, we realize the immense value of these tapes. We have copies available at the Public Library and the school, and we sell copies as the need arises. These are constantly in demand.
We have also come to realize the great loss to our community of those folks we didn’t get to tape. As a result, we now have established the profiles as an ongoing project, with the goal of doing anywhere from 10 to 20 of these videos every year, and have expanded it to include taping some younger members of the community. While many of these recordings have been edited, this is not as important as it is to simply get the stories.
Another concern for many local history groups is how to interest our youngest community, our school aged students. Perhaps the best way I’ve found is through getting the school to participate in the National History Day program. By now, many thousands of Wisconsin students have participated and “gotten bit by the history bug” through History Day, and I highly recommend every community to get involved through the Wisconsin Historical Society. There are many options for participation, with a regional competition leading to a state and then national competition.
This year, Bayfield is sending nine students who made it through the Regionals to Madison for the state event, and we’re hopeful we will have someone advance to the national event. These are now nine “raving fans” of history. Though the projects need not be locally focused, many are, leading to these students developing an interest in their family and/or community history.
History is truly being made every day, and it is important that each one of us participates to the extent that we can to tell “our story.” This story is not one of simply the “movers and shakers,” but of an entire community. Most of us live ordinary lives and the amalgam of these stories is community.
I hope that everyone in and around Brodhead will see the beauty and significance of your community/area story. It is like a quilt, made up of countless patches, each representing a life. Each patch is not simply interesting, each is ESSENTIAL to telling the story. To know our town …and thus ourselves …is to know as many of these stories as possible. Who can understand or appreciate a quilt missing half the pieces?
Editor’s note: The importance of community participation in preserving local history cannot be overstated. As Mr. Phillips notes, it is not just about the “movers and shakers” or even just the big projects like the Mill Race featured here and in our new museum exhibits. Local history is about everyone’s story and the ability to compile that information for future generations. Do you want to participate? Tell your story or that of your family. Send us your contributions in writing or arrange for a video interview. Contact us today for information.
Excerpts from the latest book by Gregg Condon, “The Misadventures of Grape and Steve; “Stories of childhood; suitable for adults only.” The book features recollections of growing up in Brodhead by Condon and Steve Saunders.
STICK WITH ME! Raining cats and dogs. Man, what a dark day! Incessant downpour. Raining just as hard as it can rain. A lot of kids are going to get soaked on the walk home from school. Very few moms would be showing up with a car–everybody walked, and parents didn’t own their kids’ transportation problems. Besides, almost no families had two cars; and dad would have the family car at work.
A shoulder-to-shoulder throng of munchkins crowds the cloak room. Yes, it was a cloak room, even though we wore coats. And Roger Ames whispers, “Stick with me!” I couldn’t imagine what was up, but I was game. We emerged into the frigid autumn monsoon. Yikes, it was a terrible day. And there at curbside was the city’s only police car! We made a quick dash and soon were enjoying its dry confines.
Officer Ames took us to the police station. He locked us in the jail cell, and we laughed our butts off. He showed us the gun rack full of real guns. He opened the door to the firehouse and for a long delightful hour we had unsupervised play all over those wonderful machines.
Chip Ames was the perfect smalltown cop. The Fifties were golden. Brodhead was “Mayberry.” If there was a prototype for Andy Griffith’s sheriff character, Chip Ames was it. From all I ever saw of him, he was the ideal dad, too. Jeez, I respected that man!
CHIP AMES Roger Ames–Amo–and I were at Ames’ house. We were making ready for an eight-mile round trip on our bikes to a certain pond out past the lake at Decatur. We were going to shoot frogs, and I was packin’ my trusty pellet pistol. Amo had a BB gun.
Chip Ames was our hometown cop, and I wasn’t sure what he’d say about a Sixth Grader ridin’ his bike down the road whilst carryin’ a handgun. I didn’t have long to wait. Says he, “You think you’re going to ride a bike eight miles carrying a pistol?” “Yeah,” I tentatively replied. “Well here,” said the good officer, “let me get you a holster.” He fetched several, and we tried ‘em on for size till we found one that would best fit my gun.
By golly, there was no prouder boy in all of Green County than I was that morning, ridin’ my bike and packin’ my piece in a real police officer’s holster!
Following is the text of a letter written in 1840 by Mr. John Howe, an early settler in the Rock County, Wisconsin Territory, to his parents back east. Mr. Howe had come west to Rock County from Vermont and built a house by hand, using field stone and other local materials. Amazingly, this 160 year-old house still stands between Brodhead and Orfordville and was the subject of a fascinating talk by Everett Klusmeyer at our February members meeting.
As you read, imagine coming west by ship and then by wagon to the “frontier” Wisconsin Territory, by yourself, in an age with no telephone, no cars, no railroads, no shopping centers and little in the way of civic infrastructure or medical care. These are the hardy souls who built and defined the area as we know it today.
The letter below is printed courtesy of Everett Klusmeyer.
To John Howe, Esq., Danville, Vermont
It has been a long time since I left home, the reason why I have not written is because I have to had an opportunity. But I feel very anxious to hear from home. I want to hear how you get along. My health has been rather poor since I came here, I have had the ague [similar to malaria] which is a hard disorder. But I have take quinine and broke it, have not had a shake for about a week, shall soon be able to go to work. The ague is not considered dangerous if attended to in season. I think I took the ague in Michigan for people who come across the lakes in this country do not have the ague very often. I think this is as healthy a country as Vermont. The soil is very fertile producing every kind of grain and every kind of vegetable that one can wish.
This is one of the most delightful countries to look upon as there is in the world. The prairies which extend as far as the eye can reach without a tree. There is a prairie about one mile from this place which contains 64,000 acres, a smart chance for a farm as the Housier says. The prairie wolf inhabits these vast prairies. You can hear them howl very often in the night but hardly ever see one. They will hear you and lay flat upon the ground so that you cannot see them. They are about as large as a common sized dog. There are plenty of deer, wild geese (no turkey) ducks, hill cranes, fish of every description inhabit the rivers, Catfish, Pike, Pickeriel, Rock Bass, Red Horre and a great many other kinds. Rock River is one of the handsomest rivers in the world. It’s bottom is rocky as any in the east, its current is about 2 miles per hour.
I will give you prices of grain: wheat 50 cents, corn 20 cents, oats 12 and a half. Other things in proportion. I can buy factory clothes as cheap here as in Vermont. I am satisfied that a man could get a bushel and a half of wheat and from 5 to 6 bushel of corn for one days work. I expect to work in the mill this winter if my health is so I can. If I work in the mill it will be at the rapids about 50 miles from Janesville up the river. I am very much pleased with this country.
I saw Mr. Dunken, Mrs. Hale, Ira and Gideon Cobby, Albert Chamberlain, and (?) Suis. Suis has the ague. I want to hear from you very much. Write all the news and let me know how you get along. I have no more to write at present so Good Bye. Direct your letters to Janesville, Rock County, Wisconsin Territory.
Sept. 28, 1842
From your faithful son,
J. Howe, Jr.
—By Gregg Condon
On Monday, April 30, 2012, I had the tremendously enjoyable opportunity to present a program to the Brodhead Historical Society titled, “The Railroads and Brodhead.”
“Railroads,” plural? Yes, just before the Milwaukee and Mississippi (M&M, early corporate name of the Milwaukee Road) planned to build “our” line from Milton Junction through Janesville to Monroe, Green County citizens were already seeking a rail route here. The first railroad in Illinois ran from Chicago to Galena via Rockford, and so Rockford seemed a logical connection to the “outside world” for a Green County railroad. Where would the north end of this railroad be? They weren’t sure, but probably somewhere along the Wisconsin River where it would connect with Wisconsin’s first railroad – the M&M route from Milwaukee through Madison to Prairie du Chien. It seems strange today, but many railroads were well along with their construction before it was determined where the ending point would be.
And so the Sugar River Valley Railroad (SRV) was incorporated. Investors were almost entirely farmers and store keepers from Green County, especially around Albany. Nathaniel Condon mortgaged his farm to buy stock in the company. Railroads didn’t always start construction at one end; sometimes they would start at some seemingly random point or even at several places at once. The SRV began at the state line. The portion from Rockford to the state line could be done later. The roadbed was graded and ties laid on portions of it from the state line through Avon to Albany. The route passed through the area that would one day be Brodhead.
No sooner was the Sugar River Valley route graded than the Milwaukee and Mississippi began construction of its east-west line through the same area. The SRV had depleted its treasury on the route to Albany and local investors were afraid to buy more stock in a line that might be redundant in the presence of the M&M. The SRV had never sold enough stock to buy a single rail, much less locomotives and cars. The SRV investors had paid for a nice railroad grade; but without the railroad being brought to completion, their investment was worthless. Nate Condon lost his farm.
The Milwaukee and Mississippi was completed and created the town of Brodhead in the process in 1856. What became of the Sugar River Valley Railroad? As late as 1870 a Mr. Campbell of Albany was trying to resurrect the business, but nobody wanted to invest. In 1880 the Milwaukee Road acquired the SRV grade from Brodhead to Albany and built a branchline on it. A few years later, the line was extended to New Glarus and became the New Glarus branch – our affectionately named “Limburger Special” – which operated until 1974. This route is now the Sugar River State Trail.
From Brodhead to the state line the Sugar River Valley route has sat silently brooding these past 156 years. Much less of it is visible now than when I was a boy 50 years ago. But remnants are still there. Take a leisurely evening drive and hunt for it. The SRV grade parallels the County Line and is roughly half a mile to the east; every east-west road off the County Line Road crosses it. For example, if you turn east at the Sand Burr Cafe on Townline Road and travel only 1/4 mile or so, you will cross the SRV grade visible in the trees to the south. The driveway on the north side of the road there is on the SRV grade and has railroad ties for fence posts.
If you pursue this quest, you will be engaging in what is technically called Industrial Archeology. Happy ghost-railroad hunting!
—Betty Earleywine, Curator
Adapted from Dorothy Kundert’s “Woodburners to Diesels” text for the 1956 Brodhead Centennial celebration.
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 settled 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 White. Their acts and puppet show “Babes in 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 Boy Scout troop in Brodhead celebrated its 100th birthday in 2010. Excerpts of the following article were taken from the Independent-Register Sesquicentennial edition in 2006.
Boy Scout troop #108 has been active in Brodhead since 1911, only one year after the organization was formed nationally. The Scouts belong to the Blackhawk Area Council in the Arrowhead District and rely on the council’s main office for supplies and information.
About 1914, Rev. Lloyd Smith, the minister of the Congregational Church, formed a local scout troop. Most of the boys came from his Sunday School Class; Some of these boys were G.N. Swartz, Donald Collins, Bowen Stair, Nels Nipple, Ed and Ted Schempp, Vern Moore, Carl Islie, Art Christensen and Wayne Laube.
Mr. Ek; principal of the Brodhead school system, became their Scoutmaster. One of their activities was a hike to Lake Ripley and a week’s encampment there. They walked all that distance, and their equipment was carried in Bowen Stair’s pony cart, pulled by his pony. They stayed the first night in Evansville.
In 1937, a troop was officially organized by the new Lions Club. Arnold Ayres was the Scoutmaster and Truman Olin was his assistant. Some of the boys in this troop were Robert Springsted, J.B. Searles, Franklyn Condon, Philip Bush, Jack and Tom Muggler, Gordon Kilday, Robert Nipple, Joe Buerkle, Alan Beattie, John Klingbell, Mike Riemer and Arthur Hintzman.
Ayres and Olin continued to guide the troop until 1941 when the Lions Club became inactive.
After a short lapse of time, Pearl Lodge, Knights of Pythias, took over troop sponsorship, and continued it through 1951. In 1952. Swan-Gehr American Legion Post #197 took over responsibility for the Scouts and has continued the sponsorship right through to the present.
In 1950, Attorney John Deming, with his boundless energy and drive, organized and led an Explorer Post, which provided Scouting for older boys. Mr. Deming led the group until 1952, and under his tutelage six boys attained the Eagle Scout rank, four of them at one time!
Besides the troop leaders already mentioned, the following men have served as Scoutmasters: Father Paul Croak, Father Alois Klas, Tom Richards, R.B. Bliss, Jr., Donald Conway, Rodger Bernstein, Tallie Everson II, Keith Williams, James, Steuri, Herbert Ripp, Jim Church, and Mike McGoff. In 1979, Bob LaBarre became Scoutmaster. From 1984 to 1990, Gary Goecks was leader; Tom Matteson, Mike McGoff and Randy Fitzgerald also served as Scoutmasters. From 2000-2001 Jim Wahl arid Allen Ermey served as Scoutmasters, with Greg Gray serving from 2001 to 2008. Steve Flannery was Scoutmaster until 2011 when Mike Visger took over the duties.
Cub Scout Pack 108 was started in 1949 and is still active today. This is a Scouting program for boys under 11.
As a result of a very fine troop, we have many Eagle Scouts here. They are Werner Weisenfluh, William Hein, Jr., John Deming, Jr., Donald Conway, Robert Conway, Guy Pierce, Lee Stein, Glen Staffeld, Ray Pawlisch, Ray Staffeld, Rolf Kletzien, Robert LaBarre, Leonard Long, Todd Maveus, Eugene Stuessy, Leonard Speth, Jim Butts, Alan Timm, Tim Conway, Jeff Goecks, Chris Goecks Jamie Sulzer, Devin Wolters, Brent Sutherland, Andy Markham, Patrick McGoff, Joshua Gray, Jeff Crandall, Justin Saunders, Paul Lentz, Justin Monson, Ben Pawlisch, Brad Kaderly, Nick Wahl, Jared Policastro, Andy Strommen, Andrew Lentz, Justin Kamps, Dean Pawlisch, Justin Miller, Tony Wahl, Andrew Clark, Lucas Kraft, Peter Quello, Ben Conway and Eric Wahl.
Scouts have been helpful to the community by collecting paper, magazines and cardboard for recycling, assisting Air Raid Wardens during “black outs” during war time, planting many of the evergreen trees in the Decatur parks and headgates area and offering all boys friendship and brotherly love. The troop, with assistance from many area businesses, has completed construction of a pole barn building at the Decatur Lake Scout camping area. This building will be used for future camping activities. Continued on page 4
Continued from page 3
In 1990 the VFW Post #6858 joined up with Swan-Gehr American Legion Post #197 as sponsorship of the troop to the present date.
The Boy Scouts have attended High Adventure trips. In July 1996 and 2003, scouts and leaders traveled to the Boundary Waters to canoe and camp for the week and completed their 50 miler awards.
In June, 1999, 15 scouts and leaders traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico for a 12 day hiking expedition.
Every year the Boy Scouts attend a long-term camp for one week at Canyon Camp in Stockton, Illinois, where scouts earn their merit badges and learn and use their outdoors skills.
The press release below was written February 27, 1956 by Mr. Woodrow Wollner of General Telephone Company in Madison.
For more than half of Brodhead’s one hundred years, the telephone has been a chief means of communication between the citizens of the community. It was exactly 57 years ago this May that businessmen of the town met in the office of Dr. T.W. Nuzum to lay plans for the first telephone system.
These men formed the Brodhead Telephone Company, with plans to construct equipment necessary to serve 60 telephones. The Jones and Winter Construction Company put in a bid of $3,000 for the work, and the fledgling telephone company authorized them to go ahead.
The first operator of the central office, which was located over the Green County Bank, was Fred Cole, who received $25 a month for the job. Receipts for February, 1900, included $75.80 for exchange service, $20.00 for toll calls, and $2.20 for messenger service; a gross income of $98.00.
Women entered the telephone business just after the turn of the century, and the first lady operators at Brodhead were Mrs. Letha Farnum, and Miss Abbie Emminger who received $15 and $18 a month for the work. In 1908, the expanding company hired Harry Cox as the first manager, and he served until his death in 1943.
Mrs. Lulu Mattison, the present cashier at the Brodhead office, was hired as a part-time operator when she was still in high school in 1913. Since that time, Mrs. Mattison has held just about every job at the telephone office. She has been an operator, chief operator, bookkeeper, cashier, and manager of the Brodhead exchange. There was a time when she computed and made up the bills as cashier, worked as chief-operator during the day, and occasionally filled in as the night switch board operator.
As the company grew in size, the job of manager involved a certain amount of manual labor on the telephone equipment, and a man had to be hired to take over the position. Mrs. Mattison assumed the duties of cashier-chief operator, and with further company expansion, as cashier alone. In all, Mrs. Mattison has completed nearly 43 years of telephone service to Brodhead customers.
Another local telephone veteran is Frank Maveus, who recently retired as a installer-repairman in the exchange after completing 42 years of service. He began work for the Brodhead Telephone Company in 1913 as a trouble shooter and lineman. Frank recalls that he hunted for trouble with a horse and buggy in those early days, and the first trouble truck was a model T Ford.
Mrs. Maude Bowen, present chief-operator, has more than 32 years of service behind her at the local office. She started as an operator in 1923, and worked up to the head operator’s position in 1945. Mrs. Bowen is in charge of a force of nine operators, who work in shifts around the clock in order to complete your call, be it of a social, business, or emergency nature.
Around 1922, the central office was moved to its present position above the Bank of Brodhead. In July of 1945, the Brodhead Telephone Company was purchased by the Commonwealth Telephone Company, whose name was later changed to General Telephone Company of Wisconsin. William Gillman was manager of the exchange from 1945 to 1948, when he was succeeded by the present manager, W.D. Lavasseur. Mr. Lavasseur formerly managed the Argyle and Benton exchanges.
Since its inception 57 years ago, the Brodhead telephone exchange has grown from the original 60 telephones to nearly 1,300 telephones at the present time. In contrast to the early switchboard of 50 lines, the present board has 470 lines and four operating positions.
The Brodhead exchange is part of General Telephone Company of Wisconsin, a member of the General Telephone System which serves almost 2,600,000 telephones in 30 states.
General Telephone Company of Wisconsin operates in 146 Wisconsin communities serving more than 119,700 telephones. It is the largest independent telephone company in the state.