The Readstown High School in the 1970's.
EDUCATION IN READSTOWN
The 1884 "History of Vernon County" tells us that the first school in Readstown was taught by Mrs. Bound: "in a small building erected for other purposes in 1854, but during that year a frame building was erected for school purposes, and the first school taught therein was by Jemima Wilson.” The location of these first schools was evidently on the approximate site of today's Crooked River Canoe. No photographs of these earliest schools remain. However, a photograph of Readstown's third school- built some time in 1867- does remain. This building stood on the approximate site of today's Readstown/Town of Kickapoo Advancement Association community building. It was a white, two-story wood frame building, in which Gamer Bliss was the first teacher.
This school includes grades from 1 to 9. Among the first teachers of the upper grades was Viola (Meachom) Bliss, and of the lower grades was Jennie McGarry. The earliest known list of graduates from this school was that of 1877:
Helen (Perham) Anderson, Bessie (Cowden) O'Leary, Mabel Hurlbut, and Anna Shepherd. To quote from a letter left by Bessie O'Leary: The class of 1898 included Arthur Ward, Frank Randall, Rose (Crook) Hutchinson, Bessie Anderson, and Drape and Helen (Carter) Bishop.
Some of the teachers in that school were Pat McManamy, Henry Gardner, T.O. Mark, Nellie Flanagan, John DeLacy, Mary Morley, C.H. Carter, W.C.T. Adams, Elmer Wilson, A.A. Brindey, Martha Tenney, Minnie Tully, Bertha Simmons, and Bessie Cowden.
About 1898, the attendance had grown until it was necessary to obtain another room, so the old Methodist Church was utilized and another teacher was added, bring the facility up to three.
This old Methodist Church stood at the corner of Center and 4th Sts., just a block up from the school. It would later be used for the just developing Church of Christ congregation, and would later be used by the unsuccessful Reorganized Latter Day Saints congregation at the time of World War I. It later served as a residence until it was razed about 1980.
This cumbersome two-story building educational institution was replaced in 1902 by a two-story brick successor, which not so long ago, stood along 4th St., at the present location of today's Crazy Frank's liquidators. Next to this brick building (razed in the late 1970s, long after it ceased to be used as a school), stood a large, wood frame building which was built in 1936 to be a grade school, and kitchen. This building still stands; it has long since been converted into a residence by Frank and Myrna Callaway. Behind this grade school, was an agriculture shop, erected in 1938. To the south of this shop was a large blacktopped playground, very nearly state of the art when built in the 1940s, which featured a steel-tube jungle gym, an enormous metal slide, and green painted, wooden swings hung on chains hung from indestructible steel pipes.
To the south of the playground was a wide space of lawn, fringed by huge rotted trees. A line of these trees overlooked the baseball field, the present site of Peace Lutheran Church. How many pleasant afternoons have been spent by Readstowners beneath those trees, watching their team play those of other valley towns.
The first graduates of the brick building were: Maude Groves, Nellie Spurrier, and Came Robinson. The first teachers of the brick building were John DeLacy, W.A. Brindley, Elma Wilson and Gertrude Ewers. By 1917, the school encompassed the 11th grade. In 1926, a school band was formed under Robert Kruel. By 1934, all 12 grades were available, as was school bus service to rural high school students. Typing and shorthand entered the curriculum in 1940. Hot lunches were available after 1954.
This whole little miniature educational world came apart in the 1960's with the consolidation of schools. No longer was the Readstown High School in the two story brick building on 4th St. Readstown students attend Kickapoo High School, and are undoubtedly exposed to far greater of a class and subject range than could have ever been provided by a high school in Readstown.
The former Readstown Elementary facility is which was used by Readstown area students grades one to five, is now owned by Mike Calaway, who uses it as a storage facility for fireworks which he sells at his business, R & M Liquidators. Submitted by John W. Sime, lifetime resident of Readstown.
MANNING SCHOOL located below the current Lisa Reser residence on Harrison Road
The first school in District No. 4, was in a building belonging to William Geddes, located on Section 33. This was in 1856.
Sarah dark was the first teacher. A school house was erected the same year on the northwest quarter of section 33, town 12, 3 west.
Some other teachers were: Pearl (Rittenhouse) Smith, Helen Harris, Francis Clauson, Nellie Trappe, Vema Deaver, Eva Henthom, Alene Prestegaard, Avis Emery, Ramona Abbey and Vera Chroniger.
Classes were discontinued in 1961 and the school house was moved out in 1975. Submitted by Genevieve Holcomb, lifetime resident of the Kickapoo Township.
The land for the Manning First Congregational Church and Cemetery was donated by Adams for the sum of one dollar plus burial plots for his family and parents.
The church was built in the late 1800's. There was a first mortgage for $200, dated June 1896, by trustees Calvin Cox and McClarion. A letter from the church board shows full payment of $210, June 9, 1949.
Some of the ministers were Longnecker, Bachelor, Lambrick, Jacobs and Schweitzer. Services were discontinued in the 1930's.
The Manning Cemetery Association was Incorporated, June 9, 1939, and is still active with perpetual care for all plots. Submitted by Genevieve Holcomb
THE COMMERCIAL EVOLUTION OF READSTOWN
Daniel Read gambled on two important human needs in order to establish commerce in Readstown- food and shelter. Read himself did not satisfy these needs, but the work he performed for hire did. In 1849, he built a sawmill, and in 1854, he built a grist mill. The closest mill at that time was in Springville, on the other side of Viroqua.
We know that Daniel Read was born on April 7, 1789, in Tioga County, New York. We also know that he was the son of Daniel Read Sr., who was born in Salem, Mass. Daniel Read died on November 27, 1862, in the settlement he platted, surveyed, and named Readstown. He is buried in the village cemetery (the land was donated by him, as was the land for the Methodist Church). Read probably served in the War of 1812, and for this service he received in 1849 from President Zachary Taylor an eighty acre land grant. This land grant went as far east as Day Creek Road, as far west as the Kickapoo Inn, as far north as the Methodist Church, and as far south as the sewer plant. He built his mill operation on Read's or Blackbottom Creek, on which he constructed his dam. At that time, this creek flowed through the present-day sites of the Kickapoo Inn, Kickapoo Trading Post owned by Dan and Pat Stewart, and Kickapoo Corner’s Restaurant. This entire area was covered by a mill pond. The creek was moved south to its present location in the early 1900's due to flooding. The mill building stood across the street from the Aleda Van Winter house (the kitchen which was originally Read'scabin. Within years after his arrival, Read had either directly or indirectly lured several relatives and friends from upper New York State to his little frontier settlement. His sister, Sarah Hale, her son, Benjamin Hale, and Read's niece, Lydia Read all came here during this period. Lydia married an English army officer named Captain Thomas Cade, who went into business with Read, and whose descendants still live in Vernon County.
Read also brought a blacksmith/carpenter/ politician named Orin Wisel, who built the first bridge across the Kickapoo at Readstown, and became the first Vernon County Clerk. Another New Yorker named Albert P. Bliss, in 1854, constructed a hotel near the mill, and it soon became a stage coach stop. This building is today's Genevieve Terhune home which is located at the corner of Water and Mill Streets. “Bliss Hotel” is still seen on the outside of the house. Bliss served in the State Assembly for a brief time, and died in the 1880s. His widow, Sylvia, and her sons, continued to run the hotel. Helen Bliss, Albert and Sylvia’s daughter, married the young Soldiers Grove merchant James O. Davidson, who later became governor of Wisconsin. Their marriage took place in the front parlor of the family hotel in Readstown. Sylvia Bliss died at the turn of the century, just after the arrival of the railroad. This widowed pioneer of the first stage of Readstown's development made a major contribution to the village’s second state of development- she donated the land for the uptown park the village government that would be formed at the turn of the century.
Other Readstown pioneers included: William Austen, the village's first postmaster and the first Worshipful Master of the LaBelle Masonic Lodge #84 founded in Viroqua in 1857; William Nelson Carter, another New Yorker, and a cooper by trade who set up shop across from today's Kickapoo Inn; and Gilbert Herrick, also a New Yorker, who was a blacksmith and a livery stable owner.
After the Civil War, and after the death of Daniel Read, things in Readstown went into a period of decline. The nation as a whole was hit by a depression in the 1870's, and an agricultural crisis set in. The sawmill burned down, and the grist mill was torn down in the early 1880's. The fact that they were never replaced indicates the depth of the economic decline.
Only with the turn of the century do things improve. Everything changed in Readstown, usually for the better, beginning in the late 1890's with the coming of the railroad. The Kickapoo River was dammed by a lumber company which also straightened the course of the river to make a millrace. Electricity was produced by turbine installed at the dam. The village government was incorporated, with Herbert Carter, son of pioneer William Nelson Carter, as the first village president. But above all, the Kickapoo Valley and Northern Railroad (later taken over by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad) railroad was built. The railroad itself did not survive the end of the 1930s. But for a time, jobs were plentiful and the sawmill ran 24 hours per day. The railroad gave the village its present north/ south dimensions. The railroad station was deliberately placed outside of the then commercial center of the village (then grouped around the street today still called Center St.).
The hope and the result were that the area east of the Kickapoo would become developed. The railroad station was set west of Mrs. Bliss' park (at the former site of Lowe's Manufacturing factory which burned down in the late 1990s), and within a decade, numerous businesses had developed around this square. A bandstand was constructed about 1906 by the village board, and it has served since then as the venue of countless band concerts, Memorial Day and July 4th celebrations, speeches by political candidates (including Phillip Kuehn, unsuccessful republican candidate for governor in 1962), weddings, and leisurely afternoons.
Among the businesses erected around the square are: a hardware store owned by Iver Sovde (the building is now used by the Comer Bar recently purchased by Floyd Baker, but it was moved from its original location at the comer of Wisconsin Ave. and Railroad Street. Its original site is now the location of the Readstown Public Library. Next up Wisconsin Ave. from this site was a restaurant and bar owned first by Charles Crook and Charles Angel, which was initially called "Crook's and Angel's Saloon,” it was later owned by Clarence and Eulalia (Ma) Sutherland for many years (it burned to the ground in the winter of 1991). Next came a bank operated by Homer Ward and Arthur Ward (father and son), and Edgar Ewers (their first building was a small frame structure, which was later moved around the park square and was used as a store for many years by Charles Reiner; this building as replaced in 1906 by the present brick structure).
Next was a barbershop owned by William Hutchison, in yet another small, wood frame building (a type very popular for businesses in Readstown at the turn of the century); at the end of the block came a large, two store, meat market, which really faced 4th St., but which made quite a presence along Wisconsin Ave., with its huge, white painted side, which often served as an informal poster area and bulletin board, it was owned by Ed Larson and later his son, Alfred Larson. It had a beveled front so it could overlook the corner of 4th and Wisconsin Streets. This was also the location of Hazel Carver’s dress shop. This building was razed in the 1980's in the enlargement of the Glass General Store, more recently River Valley Market, which faces 4th Street (Highway 131. Kitty comer to the River Valley Market, across from the park square was a line of businesses; a restaurant eventually called the Wild Rose Café, owned originally by a Mr. Everson, later by Tillie Crook, later still by Gladys Hoium; a store owned by John Klos; later a garage building would be built at the north end of this block, part of which in the 1940's served as the post office.
Across E. Main St. from this now vacant corner once stood the Vernon Inn, a hotel owned by Tillie Crook and her family (including the late Eileen Larson, who provided much information on the square park neighborhood). Across 4th St. from this hotel once stood another hotel owned by Fred Lewis called the Commercial House. Next down the north side of the park was a jewelry store owned by Ed Anderson (who later on erected a garage for his automobile dealership on the middle of the block); a store owned by S.T. Dregne; a store owned by Palmer and Hoffland; a funeral directing and a furniture business owned by Oscar Anderson; and across Railroad St., all by itself on a corner near the railroad tracks was a bar, called the Lone Star Tavern, owned by Charles Crook and Charles Angel.
Tillie Crook's daughter, Lucille, married a man named Leo Caflahan, and together they operated a bar east of Mrs. Bliss' park facing 4th St. Larry More, Russell Moore, and Atley Fortney would later on own this bar.
South from the square, on the west side of 4th St., three stores developed south of Ed Larson's meat market. The first was a Clover Farm Store, originally owned by Hazel Ward Carter, which burned. The second store was owned by Roy Glass for many years. The last was originally owned by Cal Cox, and became a restaurant, later a dress shop owned by Hazel Carter (who later married Earl Carver). Eventually, Roy's son, Gerry Glass, would build one large store on the sites of the earlier four. On the east side of 4th St., heading south from across the street from the south end of today's River Valley Market. Elmer Sime owned a barbershop; Lewis and Hopper owned a shoe repair shop; Nellie Fitch, then Eileen Larson owned a dress shop. Pete O'Neil, then for many years Bernard Callaway, and later Laurence Olson owned a hardware store; further south, John Downing, later Sam Asperheim, later Cecil Nelson, and finally Farmco owned a feed mill; a bowling allev was south of this, and was eventually taken over by the feed mill. At the corner of 4th and St. Elmo Streets stood a bakery owned by Tony Briggson, which was later used as a residence by Norman Ewers, later as a restaurant by Don Platsen, and now as a beauty shop by Siri Lund.
South of St. Elmo St., on the east side of 4th St., a post office building was erected in 1960. South of this was a jewelry store owned by H. Potter, which eventually was used as an insurance office by Vilas Adkins, and later still as a library until its demolition in 1992 to make way for the new Village Hall. South of this was a two story building used as the office of the Readstown Tribune for about a decade beginning in 1906, under editor Vin Frazier, and which eventually served as the post office. The area taken up by the preceding two buildings would become the site, in 1993 of the new Village Hall, which included office space for the clerk and the police department, storage space for records, a meeting room, and a much larger and warmer library than ever before (Jane Fortney had then been hired as the village's first paid librarian, and the library had just been recognized by Winding Rivers Library System and the State of Wisconsin as a legal library). Near the end of this block was a photo studio owned by A. C. Strait, which later became a Clover Farm Store owned by Olin Henthorne. At the end of the block, north of the corner of 4th and Charles St., was a store and bank building owned by Ed Van Winter, which was later sold to Oscar Anderson after the building he occupied on the park square with Palmer and Hoffland burned.
The park square would see many developments. J. Willard Hall replaced the above named burned structure owned by Anderson and Palmer/Hoffland with a massive stone structure. Built in 1914, half of the Hall Building was originally a movie theater, and the other half was the Odd Fellow's Hall. This was the headquarters of Readstown Lodge #35 of Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which merged with Viroqua Lodge #99 in the 1960's (although the Readstown Maple Leaf Rebekah Lodge, Ladies auxiliary of the I.O.O.F., continues to maintain their charter). Dances were often held in the lower floor, and meeting and club rooms were available upstairs. This structure was converted into apartments in the 1980's by Frank Callaway. The movie theater portion of the Hall Building (the west side), eventually became the gymnasium of Readstown High School; later it was used as a garage by the Village of Readstown; later still as a warehouse by Frank Callaway, the present location of Crazy Frank’s garage, across the park from Readstown Branch bank. Bobby Kennedy once spoke in the gymnasium of Readstown School in support of his brother, John F. Kennedy, before the presidential primary.
The square would see other developments in later years. Vernon Emery would own a restaurant next to the bank building. The bank itself would close in the late 1930s. The building would be used by the Village of Readstown as an office until the 1980s, when a bank would return to the building under the auspices of the LaFarge State Bank. Cliff Grainger owned a store east of Sutherland's Bar. Later it was owned by Aspenson and Schoville, when it burned. Sometime about 1910, Clarence Sutherland would erect a roller skating pavilion west of his restaurant/bar. This was torn down after a few years and parts of it used to construct other nearby buildings. Clyde Crook would erect a bar west of Sutherland's called the Tin Shack, which would later be owned by Cliff Grainger, HjalmarJacobson, and Jim Edgar. It was replaced in the 1980s by Lowe's office building (currently the Readstown Public Library). The former Sovde hardware store at the end of the block would, as alluded to, be moved to the north side of the park by Lucille Callahan. For a time it was the post office, later it became a restaurant owned by Lavon Guist. Later still it became the Corner Bar, owned by the DeWitts, Clyde Crook, Bob Schoepp, and currently, Ron Phillips. Southeast of this corner, Corley Ewers operated a garage, which replaced the John Klos store, and which also served as post office.
On the south side of the square, William Hutchison's barber shop would later be owned by his son, Carl. Later, it was owned by Roy Glass, who rented it to Geoffrey Banta as a barbershop, and later to the Peace Lutheran Church for storage and youth rallies. It was later owned by Fred Meyers as a store, and later by John Nash as an office. The Sutherland Bar would later be sold to the Fjelstads, the Hauns, the Mellems, and Bonnie Bolstad. It was owned by Cecil Nelson Jr at the time it burned in 1991.
North of the square, the village government erected a stockyard on the abandoned railroad right of way. This would be managed by various private individuals, such as Joyce Booth, as well as groups, such as the National Farmer's Organization, with rent paid to the village. West of this, the former Lone Star Tavern became, in the 1950s the home of the Readstown Veterans of Foreign Wars Buchholtz-Larson Post. This post merged in the 1960s with the Viroqua VFW Post. Back across Railroad St., in the middle of the block north of the park, Charles Reiner operated a store until the late 1950s. Further east, Ed Anderson built an auto sales garage, which was later used as a furniture warehouse by Oscar Anderson, and his successors Henry and Harlan Sime, and then by David Groom as Rockets Video Arcade and Fitness Center, and is now closed.
Oscar Anderson moved his furniture business to the Van Winter building, north of the comer of 4th and Charles St. He moved his funeral home to a large dwelling at the corner of Railroad and St. Elmo Sts. He later moved his funeral home to a large house south of the intersection of 4th and Charles, across the street from his furniture store. After Andersen's death his business was purchased by the Sime brothers. In the 1960s, Harlan took over the furniture business and Henry took over the funeral business, exclusively. After Harlan's death, his wife Maxine and son Monte continued to operate the furniture store, which eventually moved to Viroqua. Henry's son, John, worked with his father at the funeral home until Henry’s death in 1996. John Sime is now sole proprietor.
The railroad depot disappeared with the railroad in the late 1930s. Lowe Manufacturing first built on this site in the 1960s. South of this stands the former tobacco warehouse, recently purchased by Nam S. Song for use as a mushroom growing facility, now owned by Frank Callaway. This building is a huge wooden structure which boasts the village's only elevator. Jerry O'Leary and Clarence Carter were among the managers. Albert Rosson and Carl O. Larson were its last regular employees in the 1960s. Across Railroad St. from the warehouse once stood the Nuzum Lumber Yard.managed by Orville Hollenbeck, Julius Jacobson, and others. It closed and was torn down in the 1960s. Further down Railroad St., about one block south, on the west side of the street, once stood a house and garage building owned by Ernest Heal. Heal owned a construction firm, which built, among other things, the Charles St. bridge across the Kickapoo in 1917. In the early 1920s, Heal moved the old steel bridge at the end of E. Main St. to a farm about four miles north of the village, where it still stands, serving as a cattle crossing over the Kickapoo. In Ernest Heal's garage on Railroad Street, Olin Henthome operated a casein plant for a time (casein is a dairy by-product used in lubricants). William Fehrmann later owned the house and garage, until the 1980's, when he moved his business to a building on Highway 14. This building had been used as a headquarters for the semi-truck operation owned by Carrol Hankins from the 1940s to the 1960s. The building may be gone or it is remodeled. It is the current site of Andy Bill Hankins’ storage sheds. Fehrmann ran the car repair garage in the late 1990s.
At the end of E. Main St., to the north, once stood a sawmill, to the south, stands the now vacant Creamery building. It dates from before World War I, and was last operated by Carl B. and Chris Larson. The bridge across from the Creamery was moved to the site of the current Avalanche Organics vegetable farm.
The third era of development in Readstown is the era of the automobile. The State paved the highway going through Readstown in the 1920s. Originally, the highway came up 4th St. and turned west at Charles St., crossing the Kickapoo on the Charles St. bridge. This route was changed in the 1930s when the present bridge on Highway 14 was constructed. Orin Wisel's covered bridge stood near this present steel truss structure. Highway 61 intersects 14 on the west side of the Kickapoo, a few hundred yards from the location of Daniel Read's mill. Much recent development has been highway-related; moving west from Fehrmann’s garage on Highway 14, Chuck Morris owns a garage on the south side of the highway. Further west, Jessie Coher, then Ron Turner owned a bus and Texaco station. Next, Elmer Kellogg, and later Carl O. Larson operated a motel; on the north side of the highway, at the intersection of Highways 14 and 131 stood a Mobil station owned by Charles Strahl, and later William Farrell. In the center of town at the intersection of 4th and Charles Sts. the first gas station ever built in the village was operated by Friday Luce, Ernie Pugh, Alfred Gald, Mike Ewings, Henry Sime, Madeline Stallsmith, Harlan Jones, and Sherman Carney. All that is left of that enterprise is the Chore Boy sign which marks the former business.
The 1930s saw two gas stations appear on the west side of the river- a DX station owned by John Mann, who also operated a store and a bar in this building east of the highway intersection, and a Standard Oil Station west of the intersection, built by Dan Danielson. The later station would later be owned by Friday Luce, Harlan Jones, Roy Helgerson, Kermit Mellem, and William Bender. South of this, in the 1960's, Brent and Marlene Larson built a drive-in restaurant, which was originally called Dog and Suds, then Myrtle and Molly's, and now Kickapoo Corners. It is owned by Duaine Dregne. West of this, along Highway 14, the Kickapoo Inn restaurant/bar was built by Harold Nelson in the 1940s. It was later owned by Lavon Guist, Ron Sutherland, and currently by Tony Wangen. West of the Kickapoo Inn, on the north side of Highway 14, Roger Larson erected in the 1960s, a sport shop, which is currently a Citgo station/bus station/liquor store/ laundry mat, owned by Duaine Dregne. Irvin Dregne, Duaine's father, along with his sons David and Dean, operates an insurance business west of this station, in their former farm house.
In recent years, new businesses have developed which reach out to a clientele far beyond the village limits. Lowe Manufacturing is an example of this- they sell augers and other
heavy equipment around the world (Lowe’s is now located south of Readstown on USH 14). Randy Halverson currently subcontracts the auger business. Nam S. Song's mushroom growing business serves oriental restaurants and exotic food stores through the Chicago area. Frank and Myrna Callaway's Crazy Frank's liquidator store, and the R and M liquidator store of Frank's son Mike and his wife Roberta, both on 4th street near Highway 14, are popular destinations for shoppers far beyond Readstown. The Ahnen fur and mushroom buying business was operated on 4th St. for many years by the late Norm Ahnen, and continues in the hands of his wife, Marion.
READSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY
The Readstown Public Library was organized in the year 1978. It was first housed in the back room of the bank building which at that time was occupied by the village offices.
When the LaFarge Bank decided to open a branch bank in Readstown, the building had to be vacated, so the library along with the village offices was moved into a mobile home purchased for that purpose.
Through a block grant, the village had gained ownership of the former Adkins Insurance Building. It was decided to move the library into it as it would provide more room and was in a better location.
When this building was razed to allow for the construction of the new Community building, the library was given temporary quarters in a former dwelling house belonging to Michael and Roberta Callaway.
In May of 1993, the library was moved into the new Community Building, and more recently of the former office building of Lowe Manufacturing on the corner of Railroad Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
Many volunteer hours and a determined spirit resulted in a library of which the whole community is proud. Submitted by John H. Sime, local businessman.
READSTOWN CHURCH OF CHRIST
The Readstown Church of Christ was founded in 1902 through the efforts of twenty-seven charter members and State Evangelist, J. H. Stark. The church building was constructed in 1904.
The first minister was W.F. Nuzum. Following him were T.H. Goodnight, Frank Shane, J.P. Wright, R.E. Thomas, W.C. Messner, Walter Terry, Perry Baldwin, Paul Anderson, A. C. Stewart, R. B. Jones, C. C. Spencer, Eldon Chitwood, Edward Smith, Arthur Vail, Lynn Dietz, Leslie Milan, Eugene McMahon, George Weber, John Nicholson, Clarence Potter, Michael Zylstra, Phil Olsen, and the present minister, Joe Adams.
Church activities include weekly worship services and Bible School classes for all ages. A Bible study is held Sunday evenings. A women's organization, Ladies Christian Workers meet monthly and are active in the work of the church and in the support of missionary programs both locally
and world wide. There is also an active youth group. Submitted by John H. Sime
READSTOWN FIRE DEPARTMENT
Fire Chiefs of Readstown, 1907 to today: 1907-09, C.W.Buxton; 1909-13, G.W.Henika; 1913 16, C.W.Buxton; 1916-25, Oscar Anderson; 1925-27, Ed Larson; 1927-29, Sam Asperheim; 1929-34, Pearl Fisher; 1934-40, Grant Smith; 1940-52, John Etterly, Sam Asperheim; 1952-64 Paul Dull; 1964-65, Ivan Anderson; 1965-66, Lairy Johnson; 1966-67, Stuart Larson; 1967-70, William Farrell; 1970-76, Roger Larson; 1976-78, Jim Fortney; 1978-78, Rodney Howell; 1978-90, Chris Larson; 1990-________ Kenneth Goodwin.
The first organization of a fire department Readstown dates to the May 19,1906 meeting of the Readstown Village Board, when a motion was made and carried that village president G.W. Henika get prices on a hook and ladder cart. The village reservoir and water system had just been constructed, and this permitted the construction of fire hydrants, which prepared the way for a fire company. At the August 4, 1906 meeting of the village board, G.W. Henika was paid $3.15 for a rubber hose, L. D. Kellogg was paid $3.30 for lumber and work on a hook and ladder cart, and J. H. Sime was paid $57.00 for a fire ladder and cement for fire bell poles. Throughout the fall of 1906, work continued on the network of fire bell poles and the hook and ladder cart. At the Feb. 16, 1907 meeting, C.H. Buxton was officially appointed the first fire chief.
At the May 7, 1924 meeting, the village board voted to purchase a "chemical fire engine.” This was eventually mounted on an automotive vehicle purchased at the E. J. Anderson garage. On April 1, 1925, the board voted to purchase an electric fire siren. This would at first be blown by the village telephone operator, and later Floyd Luce from his gas station at the comer of 4th Charles, and finally by the village police officer. It currently is blown by a telephone fire bar method.
The Readstown Fire Department was instrumental in raising the money to erect the modem street lights in Readstown. At the May 5, 1926 meeting of the village board, the “Fire Company was granted a permit to put on a carnival for the purpose of constructing a white way. By the end of the summer of 1926, 20 "white posts" had been installed.
Since its earliest days, the fire department has been housed in its current quarters at the corner of Charles and Railroad Streets. The building in the 1950s and the original wooden structure were replaced by a concrete block successor, which was remodeled in the 1980s. The building currently houses two fire engines, a water tanker truck, a jeep-like "brush buggy,” and the First Responder vehicle. There is also a small meeting room with restrooms. The building at one time housed a jail as well as the village pump house. The jail closed when stricter standards for the maintenance for penal institutions were passed. The pump house was moved to the new pump house just east of 4th St. in the 1980s.
READSTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH- first church organization in Readstown
The first Methodist Church here was built in 1882 on a lot deeded to them by Daniel Read in 1860. That church property was then valued at $400. Rev. David Gander came from Ohio in 1860. He farmed and was a circuit rider for many years- doing much work in the Pine Grove (later Soldiers Grove), Readstown, and North Clayton area. In 1861 Rev. Brokman, of the Platteville District found fifteen persons in the above named three point parish, giving their membership in the Methodist Church. A Readstown Methodist Society was organized in 1876 by Rev. McMillan. The Readstown Methodists were reorganized in 1881 by Rev. James Phelps. In 1896, Elder McNess and Elder Jones on March 15, did a twenty-two member reorganization. It is said that these early Methodists eventually shared their facilities with the Readstown Church of Christ congregation, in a building located on a lot where David and Rosie Dregne live, at the comer of 4th and Center Streets. The Reorganized Latter Saints would also use this building in later years.
The present church was built by John Wen (with much help by members, such as William Crook and friends) in the year 1900, on land located at lot 2, block 3, Maiben's addition deeded on November 24 ,1899 by J.A. Hutchison. In 1927 members and friends excavated and built a basement which was made better in 1949. In 1950, the interior was redecorated and given a lighting system. Nearly forty members were listed.
Hubert Groves of rural Vernon County took over this charge from 1946 to 1958. In 1947, Rev. Walker married Hubert and Rosemary Groves in the Solders Grove Methodist Church. Hubert came fresh from being a student. Earlier minister of Readstown/Soldiers Grove/North Clayton Methodists included Rev. Beakman, David Gander, Rev. McMillan, Rev. James Phelps, Nathan Bradly, S.A. Hoffman, A.E. Smith, A.A. Loomis, Ira LeBarron, T.W. Stamp, and Frank Bell. Serving from 1900 to World War I were John A. Neill, J.E. Webster, L.E. Peckham, Wm. Shepherd, Walter Snow, J.T. Knight, Frank Knowles, A.D. Jennings, and W.R. Jones. Serving from World War I until the depression years were J.G. Vance, Dan Hogan, N.J. Anderson, Robert O'Neil, C.E. Eades, F.J. Smith, B.A. Neboe, Lester Trout, and Peter Doherty. Serving the Readstown/Soldiers Grove charge from 1922 to 1948 were Alex J. Abbott, Wayne L. Grover, Samuel ——, Amos Vance, A. Lloyd Asp, and W.T. Walker (who married Hubert and Rosemary Groves). Serving the Soldiers Grove/Readstown/North Clayton charge from 1948 to 1963 were Hubert Groves, John Murphy, Gary Thompson, Henry Bahrenberg, Don Pomeroy, and Ads Gurknecht.
In 1963, Gays Mills and Seneca were added, and this five point charge was called the Wesley Parish. Serving this charge were Richard S. Alger, Charles and Lorinda Sanford, Milton L. Geisler, and William Shannon. Student pastors usually assisted. From 1978 to the present, Readstown has been with Soldiers Grove and North Clayton in a three point parish. Serving the parish while attending the Dubuque seminary have been Carson Timblin, Laurence Mills, Steve Groves, and Tom Callahan, who left in 1994. Other ministers were Clyde Hamm and Mike Christensen. In 1996 Jean Waldron became the first female minister in Readstown. The church was permanently closed in 2004 due to lack of membership. Submitted by Karl Kaap
PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH-READSTOWN
Plans for a new Lutheran Church in Readstown were begun in 1964 through the efforts of some Readstown and Folsom area persons. A survey was made of the area to determine the interest. A large number of the interested persons were former members of the discontinued South Kickapoo Lutheran church, at Folsom. Peace Lutheran was organized as a member congregation of the American Lutheran Church on March 14, 1965. It became a part of the two point parish with Kickapoo United Lutheran Church at Folsom. Pastor Glen Davidson was called to serve. The first officers were president, Julius Jacobson; vice president, Milford Mikkelson; secretary, Joe Reseland; treasurer, Lottie Sime; and council members Harold Cook, Carl Larson, Henry Sime, Lawrence Olson, Harlan Sime, Brent Larson, Mabel Danielson, Marlene Larson, and Maxine Sime.
Church services were held in the Readstown Elementary gymnasium until the building was completed. The former Readstown High School ball diamond was purchased as the site for the new church.
In May of 1966, the first class was confirmed. Members of that class were: Debbie Olson, Leah Hoff, Cindy Grosskopf, Gary Nelson, and Randy Jones.
On May 28, 1967, the church had reached its goal of $5.000, which the American Lutheran Church had agreed to match. Plans were approved on June 4, 1967. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on October 15, 1967.
The first services in the Fellowship Hall were on February 4,1968. The cornerstone ceremony was on March 3, 1968. The first service in the complete church was on March 31, 1968. The new church was dedicated on April 21,1968.
On August 31, 1968, the first marriage in the new Peace Lutheran Church took place with the wedding of Roger Alien Hooker and Rebecca Ann Crook.
Pastors since Glen Davidson (1964-68) include: David Guetzke, 1968-73; Curtis Karlstad, 1974-79; Orris Haraldson, 1979-89; Daniel Dibbert, 1989 to _______. Mike and Aimee Wollman, then Meg Hoversten were ministers after Dibbert. Three organists have served the church over the years: Linda Larson, Ingeborg Froiland, and Dean Gardner. The present church officers are president, Brent Larson; vice president, Wayne Schreiber; secretary John Sime; treasurer, Gary Sime, and council members, Dale Slaback, Duane Kanable, Ilene Luthanen, Norman Yttri, Roger Hooker, Ronald Johnson, Sharon Parker, Grace Clark, and Julie Roberts.
The 25th Anniversary Celebration of the dedication of the church was held on April 25, 1993, with many of the former pastors and members present.
Peace Lutheran is an active member of the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. It has a Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America organization, a Bible School, and a Sunday School program. It participates in all branches of mission work, including Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Social Services, Bethel Home, Sugar Creek Bible Camp, Shriners, and local causes such as E.M.S., fire department, and Crime Stoppers. Submitted by Ireta Sime, who lives across from the former River Valley Market
KICKAPOO CENTER SCHOOL
The first school in Kickapoo Center was built on the borderline of Section 35 and 36, on the east side of the Kickapoo River in 1857. This was a log school which very soon burned down. It was replaced by a white frame building, on the same spot, which served for the next decade. In 1869, a new school was erected south of what served as Kickapoo Center's main street- Kickapoo Street. It was on the same street as the Baptist church, the general store, and the Kickapoo River Bridge, all in the floodplain. In the 1940's, the Kickapoo Center School was moved out of the floodplain, west of the one time site of the railroad tracks. The school functioned into the 1960's. The building presently serves as a residence.
The first teacher of the log school was Isaac Ostenbaugh, the first teacher of the frame building at the same site was Nettie Cliff, the first teacher of the school on Kickapoo St. was Annie Turner, followed by Jennie Harriman, 1869-71; Mrs. E.E. Hill, 1871; Catherine Lamb, 1871-73; Mary E. McCarty, 1873; Loraine E. Taylor, 1873; Millard Gill, 1873-74; B.S. Moore, 1874-76; I.A. Wells, 1876; Maggie Babb, 1876; P. Henry, 1876-77; Maggie Babb, 1877-78; B. Wilder, 1878; C. J. Bryan, 1878-80; John Carey, 1880-81; Marcella McCarty, 1881-83; Hannah McSherry, 1883; Mary Rabbit, 1883-84; Marcella McCarty, 1884-85; Hannah McSherry, 1885; Edith Henthorn, 1885-86; Nellie Flanagan, 1886; Lillian Cushman, 1886; Nellie Flanagan 1887; Stilla Richards, 1887; Nettie Davis, 1887-88; Nellie Flanagan, 1888; Mary E. McCarty, 1888-89; Lucie Smith, 1889; Kathrine McManamy, 1889-90; Lydia Hinkst, 1890; Kathrine McManamy, 1890-91; Mrs. A.L Grant, 1891: Lucie Smith, 1891-93; Cora Wilson, 1893-94; Mary Morley, 1894-96; M.A. Andrews, 1896; Nora Carpenter, 1896; Clarence Black, 1896-97; Lydia Hines, 1897; Elma Wilson, 1897-98; Nora Carpenter, 1898-99; Elma Wilson, 1899-1900; G.F.Wilson, 1900-01; Zora Hocking, 1901; Gertie Haggerty, 1901-02; Fay Comer, 1902; Theodore Thompson, 1902-03; Nellie Mosier, 1903; Nina Williams, 1903-04; Fay Comer, 1904-06; Olive Rabbit, 1906-09; Fay Comer, 1909-10; Pearl Rittenhouse, 1910- 12; Verle Bender 1912; Pearl Rittenhouse, 1912- 13; Gladys Longnecker, 1913-14; Iva Ford, 1914-16; Myra Anderson, 1916-17; Helen Guist, 1917-19; Edna Aikens, 1919-20; Tolia Fodness, 1920-24; Jennie Johnson, 1924 26; Eula Norris, 1926-27; Leiah Harris, 1927-29; Mable Fodness, 1929-31; Vera Wirts, 1931-35; MyrtieBarrie, 1935-38; Margaret Beck, 1938-39; Lester Heal, 1940-43; Mary Ledman, 1943-47; Betty Tainter, 1947-48; Joanne Major Campbell, 1948-52; Mr. Howard, 1952; Evelyn Olson, 1952-61. Submitted by John H. Sime
Sherry School dates to 1860. The school was located first in a log building owned by a Mr. Banta, and later a building owned by a Mr. Brown, both in Section 11. The first teacher was Margaret McSharry. Almira Fox was also a teacher in the early days of this school.
The school closed in 1961. The last teacher was Barbara (Callaway) Prestergard. Other modern-day teachers included Stella Faith, Marlene Anderson, Opal Carter, Clarence Anderson, Mabel Morkri, Norman Johnson, Archie Anderson, Mrs. Victor Goss; Sophia Dregne, and Gladys Flanagan. The building is no longer standing. Submitted by John H. Sime.
THE SUGAR GROVE SCHOOL
Around 1856 or 1857, the first school was built of logs. It stood on the northwest comer of the land now owned by George H. and Ione Williams, Township of Kickapoo, Vernon County. Later it burned and the new school was built across the road from where Burdette Nelson now lives.
Five generations of our family attended the Sugar Grove School. George Spurrier was the first school clerk (great-grandfather of George H. Williams). The first teacher was Miss Elizabeth Williams of Sylvan Township. One morning when she opened the school door, she found a mother bear and two cubs inside. She ran back to her boarding place, George Spurrier's, to get help. He and Mr. Taylor shot the mother bear, and the two cubs escaped into the woods.
In the early 1870's, Miss Sidie Howe of Boaz taught at the school for $5 a month. From that amount, she paid her room and board at the Spurrier home.
In the early years, the curriculum consisted of spelling, First Reader, Second Reader, Third Reader, Fourth Reader, constitution, gram- mar, history, geography, orthography, penmanship, and mental and written arithmetic. There were two sessions- summer and winter. The older boys did not attend summer session because they were needed at home to help with the work. They came only in the winter months, while the little ones attended both They had no pencils and paper but wrote on slates with slate pencils.
Augusta Spurrier (daughter of George and Nancy Spurrier), after graduating from 8th grade, studied and wrote an examination. Having passed the examination, she was given a certificate to teach. She was sixteen, and the known years she taught at Sugar Grove were 1872 to 1875. She married Stephen Davis and was the mother of Elvin and Emma Davis.
Dora Crumrine was seven years old when Augusta Spurrier taught. Having passed the 8th grade, she also studied and wrote an examination. She received her certificate to teach, and, like Augusta, was sixteen when she began to teach. She taught her nephew, Herman L. Williams, age six, in the 1880's. (Herman L. Williams was the father of George H.) Dora later graduated from Oshkosh Teachers College and taught at Fort Atkinson High School around 1901. She later married Mr. Ward and owned and ran one of the Sugar Grove stores. After Mr. Ward died, she married Albert Hutchison.
A man by the name of J. W. Powell taught in 1890. Mercy, or better known as Mertie, Nixon of Seelyburg taught at Sugar Grove in the late 1800s. She married Fred McEathron (uncle of Ione Williams.)
Nellie Spurrier (granddaughter of George and Nancy Spurrier) taught in 1905. Later she proved on a claim of land in South Dakota and taught in many schools in that area. She married Lyman Lockwood.
Many teachers rang the Sugar Grove bell, summoning the children to come and learn. Early teachers were Liza Shattuck and Olive Rabbit. Gena Lake, Eula Norris, and Verna Jackson were teachers of George H. Williams. Other teachers were Mollie Spurrier (great-granddaughter of George and Nancy Spurrier), Charley Rossen, Faye Nemec, Ida Thompson, Audrey Grim, Orvin Midtun, David Smith, Edward Heal, Betty Oberson, Cleo Walters, and Emily Solverson.
The following were the last teachers to teach at Sugar Grove: 1950-51, Mrs. Frances Thoenes; 1951-52, Mrs. Frances Thoenes; 1952-53, Mrs. James O'Connor; 1953-54, Mrs. Jean Simpson Getter; 1954-55, Miss Diane Coy; 1955-56, Mrs. John Doran; 1956-57, Mrs. June Parker; 1957-61, Mrs. Louise Bender.
The school became part of the one-room country school closings in 1959. Sugar Grove became part of the Kickapoo School District. It closed at the end of the 1960-61 school year. The building was sold to the Sugar Grove Church of Christ for $1 and was moved and joined to the north side of the church building. The younger generations are glad they can still visit the school building.
Known students who became teachers: Augusta Spurrier, Dora Crumrine, Nellie Spurrier, David Smith, Mollie Spurrier, Audrey Grim, George H. Williams, Eva Williams, Edward Heal, Lester Heal, Helen Nelson, Jean Simpson, Larry Collins, Professor, Patricia Williams, Eloise Williams.
Last names of families who attended Sugar Grove: Spurrier, Crumrine, Drake, Alexander, Williams, Lake, Heal, Grim, Smith, Hutchison, Longmire, Galbrath, McEathron, Hocking, Van Fleet, Enfield, Shattuck, Willison, Shepherd, Dutcher, Pugh, Rieser, Collins, Simpson, Nida, Bailey, Walters, Nelson, Peterson, Kanable, Keyser, Wanless, McCarter, Randall, Ewing, Schoville, McCool, Eide, Gald, Oens, Gander, McKittrick, Potts, Osborn. Bankes, Olson, Yuran, and Jones. Compiled and submitted by
DAY CREEK SCHOOL
The first Day Creek School was built in the northwest corner of section 9, in 1857. This structure was built of logs on what the 1884 History of Vernon County describes as "the subscription plan". Mrs. R.F. Cory was the first teacher. This building was replaced in 1876 by a frame building in Section 10. The first teacher at this new facility was William S. Andrews.
The only other records available of the teachers who had taught at the Daycreek School are as follows: Naoma Crawford, 1922-1930; Ireta Sime, 1932-1933; Elmer Milhum, 1934-1936; Leola Turner, 1946; Emily Solverson, 1947-1948; Belva Lester, 1949; Verl Sherry, 1955-1958;
On March 6, 1957, a special meeting was held at the schoolhouse to discuss the idea of the Daycreek School integrating with the Readstown School system. Donald Schmitz, principal of the Readstown School system, gave a talk on integration after which there were questions and some discussion. A petition to integrate was circulated and a sufficient number of signatures was obtained to bring the matter to a vote. (According to a report by Gayle Smith, Clerk).
The Daycreek School District No. 5 did vote in favor of integrating with the Readstown School system beginning in the fall of 1960.
Earl Lowry, from Readstown, an electrician, bought the Daycreek School building and moved it to the backyard of his home in Readstown. He used it as a combination electric shop and garage. It is now owned by Tom Melvin. Submitted by Elmer Mithum, former farmer, school teacher, insurance agent.
Sugar Grove, Wis. used to consist of two general stores, two millinery shops, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a post office, the Church of Christ, and a cheese factory.
Now, one driving on Highway 14 will see the sign "Sugar Grove" thanks to the efforts of the late George H. Williams, who was insistent that Sugar Grove remain in fact as well as memory.
The house that used to be the hotel stands on the corner of U.S. 14 and County X. Today it is the residence of Amish farmer, Amos Borntreger. A large proportion of the families that settled in the Sugar Grove area came from Ohio around 1855. In 1856, the four daily stages going to and returning from the following places each day were Black River Falls, Muscoda, Prairie du Chien, and LaCrosse. As long as the stages passed through, the hotel in Sugar Grove thrived. Sometimes people passed through, spending a weekend with old friends. Sugar Grove lies on a crossing of roads, and on a clear day one could hear the "Stump Dodger" railroad whistle as it passed through the Kickapoo Valley, letting its passengers off and on at the bordering towns.
There was a sawmill in the little woods (now gone), west of the corner. Sugar Grove had quite a logging business. In 1890, the mill man did not get as many logs as he wanted, yet he occasionally steamed up. Rutter and Ward Company notified people by a shrill whistle when the mill was ready for business.
George Spurrier was the Justice of the Peace for Sugar Grove, and his brother Green Spurrier was the surveyor.
Sugar Grove boasted of a band. It had both male and female members.
Business at the stores thrived on the many customers living in the area. For a while, Dora Crumrine Ward and her husband J.W. Ward were operators of a store. The cheese factory was south of the store on County X. It was owned by Mr. Granger. Farmers hauled their milk to the factory, taking back to the farm whey to feed their hogs.
Mrs. F.H. Drake had a card advertising her store: "Mrs. F.H. Drake, Stylish Milliner, Sugar Grove, Wis. You are invited to call and examine my new stock of latest style trimmed hats."
Dr. Randall (doctor of medicine) lived where Allan Randall lived in the old house. His daughter had the first formal wedding at the Sugar Grove church.
The post office was situated in the living room of the house owned by the late Alice Williams.
The big spruce tree that is there now was standing then. The path worn by people going to and from the post office can still be seen as it entered off the road. The first post master was Henry B. Hopkins of Connecticut. Lyman C. Drake was the last postmaster, listed as 1883.
Sugar Grove was named for the many sugar maples growing around the church and that area. The making of maple sugar was an annual event. This grove of trees was cleared away by Herman L. Williams and Alexander McEathron. The largest log was too big for the Sugar Grove sawmill and had to be taken to Readstown for sawing.
As farms were built trees were cut, and were hauled to the mill to be sawed into lumber to make new homes. With the trees gone, the earth was plowed, and many beautiful wild flowers were gone. Nevertheless, this area must have been a beautiful sight in the fall to all who came and settled in Sugar Grove. Submitted by Ione Williams, who in 2004 moved out of the area to live with her daughter.
SUGAR GROVE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The first religious services were held at the residence of Zachariah Smith, in 1855, by Daniel Parkinson, an Ohio minister, then living at Viroqua, Wis. Mr. Parkinson often stopped at the Smith home to preach the Gospel, and a number of people rallied to the service of Christ.
In June of 18 5 7, the Church of Christ was organized at the schoolhouse, on Section 13 by George Babb, the first regular minister of the church. The schoolhouse was situated on the northwest corner of the land now owned by George and Ione Williams, and was built of logs. The original membership was composed of about fourteen people. Abram Williams and Zachariah Smith were chosen elders, and William Shore and Henry Davis as deacons. The original membership was composed of the following: Zachariah Smith and wife; William Shore and wife; Abram Williams; George Spurrier and wife; Henry Davis and wife; Ruben Drake and wife; William Powell; and Elmira Neuman.
For some time there was no regular settled pastor, but the pulpit was supplied by preachers from other points. Worship was continued in the schoolhouse for four or five years. After the schoolhouse burned, the meeting place was moved to the frame building which was on the farm later owned by the Hocking brothers and sisters. The first Richland County Atlas issued in 1874 places the Christian Church on property owned by J. W. Martin in the southwest corner of Sylvan Township. Here worship was continued until a piece of land was bought and a building erected on the ground where the present church building now stands.
In 1866, Henry Howe, Evangelist, held a meeting with nearly one hundred additions to the church membership. At that time a Bible School was organized with William Powell as the first superintendent.
In 1874, a quarter acre of land was purchased from Zachariah Smith and a neat frame building was erected on the present site, in the Town of Kickapoo, Vernon County. Three carpenters were hired: Robert Byers, Ransom Kellogg, and Joe Davis. Friends of the church offered their help and worked willingly.
The inside arrangement of the first church building was a row of seats in the center of the room, from the high pulpit back to the wood stove. On either side of the seats, along the wall was a pile of lumber to sit on. Often spring seats from the wagons and sleds were brought in for more seating space. Elder Milton Wells often remarked, "I have seen more people standing to the square foot in the Sugar Grove Church than any place else I ever saw."
Outside of the church, on all sides, were groves of sugar maple trees to which the teams were tied. Later, hitching posts were substituted. The maple groves, between the church building and what is now Highway 14, were often used for basket dinners. The dinners were sometimes followed by afternoon services and an evening service beginning at early candle light.
About 1900, an addition to the building, on the south was begun, with George Ward and Rant Kellogg being the principle carpenters, but many gave a few days help without charge. The addition was dedicated on October 8, 1905, by Elder Milton Wells.
The first Ladies Aid Society was organized April 3, 1902, at May Drake's for the purpose of raising money to furnish the interior of the new church building. The following officers were elected: president, Mrs. L. P. McEathron; vice president, Mrs. May Drake; secretary, Mary Moses; and treasurer, Daisy Turner. The Ladies Aid bought lamps, window shades, carpet, material for seats, 18 chairs, and papered the building. After the church was dedicated they bought the bell. Since then the ladies of the church helped furnish the parsonage, made quilts for the needy, helped the missionaries, and worked wherever they were needed.
Since the establishment of the Sugar Grove church, many things have taken place. The churches at Readstown, Soldiers Grove, and Sabin have been established. Ministers H.F.
Barstow, Alexander McEathron, L.Z. Smith and son, Gerald L.K. Smith and Clarence Clason have been sent out. Not an original sugar tree is left. The basement has been finished and remodeled into a kitchen and dining area. The inside walls of the church have been refinished and the
high ceiling lowered in quite an unusual design worked out by carpenter Harold Haines.
The first homecoming was held October 12, 1930. It was the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the new part of the building. Homecoming has always been observed yearly, on the second Sunday of October. The first was under the direction of Eldon Chitwood, then serving as minister.
The 1940s brought electricity from REA. The kitchen now boasts of electric stove, refrigerator, and outlets to plug in electric appliances. The old wood furnace has been removed and replaced by two automatic oil furnaces. The south basement classrooms and foyer are equipped with electric wall heaters.
On August 9, 1950, Sugar Grove Women's Christian Temperance Union was organized with a charter of six members, meeting each month in the homes of members.
In the early 1960s, the Sugar Grove School was purchased for one dollar and joined to the north side of the church building. This room with the basement provided more classrooms, an entryway and office room. The outside entryway to the basement was eliminated. The work was done by the men of the church. The Christian Builders class, under the direction of Donald Larson, paneled the interior.
In 1956, the youth of the church organized into a group which they called "Twelve and Teens.” They met for devotions and recreation under the leadership of minister Charles Gard.
In the year 1957, Sugar Grove Church celebrated their centennial year. Rev. Alexander McEathron was to have been the speaker, but he passed away the Tuesday before, and Rev. Eldon Chitwoodwas asked to give the message.
The "Sugar Grove Leaf,” a newsletter, written twice monthly was begun in 1963 by minister Joe Adams.
In 1970, minister Dan Lundgren made a redwood sign and placed it along Highway 14, inviting travelers and fellow Christians to the House of Worship.
A well was drilled in 1972, and a pressure water system was installed. The kitchen was improved with new sinks and a hot water heater. Two restrooms were built in the northeast corner of the basement.
In the fall of 1973, a basement was dug under the south addition and enclosed by Egge Brothers of Viola. The men of the church removed the front porch and put up framework to square off the building. Melvin McKittrick and George Williams donating their work as carpenters, made the framework into a beautiful foyer, covering the walls with paneling and ceiling with blocks and placing double safety doors at the front. With carpeting on the floor it provided a quiet and roomy entry in which to hang coats with doorways to enter either section of the sanctuary. The new basement addition was made into three private classrooms with a safety hall leading to the outside stairway. The building and basement meet all rules of the State Safety Code. The inside stairway on the south was built by Larson Construction Co. of Viroqua.
The wall between the school and church was removed and a folding doorway was installed in 1974. The entire floor of the church was carpeted.
In 1977, 80-year old Sheldon Glick was hired to paint the ceiling. After this was done, paneling was installed on the main part of the church with Donald Larson doing the carpenter work. Minister Ted Sieck applied the stain and varnish.
In 1977, a new piano was purchased, and a new organ was bought in 1979.
In 1978, George Williams surveyed the area and land for parking was deeded to the church by George and Ione Williams (George hired Curtis Crook to do the surveying).
In 1979, the property on which the church building sits was resurveyed, and Iza Wanless and family provided space for a driveway around the church buildings.
Kitchen cupboards, a sink, and refrigerator were donated by Robert Keller in memory of his wife.
George and Ione Williams donated land in 1990 for a new parsonage. A new parsonage was erected the same summer. Submitted by Ione Williams.
THERE ONCE WAS A TOWN AT KICKAPOO CENTER
The history of Kickapoo Center really begins with a man named Samuel Estes. One day in 1850, he found himself floating down the Kickapoo River on a raft with a group of other men he had encountered at an encampment north of Ontario. He carried all he owned in a knapsack. He had until quite recently, been farming near Elkhorn, coming originally in 1846 from Massachusetts. A quarrel broke out on the raft between the trapper/adventurers, and Estes deemed it advisable to disembark in the general vicinity of Wilder Farm, north of today's Kickapoo Center cemetery.
Estes built some sort of primitive habitation, not really describable as a cabin, and put his hunting and trapping skills to work, collecting pelts to be sold in Prairie du Chien. There was a herd of elk living along the banks of today's Elk Creek- a stream named by Estes. He was evidently alone in the Kickapoo Center area for as much as a year before other settlers came. He explored all the local Indian trails and was the first white to explore between Kickapoo Center and Ash Ridge. Ash Ridge was, at this early point in local history, a stopover on a major north/ south route called the Black River Road. Eventually, a horseback mail route would be set up from Orion, on the Wisconsin River to Richland City (Center), Ash Ridge, Kickapoo Center, Readstown, Brookville, Liberty Pole, to Viroqua. When people began coming into the private wilderness of Sam Estes, he journeyed to Prairie du Chien (the county seat of Crawford County, in these days before Vernon County was created) and registered some of the valley for himself.
In 1854, after some preliminary scouting reports over the preceding couple of years, a major expedition of people with names like Cushman, Lawton, Gibbs, and Ostenbaugh
arrived in Kickapoo Center. The first cabin had been built on the site in 1852, by James Foreman Jr. Now a real town took shape. In 1854, A.C. Cushman built a sawmill at the mouth of Elk Creek. He structured a dam, a mill race, and a two acre pond at the site. Soon after this, a second sawmill was build by Pete Neely farther up Elk Creek. Later still, Jesse Osborn erected a grist mill between the two sawmills. Also in 1854 Robert Wilson came from Pennsylvania and built a log cabin hostelry which became the post office and he became the first postmaster. Wilson was an ardent Democrat, naming his hotel the Jackson House, in honor of Andrew Jackson. He was also a deacon of the Baptist church, which managed in 1880, to build a church on Kickapoo Street, the hamlet's main east/west artery.
At the far east end of Kickapoo Street, in 1857, Knox and St. John opened a store in a log building. In time, this log building was converted into a two-story structure with a basement and residential lean-to at the west end. There may have been offices in the upper floors, taken up by such firms as Andrews and Smith real estate. This entire structure would be dismantled about 1906 and would be used to construct buildings on a farm along Moore Road on a nearby ridge. This store building was south Kickapoo Street, at the west end of a bridge. A buckeye tree was planted at the northeast comer of the store by an owner named Hopkins in the 1890's. The road and bridge were just north of this tree, which still stands, overlooking the deep depression near the riverbank, which was once the stonewalled basement of the store.
The 1884 History of Vernon County makes an interesting reference to "the little collection of houses known as Kickapoo,” locating it in section 35, town 12, range 3 west- at which spot today is virtually nothing.
In addition to the Kickapoo Center cemetery, the Barrie cemetery was also located near the village. In 1853, David Barrie left Scotland, and in January 1854 he began farming at the site of today's Bruce Hanson farm. He built the present house in 1877. He married Mary Guist, daughter of Isaiah Guist of Manning. His granddaughter, Myrtle Barrie, married Russell Kanable and they lived there for many years.
Kickapoo Center endured into the rail age. Although a formal railroad station was never constructed, a rail siding and platform was erected in the 1890's on the bottom land south of the present ________ house. Local farmers and woodsmen would deliver wood to this spot for loading into a freight car, which would periodically haul this product to markets far distant. The railroad was discontinued in the late 1930's.
Kickapoo Center had a brief moment of glamour in the years between the two World Wars. From the 1920s until the 1940s, a nightclub called Inland Park was located where the Cushman sawmill once stood, on land not far from where Elk Creek meets the Kickapoo River. This was a large, well-known, eating, dancing, and amusement place initially built and operated by Lemuel (Putch) Rabbitt. He operated the establishment from 1924 to 1934, when it was sold to Arnold and Hazel Schroeder. It operated for eleven more years, finally being destroyed by fire. It is reported that during the ownership of the Schroeders, some of the most well-known orchestras in the country played at dances.
In the middle 1960's a new bridge over the Kickapoo was built at Kickapoo Center. This replaced an early 20th century steel truss bridge which once stood at the end of Kickapoo Center's main street, and the former Main Street has returned to nature. Pilings along the Kickapoo River, just north of the path of the former highway remain in testimony of the valiant efforts made to protect the highway from the continual threat of the river's floods.
Kickapoo Center is now little more than a concept. Most traces of the more than 100 years of civilization that existed in this floodplain have been hauled away or buried under years of river silt. Submitted by John H. Sime, thanks to Bill Brown, Joe Childs, Carol and Julius Hanson, Ron Phillips and Epitaph-News.