Door County Stories: And Stories From the Belgian Settlement 0965076946

440 51 44MB

English Pages [244] Year 2003

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Door County Stories: And Stories From the Belgian Settlement

Citation preview

Door ·County Stories And Stories From The Belgian Settlement

by Paul


Frances Burton

Door County Stories And Stories From The Belgian Settlement

by Paul


Frances Burton 2003

Stonehill Publishing Post Office Box 250 Ephraim, WI 54211

© Copyright 2003 by Paul and Frances Burton

All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without written permission by the authors

Stonehill Publishing Paul and Frances Burton Post Office Box 250 Ephraim, WI 54211

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Authors: Burton, Paul R., and Burton, Frances M. Title: Door County Stories 1. History 2 . Places , People 3. Door County 4 . Wisconsin ISBN 0-9650769-4-6

Painting on front cover by Ellen Sprog0 Topelmann

Dedicated To The Present And Past Inhabitants Of Door County Who Enabled Us To Write These Stories

Table Of Contents 1 Introduction

3 Eat to Live - Live to Eat; Belgian Food and Festivals

10 The Area's Belgian Immigrants Struggled to Find Their Heaven 16 Belgian Stubborness and Hard Work Tamed Southern Door

21 These Shoes Weren't Made for Walking 25 Fire Shaped Belgian Architecture

33 Tiny Sacred Places 40 Walloon Spoken Here 45 The Little Cemetery in the Sky 48 St. Mary of the Snows: The Story of the Snows

52 A Great, Great Granddaughter's Tribute to Her Belgian Heritage

58 Miracle at Robinsonville

66 The Photographs of Virginia LeFevre Servais

79 Lumberjacks 88 Henschels' Farm And Sawmill - And The Lady Sawyer 94 Going, Going, Gone ... The Old Barns of Door County

108 Jacksonport's Auto Maker 114 Busby's: Where Everybody Knew Your Name

122 "The Old Nelson Place" 127 Say Cheese 134 Eating has Always Been an Adventure

138 Two Hermits 142 What do You Plant in a Disgarden? 146 White Star Spiritualist Church 150 Vladimir Rousseff - Mystery Artist 155 Arrulou Crest a/k/ a Mrs. Johnson's Coffee Shop 161 Cave Man of Door County 167 Door County's Largest Landowner 172 The Great Alpena Blow 177 Captain McGarity and S.S. Carolina Brought World to Door County

182 How Did Oldtimers Survive Winter Without L.L. Bean? 18 7 It Rained Hellfire - And Words Fail Us 195 Joe Wildcat, Proprietor of Castle Romance 198 Chambers Island: Sweet Dreams and Harsh Realities 205 A Cooper in the Park - And the Art of Making a Barrel 211 Art in the Park 227 Acknowledgements 228 Index 233 About the authors




his book is a follow-up to Ephraim Stories, first published in 1999, where we focused on the historic Moravian village on the shore of Eagle Harbor. For Door County Stories, we broadened our scope and wrote mainly about interesting places and people outside the village, mostly from the past. We gave special consideration to the Belgian Settlements in southern Door County and portions of Kewaunee County, but we only scratched the surface. Many stories remain-enough to keep a half dozen authors busy. Some of the articles in this book originally appeared in The Door Peninsula Voice, a bimonthly "Journal of Door County Arts and Life" (Brown County Publishing). They appear here, with permission, in expanded form with additional illustrations . One of our goals is to call attention to the importance of Belgian immigrants to Door County. We often take for granted the contributions of those who settled away from the peninsula's shorelines. We may forget that in the heartland of Door, Kewaunee, and Brown counties there exists the largest concentration of farm families of Belgian descent in North America. The articles in this book introduce some of our Belgian friends and the pastoral scenes with which they are associated . Perhaps this introduction to the Belgian settlements will encourage the reader to drive the back roads south of Brussels and take a closer look at Rosiere, Luxemburg, Casco, and Champion. Maybe it will include a visit to the Chapel at Robinsonville. Certainly it will include a chance to enjoy the sight of the many square, red brick farmhouses of the area. And if the reader is lucky, it will include an opportunity to visit with some of the proud descendents of the original Belgian settlers. Many changes are occurring in the Belgian settlement and Door County as a whole. Our rich history is based on values of yesteryear that serve to anchor us as we look at the values shaping the Door County of today. Our history may even provide a guide for tomorrow. As Allan Bloom said, "We need history, not to tell us what happened or to explain the past, but to make the past alive so that it can explain us and make a future possible." (The Closing of the American Mind).

Paul and Frances Burton Spring, 2003



Eat to Live-Live to Eat Belgian Food and Festivals

" I t was always a dish that could feed a lot of people. " So said Mary Ann Englebert, who should know what she's talking about. An outstanding cook who was born in the Belgian community, she was referring to nearly anything Belgian cooks concocted. Tasty-and a lot of it-that's Belgian cooking. From speculoo cookies on St. Nicolas Day to jut, trippe, and Belgian pies for kermis , food and festivals have always played an important part in Belgian family life. When Belgians began settling in southern Door County in the middle 1850s, they brought many of their Old World customs with them. Because they usually traveled in cramped quarters on crowded ships, they were forced to leave many possessions behind. But they didn't leave behind their love of food, their treasured recipes, or the pleasure they derived from celebrating holidays and festivals . Although some traditions and festivals have disappeared , a great many of the special dishes that sustained Belgian-Americans in their early days in Door County have been passed down through the generations and are served today. Many "traditional" dishes of today originated in the immigrants' difficult, early years. Everything they ate was something they had grown or raised themselves, and absolutely nothing went to waste. When butchering a hog, for example, every bit was used , and some delicious dishes resulted from imaginative use of unlikely parts of the animal. It took three very full days to butcher the hog, prepare the meat, and store it. When the work was finished , friends and neighbors joined the family to share specialty dishes such as hatches (pronounced "utches"), headcheese, and pigs' feet. "Hatches," said Jan Lacrosse , who was born in Door County's Belgian community, "are pigs' feet, ears, tongue, and heart." Boil them all together, remove the foot bones, cut up the meat, and add prunes or rai-

4 sins, seasonings, brown sugar and vinegar. "It's supposed to be almost sweet-sour," said Jan. "It's good. It's really good." Then there's headcheese. It may not appeal to the squeamish and it isn't really cheese, but it's a delicacy prized by many-a delicacy that requires a lot of effort. First, clean a hog's head and cook in a kettle until tender. Remove the bone, grind the meat with a few onions, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Using cheesecloth, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and let sit overnight, weighted with a heavy object. Finally, slice thin and eat with bread. "It's a lot of work, but it's a way to use up every part of the pig," wrote Mary Ann Englebert in her book describing life in the early days of the Belgian community. Preparing pigs' feet is something else that requires a lot of effort, but according to Jan Lacrosse, "Pigs' feet are delicious. You boil them and you clean them and you put them in hot water and scrape all the hair off. You have to pull off the nails, and then you soak 'em in salt water overnight and they get real nice and white. Then you boil them and cut them in pieces and you just fry them. They will get real crispy. It's very, very good." Nearly anyone who has tasted them agrees. In the early days, families depended on their hog to provide most of their meat during the long winter, although sometimes men would bring in a rabbit, squirrel, or even a ground hog. To cook a ground hog, "Soak in water with a little salt and a little vinegar overnight. Use a stainless kettle. Drain, wash meat and kettle. Start over. Salt each piece of meat and place in the kettle with water (not quite enough to cover), lots of butter (about half a pound), and onion chopped up, some chives, nutmeg, thyme and a bayleaf. Cook until done, add water as needed to keep from burning" (from a cookbook by Margaret Draize). Careful preparation and tasty seasoning made wild game a welcome addition to the families' winter diets. Occasionally, hens past their prime were available. "When the hens stopped laying, my mother chopped the head off, and the hen ended up in booyah," remembered Mary Ann Englebert, who added that "chicken feet were a delicacy, skinned and covered with gravy." During summer months, Belgian-American families enjoyed vegetables gathered from their big gardens. The plentitude of vegetables resulted in numerous recipes for cooking the more common ones, such as cabbage. Margaret Draize lists at least 10 ways to prepare cabbage, including fried, raw with sauce, red cabbage, green cabbage, cabbage soup, and the delicious favorite of the kermis celebration-cabbage jut. Baking went on year-round, and hard working farmwomen prided themselves on their bread, often baking ten to twelve loaves at a time. Because the bread contained no preservatives, women stored it carefully, placing the loaves in 30-gallon crocks in the cellar, covering them with a

5 white cloth and then a wooden cover. The bread's hard crust provided additional protection from spoiling. Despite the rigors of living in a new and rugged country, Belgian immigrants made time to celebrate holidays and festivals. Traditional Belgian hospitality, combined with a love of good eating, meant the celebrations included special foods and plenty of them. The speculoos served on St. Nicolas Day (Dec. 6th) were cookies made from a rich dough flavored with spices (p. 8). Of course, family and friends gathered to celebrate and enjoy traditional foods on Christmas, New Years, Easter, and Thanksgiving, but the grandfather of all Belgian celebrations is the kermis (or kermiss). Kermis, a custom brought from Belgium, is an autumn celebration giving thanks for a good harvest. The first kermis to be celebrated in Door County took place in 1858, only a few years after Belgian immigrants began settling the area. Because farms were separated by many miles and travel was by foot or horse drawn wagons, kermis provided a welcome opportunity for families and friends to reunite. "You'd get people from all over and your relatives you hadn't seen for a long time," said Jan Lacrosse. "There's relatives who'd come only once a year and they'd come to eat and drink." Kermis was originally a three-day affair (Saturday through Monday) with different villages celebrating their kermis on different weekends, beginning the fourth weekend in August with Lincoln's kermis. Brussels, Namur, Rosiere, Dyckesville, Gardner, and Misere, followed, ending with Casco on t~e second weekend in October. "Kermis always st~ted with a mass where everyone gave thanks to God for the bountiful harvest," wrote Mary Anne Englebert. After church, friends and relatives celebrated with singing, dancing, story telling, and eating. The get-togethers took place in individual homes, with each household preparing for numerous visitors. "You had something on the stove all the time, something for people to eat all the time," said Jan Lacrosse. She prepared 100 Belgian pies for her kermis, as well as lots of other food. It was common to bake beautiful, tall layer cakes and put them out on the table where they were always available for snacking. Preparations for kermis started days ahead of time. For many years there was no refrigeration, and the huge quantities of food were kept from spoiling by carrying them to the cellar (or root cellar) where it was dark and cool. Covered with clean bed sheets and white dishtowels, heaping bowls, pans, and plates of food rested on temporary tables made of planks and sawhorses. Kermis dishes included soups and stews, fancy vegetable dishes and salads, baked chicken and other meats, a variety of breads, numerous desserts, and traditional dishes, such as chicken booyah, jut, trippe, and Belgian pies.

6 Chicken booyah (recipe below) is a hearty, well-seasoned cross between soup and stew consisting of chicken, carrots, celery, and onions. Jut is an odd sounding but good tasting combination of cabbage cooked with onions , butter, milk, potatoes, and sometimes sugar and vinegar. And trippe is a tasty, bratwurst-size sausage made with ground pork, cabbage, onions , and spices. Belgian pies (Fig. 1) differ from American pies, said Christine Chaudoir, a third-generation Belgian, who described them as larger versions of kolaches (Bohemian delicacies with raised dough crusts). The crusts are spread with fruit and topped with homemade cottage cheese (p. 8). Christine learned to make the pies from her mother-inlaw. Together they would prepare 150 pies for kermis . They started at the beginning of the week and stored the pies Fig. 1 - Marchant's Grocery Store in Brussels features their famous Belgian upstairs on beds. "You always make a pies. lot." The fewest you could make? "Maybe as few as a dozen." True Belgian pies have prune or apple filling and are always made with dried fruit. Poppy seed filling is common but is Bohemian, not Belgian. The cherry pies that can be purchased today were added to appeal to tourists. Although preparing for kermis was a tremendous amount of work for the whole family, "It was a good time. We'd work hard, but it was happy. It was what you wanted to do . You knew you were going to see your people," said Jan Lacrosse. As years passed, kermis underwent changes . The original threeday celebration became a Sunday-only event, and restaurants replaced homes as gathering and eating places. Today kermis is no longer celebrated, although parts of it have been incorporated into July's Belgian Days festival in Brussels. During Belgian Days, restaurants and booths sell trippe, jut, booyah, and Belgian pies, but now most of the people who travel to the community to enjoy the delicacies are not Belgians. It just goes to show that you don't have to be Belgian to love good Belgian food .

Chicken Booyah Clean, wash, and cut up a chicken. Place in kettle with 3-4 quarts water, a little salt and pepper, several carrots, 2-3 cloves, a bay leaf, thyme, a

7 couple of ribs of celery, and a big cut-up onion. Boil until the meat is tender and easy to remove from the bones, 2-4 hours. Remove carrots and celery and discard. Skin and bone the chicken pieces, cube the meat, and add it back to the liquid, as well as 3 cups sliced carrots, 1 V2 cups sliced celery ribs, 1 large onion cut fine, and l 1h cups cut up leek. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add some noodles, salt to taste, and cook until noodles are done (from Margaret Draize, used with permission).

Fig. 2 - In July, at the annual Belgian Days Festival in Brussels, great kettles of chicken booyah are prepared for throngs of Belgian descendents and visitors. Members of the Brussels Lions Club get up at 4:00 AM to prepare the booyah. It's sold by the bowl and by the gallon. The Lions sell about 200 gallons during the two-day festival.

8 Belgian Pie (Makes three 9-inch pies-a much smaller number than any selfrespecting Belgian cook would make; recipe from Margaret Draize, used with permission)

Crust: Soak 1 package dry yeast and 1 tsp. sugar for 15 minutes in a little warm water. Cream V2 cup butter and lard, 2 T sugar, and 2 eggs. Add 3 T warm milk, 1 tsp. salt, 2-2 1/2 cups flour, and the yeast mixture. Knead until smooth, and let raise until smooth and double (1-1 V2 hours). Shape into 3 balls, rest 15 minutes. Pat into 3 nine-inch pie pans. Let stand 10 minutes, fill and bake. Prune Filling: Cook 1 V2 pounds prunes in water, drain (save a little juice), and remove pits. Add 1 V2 cups sugar, 1 cup applesauce (gives the filling a less strong flavor), stir. Add a little of the prune juice to attain the right consistency. Fill pie crusts, cover with cheese topping and bake. Cheese Topping: 11 ounces cottage cheese: drain and press through a sieve. Add 1/3 bar cream cheese, 1 egg yolk, 2 T sugar, hunk of melted butter. Cream together, adding a little cream if too thick. Spread on top of fruit filling. Bake until the crust is done.

Speculoos (Spice Cookies) 4 cups flour 1 tsp. cinnamon V2 tsp. baking powder V2 tsp. nutmeg 1/4 lb. butter 1 v4 cups dark brown sugar 1 egg, beaten 2 Twater Sift flour, cinnamon, and baking powder together and add nutmeg. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and blend well. Add dry ingredients gradually, alternating with water. Shape batter into a roll, wrap in wax paper, and store in refrigerator until well chilled.


Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness on floured board. Cut with a gingerbread man cookie cutter; for Christmas, use a St. Nicolas-shape cookie cutter. Bake on buttered baking sheet in 375° oven for 12 minutes or until evenly browned. Remove from pan quickly and cool on wire rack. Makes 20-24 cookies. (from Juliette Elkon, A Belgian Cookbook)

Sources: Draize, Margaret, 1966, Belgian American Heritage - Customs and Cookbook, (self-published); Elkon, Juliette, 1958, A Belgian Cookbook, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Inc., New York; Englebert, Mary Ann, 1992, Forever Yesterday, We Were Young, self-published; Guth, Jerry, 1955, A Proud Heritage: History of Belgian Settlements, Heart of Dairyland and Wisconsin's Ethnic Settlement Trail, Inc.; Wautlet, Josie, 1976, Old Kermis was Festive Time but Hard Work for Housewife, Door County Advocate, Aug. 31; Interviews with Jan Lacrosse, Mary Ann Englebert, and Christine Chaudoir.


The Area's Belgian Immigrants Struggled To Find Their Heaven

"Father Daems was elated in meeting his countrymen. He was a friendly young man, energetic and full of enthusiasm for his work and for the new country. To the homesick Belgians, it was like meeting a lost brother. The Belgian language was music to their ears and they

11 crowded around him as if he was arisen from the dead... Said Father Daems, 'You must come and see my parish and lands surrounding it first ... the soil is of excellent quality for farming.' " These words from historian Math Tlachac introduce the story of how Belgians emigrating to this country happened to settle in Door, Kewaunee, and Brown counties, and how Father Daems was instrumental in that decision. The story begins back in Belgium, a European country about onefourth the size of Wisconsin. Oral history must tell that part of the story, since nearly all the Belgian immigrants came from the south central provinces of Belgium where Walloon is spoken-and Walloon is a French dialect with no written equivalent. People who speak Walloon are often referred to as "Walloons" (the language of the northern Belgian provinces is Flemish). According to oral history, around 1852 a Walloon named Francois Petiniot, from the village of Grez-Doiceau in Brabant Province, returned from a trip to Antwerp with a brochure encouraging Belgians to leave their troubles behind and emigrate to America. There they might find heaven-so the brochure said-for land was cheap, fertile, and lush with forests. As if this weren't enough, "recruiters" from shipping firms traveled from village to village extolling the virtues of the New World. Working on commission, these fast-talkers painted America in glowing colors. Petiniot talked with his family and others in the village about the hardships they were experiencing. Population growth had caused crowding on Belgian farms and many families endured a meager existence as tenant farmers for large landholders. Population had increased by 50% between 1820 and 1845, resulting in serious food shortages. Children were malnourished and dying. One report noted that out of four children under age seven, only one would survive to adulthood. And the country continued to suffer from the potato blight that began in 1845 and affected all of Europe. In addition, Belgians lived in fear of another cholera epidemic like the one a few years earlier where thousands had died. Considering the tribulations they faced in Belgium, is it any wonder that emigration to America was such an easy sell to Petiniot? About 15,000 Belgians arrived in America between 1854-58, most traveling to Wisconsin, for word was out to prospective European emigrants that land in this new state was available and cheap. In 1853, the same year Rev. Andrew Iverson founded Ephraim, Francois Petiniot and his family, along with about a dozen other Belgian families, traveled to Antwerp to begin their voyage to America. They departed May 17th on the three-masted schooner Quinnebaug, an American ship well beyond its prime. The ship carried 81 men, women, and children from Brabant Province, while the rest of the 180 passengers were Dutch. Most of the passengers were farmers and laborers, but the Walloon contingent included several stonecutters, a barber, shoemaker, and

12 baker. Petiniot was the oldest at 65. The youngest was five months of age . Due to terrible weather, the Atlantic crossing took almost 50 days, and several people died of disease. Near the end of the voyage, the aged ship ran out of food, and the only drinking water for passengers was bilge water that was often so red and viscous it was undrinkable. Fresh water was kept on deck for the seamen, but the immigrants traveled below decks in steerage. Finally they reached New York. Although some of the "Quinnebaug Pioneers" were so weak when they disembarked they couldn't walk, most survived. On board ship the Belgians talked with their Dutch friends about where they would settle in America. The Dutch were headed for a place called Sheboygan, in Wisconsin, and 41 of the Belgians decided to join them . They traveled overland and by canal to Buffalo, then across Lake Erie to Detroit, and finally to Milwaukee by lake steamer. Upon arriving, the "Quinnebaug Pioneers" from Belgium soon discovered that the Dutch settlers in Sheboygan couldn't understand the Walloon language, nor could the Belgians comprehend English. Fortunately, the Belgians met a French-speaking immigrant in Sheboygan who told them that just to the north there was an area called Green Bay where nearly half the population spoke French. The Belgians, who were eager to settle down and begin a new life, greeted this news with excitement and hope. Once again the "Quinnebaug Pioneers" packed up their belongings and headed north. Arriving in Green Bay near the end of August, they were pleased to discover many French-speaking settlers as well as readily available government land. Immediately the men began to travel around the area, on foot or horseback, looking for good farmland. On one of their trips south of Green Bay the men made a small down payment on land near Kaukauna. Fate, however, would soon steer them in another direction. When they returned from Kaukauna, they learned that Philippe Hannon's youngest child had died. Philippe, his wife Marie, and their four children were among the "Quinnebaug Pioneers." The funeral for their daughter, Marie Barbe (born in Grez Doiceau in 1852), was to be held at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Green Bay. By chance, the parish priest was hosting a Belgian visitor. He was Father Edouard Daems, a Belgian missionary whose home parish lay just north of Green Bay at a place called Bay Settlement (see map on p. 14). It was on the southern edge of the great wilderness forests to the north. The newly arrived Belgian immigrants were delighted to meet Father Daems, for here was one of their own countrymen with whom they could converse easily. In addition, he understood the Belgian way of thinking, and he appreciated what they hoped to achieve in America. Excited to be with his countrymen again, he encouraged them to relinquish

their deposit on the Kaukauna land and move farther north where they would be in his parish. He even offered to help with the paperwork in purchasing government land, priced at $1.25 an acre. The "Quinnebaug Pioneers" were overjoyed. At last they were beginning to glimpse their American heaven. Shortly after Marie Barbe Hannon's funeral, the group organized themselves for yet another move. They followed Father Daems northward and staked out claims about 10 miles northeast of Bay Settlement, close enough to remain part of Father Daems' parish. True to his word, he helped each family acquire title to 40-80 acres of their own land, most of which was heavily forested. They named their scattered settlement Aux Premeir Belges-the First Belgians. Later it would be called Robinsonville and Champion. And still later, as more Belgian settlers arrived, place-names like Brussels, Namur (rhymes with "endure"), Rosiere, Thiry Daems, Luxemburg, Misere, Tonet, New Franken, and Kolberg (see map below) would become part of the growing Belgian community. Many were named for familiar places in their European homeland. Fate and Father Daems led the "Quinnebaug Pioneers" to a beautiful but rugged place, where their only neighbors were Potawatami Indians living in the virgin forests. Clearing land, grubbing stumps, severe cold, and bare subsistence farming were the realities of life in the "promised land." These things, however, could be overcome by working together and laboring from dawn to dusk. But disease and fire were things that would test the Belgians to the limit before they and their descendants could sit back and reflect on what they had accomplished in the New World. In 1854-55, a wave of new Belgian immigrants arrived and joined the struggle to clear land and establish farms around northeastern Wisconsin. Most of them were from Grez-Doiceau (see graph that accompanies map below), the same communal village from which the "Quinnebaug Pioneers" emigrated. But these immigrants brought more than their clothes and dreams. They also brought cholera, and it began to spread rapidly. It was said that every family was affected by this disease where " ... death resulted in a few days, sometimes in a few hours, the corpse turning black immediately after death. Not a few families lost as many as five of their members in a single week; most of them were buried on their own land, and in great haste... Father Daems kept a horse saddled day and night so he could go at a moment's notice when needed, and in one seven week stretch, he had not a single full night sleep without being called to the bedside of a dying parishioner" (from Farewell to the Homeland). Immigrants continued to arrive, however, because news of the cholera epidemic was slow to cross the ocean to Belgium. Eventually the epidemic subsided, but in 1857 emigration from Belgium abruptly

14 ceased. There were several reasons. First, the Belgian government began to overtly discourage emigration, and second, farm productivity in the old world began to improve. Also , word was beginning to trickle back from settlers in America that, although land was cheap, life wasn 't so easy and disease was epidemic. Emigrants &om Grez Doiceau to Wisconsin

1847 49







63 1865


The above chart is modified from Defnet, et al, 1986. The map at the right is modified from from Laatsch and Calkins, 1992.

Door Co.

······· ····· ··· ··•··· ··· ··· · ·· ····· ·············· •Duvall I..inco~


Kewaunee Co.


•Thiry Daems



New Franken



Belgian Immigration To Door County In 1860 some 2 ,900 Belgian-Americans lived in Door, Kewaunee , and Brown counties (see map above) , where they owned about 150 square miles of land. Today the greatest concentration of rural Belgians in North America resides in these three counties. It all began with the "Quinnebaug Pioneers" and their willingness to trust a parish priest living on the edge of a Wisconsin wilderness.

Sources: Defnet, M.A. , J. Ducat, T. Eggerickx, and M. Poulain, 1986, From Grez-Doiceau to Wisconsin, Belgian American Heritage, De Boeck, Bruxelles, Belgium; Holand, H.R., 1933, Wisconsin 's Belgian Community, Peninsula Historical Review, Vol. VII, Door County Historical Society, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Laatsch, W.G., and C.F. Calkins, 1992, Bel-

gians in Wisconsin, in: To Build in a New Land (ed. by A.G. Noble), Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, Maryland; Martin, Xavier, 1895, The Belgians of Northeast Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Collection, Vol. VIII, Madison; Kazimierz, J .Z., and C.J. Rosen, 1998, The Atlas of Ethnic Diversity in Wisconsin, Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison; Farewell to the Homeland - European Immigration to N.E. Wisconsin 1840 to 1900, Brown County Historical Society and University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Second Edition ( 1984), (ed . by Sylvia Hall), Published for the Heritage Festival. Note: The name of the ship that carried Francois Petiniot and his

fellow immigrants to America is spelled differently by various authors, including "Quinnebaug," "Quinne Baug," "Queenebec," "Quennebec," and "Quinnebaug." We chose to use "Quinnebaug," from the Defnet et al book (ref. above).


Belgian Stubbornness and Hard Work Tamed Southern Door


ough, stubborn, religious, family-oriented, friendly, trusting, and jolly. That's how Belgian descendants living in Southern Door describe the Belgian "character." And if the Belgian settlers arriving between 1853 and 1856 hadn 't been tough, stubborn, and religious, there would be no Brussels or Namur in Door County, nor would there be Thiry Dames, Tonet, or Luxemburg further south. With their unshakable Catholic beliefs providing perpetual hope, Belgian settlers of all ages labored from sun-up to dusk clearing enough land to plant a crop-to transform forest into farm. Sweat soaked their loose-fitting trousers and shirts as they felled trees and piled brush for burning. Many worked their fields in hand-made wooden shoes, a tradition that continued into the 1900s (seep. 21). A first-hand description of the challenges Belgian immigrants faced comes from Xavier Martin, who was one of the first teachers in the community. Since Martin, a Belgian, could speak English, the Walloonspeaking immigrants convinced him to remain in the area to help teach their children English and themselves about the American way of government. Years later, Martin described how settlers began their life in Door County. After walking all the way to Menasha to obtain government deeds for their land, they returned to their property and set to work carving farms out of" ... a thick growth of pine, maple, beech, cedar, and basswood-many of the trees being five and even six feet in diameter, and some over a hundred and fifty feet high-without roads of any kind , not even a trail." There were "no neighbors, no horses, no cattle; nothing but the occasional visit of a wolf, a deer, or a bear." Although German and Scandinavian settlers lived to the north and south, the Belgian immigrants received little welcome from them. The only positive response to their presence came from Potawatomi Indians living in the area. "They became friendly and showed the [Belgian] new-

17 comers how to trap wild animals for food, how to smoke meat for preservation, and how to tap maple trees for syrup." Women worked side by side with men, felling trees and trimming limbs. Clearing the forest served two purposes: exposing soil for planting and providing logs to build small homes. The earliest "houses" were built without nails or other hardware. The floors were bare earth or split logs, and mattresses consisted of balsam twigs and leaves. Tables and chairs were crudely made from leftover logs cut with a whipsaw or split lengthwise. As soon as settlers cleared a small area, they prepared the soil by dragging it with harrows. These were wooden frames with wooden pegs driven through them at a backward angle to prevent them from snagging on small roots. The frame was weighted with stones (or a child) and pulled along with ropes. The pegs broke the soil surface enough to plant seeds, which were then covered with dirt by the harrow, or by hand . The settlers brought seeds with them from Belgium or acquired them in Green Bay or elsewhere during their journey to Door County. Bread is life to Belgians, and wheat seeds were among the first they planted. In anticipation of their need to mill grains in the New World, some immigrants managed to bring with them millstones weighing a hundred pounds or more. Since space was greatly limited on immigrant ships, consider what they had to leave behind. With time, outdoor ovens appeared in the Belgian Settlement, enabling the families to bake a dozen or more loaves of bread at a time. Once settlers began growing wheat for bread, it often fell to the women to carry grain to a distant mill to have it ground into flour. It was not uncommon for a woman to carry a bushel of wheat to a mill 10-15 miles away. According to historian H.R. Holand, the wheat was carried in a loosely filled sack, with one end folded over her forehead and most of the sack resting on her upper back. He wrote, "The endurance of these Belgian women is incredible." As more Belgian settlers arrived, families on neighboring farms helped each other, and a sense of community developed. But during the period of 1853 to about 1856, a few of the immigrants gave up and returned to Belgium. Subsistence farming, bitterly cold winters, and death and suffering that accompanied the 1854 cholera epidemic were enough to break the spirit of some of the toughest of the settlers. When Xavier Martin joined the Belgians in Door County in 1857, he was told that, among the 15,000 immigrants, not one could converse in English. Later he described his initial observations of Belgian settlers. "I found the people apparently very poor, but a more industrious crowd of men, women, and children I have never seen. Many of them were felling trees and clearing land; others were busy shaving shingles by hand, while women were splitting blocks, and the children were packing the

18 shingles; old people were cooking meals; some men were hauling shingles to Green Bay in lumber wagons drawn by oxen; some men were harvesting, others threshing with flails, others burning logs and branches; many were making or brewing their own beer, and nearly all the men were smoking tobacco which they had raised on their own land. Many of them had cattle, some of them had wagons and yokes of oxen, a few had teams of horses; many raised their own pork; those having maple trees on their land would make their own sugar from maple sap; and all or nearly all of them had patches of from five to twenty acres under cultivation." It stands as a tribute to the work ethic of Belgian settlers that all Martin described occurred within a span of three years or less. By 1860 a scattered patchwork of cultivated fields began to emerge in the forests, but many families remained impoverished. Rev. Andrew Iverson, the Moravian minister who helped establish Ephraim in 1853, wrote a letter describing his mid-January encounter with several Belgian settlers. In spite of their desperate poverty, they nevertheless attempted to help the pastor in his time of need. Iverson was walking along the rough shoreline ice from Ephraim to Green Bay. He was on a mission trip and had joined a friend leading a horse hitched to a sleigh. The sleigh was loaded with frozen trout to be sold in Green Bay. After spending the first night in Sturgeon Bay, they were making slow progress in the bitter cold when darkness caught up with them south of Brussels. They decided to unhitch the horse, leave the sleigh on the ice, and seek shelter from the cold. After trudging in deep snow for two miles through a cedar swamp, they finally came upon a clearing and a house with a light showing through the window. This is how Iverson describes his visit. The door opened into "A room as black from dirt as a blacksmith's forge, a woman of corresponding habit, and two children in rags ... all of them afraid of us, and talking a language strange to us." "I spoke to her in German and Dutch, as she understood no English, and at length she understood it, pointing with her hand where other settlers lived." Iverson, his friend, and the horse, then proceeded to another house, which wasn't much better than the first. Here he found the woman's husband, who was " ... another Goliath, whose roaring voice might have frightened even men of courage, yet he was not angry with us." Iverson is describing the booming voice of a friendly, Walloonspeaking Belgian. "In a kind of French he asked us to come in." Iverson declines to describe the interior of the house, saying the reader would not believe him. He goes on to say that in spite of their protests, his oversize host insisted that the horse come into the house. As a result, Iverson, the horse, and the horse's owner spent the night in a small room in

19 the home of one of the early Belgian settlers. Later he wrote: "Never in my life had I a worse lodging!" Although Iverson felt that the accommodations left much to be desired, his Belgian host, despite his humble state, offered shelter and hospitality to perfect strangers-and their horse. This simple act says a great deal about Belgian character. With time Southern Door became dotted with the widely scattered farms of Belgian immigrants, who began to evolve beyond subsistence living. Churches anchored the broad communities and served as places to share faith and traditions. After mass, families often gathered for social events, where they exchanged information as they enjoyed food and home-brewed beer. By their own admission our Belgian neighbors in Southern Door County are stubborn and conservative at times. But these traits, along with physical and mental toughness, allowed their ancestors to survive and transform a rugged wilderness into a viable farming community. Descendents of the first Belgian settlers are as self-reliant and hard working as those who came before, and they remain dedicated to the land that sustains them. Two Belgians who illustrate this dedication are shown in Figs. 1 and 2.

Figs. 1 and 2 - Farming is shown in the face of Norman Lacrosse (Fig. 1, left), who has spent much of his life farming the land. In Fig. 2 (right), a Belgian woman, age 83, tills her garden plot on a spring day.

Today the Belgian community is a valued part of Door County's ethnic mix and farming remains much a part of its life (Fig. 3 below). But

20 it now faces a new and substantial challenge-preserving both its rural character and its traditions in the face of mounting development pressures.

Fig. 3 - Descendents of Belgian immigrants continue to farm land their forefathers settled and worked hard to clear. The photo shows the farm of Joseph and James Wautier in Brussels, with St. Francis Xavier Church in the background. The Wautiers trace their Belgian heritage back many generations. The juxtaposition of church and farm is symbolic of the role the Catholic Church played in providing a place of inspiration and hope for the early Belgian settlers, as they endured great hardship and struggled to make new lives for themselves.

Sources: Burton, P.R., and F.M. Burton, 1996, Ephraim's Founding Father, Stonehill Publishing, Ephraim, Wisconsin; Holand, H.R., 1933, Wisconsin's Belgian Community, Peninsula Historical Review, Vol. VII, Door County Historical Society, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Martin, Xavier, 1895, The Belgians of Northeast Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Collection, Vol. VIII, Madison; Tlachac, M.S ., 1974, The History of the Belgian Settlements in Door, Kewaunee and Brown Counties, as reprinted from a series of articles appearing in the Algoma Record-Herald by the BelgianAmerican Club, Algoma, Wisconsin, pp. 1-38.


These Shoes Weren't Made For Walking


elgian wooden shoes? You bet! Although wooden shoes are synonymous with Holland, sabots (or klompen, as wooden shoes are also known) are characteristic of Belgium too . And at one time, wooden shoes were worn regularly in Door County.

Fig.1- Dutch wooden shoes modeled by a Belgian lady. Wooden shoes weren't worn in the house, but in the farm yard or garden they served their owners well.

Many years ago, wooden shoes were the typical footwear of most Belgian and Dutch farmers and laborers. They were a practical answer to

22 the damp ground and soggy soil of those two countries. The shoes wore better than leather and kept feet drier. Wooden shoes appeared in Door County in the late 1850s when Belgiar1 immigrants began settling southern Door County. Most of the settlers were farmers, but some made wooden shoes in their spare time using tools they brought with them on the long trip to America. The extra money derived from selling shoes provided a welcome addition to the meager income from their farms. Wooden shoes, worn by both men and women, were in demand to cope with Wisconsin's cold winters and damp springs. Leather shoes were expensive, hard to obtain, and wore out quickly. The settlers were poor, and wooden shoes were cheap. They were also practical, protecting feet from nails and dropped implements. In the winter, worn over many pairs of socks, they were nice and warm. In the summer, however, farmers didn't wear socks-at least not when plowing-because the wooden shoes filled up with loose soil. Sabots (or klompen) have an ancient and colorful history. They have been in existence since about 1,000 A.O. During the Middle Ages, Belgian and Dutch peasants wanting to take revenge on their landlords used their sabots to trample the masters' crops-thus, the word "sabotage." Another derivation of "sabotage" comes from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Workers involved in labor disputes sometimes brought their sabots to work and threw them into the machinery of their employers, clogging the machines and shutting down the factory. More sabotage. These practical shoes were even used during the First World War. Although they are not suitable for walking long distances, there are records of Belgian soldiers wearing them as part of their uniforms. Door County Belgians crafted their wooden shoes just like they did in the old country, although the choice of wood was slightly different. In Europe, wooden shoes were usually made of poplar, which was lightweight, tough, easy to work, and had little odor. In Wisconsin, basswood was preferred because it was plentiful, with poplar being second choice. Construction of a wooden shoe always began with green wood, since it was easier to work and less likely to split than cured or dried wood. During fair weather, the shoemaker cut his wood and sawed it into various lengths, each approximating a shoe size. When the weather turned nasty and he was forced inside, he began construction. Starting with one of his pre-cut wooden blocks, he used a sharp hatchet to shape the outside of the shoe. The tricky part came when he began the second shoe, which had to be identical to the first-except opposite. When he had formed the outsides of the pair, he used spoon-shaped knives to painstakingly scoop out and smooth the insides. The last step was to flatten the bottoms by shaving them with a very small, very sharp knife.

23 He then tied each pair together with string so they wouldn 't become separated and hung them over the cook stove to dry. Using a horse and wagon, the shoemaker transported his completed shoes to stores in nearby Door County towns such as Gardner, Brussels, and Union where he sold them for 25 cents a pair. When he had an order for fancier shoes with decorations across the top, the price went up. A leaf pattern made with gouges, combined with a polished finish, could bring up to a dollar. Wooden shoes weren't meant for klompen around the house. They were work shoes and worn outdoors. Eighty-nine-year-old Lily Derenne, who grew up in the Belgian Community, remembers her parents leaving their wooden shoes at the door before they came inside . In a 1964 article in the Door County Advocate, old-timers recalled people wearing their wooden shoes to church services in Rosiere, taking them off at the door, and walking into the sanctuary in wool socks. Belgian settlers originally wore wooden shoes for economic reasons, but even with improving prosperity and greater availability of other materials, some folks continued to wear them for practical reasons. When it was extremely cold, a larger-than-usual size wooden shoe stuffed with straw kept feet warm. Children sometimes wore wooden shoes to school, particularly in the winter. Although they enjoyed using them for gliding on ice or packed snow, the shoes weren't very comfortable. Lily Derenne's aunt told her she was delighted when she fell on the ice, resulting in a cracked wooden shoe that had to be discarded. She then got to wear "regular" shoes . Dutch wooden shoes came into use for the same reasons as for Belgian shoes, but they developed in slightly different directions. Belgian shoes are lower cut around the heel and over the instep. Dutch shoes come up high over the instep and heel (Fig. 1) and are a little clunkier looking. Plain wooden shoes were work shoes, while shoes with decorations were usually reserved for Sundays. Today, most painted and decorated wooden shoes (Figs. 2 and 3 below) are mass-produced for souvenirs or worn as part of a costume. In some parts of Belgium and Holland, however, farmers still work in plain wooden shoes. It's nearly impossible to find an old wooden shoe in the Belgian community today. Very few remain. When cracked or worn out, they were tossed into the fire to provide heat, since every bit of wood was valuable and nothing was wasted . Not many were sorry to see the shoes go. No matter how practical they were for working, few who wore them would claim they were comfortable, and no one would claim they made good hiking shoes. They have a long history and a proud history, but whether they were Belgian or Dutch-these shoes weren't made for walking.


Figs. 2 (left) and 3 (right) - Women's wooden shoes. At the left are Belgian wooden shoes decorated with a typical leaf pattern. Contemporary Dutch shoes, at the right, are painted and are mainly for tourists rather than everyday wear. Women's shoes were usually lower cut than men's.

Sources: Holand, H.R., 1933, Wisconsin's Belgian Community, Door County Historical Society, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Vetter, Lucy, 1964, Pioneer Belgians Carved Out Own Wooden Shoes, Door County Advocate, March 10; Artisan Carves Wooden Shoes in Celebration of His Heritage, Beloit Daily News, April 4, 2000; Information from: Lily Derenne, Linda Opicka, and Lois Stahl;,, and


Fire Shaped Belgian Architecture

The Margellin Baudhuin house on Highway 42 between Namur and Brussels. Built in 1871, it has been restored and is now the home of the Mike and Connie Baudhuin family.

n farmsteads or in tidy yards , red brick houses dot the countryside in the Belgian community. They are squarish, of similar size, and each sports a bulls-eye or half-round window under the front gable. What's the story behind all these look-alike houses? It would be logical to assume that the original Belgian settlers built brick houses reminiscent of those in their homeland, but a little research reveals a more compelling story. The forests of Southern Door County provided the building material for early Belgian settlers. The farmsteads of these immigrants, most of whom arrived between 1850 and 1870, consisted of a house and several outbuildings, all of log construction. By and large the structures


26 were primitive, for unlike Scandinavian immigrants, the Belgians came from a country of brick and stone houses, and they didn't have the traditional knowledge required for constructing tight, well-crafted log buildings. Early buildings in the Belgian Settlement were undistinguished, often rough-looking, and many appeared to have been built hastily. The October fires of 1871 (see page 187) quickly changed everything. The grass and forest fires that spread through Southern Door County were particularly devasting in the Brussels area. They reduced the 3woodlands to a smoldering wasteland and left behind the charred remains of the settlers' log buildings. When the fires finally burned themselves out, trunks of smoldering trees rose starkly in a charred landscape, and blackened remains of log homes and barns littered the countryside. Many Belgians lost their lives, and others lost their livestock and stored grain, as well as their homes and barns. People from all over America, as well as relatives and friends in Belgium, learned about the disaster and sent money, tools, and provisions. Historian Xavier Martin wrote, "Thanks to the generosity of charitable people in all parts of the civilized world, especially the American people, abundant relief began to pour in; with rekindled courage, self-reliance, and hope, the Belgian settlers began to erect new houses and barns, new school-houses and churches, and still further to enlarge their farms." The fires opened up additional land for farming, and the settlers soon discovered that many of the forest's larger trees were charred only on the surface. Even some of the half-burned buildings yielded scorched but usable timbers. But in planning and building their new homes, Belgians turned increasingly to materials in keeping with their heritagebrick and stone. They were well aware that houses constructed of such materials are largely fireproof. The availability of good clay in the area provided a supply of raw material, and brickyards in Brussels, Algoma, Sturgeon Bay, and Forestville began to flourish as never before. In 1898, the Algoma brickyard produced 400,000 bricks. This brickyard formed bricks by machine, while the one in Champion shaped bricks by hand and produced about 200,000 a year. Dried bricks were fired in wood-fired kilns and the finished product sold for $4.00 to $5.00 per thousand. The local clay fired up red, but cream-colored brick, imported from Milwaukee, was sometimes used as trim. With the post-fire building boom, masons were in great demand, and many from Green Bay and even Milwaukee ventured north. In addition to working on new houses, they were often called on to use a veneer of brick to wall in log houses that had escaped the fire. The owners of these houses liked the look of the new brick and stone homes, and on a

27 practical level, they felt it made their log structures more weather and fire resistant. Most of the new houses were built of brick, but a few were constructed of stone. In their 1986 survey of the architecture of rural Belgian settlements in northeastern Wisconsin, Tishler and Brynildson listed 33 stone houses among the 378 houses in their inventory. A stone farmhouse of special interest is that of James Baudhuin (Fig. 1), built by his great-grandfather, Jean Joseph Baudhuin, in 1880 out of yellow limestone quarried along a nearby ridge. Associated with the farmhouse is a very long double-crib barn of log construction. The barn was built in the late 1800s and is one of the largest log barns in the area.

Fig. 1 -The stone farmhouse built by Jean Joseph Baudhuin in 1880. The house is located north of Namur on Highway 42. A free-standing summer kitchen is located close by. Stone for the house was quarried near the site.

Deloris Baudhuin, James' wife, enjoys living in the stone house but admits it has drawbacks. Cupboards are scarce, as are closets, for in the late 1800s clothing was hung on hooks and pegs. With no windows on the east and west sides, the house tends to be dark, and Deloris always keeps at least one light on during the day. Electrical wiring is also a problem in old stone and brick buildings, because "All the wiring had to be surface mounted." But there are advantages to living in a stone house.

28 "We never feel the wind-there can be a gale outside and we wouldn't hear it." In a thunderstorm all the Baudhuins hear through the 24-inch thick stone walls are heavily muffled noises. Many Belgian farmhouses had either attached or free-standing summer kitchens with large baking ovens at one end. The Baudhuin homestead has a free-standing summer kitchen that can easily be seen from the highway (Fig. 2). The outdoor kitchens were places to prepare meals and bake bread without heating up the house itself. The baker (usually a woman) started a wood fire in the oven chamber and permitted it to burn until the oven reached the proper temperature. She cleared the oven by pushing coals and ashes into a depression under the chimney, and then she set rectangular pans of dough in place with a long wooden paddle. She closed the oven's heavy iron Fig. 2 - Summer kitchen at the northeast comer of door and allowed the bread the James Baudhuin House. Note the attached oven to bake. After removing the structure. loaves she used the oven to bake Belgian pies. Saturday was usually baking day, and by the end of the day enough bread and pies were on hand to last all week. A batch of bread often consisted of 20-30 loaves, which permitted the baker to share with neighbors. The typical farmhouse of the Belgian settlements of Door and Kewaunee counties is a box-like, relatively unadorned structure of red brick. These two-story houses reflect the practicality of the Belgians who built them. They were designed to be easy to heat in the wintertime and to provide comfortable living quarters in a small amount of space. Stoves vented into chimneys within the brick or stone walls provided heat. In cold weather the brick and stone near the chimney warmed up during the day and released heat into rooms at night after the fires in the stoves had died down. A common floor plan consisted of two large rooms downstairsone the dining and kitchen area and the other a living room. Bedrooms were upstairs, although some of the early homes sacrificed upstairs space for storage of grain. A root cellar beneath the kitchen provided

29 storage for perishables (p. 134) . Most of the original brick farmhouses were built with a front porch, but today many of the porches are gone.

Fig. 3 - Examples of the circular "bulls-eye" windows seen beneath the gable of many brick farmhouses on Belgian farmsteads. Note the arrangement of the bricks that helps define the decorative windows. Bulls-eye windows were the mason's trade mark.

Although Belgian farmhouses are relatively unadorned, they often show special features reflecting the art of the bricklayer and the tastes of the family. For example, most of them feature a "bulls-eye" or half circle window under the gable at the front of the house (Fig. 3). Conventional windows , too, have decorative touches. They are usually set off by a run, or several runs, of bricks laid vertically, forming an arch to match the circular form of the window under the gable (Fig. 4). Sometimes a different color brick is used for the arch. The quoins or exterior corners are often made distinctive by alternating different color bricks, or by laying bricks crosswise rather than longwise. In some cases a large, square block of limestone is used to define a lower corner. Today, as one drives along roads bordering farmlands settled by Belgian immigrants,

30 it's interesting to look for the many variations on the box-like theme of the red brick farmhouses built after the fires of 18 71. Some of the traditional Belgian farmhouses are in a state of disrepair. It takes a special kind of person to accept the limitations of living in a house built for another time, but fortunately many descendents of Belgian settlers take pride in updating and preserving Fig. 4 - Typical window treatment seen in Belthe brick farmhouses. To gian farmhouses. Sills are of stone (left) or wood make the old houses more (right), and the arrangement of brick over the wincomfortable, they may add a dow varies from house to house. new porch or deck, or perhaps a bay window to break up the brick facade and admit more light (Fig. 5). Others, such as David and Dixie Englebert, find ways to add a modern wing and integrate the two architectural styles in a visually pleasing manner. The Engleberts' dairy farm, located south of Namur, was established by David's great-grandfather in the 1870s. The farm's oldest barn contains scorched logs from the fire of 1871 . The red brick farmhouse was built in 1878. In remodeling the farm house, David and Dixie have done a remarkable job of linking the architecture of the past to that of the present (Fig. 6). They are as proud of their "new" home as they are of their Belgian heritage. Fig. 5 - A bay window was Door, Kewaunee, and Brown counties added to this classic Belgian are home to America's largest concentration farmhouse. of rural Belgians. Their characteristic brick homes represent a distinctive type of ethnic architecture that adds to the charm of the area. But one wonders what kind of architecture would be found today in the Belgian settlements if the great fire of 1871 had not occurred.


Fig. 6 - The home of David and Dixie Englebert. The original red brick farmhouse on the left was built in 1878 by David's great-grandfather. The modem brick wing to the right is artfully blended with the old.

Sources: Calkins, C .F., and W.G. Laatsch, 1979, The Belgian Outdoor Ovens of Northeastern Wisconsin, Pioneer America Society Transactions, V. II, The Pioneer America Society, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio; Hall, S. (ed .), 1984, Farewell to the Homeland, Brown County Historical Society, Green Bay, Wisconsin; Holand, H.R., 1917, History of Door County, Wisconsin: The County Beautiful, Vol. I, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago, Illinois; Kahlert, J., and A. Quinlan, 1978, Early Door County Buildings, Meadow Lane Publishers, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; Martin, Xavier, 1895, The Belgians of Northeast Wisconsin, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; Noble, A.G., 1992, Ethnic Landscapes in North America, The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, Maryland; Tishler, W.H., and E. Brynildson, 1986, The Architecture and Landscape of Rural Belgian Settlement in Northeastern Wisconsin, a research document developed in cooperation with the Door County Planning Department; Tishler, W., 1987, National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form for Namur Belgian-American District, application to National Park Service for Historic District designation; Tlachac, M.S., 1974, The History

32 of the Belgian Settlements in Door, Kewaunee, and Brown Counties (as reprinted from a series of articles appearing in the Algoma RecordHerald), published by the Belgian-American Club, Algoma Printing Co., Algoma, Wisconsin; Zeniewski, K.J., and C.J. Rosen, 1998, The Atlas of Ethnic Diversity in Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.


Tiny Sacred Places


fter Mary Ann and Donald Englebert's thirteen-year-old daughter was killed in a tragic snowmobile accident, they built a tiny chapel in their yard and dedicated it to her memory. Completed in 1990 and named "La Petite Chapel al Sacra Crued" (Little Chapel of the Sacred Heart), the "wayside" chapel serves not only as a memorial and place of prayer but also as a tribute to the Engleberts ' Belgian ancestors . Wayside votive chapels are common in Belgium, and immigrants to Door County brought the custom with them when they began arriving in the mid-to-late 1800s. The Belgian immigrants, many of whom were devout Catholics, lived on widely dispersed farms in an area with primitive roads and few churches. Attending mass was arduous and timeconsuming. As a way of keeping their religion alive, the immigrants constructed simple votive chapels on their farmsteads. There they gathered for worship at the end of a day's work or on Sundays. "The immigrants needed these little chapels where they could go to pray in times of need and to give praise and thanks in their good times," wrote Mary Ann Englebert. By tradition, wayside chapels are open to any worshipper at any time. They are never locked and are located adjacent to the road for the convenience of travelers. The chapels are slightly removed from the farm itself for privacy and quiet. Although a few chapels (such as the Engleberts') are of recent construction, most were built in the last half of the 19th century. At least 20 survive, scattered throughout the Belgian settlement. They are peaceful places where anyone is welcome to say a prayer or spend a few moments in quiet meditation. The surviving wayside chapels can readily be seen on back roads and even state highways if one is alert, but their small size and lack of signage or decoration make them easy to overlook. Only a plain cross above the door or on the roof distinguishes them from tool sheds or other very small farm buildings (Fig. 1) .

34 The little chapels are remarkably similar to each other. Most are just large enough to hold two people-about nine feet long by seven and half feet wide, with a gable roof that rises to nine feet or so at the peak. They are usually of frame construction, but a few are built of stone. A curtained window is often found in the door, but there are seldom other windows in the building. Inside, the walls are frequently plastered and painted, but some walls are paneled. Floors are Fig. 1 - This is the Chapel of Our Lady wood, sometimes covered with linoof Perpetual Help (Jadin Chapel), a typical leum, indoor-outdoor rugs, or occawayside chapel located in the Belgian community. sionally, shag carpeting. The altar, focal point of the inside of the building, is placed directly opposite the door. The altar contains religious artifacts such as crosses, crucifixes, statues of the Blessed Virgin or a particular saint, candles, and vases filled with fresh or artificial flowers. It may be crowded, but it is always carefully and symmetrically arranged. A wooden kneeling bench rests in front of the altar. Pictures of saints hang on the walls along with certificates of special family events, often written in French. Most chapels contain a visitors' log, in the form of a little spiral notebook, where those who come to pray may record the date of their visit and their name or initials . The chapels' names often describe their origins. They may be dedicated in memory of a departed relative, or they may be dedicated to a particular saint in thanks for blessings received. A tour of the surviving chapels reveals great differences in their care and maintenance. Some are much used and much appreciated, while others have been moved from their original locations and exist more as historical structures than as places of worship. St. Odile's Chapel (the Destree Chapel), located not far off Highway C in the Gardner area, is an example of a beautifully maintained chapel (Fig. 2). Built around 1870, its stone exterior glows under a fresh coat of whitewash, and a colorful wreath graces the front door. Over the door hangs a sandstone cross. Inside, the robin's egg blue walls, tidily swept floor, and simple white altar appear lovingly tended. The altar holds a modest group of carefully arranged candles and statues (Fig. 3). There is a feeling of reverence within, and the logbook shows nearly daily visits by visitors, many with Belgian names.


Figs. 2 and 3 - Fig. 2 (top) shows the exterior of St. Odile's Chapel, built by a stonemason who placed a stone cross over the door. Fig. 3 (bottom) shows the altar at St. Odile's with its carefully arranged icons and candles.

Joseph Destree, a Belgian stonemason, built the chapel in thanks for blessings received. When limestone splashed into his eyes in a workrelated accident, he prayed for the intercession of Odile, an eighthcentury saint who was born blind but miraculously received sight at her

36 baptism. Destree's sight was preserved, and in gratitude he built the chapel and dedicated it to St. Odile. Today his chapel stands in its original location. The Chapel of St. Peregrine is also dedicated to a specific saint, but it presents a noticeable contrast to St. Odile's. Originally located on the Monfils' farm, it now stands among tall evergreen trees behind St. Hubert's Church in Rosiere (Fig. 4). The wooden chapel, painted barnred, is sparsely furnished. It contains little more than a nearly empty altar and a painting of St. Peregrine, patron saint of cancer victims. Among the few candles on the altar, one burns, testifying to a visit by at least one worshipper. The Chapel of St. Roch (Fig. 5), located behind the Belgian-American Club in Namur, is another chapel that has been moved. A certificate on the wall explains in both English and French that the chapel was built in 1915 by Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Jadin, who lived on the outskirts of Brussels. It was subsequently owned by other Belgian families and eventually donated to the Belgian-American Club and moved to its present loFig. 4 - Chapel of St. Peregrine, located behind cation. Its dark paneled walls St. Hubert's Church in Rosiere. and linoleum floor are typical of other wayside chapels, although it has become a bit shabby. The altar (Fig. 6) contains statues, flowers, candles, and a large statue of St. Roch. Born in France in 1295 to noble parents, Roch was 20 years old at the time of their deaths. He distributed his inherited wealth to the poor and undertook a pilgrimage to Italy, where the plague was raging. He ministered to the sick and effected several miraculous cures. When he was stricken with the plague himself, he wandered into a deserted forest to die. A dog found him there and kept him alive with scraps from his master's table. When Roch returned to France, he was mistakenly arrested as a spy and spent the last five years of his life in prison, never mentioning his noble birth. St. Roch is considered a powerful intercessor, particularly in regard to contagious diseases and skin diseases. Statues of St. Roch depict him with a plague sore on his leg, accompanied by a dog (Fig. 7). The Chapel of Our Lady (the Delveaux Chapel) on Highway K, east of Champion, is an example of a chapel built in gratitude for favors re-

37 ceived. The white frame building stands near the road on a beautifully maintained farmstead (Fig. 8). A framed certificate hanging on the chapel's wall explains its origin. "This chapel was built in the late 1800s. It was built by a Mr. Pirlot, a carpenter. It seemed that one winter when he was cutting ice on the bay, he fell in the water and feared he was drowning. He vowed if he was saved, he would build a chapel in honor of the Blessed Mother." The chapel he built stands on the Delveaux farmElmer Delveaux was Pirlot's stepson. In past years, processions to the Chapel at Robinsonville (p. 58) often made a stop here.

Fig. 7 - Statue of St. Roch, showing him pointing to a plague sore on his leg; a dog sits to his left.

A few chapels, such as the Chapel of Our Lady, at the intersection of S and Figs. 5 and 6 - Exterior and interior views of the Bader Road in Dyckesville, Chapel of St. Roch in Namur. are sadly neglected (Fig. 9). Peeling paint, rotting siding, and deteriorating roof shingles greet the visitor. The interior paint is flak-

38 ing, and the altar and artifacts are dusty and slightly askew. Although it now appears unloved and nearly abandoned, the history of the LeGrave family who built it in 1871 is known.

Figs. 8 and 9 - Fig. 8 (top) shows the Chapel of Our Lady (Delveaux Chapel). The location near the road and the curtain in the window are typical of wayside chapels. Fig. 9 (bottom) is the Chapel of Our Lady in Dyckesville, showing signs of neglect.

39 The chapel is located on what was once part of the LeGrave farm, established by Jean Alexis LeGrave in 1856. A widower, LeGrave emigrated from Belgium, bringing with him his mother and four of his five children. The fifth child disappeared as the family was preparing to board the ship to America. LaGrave's mother died within a year of the family's arrival, and another son died soon after. LeGrave, his mother, and at least two small grandchildren are buried behind the chapel in unmarked graves. A few petunias growing at the corners of the building, blooming bravely as traffic whizzes by on both sides, may be evidence that someone remembers the graves. Although the original impetus for building chapels (widely scattered farms, poor roads, few churches) is gone, the importance of quiet places to worship is not. "Local people come in here every week," said Jan Lacrosse of Brussels. "They light a candle, say a prayer." She was speaking of Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel that she and her husband Norman built in the mid-1990s to honor the faith of their daughter, Brenda. The beautiful chapel, attached to their home, is open to all. "Many people come by and sign the book," she said, "including people from seven or eight states . There is no publicity. They find their way." Jan's hope is that people will use the chapel as a place of prayer where they will find true peace, "the peace that only God can give." Places to worship were important in the everyday lives of the Belgian settlers, and they remain so today in the lives of their descendantsthe descendants who maintain and build wayside chapels. "Many people don't understand and say we don't need these external things to pray and we know that," wrote Mary Ann Englebert. "But it doesn't hurt if these external things bring us closer to God and strengthen our faith. This was the strong faith our ancestors had. May we always have that same faith."

References: Englebert, Mary Ann, 1992, Forever Yesterday We Were Young, self published; Laatsch, W.G. and C.F. Calkins, 1986, The Belgian Roadside Chapels of Wisconsin's Door Peninsula, Journal of Cultural Geography, Vol. 7, Fall/Winter 1986; Tlachac, Math S., 1974, The History of the Belgian Settlements in Door, Kewaunee and Brown Counties, published by the Belgian-American Club, Algoma Printing Company, Algoma, Wisconsin; Wautlet, Josie, 1990, Francois, Zebra Enterprises, Algoma, Wisconsin; Jan Lacrosse, (no date), Events Leading to the Building of Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel, unpublished document; Weber, Jeanne, and Josie Wautlet, Belgian Chapel Tour, cited in Jacobs, Bill, Belgian Chapel Tour 2002, unpublished manuscript; unpublished itinerary of Roadside Chapels, compiled by Mary Ann Englebert; interview with Jan Lacrosse.


Walloon Spoken Here


ave you ever wondered about the old, two-story building sitting near the big curve on Highway 57 just south of Namur (Fig. l)? There's a full-length porch, graying through peeling white paint, running along the front. And up high under the front eave is a weathered stone block inscribed "1916, Wm. Struck." The building is something of a landmark for returning vacationers heading for northern Door County, but there's scant evidence that at one time this was a busy general store and cheese factory serving Belgian farm families scattered about the countryside.

Fig. 1 - Fontaine's Store and General Merchandise near the big curve in Namur. The store served Belgian farm families for a half century before closing in 1969. The photo was probably made in the 1940s or 50s. (Photo courtesy of the Fontaine family)

41 Viney Fontaine, now 92 years old (in 2003), and her daughter, Priscilla Delorit, know all about the old store. William Struck built it in 1916, ran it for a few years, and sold to the parents of Viney's husband, Joe. Around 1930, during the depression, Viney and Joe (Fig. 2) bought the store and made it their life's business. They ran it until 1969 , when they decided it was time to retire. The store's original name was "Fairland Store" when the community was known as Fairland instead of Namur (Namur, by the way, was originally named Delwiche) . Later it became "Fontaine's Store and General Merchandise ." The Fontaines, of Belgian descent, lived above the store, where they raised their two children, Priscilla and Gary. Priscilla was a born shopkeeper and worked in the family business from the time she was a youngster, but Gary preferred to work outdoors on nearby farms . Fig. 2 - Viney and Joe Fontaine in the late 1950s at the counter in their general store. They and their two children lived over the store. (Photo courtesy of the Fontaine famil y)

Fontaine's Store and General Merchandise was a classic country store and a typical Door County cheese factory, all under one roof. A hired cheesemaker managed the cooperative cheese factory, while the Fontaines sold groceries, hardware , drygoods, appliances, gasoline, and bolts and nutsyou name it and they probably had it. They dispensed both credit and good will to their customers, most of whom were Walloon-speaking Belgian farmers. "Bonjour, veullezvous aujourd'hui?" (hello, what would you like today?) the Fontaines would greet them, pronouncing bonjour as "boo-joo." Walloon was the French dialect spoken by most Belgian immigrants and their families. "You know, when I went to school I could speak little English,'' Priscilla said. Viney added, "Sometimes someone would come in and tell a joke in Walloon." Everyone had a good laugh, but when the joke was repeated in English, it usually fell flat . "They sounded good in Walloon,'' Viney explained, "but not so good in English." No doubt the occasional English-speaking tourists who stopped by the store wondered where in

42 the world they were, as they overheard the Fontaines and their Belgian customers exchanging gossip and jokes in Walloon. As Viney and Priscilla describe their store, it's possible to imagine what it was like sixty or so years ago, starting with the complex mixture of odors that greeted shoppers. The aroma combined the odor of linseed oil (from the floor that was treated twice a year) with odors from coffee beans, brown sugar, sausage, and produce, plus the smell of new clothing and shoes. It was all tinged with milky scents from the cheese factory next door and the pungent smell of vinegar from the two vinegar barrels in the back. If the wind was right, whiffs of gasoline wafted in from the outside pumps (hand cranked with a bell dinging for each gallon dispensed). The store overflowed with merchandise (Fig. 3), on some sides almost to the ceiling. Shelves and bins lined the walls , and displays crammed the aisles . Down one side ran a long wooden counter with a check-out station and cash drawer. A display case of candy near the door tempted shoppers before they departed . Staples included a stalk of bananas hanging from the ceiling and three kinds of coffee beans ready to scoop from wooden bins. Before electricity was available, three or four gaslights provided illumination, along with large windows on each side of the front door. A big potbellied stove squatted near the back of the store, with a spittoon and chair nearby. Along the ceiling a long metal stovepipe, suspended by wires, carried coal smoke outside during winter months. In the early days, bags of flour, sugar, and salt sat in a prominent place near the middle of the store, but later, appliances such as TV sets and refrigerators replaced Fig. 3 - Inside view of a portion of Fontaine's Store in the 1950s. The store carried everything them. On the front porch, from appliances to zippers. (Photo courtesy of spools of barbed wire and salt the Fontaine family) blocks for cattle competed for space with empty crates that each held 30 dozen eggs. When farmers brought in a full crate for credit, they took home an empty one. In the large basement there were barrels of motor oil, turpentine, paint, plowshares, windowpanes, and the steam boiler for the cheese plant.

43 The cash drawer was pretty "high tech" for the day. Five or so wires ran along the bottom, with end rings at the front. By pulling the wires in the right sequence, the drawer opened. If the correct combination of pulls didn't occur, a bell would ring. Once Joe was in the back of the store and heard the tinkle of the bell. Hurrying to the front, he discovered an embarrassed young fellow who claimed, "I just wanted to see if I could make it ring." Later, when they could afford it, the Fontaines replaced the drawer with a cash register. When Viney and Joe first began operating the store, times were hard. "We took eggs in trade at 9 cents a dozen and sold them for a little less just to keep the business." They had to scrape to set aside a little bit of money each week to go toward paying taxes at the end of the year. With a twinkle in her eye, Viney said "Joe used to say that when we bought the store we couldn't afford steak... then in later years he said, 'now that we can afford steak, (at our age) we just can't eat it!' " With the kids helping, however, and by watching their Fig. 4 - Viney Fontaine and her daughter, pennies, over the years the FonPriscilla, look at their family album. Viney taines made a success of their was 90 years old when this photo was taken. store. Dealing with customers was often challenging and required coordination among family members. Priscilla recalls a few customers who grated on her dad, so he called her (or Viney) to deal with them while he found something to do in the back. Viney was always called upon to wait on a certain farmer's wife who bought a lot from her-but very little from Joe or Priscilla. Of course, men always wanted Joe when they shopped for pipe fittings, elbows, plowshares, and the like. Sixteen-hour days were common for the Fontaines, because the store opened at 5:00 AM when farmers brought milk to the cheese factory and expected to do some shopping in the store. Closing time was around 9:00 in the evening. In the early days, the Fontaines also made regular trips to Green Bay in their stake-bed truck to pick up merchandise and take cheese to market. In spite of the hard work, Viney and her daughter have fond memories of old days at the store (Fig. 4). Today Eric and Tracy Delwiche live in the store building, which is owned by Eric's parents (Wayne and Sue). The big front room, once the

44 main part of the store, is a quiet place now and used for storage. Along one wall, the cubbyhole shelves that once held nuts and bolts sit empty. The embossed metal ceiling and ornate metal molding are of another era. But if you close your eyes it's easy to imagine what it was like when Belgian farmers in rough shoes trod the oiled floor and chatted and laughed with Joe, Viney, and Priscilla-in Walloon, of course. Take the time to glance at the old store the next time you drive through Namur ... it's part of Southern Door's history.

Sources: Interviews with Viney and Priscilla Fontaine and with Tracy Delwiche.


The Little Cemetery in the Sky


s there really a "Little Cemetery in the Sky"? Yes, there is. But it's located right here on earth, in Door County's Belgian community. Back in 1974 when Clyde Robillard bought a few acres to expand his orchard near Gardner, he found a surprise-an old cemetery. "That sounds kind of funny ," he told a Green Bay newspaper reporter in 1978, but it was no joke . Clyde knew a little bit about the cemetery's history, but he had no idea he would spend the rest of his life trying to figure out what to do with it. Although Clyde acquired "The Little Cemetery in the Sky" in 1974, its story began in 1866, when residents of the Gardner area grew weary of making the long walk to attend church in neighboring Brussels . They built their own small church, St. John the Baptist. John Joseph Robin donated the land-the same land that Clyde Robillard purchased a century later. A priest consecrated a modest tract next to the new church for a cemetery, but an unforeseen problem arose at the first burial. No one had previously been buried in this spot, and when church members attempted to dig the grave, their shovels hit solid rock a few inches beneath the surface. "No graves could be excavated except by the liberal use of dynamite," wrote historian H.R. Holand . Instead of moving the cemetery, the congregation decided to make use of the already consecrated ground. Hefting stones dragged in from their fields, they enclosed a 25 by 50-foot rectangle to a height of four feet . Then , with no mechanized equipment, they undertook the arduous job of hauling in dirt, filling the retaining wall, and leveling it off. When it was finished , Holand said that the "handmade cemetery stood up above the surrounding fields like the first story of an Egyptian pyramid." Folks soon began referring to the unusual burial spot as "The Little Cemetery in the Sky." Five years after it was built, St. John the Baptist Church was consumed by the great Peshtigo fire that swept across Green Bay, devas-

46 tating the Belgian community. The church was rebuilt and the cemetery continued in use, but it was abandoned after the church burned again in 1895 and wasn't rebuilt. Because the fire destroyed church records, the number of people buried in the little cemetery, and their identities, are unknown.

Fig. 1 -

The wooden cross and nearly hidden rock wall at The Little Cemetery In The Sky.

After the church burned the final time, the local bishop deeded its land back to John Joseph Robin's son for $10 and the promise he would keep the cemetery fenced and in good condition. Unfortunately it received no further care and became so overgrown with weeds, brush, and sumac that it was indistinguishable from bumps and mounds in neighboring fields. In fact, there were many in the Belgian community who believed it never existed, except as a legend. There were, however, others who knew it was real. Among them was Clyde Robillard's father, whose family lived near the cemetery. In the late 1920s, he and his young cousins brought home what they thought were animal bones, but his parents immediately recognized them as human. Others remembered that during the same era, boys occasionally brought human bones to grade school-bones that had washed out of the cemetery. After Clyde acquired the deteriorating cemetery, he attempted to overcome 80 years of neglect. In the late 1970s, he and his father and members of nearby St. Francis Xavier Church chopped brush, reinforced

47 the crumbling rock walls, filled in sunken spots, and smoothed the top. When finished, they erected an unpainted wooden cross (Fig. 1) . Clyde tried for at least 25 years to persuade a church to take over the care of this consecrated ground, but despite many discussions, no church was willing to assume responsibility. Now Clyde is dead, and the cemetery is once again unkempt. "Since Clyde died," said his elderly mother, "there's no one to take care of it." The cemetery can't be seen from the road and there's no easy access. Its location at the back of an orchard is as obscure as the names of the people buried there. Wind sweeps through prairie grass that hides the rock wall and bends young trees that now cover the substantial mound. It's a neglected but peaceful place, with just one indication that it's a cemetery. "There's only a cross," said a neighbor. "This is all that remains of the Little Cemetery in the Sky."

Sources: Holand, H .R., 1933, Wisconsin's Belgian Community, Door County Historical Soc., Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Kahlert, J., 1981, Pioneer Cemeteries, Meadow Lane Pub., Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; Karban , Dick, 1978, Little Cemetery In The Sky, Green Bay Press-Gazette (June 4); Englebert, M.A., 1992, Forever Yesterday, We Were Young, selfpublished by Mary Ann Englebert.


St. Mary of the Snows: The Story of the Stones


s Highway 57 sweeps around the big curve at Namur, it grazes the parking lot of a substantial red brick church St. Mary of the Snows. Close to the church, but set back from the highway, an unornamented two-story frame building abuts the church property. No sign identifies its function. It looks like a farmhouse with overly narrow doors, and although well kept it seems unoccupied . Closer to the church, just beyond the parking lot, stands a small cemetery. Very small. Its 68 tombstones are so close together it appears people were buried standing upright. What's the story here?

Fig. 1- Cluster of tombstones alongside the church in Namur.

49 The story of the church, the tombstones, and the frame building is part of the larger story of St. Mary of the Snows. It's a story that highlights the faith and persistence of early Belgian settlers. Most Belgian immigrants were devoted Catholics, and before the first churches and cemeteries were built, they held religious meetings in their homes . Those living in the Namur area (then called Delwich) met in the home of Guillaume Delwich. Once each month, a French-speaking priest walked nearly 30 miles from Bay Settlement to say Mass for the gathered settlers, all of whom spoke Walloon, a French dialect. In 1860 these settlers managed to construct a small log church in Namur on three acres of donated land. They dedicated it to St. Mary of the Snows . They now had a church but they still didn 't have their own priest because French-speaking priests were in short supply in northeast Wisconsin. The fledgling church, one of the first in the Belgian community, was considered a mission and was served by traveling Holy Cross Fathers who came to the community intermittently. Tragedy struck the little church in the summer of 1871, the same summer a great firestorm wiped out Peshtigo. A similar, devastating fire swept through the Belgian community, igniting parched fields and incinerating everything in its path. St. Mary of the Snows was one of many buildings that burned to the ground. It took church members three years to accumulate sufficient funds to rebuild, but in 1874 they replaced the log church with a larger frame one, seating 100 families . They also built a brick rectory, hoping to entice a permanent priest. Despite the size of the new building and the presence of the rectory, the church was still considered a mission, and until 1890 it received only sporadic visits from priests. In 1889, parishioners added a "school" in the form of a one-room annex. Three Holy Cross Sisters came to Namur to teach in the new school and live in the rectory. It was a difficult assignment for them. They didn't speak Walloon, the language of the children, and none of the children spoke or understood English. Living conditions were also difficult, as the unused-till-now rectory was in deplorable shape. One Sister wrote that there was very little furniture and "the pillows and mattresses for one bed were stuffed with cattails" (reported in Kahlert) . Despite the primitive conditions, the resolute Sisters persevered in their assignment. The parish suffered a major blow in 1892 when the church once again burned to the ground. The school was completely destroyed also. Apparently children attempting to build a fire in the heating stove started the blaze. Shortly thereafter a priest drew up plans for a new church and once again parishioners began to rebuild . The Belgian farmers of the parish were determined to have their church. According to history related in the church directory, "The farmers hauled logs to the mill at Brussels, where they were sawed into pil-

50 lars , rafters and rough boards, and a squadron of sleighs went across Green Bay to Oconto for the dressed lumber needed ... Farmers donated their services for the work of excavation and of building the stone foundation." By the next year, the church was complete, but due to lack of funds, the school was not rebuilt. By 1892 the shortage of French-speaking priests was so acute that the Bishop begged the Premontrian Abbey in Holland to accept responsibility for Belgian parishes in Door County. The following year a Dutchman, Father Bernard Pennings, arrived to take charge of St. Mary of the Snows. This dynamic man found plenty to occupy him in Namur. Although the church building was newly completed, the school hadn't been built, and the Sisters were still living in the rectory (intended as Pennings' lodging) and conducting classes on its second floor. One of Pennings' first jobs was to get a new school up and running. He persuaded farmers, financially stretched thin by construction of the church, to contribute sacks of grain according to their means. Proceeds from the sale of the grain were used to build a new school. Located close to the church, the school building was plainly designed. Kahlert describes it in his book on early Door County buildings as being "constructed along the lines of a simple farmhouse, although a slight touch of distinction is found in the front door with its curved panels and transom. The doors are very narrow as though to make amends for this bit of extravagance." The first floor contained a classroom, living room, dining room, and kitchen. Upstairs, the single large room was used as a dormitory for the Sisters and any children who lived so far away they couldn't return home for the night. In the five years he served St. Mary of the Snows, Father Pennings became a much-loved figure . He left in 1898 for DePere, where he established a school that eventually became St. Norbert's College. The school he nurtured at St. Mary's remained in service for 30 years until it was closed in 1925. The local Belgian-American Club purchased the building in 1965 and moved it a short distance to its present location. The club uses the old school as its headquarters (Fig. 2). In keeping with its mission of preserving the Belgian heritage, the club hopes to make it a museum of Belgian history and culture. As for the church, through the years St. Mary of the Snows continued to serve the community, with its priests caring for parishioners from baptism through burial. Burials took place in a cemetery located in front of the church, a tradition dating to the medieval practice of burying the dead as close as possible to the remains of saints, who were often interred under the church floor. In 1970 the priest in charge of St. Mary's became convinced the cemetery could be used more productively as a parking lot. Without consulting the congregation, he had the tombstones moved to a small area beside the church, where they were lined up in

51 four rows like soldiers at attention, each stone just six inches from the next. The bodies weren't moved but were covered by asphalt. As Kahlert says in his book on Door County cemeteries, "Not surprisingly, many of the parishioners were upset." Today, declining attendance has forced St. Mary of the Snows to close its doors. The stories of the tombstones and the schoolhouse are nearly forgotten . But at the edge of the parking lot, the U.S. Department of the Interior has erected a marker telling one more story. It places the entire Belgian community, the largest rural settlement of BelgianAmericans in the country, on the National Register of Historic Places . The marker tells the story of the hardy Belgian farmers who settled the areaamong them those who were determined to maintain their church alongside the big curve in Namur.

Fig. 2 - View of the Belgian-American club in Namur, looking across the cluster of tombstones beside the parking lot. The building was built as a parochial school for St. Mary of the Snows in the late 1800s.

Sources: Berlier, M., 1999, Picturing Ourselves: Photographs of Belgians in Northeastern Wisconsin, 1888-1950, Ph.D. thesis, University of Iowa; Kahlert, J.M., 1981, Pioneer Cemeteries, Meadow Lane Pub., Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; Kahlert, J.M., 1978, Early Door County Buildings, Meadow Lane Pub., Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; St. Francis and St. Mary Parish Church Directory, 1996; Door County Cemetery Index, Door County Public Library, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.


A Great-Great-Granddaughter's Tribute To Her Belgian Heritage

t's just a tiny cabin, after all. Hastily built, it measures only 10 x 20 feet, with one window and a door so low that one has to stoop to pass through . It's surprising it wasn't razed long ago. But thanks to the vision of the great-great-granddaughter of its builder, it stands as the centerpiece of a unique "heritage settlement" celebrating the indomitable spirit of immigrant Belgians who arrived in Door County nearly 150 years ago. The story begins in Antwerp in 1856. In that year, a Belgian farmer and his wife boarded the ship Sea Lark and set sail for America, where they dreamed of a new life for themselves and their two sons. Jean Joseph Dhuey and his wife, Marie, survived a harrowing six-week voyage across the Atlantic, during which their three-year-old died. In a poignant effort to keep the child with them until they could bury him on land, "his mother held him wrapped in a blanket for three days, pretending he was still alive," said Harris Dhuey, Jean Joseph's great-grandson. The effort was in vain, because "the captain of the ship learned of the death and cast the body overboard." Despite the tragic beginning to their life in the New World, Jean Joseph, Marie, and their surviving son made their way to Wisconsin's Belgian settlement in Door County and searched for a place to establish a farm. Belgian immigrants were often given the advice "to go where the maples are," and Jean Joseph chose well. The land he selected contained fertile soil, a beautiful hill, nearby flat land-and a forest of maple trees. Because the family arrived in Wisconsin in the fall, Jean Joseph had time to build only a hastily constructed log cabin with one room. Hoping to block harsh winter winds, he kept the door low and put in just one window. Little did he imagine that nearly 150 years later his cabin would still be standing and that his vivacious great-great-granddaughter, Linda (Dhuey) Opicka, would satisfy her own dream by making it the


53 cornerstone of a little cluster of buildings paying tribute to her Belgian heritage.

Fig. 1 - The cabin built by Linda Opicka's great-great-grandfather 150 years ago. It stands in a clearing at the edge of the woods. It has been restored, and the interior is furnished much as it was in the 1800s.

Through the years, Jean Joseph's land remained in the family. His great-grandson, Harris Dhuey (Linda's father), farmed the land and used the cabin as a chicken coop. When Linda told him she wanted the little log building, his reply was, "This is absolutely nuts." And when she said to her husband, Ron, "I really want my great-great-grandpa's log cabin," he thought she was joking. But he quickly learned just how serious she was and that her dream didn't stop with the log cabin. Their initial skepticism gave way to Linda's enthusiasm, and Linda's father and husband helped move the building to a forest-framed clearing at the bottom of a hill (Fig. 1). She furnished the cabin entirely

54 with gifts. Most are as old as the cabin. There are jars, jugs, books, handmade baskets, embroidered curtains, a three-legged stool, a small table for writing, a stuffed bear, vases filled with wildflowers, and woven rugs covering the wide floorboards. Each was a gift, and each has special meaning to Linda. The feeling within the cabin is peaceful and timeless. Light spilling through the white-curtained window illuminates the interior (Fig. 2). A wood stove stands ready for use. A bed tucked into a corner is covered with an heirloom coverlet. Boxes where chickens laid their eggs are now painted and used to display family treasures. When she was finished, her son, who was at first bewildered by her dream, said "You know, mom, this is really neat ... this is a museum ." Once the log cabin was in place, Linda's aunt asked what she wanted next. "What I would really like is a little chapel," she replied. Tiny roadside chapels are a Belgian tradition. Accommodating one or two worshippers, they usually contain an altar, a kneeler, and perhaps some statues and pictures. Each is maintained by the family on whose land it is located. The two women drove around the Belgian community looking for possibilities, and as if it had been foreordained, Linda located her chapel almost immediately. The owner agreed to sell it for just $5.00-provided she Fig. 2 - Linda reading by the light from a window in her historic log cabin. moved it within a week. When she said to her husband, "Ronny, I'm gonna get a chapel," his response was a loud "what?" With her smiling green eyes and persuasive ways, she soon had Ron pitching in to help move the little chapel down the hill, where it took its place near the log cabin. As she hugged her new chapel, she exclaimed, "This is what I've really wanted, ever since I was a kid!" The building hadn't been used for years and was in poor shape. Friends replaced floorboards and shingled the roof, her father made a cross to top the front door, and Linda ordered "Belgian Blue" glass for the chapel's three diminutive windows (Fig. 3). Inside, she built an altar and draped it with a beautifully embroidered cloth. Candle holders, statues, pictures, vases of wildflowers, and an oval braided rug complete the chapel's interior (Fig. 4). As with the cabin, most of the furnishings came as gifts. A collection of rosaries hangs beside the door, each with its own

55 story. "This one is from Italy," she says, and "this one is from Santa Fe." "This little one, with the tiny beads and cross, is a child's rosary-have you ever seen one?" Linda calls this her "Thank You" chapel. When she closes the door, darkness gives way to just enough light to bathe the interior in a soft, blue glow, almost as it if were fluorescing. It is a serene and peaceful place that captures both Belgian spirituality and the history of a proud people-for the early settlers and those who came after took their religion seriously. Soon two other tiny buildings joined the cabin and chapel. One is a vintage outhouse, complete with Sears Roebuck catalogue. As Linda points out, "It wouldn't be a realistic settlement without an outhouse." In less than a year, she had assembled all her buildings, and she turned her attention to the grounds. An accomplished and creative gardener, she planned and planted with great success. Today the settlement looks as if it's lived in and the occupants have been momentarily called away. One approaches the little cluster of buildings down a path through a meadow filled with wildflowers. The path proceeds through an archway made of Fig. 3 - Linda, dressed in traditional Belgian clothing, poses in front of her "Thank You" boards salvaged from an old chapel. barn. In the clearing at the foot of the hill, a weathered wood cross rises on the left. Next to it, two angel statues, each nearly four feet tall, watch over the chapel and grounds. Linda's great-greatgrandfather's cabin stands at the head of the clearing with the outhouse tucked away behind it. Flowers bloom in profusion in the spring. Wind whispers in the woods. It's as if the clock has been turned back a century (Fig. 5). Behind the cabin, Linda has created a trail that winds through the woods, leading the visitor along the twelve stations preceding Christ's

56 crucifixion. Attached to a tree at each station is a worded description as well as an object representing what happened to Jesus-a large nail, a crown of real thorns (Fig. 6), and rocks shaped like a small tomb. Completing each station is a tiny garden at the base of the tree.

Fig. 4 - The altar in Linda's chapel. Icons associated with the Catholic Church are seen in abundance. Carefully arranged flowers are present, along with memorabilia that have special significance to her family.

Fig. 5 - A panoramic view of the settlement created by Linda. A cross is at the left, near the chapel. The 150-year-old cabin is at the right, and other buildings are behind. Two angels are visible to the left of the chapel.

57 It's a spiritual experience to walk with Linda, dressed in traditional Belgian clothing, as she explains each station. It brings a realization that what she has created in the clearing by the woods has as much to do with religion as with history. Is she a religious person? "I try to be," she says. "There isn't enough in the world." Maintaining her cluster of historical buildings takes quite a bit of Linda's time and energy, and it's not as if she doesn't have anything else to do. She's a wife, mother, an elementary school Fig. 6 - A crown of thorns, one of the teacher, writer of children's books, twelve stations in Linda's crucifixion path. and gardener. Hard work is clearly part of her Belgian heritage . When she talks about growing up on a farm and her love of working with her hands, she recalls an old Belgian saying: "If you want a wife, look at her hands first." Just as her great-great-grandfather dreamed of a new life in America, Linda dreamed of a tribute to him and her other Belgian ancestors. In this quiet and serene place, her dreams touch everyone who visits. "All the stress in the world leaves you when you come down here," she says. Her dream began with just a tiny cabin, but it turned out to be much more than a cabin after all.

Sources: Interviews with Linda Opicka, and Harris and Emily Dhuey.


Miracle at Robinsonville

t's quiet in the basement crypt-and dark. The scent of burning candles hangs in the air. A softly lit statue of Our Lady, made in France, graces a small altar. The flickering glow of hundreds of vigil candles illuminates an array of discarded crutches, canes, braces, and orthopedic shoes (Fig. 1 next page). This is not Lourdes . It's a small chapel in the old hamlet of Robinsonville in Door County's Belgian community. The altar marks the exact spot where nearly 150 years ago many believe a miracle occurred. On that spot, a young, immigrant Belgian woman named Adele Brice saw a shimmering woman in white, a woman she believed to be Our Lady, the Virgin Mary. The woman appeared three times-appearances that changed Adele's life and created a storm of interest and controversy. At the time of the apparitions, Adele was 28 years old and had lived in America only four years. Born in the Brabant Province of Belgium in 1831 , she was a devout girl who dreamed of becoming a nun and devoting her life to serving God . Her dream died when she immigrated to America with her family and spent her time, as did all new settlers, coping with the harsh realities of life in an untamed land.



Fig. 1 - Display of discarded crutches and canes in the basement crypt at Our Lady of Good Help Chapel. Some of the canes are made from gnarled tree branches.

In early October 1859, Adele trudged alone along a lightly traveled trail through the woods. She was making the eight-mile round trip from her family's home to a gristmill, balancing a heavy sack of grain on her head. Suddenly she glimpsed a lady in white standing between two trees-a maple and a hemlock. Frightened and transfixed by the unlikely sight, Adele stood rooted in place. As she watched, the lady slowly disappeared, leaving behind a small, white cloud. Although shaken, Adele continued on her errand, telling no one except her parents of the apparition. Several days later, on Sunday, October 9th, Adele, her sister, and a friend set out along the same trail, walking to mass. They left home early on that autumn day because the closest church was eleven miles away in Bay Settlement. As the three women walked past the maple and the hemlock, Adele again saw the lady, who again disappeared in a white mist. Her companions saw nothing and persuaded Adele to continue on to church, where she attended confession. Her confessor assured her that if the woman was a holy messenger she would appear again, and Adele should speak to her and ask what she wanted.

60 Adele and her companions started the long trek home, retracing their steps. The story of what happened next catapulted Adele from obscurity to notoriety. Over the years she would repeat the story numerous times, often to her good friend, Sister Pauline LaPlant, who eventually wrote it down. The story never varied. "As they approached the hallowed spot, Adele could see the beautiful lady, clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress fell to her feet in graceful folds. She had a crown of stars around her head, and her long golden wavy hair fell loosely over her shoulders; such a heavenly light shone around her that Adele could hardly look at her sweet face . Overcome by this heavenly light and the beauty of her amiable visitor, Adele fell on her knees. Who are you, and what do you want of me?' asked Adele." The lady told Adele she was the "Queen of Heaven" and directed her to "Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation." After a few more instructions, "she lifted her hands as though she were beseeching a blessing for those at her feet . Slowly, she vanished from sight leaving Adele overwhelmed and prostrate on the ground ." Although none of Adele's companions saw the apparition, they were eager to help spread the astonishing news. Many believed Adele's story, but others thought she was demented. Adele's father was among the believers. He erected a 10 x 12-foot log cabin to serve as a place of prayer at the spot where the Lady had appeared. It was the first house of worship in the Belgian community. As news of Adele's apparitions spread, the plain little cabin, adorned with only a small picture of Mary, became a magnet for those seeking healing and hope. Soon the tiny chapel couldn't accommodate all the pilgrims who came to worship. In 1861, settlers, with the help of Adele's father, built a 24 x 40-foot frame chapel that could seat about 100. Written over the entrance were the words, "Notre Dame de bon Secours, priex pour nous" (Our Lady of good Help, pray for us). Pictures and images decorated the altar, and eight discarded crutches hung on one wall. "The Queen of Heaven" had charged Adele with teaching children. It was an overwhelming assignment for a humble woman of little or no education, but she accepted it without question. For seven years she traveled the peninsula, mostly on foot, instructing children in religion and so impressing the pastor responsible for the Belgian community that he urged her to build a school. Although her English was limited, she managed to raise sufficient funds to build a boarding school that at one time housed 112 children. Erected adjacent to the chapel, the school opened in 1869 and remained in operation throughout Adele's life and beyond.

61 Sister Adele, as she came to be called, remained a devout servant of God, but controversy, faith, and maybe even miracles, swirled around her. Many people believed her chapel stood on holy ground and some who traveled there reported being cured or healed. The report of a "miracle" during the disastrous Peshtigo fire of October 8th, 1871 (see page 187) dramatically increased both the controversy and the faith. Thirteen years almost to the day after Adele's encounter with the Blessed Mother, the same tornados of fire that devastated Peshtigo obliterated much of the Belgian community. "Smoke and gasses filled the air," wrote Sister M. Dominica in her book about Adele Brice. "An ominous dread gripped the minds and hearts of every living creature, even the wild beasts of the forests mingled with men as both fled in terror before a great consuming roaring fire circling all within its fiery grasp." Whirlwinds of fire drove families from their homes and engulfed farms. A sea of fire 20 miles wide and 50 miles long consumed everything in its path and advanced toward the chapel and school. Sister Adele, along with "the children, the Sisters, and the farmers with their families, drove their livestock before them and raced in the direction of Mary's Fig. 2 - Sister Adele Brice. (Photo courtesy of the Sisters of St. Francis of Bay Settlesanctuary. They were now encirment) cled by a raging inferno with no means of escape. Awe-stricken, they thronged the chapel grounds. Already the chapel was filled with terror-stricken people beseeching the Mother of God spare them." A procession formed. Holding the statue of Mary aloft, worshippers made their way around the sanctuary on their knees, saying rosaries, praying to be spared. Eventually the long night ended, rain quenched the fire, and everyone emerged from the chapel and viewed "the ravages wrought by the conflagration. Everything about them was destroyed; miles of desolation everywhere. But the Convent, school, Chapel, and the five acres of land

62 consecrated to the Virgin Mary shone like an emerald isle in a sea of ashes," wrote Sister Dominica. The fire had burned right up to the fence surrounding the compound. The outsides of the fence posts were charred, but the fire went no farther. Word of the "miracle" spread nearly as fast as the fire, and the number of pilgrims visiting the small chapel at Robinsonville soared. The traditional festival of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th) became a special day of celebration when great throngs of people converged on the chapel-arriving by foot, wagon, and buggy. Each year the number seemed to grow, and on August 15th, 1879, there were estimated to be 1,000 teams of horses on the grounds. The morning of the festival began with a procession around the chapel grounds. "Horsemen wearing sashes around their shoulders usually opened the procession. There were floating banners, young girls clad in white carrying the statue of the Virgin, while school children carried baskets of flowers which were strewn along the procession route. Ten abreast the people marched, chanting favorite religious hymns or praying their rosaries. Five priests in sacerdotal robes followed in the procession and in those early days the discharge of a cannon could be heard. When the procession ended, three outdoor Masses were read [and] sermons were preached in five different languages," wrote Belgian historian Math Tlachac. The crowds of penitent worshippers soon attracted crowds of less penitent opportunists, eager to turn a profit. Church authorities were unhappy with the commercialization, gambling, and drinking that occurred in conjunction with the festival- but just outside the chapel grounds and outside of Sister Adele's influence. For a time the Church ordered the services discontinued but later relented. Church authorities were also unhappy with other aspects of the chapel and with Sister Adele herself. The Church did not recognize the "miracles" and many clergy considered her story to be a myth. Eager to divert attention and hopefully snuff Fig. 3 - Adele Brice 's tombstone, loout interest, a bishop threatened cated behind the chapel. She died at the her with excommunication if she age of66. continued to tell her story. She

63 didn 't back down . She was refused entry to the pews at church services but devoutly knelt in the aisle to hear mass. She was ordered to send all the children home from her school, lock the door, and bring in the keys. Throughout it all, she remained steadfast in her beliefs and in her commitment to the children she was teaching. Eventually it was church authorities who backed down. While not sanctioning Sister Adele and the hordes of faithful, they did nothing to interfere, and attendance at the August 15th celebrations climbed. In 1954, 15,000 people were reported to have participated. Joe Ruben, who grew up nearby, recalls "cars parked on the road for two miles on either side of the chapel." And Jan Lacrosse, who also grew up in the Belgian community, vividly remembers walking 15 miles from her home to the chapel. Her whole family walked together, leaving home at 2:00 AM to avoid the August heat. She said it was common for people to walk with gravel or dried beans in their shoes as penance. When they arrived at the chapel, they made a novena-"walking" nine times around the altar on their knees, saying the rosary. Over time thousands of knees wore a ring on the floor around the altar. Crowds of pilgrims and believers visited the chapel throughout the year as well. Testimonials abounded-deaf who regained their hearing, blind whose sight was restored, cripples who walked again, tuberculosis sufferers whose lungs cleared-all attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help.

Figs. 4 and 5 - Fig. 4, on the left, shows Our Lady of Good Help Chapel, located near Champion. The red brick, Tudor Gothic building, constructed in 1941, is connected to the former school by a 40 ft. wing (not shown). The crypt is to the right and downstairs. Fig. 5, on the right, shows the altar in the crypt. The statue of Our Lady was made in France and donated by Rev. Philip Crud in August, 1907. The altar is placed directly over the spot where Adele Brice's apparitions are said to have occurred.

64 Adele Brice died in 1896 and is buried behind her chapel (Fig. 3 above). The chapel's spell continues to this day, and the building has grown again and again . In 1880, the frame chapel was replaced with a larger brick building, the third home for Our Lady of Good Help. And in 1941 a fourth chapel was built (Fig. 4, previous page). "That one is beautiful," said Jan Lacrosse, describing the unpretentious red brick structure. The lovely sanctuary, seating 300, contains rows of glowing stained glass windows, including one depicting the two trees between which Our Lady is said to have appeared (shown at the left). Downstairs in the crypt, an altar stands directly over the place of the apparitions (Fig. 5, previous page). The candles that burn perpetually and the discarded canes and braces bear silent witness to the legacy of Adele Brice. The church does not recognize any part of Adele's story as a miracle-not the apparitions, not the fire that spared the chapel, and not the claims of cures. But it cannot be disputed that, thanks to Stained glass window in the sanctuary of Adele, hundreds of children rethe chapel. The two trees between which ceived educations, religious inOur Lady is said to have appeared are struction, and care; that depicted on the left and right at the top of thousands have found help and the window. At the bottom is a representacomfort at the chapel; and that tion of the original log chapel, built by Adele's father. nearly 150 years after her apparitions, Adele Brice's life and work are still remembered at the red brick chapel at Robinsonville. Perhaps that's miracle enough.

65 Sources: Sister M. Dominica, 1955, The Chapel, Our Lady of Good Help, published by the Sisters of St. Francis of Bay Settlement, Green Bay, Wisconsin (the quotes from Sister Pauline LaPlant are taken from this book); Martin, Xavier, 1895, The Belgians of Northeast Wisconsin, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; Tlachac, Math , 1974, The His tory of the Belgian Settlements in Door, Kewaunee and Brown Counties, published by the Belgian American Club, printed by Algoma Printing Company, Algoma, Wisconsin; The Compass, Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, June 9th, 2000 ; Interviews with Jan Lacrosse, Karen Tipps, and Joe Ruben. Notes 1. Any talk of miracles must be taken on faith, but most of Adele's story is documented. Unfortunately a number of the published works contain inaccuracies. Some date the final apparition as Oct. 8th (not 9th) and some give the year as 1858 (not 1859). No record was kept at the time, of course, but since the day was Sunday, the calendar reveals that Sunday fell on the 9th in 1859. Many articles state that Adele was an 18 year-old girl at the time of her apparitions. This is not the case. She was born in 1831, making her 28. 2. After she began her mission of religious teaching, Adele Brice was called "Sister" and wore religious garments of her own design , but she never took vows and was not a member of a recognized religious order. She and her small group of co-workers apparently patterned themselves after the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, also known as Tertiary Seculars. These women, who often call each other "Sister," fall under the umbrella of the church. Because historical records from Adele's period are scarce, it is not known whether she operated under church auspices. It is generally believed that she did not, although she was a very close friend of Sister Pauline LaPlant of the Sisters of St. Francis of Bay Settlement. 3 . The school Sister Adele founded remained in operation for many years. It later became a home for crippled children, then a pre-noviate, and for a time, home to an order of contemplative nuns. 4 . The Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help is located near the town of Champion and is open to visitors. The authors, who visited with some skepticism, found an undeniable presence there.


The Photographs Of Virginia LeFevre Servais

Photograph of Virginia Servais when she was 77

" M y name is Virginia Julia Servais LeFevre Laurent. I was born here on this homestead. Brother George died at age 14. We both had the measles. Doctor said I was the worst one, but it was George that had complications and got very sick and died. It was very sorrowful to see him go. He was my only brother and we had such nice times together. He had taken up violin playing lessons by mail and he could play so good. The boys, his friends from school, would come by and just listen to him play. Then they had to carry him to his grave. Not long after one of those boys died. "I was 12 years old when mother took sick and had to have an operation, so I had to take over and it wasn't easy for Dad and me. Dad didn't milk so I had 11 cows to milk. Harvest time was bad [with only] two people. Then finally we got hired help." These words from the memoirs of Virginia LeFevre Servais, written in 1985 when she was 83 years old, provide a glimpse into life on a farm in the Belgian community in the early part of the 20th century. In addition to her memoirs, Virginia compiled an album of photos that provide a different-and more lighthearted-glimpse of farm life. What makes the

67 album unique is that she posed and photographed the subjects, processed the film herself, and made prints in her own darkroom . Virginia's family farm, located near Champion, just south of Door County, was the homestead of her Belgian grandparents, Joseph and Virginia Laurent. Virginia lived on the farm with her grandparents, her parents, Victor LeFevre and Mary Laurent LeFevre, and her brother George, who died in 1911 (Figs. 1 and 2) .

Figs. 1 and 2 - Virginia (white dress), her parents, Victor and Mary Lefevre, and her brother, George, are shown in Fig. 1 (left). Virginia's grandparents are shown at the right in Fig. 2. Virginia was named after her grandmother, Virginia Laurent (left). Joseph Laurent, her grandfather, was a Civil War veteran. His stocky build and round face are characteristic of many Belgian men. The ribbon Joseph wears reads "T.O. Howe Post, #124 G.A.R., Green Bay, Wis." This identifies him as a Civil War veteran.

Virginia went to school through the 8th grade, a "graduation" point for many farm children, and then remained home to help on the farm . Around the age of 17, a new world opened up when she acquired a Kodak Brownie camera. She was a natural photographer with a good eye for posing her subjects in a light-hearted manner. Between 1919 and 1930 she snapped pictures of her family and friends, processed the film in her homemade darkroom, and made contact prints of the images. She carefully preserved each 2 V2 x 4 1/ 4 inch print in a photo album . Most of Virginia's pictures were taken during her long courtship with Isaac Servais, an enterprising young man from nearby Sugar Bush.

68 He helped his parents on the family farm, had a rural mail route, and in his spare time traveled around selling Aladdin Lanterns (Fig. 3).

Figs. 3 (top) and 4 (bottom) - In Fig. 3, Isaac Servais is preparing to make his rounds as a traveling salesman selling Aladdin lamps. Note the chains on the rear tires and the boxes of lamps tied all over the car. In Fig. 4, Virginia photographed Isaac getting ready to leave on his rural mail route on a snowy day.

69 The Aladdin lamp was introduced in America in 1908 based on a German design that featured a thin, cone-shaped mantle suspended above a round wick. The lamps gave off an even, white light-equal to the 60-watt bulb of today. Isaac was a clever salesman. He would show up at a farm just as the old-fashioned kerosene lamps were lit at nightfall, their flat wicks illuminating rooms with a dim, yellow light. After exchanging pleasantries, Isaac would open up an Aladdin lamp and light it with a flourish. A pure white light filled the room, and the farmer almost always bought at least one lamp-often more. During a- period of 10 years, Isaac sold nearly 1,500 lamps (Fig. 7). He initially traveled by horse and wagon, but later he was able to afford an automobile. Isaac's "real" job, however, was delivering the mail. For 13 years he delivered mail on a rural route, using a horse-drawn sleigh in the winter (Fig. 4) and a wagon or automobile the rest of the year. It was a test of endurance for both Isaac and his horses, because the roads were terrible, and in the winter he had to fight deep snowdrifts. During his years as a rural mail carrier, Isaac used 13 different horses and delivered mail to 190 mailboxes scattered along a 30-mile circle. He could make the complete run in about four hours, changing for a fresh team of horses at the 15-mile mark. Virginia's family farm was on Isaac's mail route, and the two literally met at the mailbox. In her memoirs, Virginia tells the story of how they met when she was 17 years old. "I was receiving mysterious letters, one after the other. They were addressed to me and I didn't know who they were from. One day I saw the mailman coming so I started out thinking he would be off before I got there, but he just waited to meet me. I was disappointed because he talked in Belgian to me and I answered in English. My thoughts were that I never want to see this guy again. These mysterious letters I was receiving were not for me at all. [They were for] a Virginia LeFevre from Green Bay. No relation at all. She was staying with a friend on our mail route and the letters were meant for her." Although Virginia LeFevre from Champion finally met Virginia LeFevre from Green Bay and became friends with her, she formed a more lasting friendship with her mailman, Isaac Servais. During a kermis celebration, Isaac asked his new mail-route friend to dance. In fact, they danced several times and even went for a short ride around the block while their parents were preoccupied eating Belgian pie. The friendship eventually led to marriage in 1929-ten years after they met. Virginia began taking photos with her Brownie camera around 1919. The photos depict the LeFevre farm as a busy place, but it's a place seen through the creative eyes of Virginia (Figs. 5, 6, 8, and 9). "If Virginia showed little interest in documenting farm work, on several occasions she transformed work environment and farm equipment into

70 backdrops or props for humorous photographs," wrote Monique Berlier, a Belgian graduate student at the University of Iowa. Monique used studies of photographs taken by Belgians in northeast Wisconsin as the basis of her doctoral dissertation.

Figs. 5 and 6 - In Fig. 5 (above), Virginia is shown striking a relaxed pose on the LeFevres' Fordson tractor. In Fig. 6 (below), Virginia photographed her father in front of a load of hay, while children cavort on the tractor.

Belier wrote that although Virginia "photographed 'normal' haying operations, she also had three youths climb on top of the tractor and take unconventional, acrobatic poses. It is also clear that she directed the [posing] of her subjects in many of the pictures ... She knew that the postures were eccentric and could attract attention." For example, under the photograph of Virginia sitting on a tractor in an "unladylike" manner, she wrote, "in mischief again." Virginia carefully arranged her photographs in an album, creating a generalized autobiographical series that spanned the years. Many of her subjects wear their "Sunday Best" clothing, which suggests she often

71 took her photographs on weekends. She may have enjoyed exposing a roll or two of film on the weekend, then processing and printing the images over the next few weekdays, taking pleasure in watching her images slowly appear in a bath of developer in her little darkroom .

Figs. 7 (top), 8 (lower left), and 9 (lower right) - The top photo shows a wagonload of Aladdin Lanterns purchased by Isaac. When he bought a gross of lamps, he got another gross free . After selling all 288 lanterns (at around $9.00 each) he ended up with a 50% profit. At the lower left, Virginia photographed her father with a team of horses, and at the lower right she captured a group of workers heading out with the Fordson tractor.

Virginia's photographs don't have detailed captions telling who, where, and why. She seemed more interested in choosing a few words or

72 a brief sentence to capture the mood of the experience. "Going for a ride," "Trying out the new Olds(mobile)," and "She's Lucky" (photo of Isaac and his friend with a young woman in the middle) are captions that appear in her album. One photograph of Virginia and three well-dressed girlfriends is captioned: "Don't overlook our feet or our coats-But look at our smiles! Aren't we the limit? What next?" The four girls have their coats on backward and are standing on one foot, as if pretending to be herons.

Figs. 10 and 11 - In Fig. 10, left, Virginia posed three of her friends alongside a fence, with the middle girl supported by a fence wire and the other two positioned as if supporting their friend in midair. The girl on the left, who seems bored with the charade, was posed in front of the fence post on which the middle girl is supporting herself with her right hand. In Fig. 11, right, Virginia poses herself on the front of the wheelbarrow while two of her friends pretend they are ready to wheel her away.

Monique Berlier felt that Virginia considered photography "a form of group entertainment, and that she was aware of its make believe quality." Figures 10 and 11 (above) are examples of the fun-loving mind of Virginia as she posed her subjects for the camera. When she included herself in the scene, as she often did, a friend (probably Isaac if he was around) clicked the shutter. Even Virginia's dad was induced to assume novel poses for her camera. In Fig. 12, for example, he is immortalized on film sitting inside a barrel, pipe in hand and hat to the side. How do you suppose she persuaded her father to crawl inside a barrel to have his photograph taken? Did she walk up to him and say, "Hi dad ... would you let me take your picture in a barrel?" Although he was tolerant of his daughter's hobby, the expression on his face as he peers out of the barrel suggests he isn't exactly pleased to be there.


Fig. 12 - At the left, Virginia photographed her father, Victor, squeezed into a half barrel. She enjoyed creating whimsical poses for her subjects, who usually seemed to enjoy participating in the fun. Her father, however, doesn't appear to be having much fun .

Fig. 13 - Lower photo. Virginia experimented in her darkroom by using a cut-out of a leaf as a mask during exposure of her self-portrait. This was certainly an advanced technique for a young farm girl photographer.

In addition to her ability to create humorous poses with her subjects, Virginia displayed considerable skill in the darkroom . Even though her negatives came from a cheap Kodak Brownie camera, she got the most from her equipment. Because she had no electricity in her darkroom, she used one of Isaac's Aladdin Lamps to expose her contact prints. The lamp must have been kept under cover until time of exposure, then opened up briefly to expose the print. Photographs that illustrate Virginia's photographic skills are shown in Figs. 13, 14, 15, and 16. The photo of the girl combing her hair in the meadow (Fig. 14) is a wonderful photograph for a Brownie camera. Figures 15 and 16 are well composed and well printed, considering that both were taken in bright sunlight. Virginia managed to capture good shadow detail without overexposed highlights, and the tonal quality in both images is excellent. The photos are surprisingly sophisticated.


Figs. 14, 15, and 16 - The photo at the top left (Fig. 14) is simply labeled "How can you beat the farm?" Virginia's parents are seen in their horse-drawn cutter in Fig. 15 (top right). In Fig. 16, at the bottom, Virginia photographed some friends with a new car on what appears to be a Sunday afternoon, considering their clothes.

Photography wasn't Virginia's only skill. She was also an excellent and creative seamstress who designed and sewed her own stylish clothes {Figs. 17-20). After she married, she made shirts for her husband and items of clothing for the whole family-she could even make a man's suit. Figure 21 is an example of matching outfits, complete with capes and hats, that she designed and made for daughters Joyce and Clair.


Figs. 17-20 - Virginia the fashion designer. Fig. 17 (left) shows Virginia in a "spring dress" she made. Fig. 18 (second from the left) is a creative design reminiscent of the "sailor suit" theme seen in the 1920s. Fig. 19 (second from the right) is another unusual design characterized by a series of small triangles forming a line down the front from the collar to the white belt. A watch on a long chain, hanging below the beltline, sets off the dress. Virginia's first-born son, Francis, is shown in Fig. 20 (right) wearing an outfit made by his mother.

Fig. 21 - Virginia designed, made, and photographed matching outfits for young daughters, Joyce and Clair.

Virginia and Isaac married ten years after they met. Why did it take so long? For one thing, it wasn't love at first sight, and for another, it was difficult to become well acquainted since they were too busy to see each other regularly. And after their friendship finally became love, Isaac apparently resisted settling with Virginia on the LeFevre homestead. Virginia's grandparents were still living on the farm, and Isaac didn't like the idea of three generations living in the same house . When Isaac was 81 (in 1980), he recalled his lengthy courtship with Virginia. He said they went out only once a month or so. He was busy helping on his family's farm, carrying mail, and selling lamps. Virginia was busy with day-to-day chores on her family's farm. Isaac remembered going to two movies during their courtship, a Charlie Chaplin film and My Sonny Boy, starring Al Jolson. "I spent

76 just five cents per person each time," he said. He also said that he and Virginia sometimes went to dances. Isaac and Virginia married in 1929, shortly after he gave up selling Aladdin lamps. On the day of the wedding, Virginia's parents asked the newlyweds if they would consider living with them on the LeFevre farmstead, and Isaac agreed. Figure 22 is Virginia and Isaac's wedding photograph. Figure 23 shows Virginia in a nearly identical pose with her family's neighbor and good friend, Jim Gaspard, who was a sort of "second father" to her.

Figs. 22 and 23 - Fig. 22 (left) shows Virginia and Isaac on their wedding day. In Fig. 23 (right) Virginia is shown with Jim Gaspard, her friend and neighbor.

After her marriage, Virginia had little time to devote to photography. She and Isaac had five children between 1930 and 1935, and one more arrived later. She became a full-time wife, mother, and housekeeper, but she continued to sew and make her own patterns. Her daughter, Carol, remembers her mother as a "fashion designer," not a seamstress. Virginia's children recall that she was also a wonderful cook

77 who regularly made at least a dozen Belgian pies "just in case company came by." Carol said her mother was the "warm heart of our home," and her dad, with his storytelling ability and sense of humor, was the "spirit in the home." Isaac's sense of humor remained intact even into old age. His son , Alden, told about the time his father received a call from a telemarketer. After listening to her complicated pitch, Isaac said, "You know, I'm 94 years old and I don't understand a thing you're talking about." When the telemarketer asked if there was someone else in the house she could talk to, he replied, "Yeah, you could talk with my dad ." The telemarketer asked if he was available . Isaac said, "This is probably not a good time, because he's upstairs cutting my grandpa's hair." End of phone call. Virginia and Isaac had a wonderful marriage-maybe there is something to be said for a long courtship. And Alden provided further insight when he noted that his mother "laughed at all dad's jokes, regardless of how many times she heard them." Virginia's daughter, Carol, has preserved her mother's photo album as a treasured family keepsake, but in sharing it she has given it broader meaning. Monique Berlier wrote, "A photograph ... is a message that communicates something not only about the object or individual pictured, but also about the photographer ... " And so it is with Virginia Servais' photographs. While providing a look at farm life in the Belgian settlement, they also provide a glimpse into the life and personality of a woman of remarkable artistic achievement.

A Postscript A postscript to the lives of Virginia and Isaac Servais arrived in 1946, when their sixth and last child was born eleven years after daughter Clair. Virginia was 44 years old at the birth of the daughter they named Carol Anne. Carol was, of course, the "baby" of the family, and she has fond memories of life on the farm. She was a very religious youngster and as soon as she could think for herself she wanted to be a nun. Virginia designed and sewed a miniature nun's habit for her daughter when she was five years old, and she took several photographs of Carol wearing it (Figs. 24 and 25, below). One day, dressed up in her habit, Carol walked away from home and headed for the convent at Robinsonville Chapel. The pastor from St. Joseph's Church in Champion happened to see her strolling along the highway. He picked her up and took her to the convent so the Sisters could call her parents. Carol remembers that the Sisters treated her with

78 great kindness and also took the time to examine every inch of her tiny habit. Determined to enter the convent, Carol completed her high school education at the Chapel, which had become the St. Francis Pre-Novitiate. She studied to become a nun with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Bay Settlement, and after taking her vows she taught 2nd and 8th grades at St. Joseph's school in Marinette. In 1972 she decided to leave the order and seek to have a family . She worked as a waitress and at a cannery in Green Bay to make enough money to rent an apartment. She then taught in the parochial school system in Green Bay while she continued her education. In 1986 she became a teacher in the Green Bay Public Schools, and in 1991 she accepted a position at Preble High School, where she still teaches Language and Dramatic Arts . Married and with a family of her own, she cherishes her mother's photo album and memoirs and keeps them in a safe place. She is shown in Fig. 26 with her granddaughter, Chloe.

Figs. 24, 25, and 26 - The two left figures (Figs. 24 and 25) show five-year-old Carol dressed in her habit. Fig. 26 (right) is a recent photograph of Carol taken with her granddaughter, Chloe.

Sources: Berlier, Monique , 1999, Picturing Ourselves: Photographs of Belgian Americans in Northeastern Wisconsin, 1888-1950, Ph.D. Thesis , The University of Iowa; Dax, Charmaine, 1980, Isaac Servais: "The Champ," an interview for the Journalistic Writing Class of Mr. Hensel, (at Washington High School in Two Rivers); Recollections of Virginia Servais written in her own hand; interviews with her children, Alden Servais, Carol Servais Miller, Francis Servais, Norris Servais, and Clair Servais Dax.



An Early Northeast Wisconsin Logging Camp

umberjacks-sturdy, tobacco-spitting men who worked and played hard under difficult and even extreme conditions-were an important part of Door County history. They were on the front lines of the lumber industry that drove the economy of northeast Wisconsin from 1840 to the turn of the century. Living in isolated wilderness camps under the most primitive conditions, they contended almost daily with on-the-job accidents. A careless stroke with an ax, misjudging the direction of a tree fall, or being struck by an errant "widow maker" limb, ended the career, or life, of many a lumberjack. A fatal accident was followed by a quick, on the spot burial, with the boots of the deceased hung on a nearby tree as a memorial. Then back to work.



Fig. 1 - Crew of lumberjacks with a load of logs. Two teams of horses are shown with the crew. The logger in the front is holding a two-man crosscut saw, while the lumberjack at the top left holds a cant hook. A pulley is chained to the tree at the left. A rope can be passed through it. With the rope around the log, and the end through the pulley tied to the horses, the horses can pull the log up skids onto the sled.

The tree of choice for lumberjacks and the sawmills they served was the trophy white pine (Pinus strobus). These trees, with trunks three to four feet in diameter, reached upward 150 feet or more. They grew straight and tall, and although the wood was soft, it was strong in proportion to its weight. Along with the white pine, lumberjacks felled hemlock, maple, beech, and oak. The early logging crews (pre-1860) usually consisted of 12-15 men; later, crews of 30-60 workers were common. A foreman supervised the operation with a crew consisting of men assigned to specific tasks. The choppers {or fellers) felled the trees with axes, and the bucking crew

81 (also called the barking crew) trimmed the trees and cut them into logs, usually about 16 feet long. Sometime after 1870 or so choppers used two-man crosscut saws to fell larger trees (Fig. 1, previous page). Choppers were at the top of the lumberjack hierarchy. They kept their double-bladed axes honed to razor sharpness, and they paused frequently as they worked to restore the keen edges. Swinging the axes with great strength and precision, they could drop a tree onto a precise spot on the forest floor.

Fig. 2 - Group of lumberjacks loading logs onto a sled. The pair of horses is pulling a log to the front of the sled, where it is turned sideways. Lumberjacks on top of the load then tie chains or ropes to the log and roll or slide it up the two skid poles to the top. Note the dog (shown in inset) sitting on a log.

The lumberjacks known as skidders worked with teamsters and their oxen or horses to move logs to skidways for loading on sleds. A skidway consisted of two or more small logs, laid parallel, onto which logs were rolled at right angles to the skid logs. If raised ground was available, logs could be skidded onto a sled down the incline. Using chains, the sled horses were used to help load the sled by pulling logs into place alongside, then up a skidway so they came to rest on top of the load (Fig. 2). As the load of logs grew bigger, the angle of the skidway was

82 increased, and more and more effort was required to pull the logs to the top . This dangerous work required considerable skill and coordination on the part of the lumberjacks, teamsters, and horses. Using cant hooks and sturdy poles, and both man and horse power, many of the sleds emerging from the forest carried huge loads of logs that towered over the men and horses. In larger logging camps, men assigned to removing brush and keeping trails and roads open were referred to as swampers. Since fall and winter were peak times for harvesting trees, when the temperature reached freezing, swampers were sometimes assigned the additional task of driving over logging trails and releasing water from barrels to ice the roadway. Horse drawn sleds could be loaded with more logs and pulled to their destination more easily over frozen surfaces than over bare ground or snow. The cook and his helper, called a cookee, were keys to the morale and output of lumberjacks in a logging camp. Most cooks were men, but women also cooked for loggers (note the women on the right in the photo below the chapter head). Cooks arose well before daylight, often as early as 4:00 AM, to prepare the morning meal. In the early days, they served pork and beans, flapjacks, bread, and coffee, but by the late 1800s they prepared more varied meals. The lumberjacks arose when breakfast was ready, some of the more fastidious washed their faces and hands , and all consumed large amounts of food in silence, as was the custom in lumber camps. "The life of a lumberjack Fig. 3 - A few white pine trees in Door appealed only to tough or desperCounty escaped the lumberjack's ax. This one ate men capable of handling hard is at Toft Point near Baileys Harbor. labor for long hours," wrote N.K. Risjord in Wisconsin, The Story of the Badger State. He quoted from a letter written by a young man who experienced camp life first-hand. At night there was "... snoring in seven different languages, mostly imported-professional snores from Germany and Norway, warranted to never miss a note ... while the beautiful odor of wet socks and foot rags"

83 lingered in the background. It was a tough life, no doubt about it, with the long day in the forest stopping only when the sun set. These lumberjacks did their job almost too well. The heavily forested areas of Door County today are primarily second or third growth. The great numbers of lumberjacks (some of whom were farmers working for extra cash) who moved through the county's forests before 1900 left much of the terrain barren of large trees. Today there are very few places where old growth trees, especially white pines (Fig. 3 , previous page), can be seen.

Two Modern Sawdogs And Their Sawmills " H e came home from logging looking like Frankenstein... I had to haul him to the doctor a few times," said. Gladys Barnowsky. She was talking about Arwed Barnowsky (Fig. 4), her "sawdog" husband . Logging and sawmills didn't disappear from Door County after the great logging boom of the 1800s. In fact, some logging continues to this day. Arwed harvested second and third growth trees until he retired and turned his sawmill, located near Baileys Harbor, over to his son. Ralph Smith (Fig. 5), another Door county sawdog, still harvests trees. Although he recently turned 80 , he continues to operate Lily Bay sawmill at the end of County Tin Sturgeon Bay.

Figs. 4 and 5 - On the left (Fig. 4) is Arwed Bamowsky, shown laughing about some of his adventures as a Door County sawdog. On the right (Fig. 5) is Ralph Smith, who regularly holds court in his "Lily Bay Social Center."

84 Just like the lumberjacks and sawmill workers of the 1800s, the two sawdogs described in this story accepted the danger that goes with felling trees and the sharp circular saws, cables, and moving machinery that comprise a sawmill-not to mention the danger associated with moving around logs that may weigh over a thousand pounds. Adding to the risk, today's lumberjacks do much of their preliminary work with powerful chainsaws instead of axes and two-man crosscut saws. Ralph Smith is a robust, outgoing fellow with an easy laugh. He said his sawmill "is a labor of love .. . first you like to work in the woods and then you like to make something out of the logs." He once had a trucking business, but he decided to give up trucks and take up sawmilling. "I wouldn't trade my 16 years [at the sawmill] for anything," said Ralph, as he hefted a cant hook, a wooden handle with a heavy metal hook at one end used to move logs around. Asked about sawmilling accidents , Ralph described how a planer cost him the knuckles on his right hand. A planer is a machine that rapidly rotates a cylinder of long cutting edges, while the operator slides a rough-sawn board over the cylinder to make the board nice and smooth. One day Ralph was careless and the planer teeth ripped through the leather glove on his right hand and planed off a few knuckles and severed some tendons . Ralph is quick to show a visitor the damaged glove (Fig. 6), with slits over where his knuckles once were . He proudly said that he regained much of the use of his hand, and that although the accident was in September he managed to heal enough to pull the trigger on his rifle for the November deer season. Arwed Barnowsky had his share of accidents, too. He ran his sawmill (Fig. 7) year around, and he recalled a time one winter when his big saw Fig. 6 - This is the glove that saved blade got bound up in a frozen log and much of Ralph Smith's hand from the its teeth sheared off. Arwed was riding spinning blades of a planer. The acciand operating the carriage that moves dent almost prevented him from going the log into the saw, and he said "the deer hunting. teeth flew by me like a bunch of bumblebees." Fortunately, most flew into the ground and missed him. Another time a frozen log exploded as it was being sawed, and spear-like pieces flew everywhere. In the woods felling and preparing trees for his sawmill, Arwed always wore a protective helmet, but he still got banged up occasionally.

85 One time his chainsaw kicked back so hard it sailed over his head. And it wasn't always falling trees and chainsaws that created problems. Up on Cat Island in the Apostles, he was cutting down a large tree when he stepped on a bee's nest. He saved himself by tossing the chainsaw, throwing himself backward, and fleeing the scene. "Luck and speed" were the two things that helped him most in avoiding accidents, he said. Ralph has also had a few close calls when sawing logs into boards. Generally he has a helper at the other end of the carriage to clear the newly cut board from the blade. One day his helper was distracted and failed to clear the board, which turned sideways and caught in the saw blade. The board became a projectile that hit Ralph just above the brow. Nine stitches Fig. 7 -Arwed Bamowsky's sawmill in Baileys and two hours later, his memHarbor with its 52-inch circular saw. ory returned. He was back at the mill the next day. Arwed, a thoughtful man who chooses his words carefully, enjoyed talking about his lumbering and dock-building days. His wooden docks are some of the finest in Door County, and they have a reputation for standing the test of time and wave action. Although he remained a sawdog at heart, probably the things he most enjoyed were hunting and fishing. He summarized his life in Door County by saying, "I would do it all over again."

Fig. 8 -

Ralph Smith stands by the landing craft engine that powers his Lily Bay Sawmill.

86 Like Arwed, Ralph is an avid hunter and outdoorsman. "My least favorite thing to do is mow grass," he said, which has caused him a few problems with his wife, Anna Mae. In spite of the fact that he prefers logs to grass, Ralph and Anna Mae have been married 56 years and have two sons and a daughter. Asked about the secret to a happy marriage, he said, "Give and take ... and as you get older, you learn to give easier." Ralph's Lily Bay Sawmill isn't much to look at (Fig. 8), but then most local sawmills aren't. The big circular saw is powered by an old 1940s Minneapolis-Moline engine from a military landing craft, and a tin can covers the exhaust stack that sticks up next to the enclosed carriage house . Logs are scattered around and newly-sawn boards are stacked at the end of the mill. Sawdust is piled in and around the carriage house. Sitting at the back edge of the property is the heart of the operation, a building with a sign reading "Smitty's Lily Bay Social Center." The center is a rustic Door County classic, with a dozen or so deer and elk antlers nailed over the big sliding door on which tail feathers of a wild turkey are tacked (Fig. 9). With no shortage of fuel, the center is heated by a big wood stove. When weather permits, the garage door is kept wide open for Ralph's friends to drop by. Inside, the spacious building is a version of Red Green's workshop and Possum Lodge, all rolled into one. Tools and mementos are all over the place, in no particular arrangement, except for the short section of a log that stands to one side and accommodates five or so chainsaws with their blades carefully arFig. 9 - The sign over the door of the adminiranged in slots. stration building of the Lily Bay Sawmill reads "Smitty's Lily Bay Social Center." There visiRalph and his buddies tors receive a warm greeting from proprietor meet regularly at the social cenRalph Smith. ter for conversation, tall tales, good laughs, and hunting and fishing stories. And once in a while they indulge themselves in a sip or two of "Lily Bay Sawmill Wine," which is prized by connoisseurs of homemade wine in Door and Brown counties. Made at the sawmill for

87 several decades, according to the label the wine is guaranteed to "give you a buzz." Arwed Barnowsky, Ralph Smith, and the sawmills with which they are associated are reminders that lumbering and lumberjacks weren't confined to the eighteenth century.

Sources: Fries, R.F., 1951, Empire in Pine, Wm . Caxton Ltd, Sister Bay, Wisconsin; Lotz, M.M., 1994, Discovering Door County's Past, Holly House Press, Fish Creek, Wisconsin; Peattie, D.C., 1948, A Natural History of Trees, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts; Risjord, N.K., 1995, Wisconsin, The Story of the Badger State, Wisconsin Trails, Madison, Wisconsin; interviews with Arwed and Gladys Barnowsky, and with Ralph Smith. (Arwed Barnowsky died on June 6th, 2003)


Henschel's Farm and Sawmill And The Lady Sawyer

"What's a lady like you doing in a place like this?" That's not such a peculiar question to ask of a slim, attractive young lady who's using an enormous saw to cut up logs six times as big around as she is. This wife and mother of three, who exudes self-confidence, is Jamie Geisel Henschel-probably Wisconsin's only lady sawyer (Fig. 1). And in addition to operating a saw, she is a good carpenter, can operate any kind of machinery, is an experienced farmer, and knows animals-from doctoring to delivering calves. Jamie and her husband, Mike, operate Henschel's Sawmill near Carlsville. But Jamie is by no means the whole show at what is very much a family operation. In addition to the sawmill, the Henschels milk 50 cows, have 15 acres of cherry trees, tap 800 maple trees, and each year raise 600800 pigs and 70 head of beef cattle. They tried bees once, but Mike said, "They were too mean!" Both Jamie's and Mike's families have German roots, and their grandparents and great-grandparents sustained their families by farming. The mill is more recent. It was founded by Mike's father, Roger, who died recently, but his wife Helen, along with Jamie Fig. 1 - Jamie Henschel: sawyer, and Mike, carry on the Door County mother, farmer, and housewife. tradition of making logs into lumber.


Fig. 2 - A view ofHenschel's Sawmill, with the saw shed to the right in the distance and the planing shed to the left. A new planer allows the Henschels to provide customers with smooth, finished planks. The small square enclosure sticking out in front of the saw shed houses the tractor that provides the hydraulics and power for the blade and associated machinery. The mill specializes in sawing cedar and pine, but it also saws logs of maple, oak, butternut, ash, or whatever the customer brings ..

The Henschel family farm is over a century old, and Mike is a farmer to the core. In fact, it was his and Jamie's mutual interest in farming that brought them together in high school. Instead of talking about the usual "cool" things, these two teenagers talked about farming techniques. And it didn't hurt that Jamie's family farmed just across the road from Mike's. Jamie also has the genes for farming. She was raised by dedicated farmers, Bernard and Shirley Geisel, on a farm with four sisters and one brother, where everyone was expected to work. When she was a little girl, she had no interest in dolls or dressing up. "I made cute little barns and played with little tractors. I helped Dad outside," she said . By the time Mike and Jamie married in 1989, she knew every aspect of farm management and had already shown an interest in the sawmill. The sawmill was an ambitious project Mike and his father undertook after Mike finished school, and by 1985 they had their state-of-the art sawmill up and running. Instead of the old-fashioned "ratchet" mechanism that sets the log in position for sawing, their mill uses hydraulics and electricity to clamp the log in place and position it to be sawed into boards. A dedicated tractor, the same machine that provides the hydraulics, provides power for the big 48 or 50-inch circular blade. The Henschel's first circular saw blade was a 44-incher, "but we got rid

90 of it because every now and then it would throw a tooth. The teeth would stick in the back wall of the sawmill," said Mike. When the wall started collecting embedded teeth, they decided to replace the blade with a bigger one. Mike is proud of the sawmill he and his father established, for it immediately served a need. People come from throughout Door County and beyond to buy lumber from the Henschels or to have their logs custom sawed or seasoned in a climate-controlled enclosure. When Jamie joined the Henschel family, Roger (Fig. 3) took her under his tutelage and taught her everything he knew about sawmilling. She loved it. And she could do it all, from wrestling logs into place, to using a chainsaw, to working with the push-bottom controls that operate the log-bearing trolley that allows her to saw huge logs. Roger's wife, Fig. 3 - Roger Henschel, patriarch of HenHelen, said, "Jamie can run the schel 's farm and sawmilling operations until mill just like Roger did. She can do his death in November, 2002. The sawmill anything." was his pride and joy, and he taught both Operation of the century-old Mike, his son, and Jamie, his daughter-inHenschel farm and its newer sawlaw, all he knew about sawmilling. mill operation requires a real team effort. Mike's mother, for example, prepares meals for the whole family, helps with chores and at the sawmill, and drives a tractor to till the fields. She and Jamie's mother take care of Jamie and Mike's three sons as needed. As children, both Jamie and Mike were expected to help out on their families' farms, and they expect the same of their three boys, Kevin (age 3), Bryan (age 7), and Mark (age 10). The boys learned their lesson well and passed it along. When little Kevin was learning to walk, eight-year-old Mark pointedly warned him " ... as soon as you start walking, you're going to have to go to work." The workday for Mike and Jamie begins at 4:45 each morning, with milking at 5:30. After feeding and tending their animals, they are off to the sawmill or out in the fields cultivating, planting, or harvesting. When the kids are not in school, they often accompany their parents, either to help out or entertain themselves. Not long ago the Green Bay

91 Press-Gazette published a photo of Mike at the wheel of a combine with Kevin perched up in the cab behind him-sound asleep.

Figs. 4, 5, 6, and 7 - At the upper left (Fig. 4) Jamie is at the controls of the sawing machinery, getting ready to resaw a thick plank. Fig. 5, at the upper right, shows the concentration on Jamie ' s face as she saws a large log. Behind her face shield, she carefully monitors the blade's progress through the log. At the lower left (Fig. 6) Mark and his dad, Mike, work together to place finished planks in orderly piles. Mike is the one who usually pl anes the rough cut planks to a smooth finish. Fig. 7, at the lower right, shows Mike's mother, Helen, assisting Jamie in getting a large hardwood log ready for sawing.

It's a long day for the Henschels, but farming has its rewards. "You work with your family every day," Jamie said, "and you work at your own pace; you're not required to be in an office every day." It's a way of life they hope to pass along. "Farming is in the family, and hopefully it can go on for a few more hundred years," said Mike.

92 An aspect of farming that brings Mike pleasure is "making a product that other people can enjoy. We sell a lot of pork and beef on the farm. Marchant's in Brussels takes all our beef... We were sitting in church and an older lady walked up to me and said, 'Mike, we just got a beef at Marchant's from your farm, and it was so good.' Comments like that make my day, because it's nice to know that people enjoy your product. " There are other pleasures too. Jamie said that occasionally "city folks stop by in the evening to watch us do chores, and when we're finished we sometimes build a fire outside in the fire pit and have a couple of beers with them and sit and talk-these times are enjoyable and relaxing."

Fig. 8 - The Henschel children seem destined to become farmers and help operate the sawmill. As shown at the left, 10-year-old Mark already knows how to use a "bobcat" tractor to help load Jogs onto the inclined ramp that carries Jogs into the mill for sawing. Looking ahead, Mark and Bryan, on their own, have made their summer plans. Bryan wants to rake hay and Mark's going to bale. With a tractor, of course.

But balancing the time-consuming jobs of running a farm and sawmill with the demands of raising a family requires a lot of effect. "It's hard,'' said Jamie. "You work a full day and then come home to help with homework and then do housework, and it gets to be a long day. But it's all in the package and you have to deal with it." Jamie's family, is one of the founding families of the "Thresheree," a popular Door County attraction held in August. The event features antique farm machinery, steam engines, an old-fashioned sawmill, and various kinds of contests, from tractor pulling to a greased pig competition. And guess who's the sawyer that operates the antique sawmill? Jamie Henschel, of course. Also, Jamie and her three sisters are frequent winners in the team division of the greased pig competition. Mike said, "I always pick out the slowest pig for her,'' but when she and her sisters win, they complain that "I picked out the dumb pig."

93 It's obvious to everyone who knows Jamie and Mike that they complement each other and are dedicated to their family farm and sawmill. Jamie's mother uses the words "unique" and "incredible" to describe her daughter, and Mike agrees-"! am very lucky."

Fig. 9 - The hard-working Henschel family. Mark, Jamie, and Mike are in the rear; Kevin and Bryan are at the front. Bryce, the family beagle, was encouraged to join the group by Kevin . Missing from the photograph is Max, the other family dog.

Sources: Interviews with Mike and Jamie Henschel, Roger Henschel, Helen (Schartner) Henschel, and Shirley (Laher) Geisel.


Going, Going, Gone... The 0 ld Barns Of Door County


emember barns? Not the low, sprawling, metal veneered barns of today, but the genuine article. You know, those old two-story wooden barns that served America's agricultural past for so many years-the cavernous ones with hay lofts , ladders, trapdoors, and soft light filtering in through narrow spaces between the wall boards (see above photo). Inside, gazing upward, the exposed beams, trusses, and towering rafters were reminiscent of cathedrals. And the odor of hay and animals past and present provided a nostalgic aroma. Barns were important to the early settlers of Door County, who had two things in mind-acquiring land and establishing farms to sustain them-

95 selves and their families . Immigrants began arriving in Door County in substantial numbers in the 1840s. Most were from Germany, but others came from Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Poland, and Bohemia. These early settlers wasted no time in "improving" their land, but the going was slow because the peninsula was heavily forested. They spent long days felling and trimming trees, burning brush , and grubbing stumps. The settlers used the felled trees to build primitive log dwellings, and once the houses were up and a bit of land was cleared, they turned their attention to planting food crops. Later, as they cleared more land and began farming in earnest, they built small barns and outbuildings in which to store grain and hay and to house livestock (mainly horses, oxen, and mules). Protection of these work animals came first, before that of cows, which were usually left to fend for themselves. Cattle were adaptable enough to curl up against the barn in a pile of straw or grass during cold weather. The first log barns built by Door County settlers were quite different from the two-story dairy barns built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Only a few of the early log barns remain, but some of the old dairy barns still linger, although after almost a century of exposure to the elements many are beginning to sag and fall in on themselves. On modern dairy farms, the beautiful old barns have often been replaced by long, low, metal buildings (Fig. 1) that make efficient use of today's technology.

Fig. 1 - The Schopffamily's "Hilltop Farm" in Carlsville is a good example of a modem dairy farm consisting of a number of long, low buildings, often of metal construction.

The earliest barns (the log barns) were often hastily built using simple tools like the felling ax and broadax. The adze (see page 206), auger, and hammers , such as the maul and ironwood-headed "beetle," were also important. Logs were split by using a maul or beetle to drive metal wedges (along with hardwood wedges called gluts) parallel to the grain of the wood. Bucksaws and two-man crosscut saws were sometimes available, but not essential. The fastener of choice was a hardwood peg driven through holes predrilled in logs using an auger . Oversize square pegs were sometimes driven into round holes in two logs to lock them securely together-a square peg in

96 a round hole! Nails were occasionally available, but their use in early barns was limited because of scarcity and cost. Construction techniques for these early barns were rather primitive. The settlers often used logs with the bark intact, because they had no time to skin them. The bottom, or sill, logs were placed on large, flat stones to form the four sides of the barn. The floor remained dirt. Wall logs were notched at the corners and alternately stacked around the sides and fitted together to stabilize the wall. A door frame (preferably facing south) was built into one of the walls, and often a small window opening was created. Runs of logs were added until the wall was six or seven feet high. Then the top logs were pegged (using hardwood pegs of ash or birch) to those underneath (Fig. 2) to help stabilize the weight of rafters laid across the top. If winter set in before the barn was completed, the settlers added a log or two to one side and then laid split logs and bark across the walls so that rainwater would be carried away. Such a temporary "lean-to" could protect their animals until springtime. Barn roofs consisted of long "rafter" logs, perhaps five to eight inches in diameter, notched to the top wall logs, and angled upward and butted against rafter Fig. 2 - Pegs between the two top logs of logs from the opposite wall. In an 1870 Door County barn. this way, a series of rafters set at an angle provided the foundation for a simple two-sided (gable) roof. Split logs or rough lumber were placed on the rafters to provide a base for the roofing material. Actual roofing depended on what was available. Possibilities included tree bark, rough planks made from logs split lengthwise, or cedar shingles if time permitted. To finish the log barn, a crude door was attached to the door frame and hinged with leather hinges. If animals were confined to stalls in the barn, a door that latched wasn't necessary. A number of Door County's early log buildings are constructed oflogs that were "planked" using only the ax and adze. A planked log is one that has been trimmed flat on two, or even four sides to make it somewhat square. This took a great deal of effort and skill, and a few settlers gained peninsula-wide respect for their artistry with the adze. The finest planking was reserved for homes, but a few barns built around 1860 show planked logs. One of the oldest log barns remaining in Door County was built in 1860 and features planked logs (Fig. 3) . It's generally agreed that Scandinavian settlers had a great deal of influence on log construction. Many of the men from Norway, Denmark, and

97 Sweden brought with them design and construction details passed down from their ancestors, who had learned to survive cold and difficult winters. Later, descendents of German settlers also developed into skilled builders, some of whom undoubtedly learned valuable lessons from the Scandinavian craftsmen.

Fig. 3 - Well-preserved log barn on the Fandrei farm near Ellison Bay. It was a sizable barn for its day (1860), and it shows a characteristic "drive through" opening in the middle. The logs were planked with an adze. This is one of the oldest log barns to be found in Door County; the roof was originally shingled. It may have been once used as a granary where wheat and other grains could be threshed by hand. It now stores hay for horses.

Anyone building a barn after 1860 or so had an advantage over those trying to establish a farm in 1850. By 1860, ready-made shingles were available from settlers who specialized in making them, and small sawmills had been established to furnish rough boards. Nails had become cheaper and were more widely available. By 1860, log barns were being more carefully constructed. Instead of the simple V notching of corner logs, the end of each log was cut to form a square or slightly angled profile. The former made a square notched corner and the latter a dovetail joint. Dovetail joints are complex in that the angled ends of logs, slightly fan-shaped like a dove's tail, match up with those above and below. It took considerable craftsmanship to make dovetail joints using only the ax, adze, bowsaw, and hammer and chisel, for construction required that the angled tails had to be carefully fitted in order to form a tight-sealing corner. Two kinds of dovetail joints are commonly seen in Door County's log structures: full dovetail and half dovetail. Both required a great deal more time and skill than the simple notching of wall logs. A comparison of the three types of joints is shown in Figs. 4, 5, and 6. Door County's early barns have roofs of varying styles. Many have gabled roofs, where the two sides of the roof are equal in size and slant

98 downward to the top of the walls. This reflects a building tradition brought to America by European immigrants. Another early roof form seen in Door County is the "salt box," where one side of the roof is longer than the other (Fig. 7). Salt box barns were often created when a farmer added a lean-to on the side of an existing gable-roofed barn. Traditional salt box barns are constructed with the long roof plane facing north, so snow piles up on the north side while the winds scour snow away from the south side, where the door is located.

Figs. 4 (left), 5 (middle), and 6 (right) - Typical notching at the comers of round logs used in the construction of log buildings in Door County. Fig. 4 shows the simplest kind of notch, where only alternate logs are notched top and bottom and fitted onto logs without notches. This kind ofnotching was usually quickly done with an ax. Fig. 5 shows half dovetail notches in the wall of the old Logan barn on Highway 57 near Mr. G's supper club. The more complex full dovetail notch is shown at the right (Fig. 6) in a log house used as a flower shop in Ephraim. The tightness of the dovetails indicates that they were made with care. In both Figs. 5 and 6, the logs were planked with an adze before dovetailing. Spaces between logs were often left open in barns to provide air circulation. Log homes were always "chinked" by fitting a narrow strip of wood into the space, then applying mud mixed with straw; later, lime cement was used (Fig. 5). In the 18th and 19th centuries, some Scandinavian and Finnish craftsmen constructed log buildings where logs were so tight against one another that very little chinking was required.

The gable roof was common among early barns. But as farms became more productive, two-story barns with gambrel roofs became popular, because they expanded the amount of storage space available for hay and straw on the second level.


Fig. 7 - Saltbox style barn on Grove Road off Highway 57 . Built by the Arnold Schultz family shortly before the tum of the century, this barn was part of a complex of buildings near Ephraim called "Germantown."

There are two types of gambrel roof. In the English gambrel roof (Fig. 8B) , each side of the roof is in two planes. The top plane is relatively flat as it extends outward, providing more headroom within; the second plane drops at a steeper angle toward the two side walls. The Dutch gambrel roof (Figs. 8A and 8C) is similar, except the edge of the lower roof is flared slightly upward, throwing runoff water away from the barn's foundation. The Dutch gambrel roof gives the barn a graceful look when the structure is viewed end-on. As farms grew larger and barns more complex, small groups of carpenters specializing in barn building arose. But even with experienced carpenters available, building or "raising" a barn was a big event and required participation by families from nearby farms. Once carpenters constructed the basic wall and rafter framework on the ground, the call went out for people to gather for an all-day barn raising (Fig. 9) . The shared experience of raising a barn was exciting. It was characterized by hard work and massive appetites . Nearby families converged on the barn site. Led by a few experienced barn builders, and working from sunup to sundown, a big crew could complete the skeleton before evening. Their efforts were rewarded with lavish meals prepared by the women. When not eating, children entertained themselves with play.


Figs. SA, SB, SC -The barn on the left (A) shows a modem Dutch gambrel roof, with the arrows indicating the three roof planes. Fig. B shows an older barn with an English gambrel roof (two planes). Fig. C is an old, collapsing barn on Grove Road with a Dutch Gambrel roof with a "hay hood," or overhanging gable. A pulley underneath the overhang provided protection from the weather while hay bales were hoisted up and through the double doors into the loft. This barn's lower level has fieldstone walls that provide the upper level with its foundation . It is referred to as a "foundation barn."

Fig. 9 - About a dozen men are raising the frame of one side ("bent") of a small barn. Long poles, called "pike poles," were used to raise the preassembled bents into position. Ropes attached to the top beam of the bent, and pulled from the other side by the pole men, helped stabilize the frame. Once the bent was vertically plumb, it was secured to other bents by pins and plates. Raising and securing the heavy bents and installing rafters could often be done in a long day if the boss carpenter knew his business and had enough helpers. Later, members of the farm family would roof the barn and put on the siding at their leisure. (Photo courtesy of Algoma Historical Society)

101 Cedar shingles were the roofing material of choice for barns of the late 1800s, and up until 1920 they were often used for siding as well. Old barns and farm outbuildings sided with cedar shingles can still be seen in Door County. Their weathered gray surfaces have resisted degradation by sun and rain for many decades-some for over a century. The abundance of cedar trees, the demand for shingles, and the enterprise of early settlers resulted in widespread manufacturing of cedar shingles. With a minimum of equipment, an early settler could make several hundred shingles a day. Later, sawmills with handsaws made the job easier, and "shingle factories" provided work opportunities for many local men. Maurice Larson, an Ephraim old timer, said that shingle makers were easily recognized by their missing fingers. Although the early barns had dirt floors, by the end of the 1800s, with the rapid growth of the dairy industry, barns were being built with wooden floors. Later poured cement floors were favored. Foundations were changing too. In the late 1800s, more and more l:larns were being built on solid foundations created by stonemasons. Using fieldstone and quarried rock, along with lime and cement mortar, masons built low walls to which the sill timbers were anchored. Sometimes the walls were high enough to create rooms, which were typically whitewashed to make them brighter. The earliest barns were unpainted, but by the turn of the century more and more farmers began to protect their farm buildings with paint. The 1835 Farmer's Almanac described a recipe for farm paint consisting of a half gallon of skimmed milk, six ounces of lime, four ounces of linseed oil, and a pound and a half of color (usually iron oxide). In later years, a favorite barn paint recipe consisted of red iron oxide (35 percent sesquioxide of iron ground in oil), one pound of rosin, and four gallons of raw linseed oil. The red color absorbed heat from the sun and warmed the barn in wintertime. The change from subsistence farming to dairy farming began in the late 1800s as farmers began to look beyond growing just vegetables and grains. Wheat, once a staple crop, was beginning to struggle as successive plantings depleted the soil of nitrogen. As wheat yields diminished and crop diseases and pests plagued fields planted with the same crops year after year, dairy farming looked attractive. With the state's encouragement, traditional farmers started investing in herds of cows, and by 1900 Wisconsin was on its way to becoming the dairy state. To support their growing herds, farmers needed larger barns with places to milk the cows and storage space for hay and grain. The boom years for building large, two-story, wooden dairy barns began about 1880 and lasted into the 1920s. When farmers' herds grew, they often found it necessary to add a wing or two to the main barn. Thus many Door County barns are complex structures of several buildings, with attached chicken coops (Fig. 10) or places to keep pigs. Some barns had attached granaries or separate nearby buildings to keep feed grains dry.



Fig. 10- Shartner barn on Quarterline Road. The main barn on the left in the background is about a century old, and the wing on the right was added later. The attached building on the left in the foreground is a chicken coop, and the smaller building is a pump house.

Silos appeared in America around 1880. The concept of storing grain, safe from rot and rodents, traces back to Greek culture, and the word, "silo," comes from a Greek word that literally means a pit or hole in the ground for storing corn. The first silos, even in America, were pits or trenches dug into the earth. Later, the invention of upright storage structures allowed dairy farmers to plant fodder crops to be cut up and fermented for use as feed during winter months .

Figs. llA and llB- Left (I IA) shows a log barn on Silverdale Road, near Sturgeon Bay. Built in the mid-to-late 1800s, it has a square wooden silo. Fig. 11 B (right) shows a stone silo on a farm owned by Bill and Robin Hartel along Highway 57 south of Jacksonport. This silo was built around 1914. These two types of silos are rare in Door County.

103 The first upright silos in America were square and usually made of fieldstone, but often air became trapped in the corners, resulting in spoilage of the contents. Silos of the next generation were octagonal and made of wood, followed by the cylindrical silos of today. Wood was replaced by poured concrete, but dampness and leakage remained an intermittent problem. Modern silos, often cobalt blue, have walls of steel to which glass has been fused to provide smooth, tight surfaces that exclude air and moisture . A Door County dairy farm can be recognized from miles away by the silhouettes of silos standing tall against the sky. A few unusual and historically significant silos remain in Door County. One is a square, wooden silo on Silverdale Road near Sturgeon Bay (Fig. 1 lA, above), and the other is a round silo constructed of stone and mortar on a farm south of Jacksonport (Fig. 118, above). One of Door County's finest barn builders was Henry A. Anschutz, who established a reputation based on craftsmanship and imagination. He and his crew, including four of his sons, became widely known for their building skills, and many area farmers hired the crew to help build their barns. In all cases Anschutz was respected as the "boss carpenter," who was foreman, carpenter, teacher, architect, and taskmaster rolled into one . He is shown with some of his crew at the end of this chapter. Anschutz built elegant barns. In some of them , rather than depending on heavy beams to provide strength, he made creative use of thick, wide boards turned on their sides and bolted together to form braces to support the roof structure. Using this technique, the end of one inner board could be sandwiched, and interlocked , to two outer boards to provide a span that was lightweight and gave the barn interior a light, airy feel. Nearly a century after they were put up, many of his barns stand as monuments to his work. Two examples are shown in Figs. 12 and 13. A drive most anywhere in Door County provides convincing evidence that our old barns are in trouble . Generally, economic factors have contributed to their deterioration. They are expensive to maintain-and expensive to raze. Planks and timbers from old barns are sometimes recycled into new homes, but once the roof begins leaking or collapses the wood becomes worthless in a few years due to moisture and decay. In many of the old barns the siding boards may be up to 19 inches wide . Today if you visit a typical lumber yard and ask for boards 19 inches wide you get a quizzical look and information about the wonders of plywood. For barn lovers, a survey of the status of barns in Door County is a sobering experience. Figures 14-1 7 illustrate the state and fate of some of our old barns. Farms and farming have long contributed to America's greatness, but times are changing, and farming is changing too. Although the two-story wooden barn is a relic of the past, even those that are collapsing stand as reminders of where we came from, and reminders of a tradition of proud and unique craftsmanship. No question about it-most of the barns of yes-

104 teryear are going, going, and will soon be gone.

Figs.12and13-Two of the barns built by Henry A. Anschutz and his crew. Fig. 12 (top) shows an Anschutz barn near Jacksonport, built in 1914 and owned by the George Bagnall family. It has a gambrel roof with a side extension; the main barn is 40 x 80 ft. and inside the floor-to-ceiling height is about 40 ft. The main timbers and boards are hemlock. Fig. 13 (bottom) is the Anschutz family barn, also near Jacksonport. It was built in two stages, with the oldest part to the right (probably built in the late 1800s ). Both parts are sided with cedar shingles. Part of the interior wall in the old part is of stovewood construction. This barn is now owned by the Larry Anschutz family.


Figs. 14-17 - Fig. 14 is a log barn on Grove Rd. built around 1870. Fig. 15 is a log barn on Quarterline Rd., probably built between 1870-1880. The coll apsed dairy barn in Fig. 16 is located along Highway 42 between Egg Harbor and Sturgeon Bay. Fig. 17 is a log barn south of Mr. G's on Highway 57. Records suggest it was built between 1868 and 1876. It has had many owners and has been preserved to some extent. Fortunately, some old barns have been saved and renovated for use as art galleries, museums, artists' studios, or commercial storage. Adaptive reuse of old barns contributes greatly to the Door County scene.

Barn Builder Henry Anschutz Henry A. Anschutz, son of a German immigrant, was born in 1859 in Bay Settlement. When he was 20 years old, he moved to the Jacksonport area and made a living as a wood cutter until he saved enough money to buy 80 acres ofland to farm. In addition to farming, he used his carpentry and mechanical skills to build for others. The photo below shows a portion of the 24 workers that made up Anschutz' crew in 1928. Henry is second from the

106 left in the front row, and he is flanked by his sons. To Henry's right is son Charles Henry. Harry and Frank are on Henry's left. Anschutz and Sons was one of the largest construction firms in Door County at the time. Their motto was "We Are On The Square," suggesting that their buildings were carefully built with perfectly square framing, windows, and doors. In addition to houses and barns, the Anschutz firm built many familiar structures in Door County, including the cottages at Leathern Smith Lodge, the original part of Sevastopol School, and the farm buildings at Horseshoe Bay Farm. (photo courtesy of Helen Jane Anschutz)

Sources: Apps, J., and A. Strang, 1977, Barns of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Trails, Madison, Wisconsin; Arthur, E., and D. Witney, 1972, The Barn, M.F. Feheley Arts Co. Ltd., Toronto, Canada; Kahlert, J., and A. Quinn, 1978, Early Door County Buildings, Meadow Lane Pub., Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; Jordan, T.G., 1985, American Log Buildings, Univ. of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill; Klamkin, C., 1973, Barns, Their History, Preservation, and Restoration, Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York, New York; Noble, A.G., and R.K. Cleek, 1977, The Old Barn Book, Rutgers Univ. Press , New Brunswick, New

107 Jersey; Sloan, E., 1954, American Bams & Covered Bridges, Wilfred Funk, Inc., New York; A Barn is More Than a Building, it is a Shrine to our Agrarian Past, Smithsonian Magazine, August, 1989; The Farmer's Almanac, 1835; interview with Maurice Larson of Ephraim in 1989 .


/acksonport's Automaker

Fig. 1 - Harry Brungraber's first automobile, with his sister, Emily, at the controls and the family dachshund going along for the pretend ride. (Brungraber family photo)


ot many people realize that Jacksonport is the home of a significant automaker-one who built his first car at the age of 10. The car, built out of junk parts, cast off pieces of wood, and scraps of tarpaper, is shown in Fig. 1. It was the first of many cars that Harry Brungraber would build. Harry was born in Germany in 1919, a year after the end of World War I. Two years later his father left the country to find work in America, and when he saved enough money, he sent for his wife and children. They settled in Jacksonport in 1923. Since Harry spoke only German, he encountered many difficulties in school and was frequently held back. When he was 1 7 and still in the seventh grade, he decided he'd had enough. He left school and educated himself. Since the age of nine, he'd known what he wanted to do-be a carpenter and make music-and he proceeded to do just that. He learned to play several musical instruments and he gained steady employment as a carpenter. Skilled with his hands, he also had an innate ability to solve

109 structural problems and a willingness to work hard. He made good wages as a carpenter, but there wasn't much demand for automakers in Door County, so Harry's car-making days had to wait. Marriage, military service, and a family would come first. Harry met his future wife, Augusta Pluff, a third generation German-American, at his sister's wedding. It must have been love at first sight, because one of the first things he said to her was, "You're the girl I'm going to marry." The wedding took place in 1941. In 1944 Harry joined the army and was sent to Europe during World War II as a member of the 175th Engineers Division, specializing in construction. Recognizing that Harry spoke fluent German, the army put him in charge of 150 German prisoners-of-war. He taught them basic carpentry skills and supervised them while they built barracks, latrines, wooden watch towers, and whatever else the army needed. Harry was well-respected by the prisoners and became friendly with many of them. One oversize prisoner with a fancy handlebar moustache informed Harry that he would never have shot at him-because he looked just like the rest of the Germans. Although Harry was proud of the job he did with the Allied forces in Europe, he was glad to get back to Jacksonport at the end of the war. And Augusta was mighty glad to see him. She still remembers how long he served-"two years and one hour." In the 1930s and early 1940s (before the war), the Brungraber family traveled to various Door County communities with their carbon arc movie projector and gas-powered generator. Harry helped set up the show and learned how to operate the big projector. They put up their equipment in barns or wherever they could fit a crowd, sold tickets, and initially showed silent films. Later on they showed "talkies." The name Brungraber became well-known all over Door County. Oldtimers in Ephraim tell about watching Brungraber movies while sitting on bales of straw in the Anderson Dock warehouse. They say there was something magical about those dark evenings. It wasn't vaudeville, but it was the next best thing. In the late 1940s, Harry and his dad built the Starlight Outdoor Theater just north of Sturgeon Bay. He and his father ran the projector, his mother sold tickets in the "bug house" (so named because lights in the ticket booth attracted insects), and Augusta and the children ran the snack bar. One of Harry's most vivid memories of drive-in theater life was the night a skunk got its head caught in a popcorn box. That evening moviegoers experienced an unforgettable double feature-one on the screen and one off. Operating a drive-in and working as a carpenter were the jobs that sustained Harry, Augusta, and their four sons, but Harry played music whenever he could. In the late 1930s, he was a member of the Tony Zak

110 Orchestra (Fig. 2), playing tenor horn, violin, accordion, and concertina. His specialty was polka music.

Fig. 2 - The Tony Zak Orchestra in the late 1930s. Harry is second from the right. (Brungraber family photo)

Around 1960, Harry began tinkering with cars. Not just any car, however. His challenge was to take a discarded, derelict piece of automotive junk and use his skills to restore it. Harry's first reconstruction job was a car his son Don helped him pull out of a swamp-a Model T Ford, abandoned decades before. "In the old days, farmers just threw their Model Ts on a stone fence when they were worn out," said Don. Often, years later Harry would hear about an abandoned car and buy some of its parts for the car he was restoring, or thinking about restoring. Today he has stocks of old engines, transmissions, wheels, magnetos, clutches, and you name it, for future projects. Harry reconstructed the Model T in his basement in his spare time. It took him seven years, and when he was finished, he had to remove pieces of the vehicle to get it through the basement storm door. He still has the car (Fig. 3). After he finished the Model T, Harry decided to retire from carpentry and devote his time to restoring antique automobiles. Now he had time to build them more quickly. As soon as he completed one, he started another. It wasn't long until he needed more room for his fleet of cars, which included numerous Model A and Model T Fords, as well as Chevrolet coupes, sedans, and pick-ups. He added to his house and garage; then he built a storage building out back and added to it; later he

111 added to the addition. He made so many additions that his son, Don, refers to the place as "Lean-To Acres." Harry is proud of his abilities with his hands and loves to solve mechanical problems. He is most at home in greasy overalls, working in his garage. There he may be found reassembling an engine or fitting handmade body panels to the metal skeleton of a 70-year-old automobile made of pieces from the junk piles of a dozen or so farmers. He delights in taking a filthy old car engine from a field, with pistons rusted to the cylinder head, and painstakingly freeing up the rusted parts. He disassembles and cleans each component, replaces parts as needed (making them himself if necessary), and ends up with a "new" engine from one that was once considered junk. Fig. 3 - Harry standing in front of his first After he drops the salvaged reconstruction: a Model T Ford he restored in engine into a beautiful new body his basement. It took him seven years. (Bruntaking shape on his one-stall asgraber family photo) sembly line, he begins to anticipate the moment he can crank up the engine and drive his gleaming re-creation out into the sunshine. Augusta, who does all the upholstery for the cars, will be there to admire the finished product and take a few snapshots for her scrapbook. One of Harry's most beautiful cars is also one of his most unique. It's a Ford Model A roadster with a body fabricated entirely of oak wood (Fig. 4). He didn't like the way the metal body was shaping up, so he put his carpentry skills to good use and made the body of wood . The roadster is a car lover's and a woodworker's delight, with gracefully curved wooden panels replacing the original sheet metal ones. The sound the doors make when they click shut would do honor to a Mercedes. Another of his beautiful creations is a vintage Chevrolet sedan (Fig. 5). Harry painted it (yes, he does it himself) a bright shade of green, and everything about it, from upholstery to finish, makes it appear much as it did when it rolled off the Chevrolet assembly line in Flint, Michigan, in 1932.

112 In 2002, at age 83, Harry is working on his 16th restoration project, a Ford Model T pick-up that is about half finished. Harry claims that this will be the last one. However, his son Don remarked, "This is about the fifth car Dad has said this about." After 83 years, Harry is still going strong. "He's a fire ball and a character, a real jack-of-all trades," said Don. So what does Harry do in his spare time? He goes Fig. 4 - A 1929 Model A pick-up with a handto polka dances and plays crafted all oak body. This renovation took months. the squeeze box wherever they will have him. Harry and his pal, Harry Miller, often play for the retired folks at Scandia Village in Sister Bay. It's hard to tell who gets more enjoyment from these jam sessions-the two Harrys or the older residents. Harry B. plays the accordion and Harry M. joins him on the "Polka Cello" (a.k.a. Stump Fiddle). Everyone has a grand time, whether playing or listening. Almost every Sunday Harry and Augusta drive to Sloven or the Humboldt Haus near Green Bay to dance. They belong to a large dance group called the "Happy Hoppers." The name certainly fits Harry. He is the first and last dancer on the floor, and his partners have trouble keeping up with him as he launches into his high-stepping polka moves. Music is provided by groups headed by musicians with such Germanic and Balkan names Fig. 5 - A 1932 Chevrolet sedan Harry restored as Jirikovec, Schneider, Kruto its original beauty. When finished the car lookeger, Voelker, and Roehl. They ed much the same as it did when it rolled off the play joyous, upbeat dance muasembly line in Flint, Michigan. Its present owner sic that stirs the crowd (and lives near Green Lake, Wisconsin. feet) of the descendents of early

113 immigrants from countries like Germany, Poland, Bohemia, and Czechoslovakia. Although Harry is no longer a carpenter by trade, he certainly hasn't retired. When he isn't reworking an antique automobile engine, doing body work on his latest reconstruction, or scouring the countryside for spare auto parts, he takes time for his favorite "hobbies," dancing and playing one of his squeeze boxes (Figs. 6 and 7).

Figs. 6 and 7 - In Fig. 6, at the left, Harry is on the right dancing with one of his favorite partners at the Humboldt House near Green Bay. Augusta is dancing with a partner alongside. In Fig. 7 (right), Harry entertains himself on the accordion in his front yard in Jacksonport.

Harry and Augusta were honored as Grand Marshals in the 2002 Maifest Parade in Jacksonport, the village where they have spent their lives and raised their children. Harry drove his oak Model A Ford in the parade, the first time he had driven any distance. It was fitting that Jacksonport's only auto maker drove one of his unique creations, with Augusta, his wife for over 60 years, beside him.

Sources: Interviews with Harry and Augusta Brungraber, son Donald, and folks at a polka dance at the Humboldt House.


Husby's: Where Everybody Knew Your Name

"you wanta go where everybody knows your name .... " This line from the theme song of Cheers, the TV program that made a cozy neighborhood bar and actor Ted Danson famous, nicely describes a place in Sister Bay. Long before the TV program was popular, Sister Bay had its own version of Cheers-it was (and is) called Husby's (Fig. 1) .

Fig. 1 - Pencil drawing of Busby's (1989) by Tim Nyberg. (Courtesy of Del and Terry Olson)

Before the old building at the intersection of Maple Drive and Highway 42 became a dedicated neighborhood tavern, it was L. Lerner's Clothing and General Merchandise. In the late 1920s, Lerner's and Bunda's General Store, just across Maple, were thriving establishments located along the dusty road that became Highway 42. Emma Husby and her husband, Martin, bought the two-story Lerner's building in the 1930s and opened a restaurant. Martin really

115 preferred to farm, so it became Emma's place. She often lived upstairs over the establishment she named the "Cherryland Restaurant." Other than a modest-sized kitchen, the restaurant consisted of a single, large dining room with a bar in the back. The big room was later divided into two rooms. Wide storefront windows ran across the south end of the dining room . Emma (Fig. 2), of Bohemian descent and originally from the RowFig. 2 - Emma Husby hard at work in her kitchen. (Photo attributed to Sister Bay Historical Society) ley's Bay area, was a marvelous cook, and it wasn't long before her restaurant became the place of choice to get a fine, home-cooked meal in Sister Bay. When Pete Repp, now of Gills Rock, was a child living with his grandparents at North Bay, the family traveled to Sister Bay and lunched with Emma twice a week. He was particularly fond of the baked chicken she served on Sundays. Pete recalled that "Emma was a short, overweight woman with her hair always pulled back in a bun." She usually wore a cotton dress and a white apron. "She spoke German fluently," Pete said, and "if things weren't too busy Emma would come out of the kitchen and pull up a chair at their booth, and she and Grandfather Repp would converse in German." Jake Kodanko, of Sister Bay, recalls the days when he paid 25 cents for Emma's Friday night fish plate. Generally she prepared only two meat entrees, which were varied from day to day. Her specialties were spare ribs and sauerkraut, beef stew that was "out of this world" according to Pete Repp, schnitzel, chicken and dumplings, and pork chops . Everyone said that Emma wasn't afraid to use butter in her cooking. The restaurant also served ice cream, and their "black cow" (vanilla ice cream in root beer) was a customer favorite. Although Pete has many fond memories of Emma's place, he also has a sad memory. Grandmother Repp died in the Cherryland Restaurant. "After lunch one day, she stood up and keeled over with a massive stroke. A few hours later she died." There is no evidence whatsoever that

116 the amount of butter Emma used in her cooking contributed to Grandmother Repp's death. In addition to her restaurant and bar business, Emma rented out some of the four or five upstairs rooms, although she also used these rooms to provide housing for hired help. One of the people who lived up there was Carolyn Johnson, Emma's niece. She worked as a waitress in 1936 and 1937 for $3.00 a week, plus room and board. She recalled that the bread man always tipped her a dime when he ate at the restaurant. Eventually, Emma's legs gave out and she had to use a wheelchair to get around. Lack of mobility forced her to taper off the restaurant business, but she learned to maneuver well enough in her kitchen to prepare some of her special meals for special people. She also spent more time behind the bar, where she could stand by supporting herself with her arms and even walk a bit. With time, the bar business became more and more important. If customers were low on money, Emma allowed them to charge drinks. Her bartenders recorded the customer's names and the cost of their drinks on slips of paper they kept in their pockets. Judy Ostran Erickson of Sister Bay said "If you didn't pay your bill on Friday when you got your check, you ended up on Emma's black list." The black list was a chalkboard where the names of delinquents were written. Almost all her embarrassed debtors paid up as soon as they saw their names on the chalkboard. When things were quiet, Emma liked to sit in her wheelchair in front of the big windows, watching people and traffic go by. These were the same windows used by L. Lerner's Clothing and General Store to display merchandise. Later, after the bar closed and before she turned in for the night, Emma rolled her wheelchair behind the bar to make sure the bartenders had mopped the floor and cleaned up the counters. The next day, wheelchair tracks behind the bar told the hired help that, indeed, Emma had made her inspection. During her nightly inspections, Emma usually indulged herself in several nips of brandy. One night, according to local legend, she had more than several nips and tumbled out of her wheelchair. Her nose grazed the edge of the counter. Later, when she looked in a mirror, she discovered the accident had zipped a substantial wart off the end of her nose. Someone who knew her said, "She never looked like the same lady after that." Emma died in 1973 at the age of 91. Figure 3 shows a little boy in front of her place not long before her death. A local businessman bought the property from her estate and leased it out, so Emma Husby's bar remained relatively unchanged. In September of 1978, Del Olson took over the lease and later married one of his waitresses, Terry Ehrbar. Although Del doesn't look anything like Ted Danson, and Terry shouldn't be com-

117 pared to Shelly Long (Terry has a much better sense of humor), they worked hard to make sure that Emma's place remained the Sister Bay version of Cheers. Before he leased Husby's, Del (also known as "Pickle") worked as a bartender at the establishment. He acquired his nickname because someone once thought "Del" sounded like dill, as in dill pickle. A quiet man of modest height and pleasant face, sometimes sporting a moustache, he doesn't look like your typical bartender. However, he does have a good bartender's quick, dry wit, and he's always ready with a one-liner. There was one time, however, when he was at a loss for words. Shortly after he took over Husby's, friends created a huge sign out of two 4 x 8 foot pieces of plywood and nailed it to the south end Fig. 3 - A little boy surveys the scene from Husby's of Husby's one night. The front porch around the time of Emma's death. next day Del was taken aback when he saw the big billboard reading "Pickle's Pinball Palace" and at the same moment realized his landlord's wife was on the village "Sign and Beautification Committee." The sign didn't last long. Before he leased the bar, Del was one of Husby's regular bartenders. Four years after he took over the establishment, he wisely hired Terry, a pretty waitress, originally from Green Bay. She worked across the street at the Sister Bay Bowl and had been living in one of Husby's upstairs rental rooms with her black lab named Emma. Del eventually persuaded Terry that he needed her full-time at Husby's, and that he, Terry, Emma (the dog), and Emma Husby's spirit, made a good combination. In 1982 Del and Terry married. Del, with his dry wit, and Terry, with her outgoing personality, complemented each other, and customers continued to patronize the

118 popular bar where everybody knew your name. Summer and winter, oldtimers, middle-agers, and even the young crowd flocked to the cozy bar on the corner to exchange jokes with Del or rap with Terry. Del said, "Terry could talk to anybody about anything ... she was very outgoing." "It was neat, you had all these 80-year-old guys in the bar with young guys, 20 years old, and all during the day farmers would come in and drink their shots," said Terry. The farmer's co-op was just down the street, and farmers came to the mill to get their feed and then stopped at Husby's on their way out. Sometimes they lost track of time-and the number of shots they consumed. "It would be dark before they quit, so we would have to get them a ride home," Del recalled. Did any of Husby's customers ever become obnoxious when they drank too much? "Most of them," he said. According to Terry, many of the old-timers were so at home in Husby's that they used hand signals to let the bartender know what they wanted. It took Terry quite a while to associate hand signals with a customer's favorite drink, but she eventually learned the gestures, as well as the muttered words that no outsider could understand. On Terry's first day behind the bar, an 80-year-old regular interrupted her work by tapping loudly on the counter. No words, just tapping. She didn't think tapping the counter deserved a response, so she ignored the noise. Then came an even louder tapping on the bar, and Terry whirled around, grabbed the grizzled old-timer's glass and said, "The name is Terry, NOT tap-tap-tap." From that day on the patron called her "Terry Not," and with time the two became good friends. Del's sister insisted on getting married in Husby's, and on the day of the November wedding the bar was packed with deer hunters dressed in blaze orange. According to Terry, "We got Peter Diltz to marry the pair, and there were all these deer hunters serving as witnesses, each of whom was drunk." Only at Husby's! Weekends were always crowded-sometimes the place was packed. A Saturday evening ritual was watching "Mr. Bill" on Husby's big TV. When the "Mr. Bill" segment of Saturday Night Live came on, the jukebox was turned off and everyone in the crowded bar became quiet. The segment was about a little doughboy character, an animated clay figure, placed in ridiculous circumstances by his human owner, Mr. Bill. The situations were often hilarious and always sadistic, with Mr. Bill taking advantage of his poor, innocent doughboy. Husby's customers roared. After the feature was over, the jukebox was turned on, conversations resumed, and another round was ordered. Terry recalls regulars who sat playing cards for hours while they drank their schnapps. A few of the old-timers would doze off during a game, but at the critical moment they always seemed to recover enough to open an eye and say "Wait a minute, I believe I have the better hand"

119 and rake in the money. When it reached a point where piles of money began appearing on tables, Del and Terry had to stop such gambling. No one became unruly and pulled a firearm in Husby's on Del's watch, but he said it happened once before he took over. "He was going to shoot the second hand off the clock," and he fired one shot that went right through the wall into the women's bathroom. "If there had been a woman in there she would still be sitting on the toilet!" The hole remained in the wall of the women's room for years. By the way, the onetoo-many marksman did indeed blow away the second hand. There was an incident on Halloween where bar patrons were scared out of their wits by an apparently crazed intruder. When the movie, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was popular, a local resident dressed like the killer in the movie, removed the chain from his chainsaw and started the engine behind Husby's. He ran screaming through the kitchen door and through the bar with the saw roaring away-exiting out the front door. A witness said the practical joker "cleared a path for himself in a hurry." A number of people, including Terry, are convinced Emma Husby's ghost haunts the building. Terry lived upstairs with her dog for quite a while. "One thing that always gave me the spooks was that at night I closed the bar and went upstairs to my room and shut the door. I locked it up from the inside with a skeleton key." "I always had my dog, and sometimes I would be in bed and the dog would jump off, go to the door and bark, wagging his tail, as if someone were coming. And I would hear creaking or walking." "Sometimes I heard steps, and [a sound like] a wheelchair, and even sounds like footsteps going on the stairs." Although frightened, she felt that whatever ghost was present was a benevolent one. Others who spent time sleeping in the upstairs rooms also heard strange noises. Del's sister, Diane, was awakened by peculiar noises on several occasions, and his nephew, Dave, was sleeping upstairs one night when he heard sounds that scared him out of his wits. He grabbed his clothes, ran down to Diane's room, and asked her if she heard the sounds. Sound asleep, she hadn't heard anything. Dave was so shaken by the experience that he left the building immediately and slept elsewhere. Most people who heard strange noises became convinced that Emma's ghost "lives" in the building in which she spent most of her life. At one point, the tavern even had t-shirts made with the words "EMMA LIVES" on the back. Terry grew accepting of Emma's ghost and became used to an occasional unexplained incident, almost always at night. At closing time after she locked the front door of the bar, and after all the lights and pinball games were turned off, she generally restocked items in the kitchen or behind the bar. On several occasions, one of the pinball games would

120 light up and begin playing its tune. Frightened, she would grab her club, a sawed-off pool stick, and begin looking around. "If I brought the dog down, it would just run around barking, with tail wagging."

Fig. 4 -Terry and Del Olson sitting at the bar of the "new" Husby's in 2002.

In 1990, with great sadness, Del and Terry relinquished their lease of Husby's. For a dozen years they had shared Emma's building with her ghost, and with old and new friends, regulars, card players, tellers of tall tales, ball players, farmers, business people, deer hunters, tourists, and anyone who wanted to drop by and experience the ambience and warmth of this unique neighborhood tavern. Husby's had been so much a part of Del and Terry's life that it was very difficult for them to give it up. It had become a family affair, for both Del's dad and sister helped out with the business . But the building was deteriorating and the public preferred fancier bar /restaurants to a bar in a dated old building featuring frozen pizzas. And Del and Terry could not afford to purchase the property. During the 1990s, Husby's was remodeled into a more modern tavern serving not only spirits but great chili and hamburgers. And the good news is that Del is still behind the bar on occasion. "I'm glad I can remain a part of Husby's, and the new owners are doing a great job," Del said. Figure 4 shows Del and Terry relaxing in the "new'' Husby's. The Husby's of today is not Emma's place, nor could it be. But Emma and her old-fashioned tavern are missed. For nearly a half century she devoted her generous presence to the corner tavern, and thanks

121 to Del and Terry, Husby's became Sister Bay's Cheers, where "everybody knows your name."

Sources: Interviews with Andrea Erickson, Judy Ostran Erickson, Carolyn Johnson, Jake Kodanko, Terry and Del Olson, and Peter Repp.


The Old Nelson Place

ucked away behind towering lilac bushes near the corner of Townline Road and Highway Q, just at the edge of Ephraim, sits an old farm house that can barely seen from the road. Painted traditional Ephraim white, the house features a decorative sunburst pattern in the dormer that caps a full-length porch facing the morning sun.


Fig. 1 - The Nelson homestead at the edge of Ephraim around 1881, shortly after a frame dwelling was built around the original log home. Later the building at the left was joined to the house and made into the kitchen. The overall style has been referred to as "Typical Wisconsin Farmhouse Style." (Photo courtesy of Don Nelson)

Not many people know that the graceful old farmhouse had its beginning just a few years after Ephraim's first settlers arrived. Although for many years everyone referred to the farmstead as "The Old Nelson Place," few people remember that its original owner was a Norwegian

123 immigrant named Carl Nelson, and fewer still know much about Carl Nelson, the man. But Carl Nelson had a story to tell, and he wrote it out almost a century ago-in Norwegian. His 1906 diary languished unread until his great-grandson, Don Nelson, had it translated into English in 1995. The translation revealed that Carl's experiences were much like those of most of the early settlers , but unlike most of them he took the time to keep a diary. His journal provides a first-hand look at the immigrants ' terrible traveling conditions and the challenges they faced in establishing themselves in the harsh wilderness of early Door County. "I, Carl Nelson, and my wife traveled in the spring, embarking March 30, 1854, on a sailing ship from Christiana, Norway. We arrived in Quebec June 27. From there we and the many other immigrants sailed on a steamer to Montreal. There we were shoved onto a canal boat, drawn by two horses , one on each side of the canal, and traveled overland to Lake Ontario. "Arriving at Lake Ontario, we were shoved like slaves onto a steamship, which sailed over the lake to Kingston [Michigan]. From there we traveled by train to Detroit, in a freight car, which was very uncomfortable. We crossed over the river in a flat-bottomed boat rowed by many men . On land again, we rode on another uncomfortable rail car to a place about three miles from Chicago. "We slept overnight on the open ground there so we could guard our chests of belongings from thieves. Even so, our things were broken into and pilfered. The next morning a wagon came to carry our chests to the station in Chicago. We had to follow the wagon on foot. "We arrived on the 3rct of July, 1854, to find a cholera epidemic threatening the whole city. Chicago was full of disease and filth. The only money I had was twenty-five Canadian pence, and I didn't know anyone who could help us." "There two of our shipmates caught cholera and died. During the days that followed many more of our shipmates died." Nelson's story of what early immigrants endured to reach the "promised land" is not unusual. Thanks to the fact that "God was truly kind," and much luck, Nelson and his wife (Figs. 2 and 3) ended up in Escanaba, Michigan, where he joined hundreds of other immigrants felling trees for the lumbermills. There he met three other NorwegiansThomas Goodletson, and the brothers, Halvor and Aslag Anderson.


Figs. 2 (left) and 3 (right) - Carl and his first wife, Stina, are shown at the left when they were in their 20s. In 1854, four years after they married in Norway, they emigrated to America. Stina died in the early 1870s, and in 1873 Carl married Marie Hansdatter. The two marriages produced nine children. At the right is Carl Anderson when he was around 90 years of age. (Photos courtesy of Don Nel son)

While in Escanaba, Nelson, Goodletson , and the Anderson brothers heard about a minister named Andrew Iverson who in 1853 had established a community of Norwegians bonded by their faith in Moravian teachings. The community, called Ephraim, was located across Green Bay on the rocky Door Peninsula of eastern Wisconsin . In 1856, Goodletson purchased a tract of cheap government land in Ephraim, and soon after Nelson traveled from Escanaba on the ice to meet with his friend. He too purchased government land, his tract being located just east of the village. Later, the Anderson Brothers also settled in Ephraim. As told in his diary, Nelson had an unusual experience on his way back to Escanaba, walking along the shoreline ice. "As I was walking it began to snow and blow and it got very dark. When I saw a light on the shoreline I knew I would find people. I headed for the light. In a little while I came to an Indian tent with a big fire in the opening of the tent. As I came nearer, three fierce dogs came toward me. I thought they would devour me. But two Indians came out .. . and called the dogs and then came toward me. They were quite friendly toward me. I asked them how far it was to Cedar River. They understood what I meant, and then began to count on their fingers ... ten miles . They made signs

125 in all sorts of ways to tell me that it was too late and that I couldn't reach Cedar River that night. I was a bit afraid to spend the night there. I thought it would be prudent to sit up by the side of the fire in the tent until the morning came when I could see to travel further. "I went with them into the tent. After a while another Indian came out of the woods with the haunch of an animal on his back and came into the tent. One of them began to cut slices off the loin for each of the eight in the family . I also got a slice. One of them brought out a long thin stick upon which we should impale the meat. Then we held the stick over the fire. I held my slice until it was well done and ate it with two pieces of bread I had with me, and it tasted very good! The Indians had meal and water that they mixed together and ate with a stick. "Then everyone lay down in the same way that we lay in an army tent. They laid themselves all in a ring on bear and deer skins. They gave me a good place to lie, but I didn't dare lie down . I sat up for the most part. Smoke began to fill the tent and made my eyes smart. I didn't know what to do . I didn 't dare go out and sit down outside because it was so dark and cold. I had to suffer and wipe my eyes the best that I could-but it was a long night. "Finally the morning light came! I was very glad. The Indians slept soundly with the dogs between them. I sneaked slowly out of the tent and began to walk on. I came to Cedar River [near Escanaba] a bit before mid-day." Not long after his eventful trip, Nelson, his wife , and one-year-old daughter, Mina, moved to Ephraim. In 1857 he constructed a log house on his land, and in 1881, when he could afford it, he built a frame house around the log building (see Fig. 1). In 1997 when great-grandson Don Nelson remodeled the old farmhouse, he carefully exposed the original logs so they became the "new'' walls of his living room. Being able to see and touch the logs helps remind Don and his family of the primitive conditions his grandfather and grandmother endured almost a century and a half ago as they established a homestead in a wilderness. To survive in Door County in the mid-1800s required mental and physical toughness, and Carl Nelson possessed both these qualities. Survival also required considerable luck in avoiding disease and accidents, and luck must have been with him for he lived to a ripe old age. Luck was certainly with Nelson in 1857 when he and his friend, John Elliason (after whom Ellison Bay was named), were caught in a storm in a small boat off Washington Island. It was late November, and

their adventure began when the captain of a steamer bringing provisions to Ephraim and other communities decided that ice on the bay made it necessary to unload on Washington Island. It was a cold but calm morning when Carl and John set out from Ephraim to row up to Washington Island to pick up their supplies . They arrived that evening and slept on the floor at Kalmbach's "White House" hotel. The next day, as they were loading their boat, the weather turned sour. Although islanders warned the two men not to set out, they were eager to get home. By the time they rounded Ellison Bay bluff, "the sail and everything in the boat had frozen solid." "We didn't know what to do! The boat was open and riding so low in the water that we didn't dare tie down the sails. We couldn 't use the oars because of the ice. I set the rudder in the water and ice and watched for every wave. Elliason tried to bail out water as fast as he could, but then the bail became so thick with ice that he couldn't use it. We thought we were doomed , but when our need was the greatest, the Lord helped us. We made it over the worst stretch of water in the channel close to Door Bluff." Whether it was the Lord's work or just plain luck, Nelson and his friend survived. They made it to an old pier and hastily unloaded the boat before it became frozen fast in the ice. After trying to secure the boat in gale force winds, they set out in frozen clothes to find the home of a fisherman from Iceland who lived in the Garrett Bay area. They spent a warm night with him, but the next morning they discovered their boat and much of the pier were gone. When the weather finally improved, they walked back to Ephraim, praising their good luck every step of the way. Carl Nelson lived a long and full life. He fought in the Civil War, operated a small printing press in Ephraim, farmed, and for a while carried mail between Sturgeon Bay and northern Door County. He was married twice, fathered nine children, and lived to be 96 years old. He was, in every way, a pioneer. If you should happen to drive by his beautiful little farmhouse at the east edge of Ephraim, think about what he endured to build it and the stories those tall lilac bushes could tell.

Sources: Diary of Carl Nelson , translated by Dorothy Halvorsen (copies available at Ephraim Public Library and Ephraim Foundation); interview with Don Nelson.


Say Cheese

Figs. 1 and 2 -Two old and decaying buildings on the comers of well-traveled roads in northern Door County. Fig. 1 (top) is located on County ZZ and Waters End Road. Fig. 2 (bottom) was at the comer of Old Stage and ZZ.

128 t the corner of County ZZ and Waters End Road in Liberty Grove stands an old building that has seen better days (Fig. 1). Gravity has pulled away some of the yellowish stucco on its walls, windows are broken, and an oversize metal chimney with an arrow-shaped weathervane rusts on its roof. Until 2002, a similar building (Fig. 2) wasted away on Old Stage Road near the intersection of County ZZ. The buildings have clearly been abandoned for years, but their locations-at crossroadssuggest a long ago importance. Tourists often ask about deserted buildings like these. Hugging the side of the road, usually near the edge of a farming community, the derelict structures don't appear to be chicken coops , small barns, or oneroom schoolhouses. Their long-ago function remains mysterious to casual observers, but old-timers know these ghostly buildings were once cheese factories. Although the work "factory" may bring to mind large buildings crammed with sweating workers laboring over moving assembly lines, this in no way describes the cheese factories of Door County. Operating from the late 1800s into the 1940s, they were usually familyowned businesses or cooperatives, as well as important economic centers and gathering places for dairy farmers. Commercial cheese-making began in Door County in the 1800s, but the cheese-making process itself is thousands of years old. In his book about Wisconsin cheese, Jerry Apps recounts the legend behind its discovery. "Several thousand years ago, an Arabian merchant poured some camel's milk into a saddlebag made from the stomach of a young sheep, climbed on his horse [camel?], and set out on a long journey across the desert. The day was hot and the traveling difficult. At nightfall, the merchant took out his pouch and discovered the milk had disappeared. In its place were a pale watery liquid and some solid white chunks." He drank the liquid part and found the taste surprisingly pleasant. He sampled the solid chunks and was even more surprised with their rich flavor. According to the legend, he was the first to realize that something in the lining of the stomach of animals induced milk, when warmed, to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). From this beginning, the making of cheese spread throughout Asia. And from Asia to Europe, and eventually, to America. For almost 5,000 years, cheese has been a foodstuff of many cultures. In Wisconsin, the first cheese was undoubtedly made in the kitchen using brass or iron kettles to heat the milk. Thereafter the liquid was poured into wooden tubs for finishing and straining out the cheese pieces. In the late 1800s, as the dairy industry grew, cheese-making moved out of the kitchen. The first cheese "factory" was probably a shed or lean-to containing a large kettle or milk vat that could be heated by


129 wood fires. Several nearby farmers might contribute their extra milk to the process. Quality control and consistency could be a challenge, but the farmers' cheese provided food for the table and could be used for bartering. It was also an important way to "preserve" milk that flowed in excess from Wisconsin's growing dairy industry. As the twentieth century began, more sophisticated operations appeared. One such cheese factory, well-known in its day, stood on the Highway 57 curve in Namur as part of Fontaine's Store (see p. 40). The cheese factory served the surrounding Belgian farming community from 1918 to the mid-1950s, and the store continued operation until 1969. In the beginning, the proprietors and most customers spoke Walloon, the French dialect brought over by Belgian immigrants. Viney Fontaine and her late husband, Joe, ran Fontaine's store, with help from their children. The adjacent cheese factory operated as a cooperative with a skilled cheese maker overseeing the operation. Work in the cheese factory started about 5:00 AM, as Belgian farmers began hauling in metal containers of milk to be weighed and added to the factory's big steel vats. They received cash for their milk, a payment that formed an important part of their incomes. The way cheese was made at Fontaine's was typical of production at Door County cheese factories. Workers meticulously cleaned and sterilized the vats with bleach before placing raw milk in them. The vats were double-walled with an air space between the inner and outer linings. Steam from a coal-fired boiler in the basement was piped into the space between the inner and outer linings to heat the milk in a uniform manner. After the milk was heated, the cheese maker added a "starter culture." Bacteria, then as now, were critical to the success of cheese making. The type of bacteria determined the type of cheese that would be made. In the old days, it was necessary to keep a small culture of bacteria alive from day to day. If the culture died, the cheese maker had to borrow bacteria from another cheese factory. After heating the milk to about 100 degrees and adding the bacteria, the cheese maker allowed the mixture to "ripen" for an hour, while the bacteria fermented the milk and soured it slightly. He next added rennet to cause the milk to curdle, or coagulate, into small pieces of solid cheese (curds). Rennet is a name for rennin, an enzyme originally extracted from the lining of calves' stomachs. Now, most cheese makers use rennet derived from plant material. Once the milk had curdled, the cheese maker and his helpers captured the curds in cheesecloth and drained away the liquid, known as whey. In early years at Fontaine's cheese factory, whey was drained into a large wooden tank (Fig. 3). When farmers wanted whey (which contains protein) to feed their pigs, they filled up their containers from the whey

130 tank. Today whey appears in ice cream, canned soup, and even candy bars. After draining off and saving the whey, the cheese maker used a cheese press to squeeze the curds together into disk-shaped slabs. He dipped the pressed slabs, each weighing about 75 pounds, in paraffin and transferred them to a curing room for aging. This room, located at the back of the factory, contained sturdy shelves for aging the cheese. The curing room was kept cold with bay ice, harvested in wintertime and stored in a sawdust-insulated icehouse beside the store. Once aged, the cheese was transported to market in Green Bay. Beginning in the late 1920s, farmers were able to give up the laborious job of hauling their milk to the cheese factory each day. Trucks made regular runs to farms, picking up steel cans of milk and transporting them back to Fontaine's cheese factory. If requested, the trucks would unload a tank of whey at the farm. One of these truck drivers also served as an apprentice cheese maker at Fontaine's. He soon discovered his real interest was making cheese, not driving a truck, and he eventually opened his own cheese factory. The young man's Fig. 3 - Early morning arrival of cans of name was Howard Renard. milk at the cheese factory associated with Renard's Cheese is now a respected Fontaine's Store in Namur. The tank at the left is where liquid whey was stored after name in the Door County area, and cheese was separated from milk. The photo the family's cheese factory is a fawas taken in the 1940s. (Photo courtesy of miliar sight on Highway S between the Fontaine family) Sturgeon Bay and Algoma. At one time a general store occupied the site along with the cheese factory (Fig. 4). Although Howard retired a number of years ago, his son Gary took over the business, and Renard's Cheese continues to flourish. Today Gary turns more and more of the business over to his son Chris and his youngest brother Bryan. Cheese making has undergone considerable refinement over time, but the basic process remains the same as it was 100 years ago. It still takes knowledge and hard work. At Renard's, work starts at 1 :00 AM and doesn't end until around noon the next day. And it still takes about 100 pounds of milk to yield 10 pounds of cheese (the rest is whey).


Fig. 4 -A photo taken around 1915 when both a store and a cheese factory stood on the site now occupied by Renard's cheese factory on Highway S between Sturgeon Bay and Algoma. The area was known as Rosewood. The photo shows farmers using horse-drawn wagons to bring their milk to the factory early in the morning. (Photo courtesy of Howard Renard)

Fig. 5 - A present day photo taken at Renard's cheese factory . A worker stirs a vat of milk in which pieces of cheddar cheese are beginning to form . Later the whey is drained off and the curdled cheese that settles on the bottom of the vat is "gathered" (shown in Fig. 6) .


Figs. 6, 7, and 8 - At the top left (Fig. 6) a worker at Renard's gathers cheddar cheese to the sides of a vat. The masses of cheese are then cut into sections and placed in metal rings. After residual whey is pressed out of the cheese, the cheese flats are dipped in paraffin and aged under refrigeration. Fig. 7 (lower left) shows cheese flats aging in racks in a large walk-in refrigerator. Fig. 8 (right) shows Luann Gauthier capturing string cheese after bulk mozzarella is forced through holes in a die in a high-pressure press.

Although today's cheese makers are efficient (Figs. 7 and 8) and have developed control over temperature and other factors, they still deal with many variables. "Every day brings a different challenge," said Gary Renard, "for the bacteria don't always follow the rules." Because the only bacteria the cheese maker wants in the milk are those he puts in himself, cleanliness is essential. Foreign bacteria, such as those blown in through windows, can contaminate and ruin a batch of cheese. Furthermore, the kind of food cows eat can affect the taste of cheese. "Feed," "barny," and "unclean" are words used to describe some of these offflavors. Nevertheless, today's product is much more predictable than it was in the days when farmers outfitted in bibbed overalls and manurecaked work boots used wood-burning fires to make cheese in sheds. Today's cheese makers work in clean, sterile facilities and wear hairnets and lab aprons. "Small farming communities in Door County used to be defined by a tavern, a church, and a cheese factory," said Gary. At one time Door

133 County had about 40 cheese factories, each contributing to the welfare of a community. Although most are gone, including the factory alongside the big curve in Namur, it's reassuring to know that the tradition of Fontaine's general store and cheese factory continues today-in Renard's fine cheeses. And the cheese makers at Renards will even let you take their picture if you don 't ask them to "say cheese ."

Some Cheesy Tidbits • In the days before bulk pick-up, milk was generally hauled in either 10 or 30-gallon steel cans ; the latter weighed over 200 pounds when full. • In 1885, there were 1,000 cheese factories in Wisconsin; in 1922, there were 2 ,807 , and in 1995 only 142 . • In 1920, Manitowoc County had 120 cheese factories, near the top in counties with the most number of factories . • In 1920, Wisconsin produced 307 million pounds of cheese; by 1995, this number was 1.5 billion pounds. • A favorite definition of cheese: "Milk standing up."

Sources - Apps , J. , 1998, Cheese, The Making of a Wisconsin Tradition, Amherst Press, Amherst, Wisconsin; Somerville, L., 1991, The Crossroads Cheese Factories of Northeast Wisconsin, Voyageur (Summer /Fall), Brown County Historical Soc., Green Bay, Wisconsin; Nelson, M., 1987, Cheesemaking Is Still Alive In Door County, Door County Almanak, No. 4, Dragonsbreath Press, Sister Bay, Wisconsin; Encylopedia Britannica; interviews with Mark Bogenschutz, Charlotte LaPlante, Gary Renard, Howard Renard, and Charles (Pat) Tishler; website:


Eating Has Always Been An Adventure

ntil man learned reliable ways of preserving food, eating was always an adventure-and not always a good one. Initially, he used salt and sun for limited preservation of food. Then he discovered that spices could dry food for storage, and better yet, could mask the disagreeable taste of partially spoiled meat and vegetables. Eventually he found that spoilage of meat could be retarded with heat and smoke, and that vegetables could be preserved by pickling (fermenting with salt and spices). The taste buds of those living in many northern and eastern European countries came alive to the tang of acidic foods, such as sauerkraut, prepared by fermentation. Imagine the adventure associated with man's first taste of such food. It has been known for hundreds of years that grains can be preserved for long periods when baked into hard biscuits. Such biscuits were a staple on sailing ships during the 1800s. Unfortunately the wellpreserved biscuits served on long voyages were often so riddled with weevils they had to be firmly rapped on the table to dislodge the little stowaways. Certainly an unpleasant adventure in eating. People living in cooler climates discovered that the most effective method of preserving food was cold. In the 1800s, Americans in urban areas used iceboxes to preserve food, and strong men with iron tongs regularly supplied blocks of ice to be placed in the boxes. Diamondshaped signs in the windows of homes signaled the ice vendor whether 60, 85, or 115 pounds were needed. In 1897 Sears offered the Acme line of iceboxes, featuring wood in the "provision chamber covered with metal," ensuring that there would be "no chance for (food] to become tainted or musty." You could get a pretty good unit for about $10 .00 . In 1929, the year the Great Depression began, Sears proclaimed, "Science Steps in to Preserve Food!" Their big catalog advertised a deluxe icebox with a white enameled interior for $36.25. The scientific breakthroughs


135 included a chamber insulated with inch-thick corkboard and hand-fitted rubber gaskets around the door. Americans living in rural areas had to cool food as best they could. In the Appalachians , during the late 1800s and early 1900s, tiny wooden sheds built over springs or creeks kept glass and metal containers of milk and butter cool. Apple houses were another common sight. They were small sheds, sometimes built into the hillside, and insulated along the inner walls with old newspapers and magazines (Saturday Evening Posts were good). Apples stored in wooden bins stayed cool and fairly fresh throughout the winter. By spring, however, the apples became wrinkled from desiccation although they still retained their sweet taste.

Fig. 1 - Well-preserved underground root cellar on the Allyn farm along Townline Road in Ephraim. Even on the hottest days, it remains cool inside this cellar.

In Door County, where most everyone lived on a farm, root cellars were the "refrigerators" of choice. The root cellar was usually located in the crawl space below the house, preferably under the kitchen, where a

136 trap door provided access. Even with snow and subzero temperatures outside, warmth from the floor above kept the cellar at a proper temperature for food preservation. A reminder of yesterday's root cellars can be found in some of today's old farmhouses where a modern refrigerator sits over an unused trap door in the floor. A few farms had free-standing root cellars, and one of the grandest survives on the Allyn farm on Townline Road in Liberty Grove (Fig. 1). Built into a slope, it measures about 12 x 15 feet inside, with a ceiling seven feet high in the middle. Carefully placed stones at the entrance make it a rural work of art. The inside masonry wall is equally well made, complete with ceiling hooks (Fig. 2) from which bags of food or meat could be hung.

Fig. 2 - View inside the Allyn farmstead root cellar. Note hooks in the ceiling from which bags of food or smoked meat could be hung to keep them safe from raccoons and other animals that might squeeze in under the door.

Good root cellars provided humidity, air circulation and just the right temperature (cool to cold, but never freezing) to maintain root vegetables and other foodstuffs. Potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, apples, smoked hams, and occasionally canned goods were stored in Door County root cellars .

137 Smoking was another way food was preserved in Door County. Used for many types of meat, it was a particularly good way to preserve fish which might spoil quickly. A few of the old farm smokehouses can still be seen (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 - A picturesque smokehouse, probably built in the early 1900s, on the old Moegenburg!Koepsel farmstead on the east side of Highway 57 south of Sister Bay.

Food preservation isn't a problem today. Now we are free to worry about other things. We let Delmonte and Green Giant do our canning, and our "root cellars" are made by G.E. and Amana. With freeze-drying, flash-freezing, and irradiation, food can be preserved for years. The sight of a root cellar is a reminder that the phrase "eating is always an adventure" once conveyed concern. Now, thanks to the colorcoordinated refrigerators that year-in and year-out quietly preserve our food, and shelves filled with canned goods and factory-packed dried goods, eating can be a pleasant adventure.

Sources: Sears Catalogues from 1897 and 1929; interviews with Marge Anderson and Eldred Koepsel.


Two Hermits


ERMIT: an old geezer with a knee-length beard, holed up in a cave. This definition of a hermit is more likely to spring to mind than someone living 12 miles north of Sturgeon Bay on a scenic section of Green Bay's shoreline. But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Door County had not one, but two hermits. They lived out at Monument Point-and disliked each other intensely. John Peter Modeer and George Bergerson were the hermits. A Swede and Norwegian respectively, they differed in many ways, but their life styles were similar: both chose to live alone, away from civilization. Why they became hermits was the subject of speculation, but why they picked Monument Point was not difficult to figure out. Straddling the rugged Niagara Escarpment and densely covered by a forest of hardwoods, the area was almost totally isolated from the outside world until the middle of the twentieth century. Except for fishermen taking advantage of excellent fishing in the bay, and an occasional woodcutter, few people ventured in. Access was via a primitive logging road that lurched down the bluff and ended at a steep rocky shoreline. The road was treacherous at any time and totally impassable in the winter. For a man, or men, who wanted to be alone, Monument Point was an ideal location. Modeer was the older hermit and the first to arrive, probably in the late 1800s. He put together a rough cabin several hundred feet from the shore, brought in a few chickens, and survived primarily on what he could raise or catch. Until Bergerson showed up , he was the only permanent resident of Monument Point, essentially a squatter on a huge tract of land owned by wealthy Chicago attorney, R.H. Parkinson. According to long-time Door County historian John Enigl, whose uncle knew Modeer, Parkinson didn't evict the hermit but made the best of the situation by designating him a "caretaker" and paying him a token sum. Although shy and solitary, Modeer wasn't always alone. Some of the fishermen and woodcutters came to know him, and young men of the Carlsville area sometimes visited his cabin. When he occasionally walked

139 into town, there were several farmers who invited him for a meal. One of the rare photographs of Modeer, or "Moodie" as he was called, shows a serious-faced man of proud bearing, wearing a naval-style cap and an old suit jacket. His white beard appears neatly combed (Fig. 1). Those who knew him said he was cultured and educated, evidently a graduate of a fine school, maybe even the Swedish Naval Academy. He knew trigonometry and celestial navigation, and Enigl's uncle, Ed Bavry, said his cabin contained a sextant, compass, astrolabe, and binoculars. Exactly why he chose to isolate himself remained unknown. There were rumors that he was escaping a nagging wife or evading the law because of a criminal act, but no one knew for sure. Everyone did agree, however, that something in his past caused him to become, and remain, reclusive. "He was skeptical of even a branch moving in the woods," said one oldtimer. His self-imposed isolation lasted until his death in 1921 at the age of 83. He died out at Monument Point, alone in his cabin, still a man of mystery. George Bergerson (Fig. 2) was quite a different type Fig. 1 - John Peter Modeer, a Swede who arrived of hermit. John Enigl, who in Door County in the late 1800s and lived a reclusive life at Monument Point. (Photo by Ed Bavry, grew to know him, called him courtesy of John Enigl, Sr.) "the most visited hermit you'd ever find." He said Bergerson was a small, shabbily-dressed fellow of Norwegian descent, who was unshaven and never bathed. At a guess, he was 20 years younger than Modeer and most certainly not a man of culture. Enigl described his shack, located less than a mile from Modeer's, as "an incredible sight ... the few windows were smoke stained ... the rafters and studs were uncovered and uninsulated. An array of junk filled the room, with a lousy fleabag of a mattress in a corner." He had two coffee cups that he rinsed out in the bay whenever he considered them dirty enough, and he made flour and water pancakes in a bowl he washed only when dried batter around the edges became so thick he couldn't fit the spoon in.

140 Bergerson was rather friendly and visited with fishermen and local boys who dropped in to see him, but he had no use for women. Apparently he became a hermit after his girl friend jilted him. He took the money he'd saved for his marriage, went out and got drunk, and when the money ran out he moved to Monument Point-away from all women . Milda Werkheiser, who with her husband was one of the first people to open the area to settlement, remembers her only glimpse of Bergerson. As soon as he caught sight of her, he disappeared . "George didn't like to be around women,'' she said. "He thought all women were alike." For companionship, he had a dog, Rocky. Milda said that each time he cooked pancakes, "he made one pancake for himself and one for his dog. He wasn't selfish." Bergerson had a boat, and the fish he caught provided him with nourishment ahd a little income. But it was a Spartan life out at the Point, and evidently at one time he fantasized about leaving. What a fantasy it was! On a visit to Bergerson's shack, John Enigl and a friend noticed a boat engine with saw marks on it lying on the floor. "George told us it was a twocylinder engine he was cutting in half to put in a boat so that he could go back to Norway. He pointed to the boat through the dingy window. It was a 20-footer. If he had carried out his plan, it would have made the voyage of the Fig. 2 - George Bergerson, "the most visKon Tiki look like a trip across a ited hermit you'd ever find," according to bathtub." John Enigl. Bergerson, who lived at Bergerson never carried out Monument Point, was of Norwegian herihis plan and continued to live tage. (Photo by Frank Butts from a Door alone at Monument Point until County Advocate article, Jan. 8, 1980) 1939, when he was elderly and infirm. Kindly folks in Carlsville allowed him to move in with them, but ill health and the change in life-style were too much for the old man and he died the same year. Although relatively sociable, Bergerson had no use for Modeer, who shared the sentiment. The two lived in the same area at the same time, but they didn't get along and never communicated. Perhaps it was no surprise. The only thing they had in common was their desire to get away from society-and each other. They differed in almost every way:

141 national ongm, education, culture, and sophistication of possess10ns. Class-consciousness, it seems, existed even among hermits. In some ways Monument Point has changed little over the years. The thick, leafy forest, the steep limestone escarpment, and the rocky shore are nearly timeless. However, after a road was built during the middle 1940s, substantial changes occurred. A family-friendly campground is now located at the site of Bergerson's shack, a greenhouse business thrives not far from where Modeer had his cabin, and many handsome vacation houses line the shore. The beautiful spot is as scenic as ever. But it wouldn't be recognizable to two old hermits who chose it as a place to be alone and escape their pasts .

Sources: Enigl, John , 1976, Hermits Once Found Refuge Around Monument Point Area, Door County Advocate , October 5; Enigl, John, 1976, George Bergerson, Another of Monument Point Hermits, Door County Advocate, October 7; Enigl, John, 1979, Enjoyment of Scenic Monument Point Now for Many, Not Few, Door County Advocate, December 11; interviews with John Enigl, Myrna Peil, and Milda Werkheiser.


What Do You Plant In A Disgarden?


udging right up against the highway in Ellison Bay stands an unassuming three-story frame building, painted white. Tied-back white curtains are visible through its large, blue-trimmed windows. Pots of red flowers brighten the exterior. Bicycles recline against its front wall. A colorful green and gilt sign proclaims that this is the Hotel Disgarden. Every day people hurry by in their cars on their way to sample a fish boil or explore Newport Park or catch the ferry in Gills Rock. How many of them glance at the building? How many of them wonder about its unusual name? The answer is probably very few, because the hotel's quaint exterior gives no hint of its long and colorful history or how it happened to be named for a garden. The hotel had its beginning just after the turn of the century when there were no automobiles, and the wagon roads to Door County were primitive at best. Nevertheless the beauty of the area was beginning to attract summer visitors from the south. They arrived by steamshipprimarily from Milwaukee and Chicago-and stayed for a week, a month, or the entire summer. These folks needed places to lodge and places to eat. A man from Montreal, Canada, observed this situation while running a boarding house at the top of the hill in Ellison Bay (current site of the Hillside Inn) . Sensing a business opportunity, he constructed a small frame hotel in "downtown" Ellison Bay, right beside the road and only 50 yards from the bay. He opened it in 1902 and proudly named it for himself-Hotel Ed Disgarden (Fig. 1). There were several rooms on the first and second floors and maybe a room or two in the third floor attic. On the north wall of the hotel, Ed Disgarden used a unique type of construction known as "stovewood." The name comes from lengths of wood that are similar in size to those used in a stove. They are stacked horizontally, as in a woodpile, and packed with mortar. When used in

143 barns or outbuildings, the log ends were usually left bare, but in homes or in hotels the interior log ends were plastered over and the outside logs covered with shingles. The result was a well-insulated wall. Door County is one of the few places in the country where this type of construction is found. Its use began around 1890 and spanned a period of only about 25 years. Ed Disgarden ran the hotel with his wife, and evidently they were successful right from the start. Early records show visitors from as far away as New York, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri. There were international travelers too, as the logbook lists a guest from London. Tourists weren't their only patrons. In 1904, the local schoolteacher lodged with the Disgardens. Rates were reasonable: a dollar a day for room plus board. Or just twenty-five cents for the room alone.

Fig. 1 - Horse-drawn "bus" getting ready to depart from the Hotel Disgarden in midwinter. Note the chimney pipe extending from the top of the enclosed cabin; there was a small stove inside that kept passengers warm, while the driver, reins in hand, sat behind the little window at the front of the cabin. (Photo courtesy of Chris Forbes)

On the night of October 3, 1903, when the hotel was just a year old, a bolt of lightening hit it during a fierce storm that swept in off the bay. The next morning the Disgardens and their guests heard the shocking news that the storm hit with such force that the steamer Erie L Hackley had gone down, about 10 miles off Egg Harbor. The wreck was the worst maritime disaster in northeast Wisconsin history, with 11 of the 19 people on board drowned. Nearly all were residents of Fish Creek.

144 Over the years, tourist traffic to Door County continued to increase, and in 1914 the Disgardens built a substantial addition onto the south end of their hotel. The next year, when their son, Ed, Jr., became postmaster, the U.S. post office moved into the hotel. It must have been a lively place, because it also housed a doctor's office . Dr. Egeland of Ephraim came to Ellison Bay once a week. In the summer he sailed up from Ephraim in his boat, Yours Truly, frequently bringing guests with him. While he saw patients, his guests enjoyed the hotel's hospitality. Clearly the hotel was very much a part of everyday life in Ellison Bay. By 1924, the Disgardens were ready to retire from the hotel business and sold the place to their son, Elmer. He and his wife changed the name to Hotel Disjardin, ran it for two and a half years , and then sold to Martin and Emma Evanson who renamed it the Bay Beach Inn. Along with their three daughters , they operated it for 22 years. It was a popular place to stay, partly because of Emma's reputation as a premier bread and pie baker. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Dr. Uno Nyman had his dental office in one of the hotel rooms overlooking the street. This unusual dentist was as interested in composing music as in drilling teeth. He had a piano in his office , and as patients climbed the stairs for their appointments , the sound of his music drifted down. The Evansons left the hotel business in 1946 when they sold to Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Kramer. After their tenure, the hotel changed hands and names a number of times. During its odyssey it was known for awhile as The Lodge at Norrland, and at various times it housed an ice cream parlor and several different restaurants, including the Marco Polo , serving Chinese and Italian food. Today it is once again the Hotel Disgarden, but there is a difference. The exterior of the white building would be easily recognized by Mr. and Mrs. Disgarden, but inside they probably wouldn't know where they were. Maybe the stovewood wall behind the reception desk would look familiar and perhaps the polished wood floors, but the rest of the hotel has changed to meet changing times and tastes. It has been refurbished and the rooms made into suites. Handcrafted knotty pine furniture, thick carpets, and beautiful decorative blankets give it the feel of a lodge. It is traditional Door County but with every comfort and convenience. Mr. and Mrs. Disgarden might not recognize it, but they would certainly feel at home.

Sources: Creviere, Paul Jr., 1997, Wild Gales and Tattered Sails, copyright Paul Creviere, Jr.; Kahlert, J., 1978, Early Door County Buildings, Meadow Lane Publishers, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin ; Ellison Bay Centennial Committee, 1966, A Century in God's Country, 1866-1966, pub-

145 lished by the Centennial Historical Committee, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin; interview with Chris Forbes, former owner.


White Star Spiritualist Church

hen John B. Evearts tended bar at his flourishing tavern in Green Bay, pulling glasses of draft beer and pouring shots of rum, few of his customers imagined that one day he would abandon his thriving business and become a medium. But that's just what he did, and in the process he established White Star Spiritualist Church. Located near Brussels in the Gardner area, White Star is a tiny island in a sea of large Catholic churches. For over a hundred years people have gathered in the white frame building to experience empowerment, healing, and communication with the spirit world. John B. Evearts began his transition from bartender to church founder in the 1880s. He was proprietor of a tavern that was growing beyond his expectations when his wife fell critically ill. Every doctor he consulted told him there was no hope for her survival, so in desperation he turned to a Spiritualist medium who was said to possess the gift of healing. Mrs . Evearts surprised everyone, except the medium, by recovering completely. As he was paying for the medium's services, Evearts felt the Spiritualist healer searching his eyes. She told him that he, too, had the gift of healing and the gift of prophecy. According to John Kahlert, Door County historian, the medium said "If you will stop your business of selling rum and permit the spirits to work through you, you will become a great speaker, bringing messages of power to a people hungering for light." Thankful and impressed, Evearts dropped the tavern business and began developing his powers as a medium . He soon had a modest following, and while visiting relatives in the Catholic community of Gardner, he decided to hold a few Spiritualist services in private homes. Reverend Stevnard, pastor of nearby St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, got wind of Evearts ' activities and resolved to put an end to them. He declared that no one can communicate with the dead. Such a feat would be impossible if he , a priest, were present and forbade it. This


147 proclamation so provoked a Mr. Duchateau, who was one of Eveart's followers, that he bet the priest $1,000 that Evearts could indeed communicate with the spirit world. The priest accepted the challenge, and they scheduled a confrontation for June 22, 1885, at the home of an impartial local resident. A hundred or more spectators assembled on the designated date, eager to witness the showdown. Most were Father Stevnard's parishioners. Although Evearts arrived on time, the priest didn't show up. Eventually someone in the restless crowd dispatched a horse and buggy to fetch him, but he refused to return, declaring he wasn't fully prepared. When the priest finally appeared before the gathering, he claimed he never made the bet. He went on to rebuke his parishioners for attending such a spectacle. As a result of this debacle, the priest lost a sizeable portion of his congregation to Spiritualism. More than 40 families dropped out of the Catholic Church to become Eveart's followers. They met in private homes until 1888 when the congregation was able to build a church. They located their new White Star Spiritualist Church in Gardner. Between two Catholic churches. Spiritualism may have been somewhat unusual in the Catholic dominated Gardner-Brussels area, but it had many followers in the rest of the country. Although its doctrines place it outside the mainstream of most organized religions, it is not a cult. According to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, Spiritualism is the belief that spirits of the dead survive as personalities and can communicate with the living. They accomplish this through mediums. Mediums are sensitive to the vibrations of the spirit world and are able to transmit messages from it. They serve as channels for the information, so they are often called "channelers." Mediums may also be healers. "A Spiritualist healer is one who , either through his own inherent powers or through his mediumship, is able to impart vital curative force to pathologic conditions," states the National Spiritualist Association. People have practiced "spiritualism" in some form since prehistoric times, but modern Spiritualism got its start in Hydesville, New York, in the nineteenth century. On March 31, 1848, two little girls heard a mysterious rapping in their family's old farmhouse. Margaretta and Catherine Fox learned to communicate with whatever was rapping and discovered it was the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered in their house. These child mediums became well-known, and their powers were tested on several occasions. Spiritualists refer to their religion as a science, because it requires testing and proof of its claims. As a result of such tests, the movement gained adherents. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an early supporter, and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln used a medium to attempt communication with

148 her son, Willie, who died in 1862. President Lincoln was known to have attended some of the sessions in the White House. Interest in Spiritualism continued to grow in the wake of the Civil War. The enormous number of casualties resulted in an understandable desire to communicate with those who died far from home. Locally, White Star Spiritualist Church thrived from its inception, and by 191 7 it had 300 members. For a time a Spiritualist church existed in nearby Luxemburg, but in the 1920s, one of its members cut off his hand to test the powers of his belief. When he died, so did the Luxemburg church. Today White Star Spiritualist Church is the only Spiritualist church in northeast Wisconsin. Although its congregation is far smaller than previously, it has been in continuous operation since its founding in 1888. Headstones in the cemetery reveal its long history-graves of the Cobisier family date from the church's first year.

Fig. 1 - Door County' s White Star Spiritualist Church, the only Spiritualist Church in northeast Wisconsin.

The tidy, one-room building that has served for so many years stands at the edge of an apple orchard. In the spring, petals from bloom-

149 ing trees float down and cover the lawn and roof. Wide steps with a wheelchair ramp lead to a door topped by a stained glass window that depicts a white star. In front, a sign welcomes all, declaring, "Unity in Diversity." Inside, pressed tin walls, lace-curtained windows, an upright piano, and framed sepia-toned photographs are reminders of the church's history. In back, a double-door outhouse, flanked by a white picket fence, nestles among mature oak trees. Mary Larson Taylor has been pastor of the church for the past five years. She says its 50 members drive from places as far away as Marinette, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Appleton, and northern Door County. Visitors are encouraged and appreciated. There is no proselytizing and no attempt to recruit members. Other religions are not attacked or disparaged. People are allowed to make their own decisions, no matter what their backgrounds. "We are a church for non-churchy people," Mary said, "a church for people who don't like dogma." Services take place on the second, fourth. and fifth Sundays of the month. Because so many people drive great distances, no services are held during the winter months. The exception is a Christmas celebration held at night the week before Christmas. On this evening, the historic old church is lit entirely by candles. Their golden light fills the room and softly illuminates large poinsettias, evergreen boughs, and a live Christmas tree glowing with real candles imported from Germany. Burning frankincense hangs in the air. Mary described the regular Sunday services as similar in many ways to those in any Christian church, with hymn singing and a sermon. But at White Star a healing meditation and a hands-on healing take place at every service, and "spirit messages" are given at the end. At that time Mary channels messages from departed loved ones as well as from saints and other healers who make their presence known to her. This would all be familiar to John B. Evearts. He would still feel at home here. The powers of healing brought him to Spiritualism, and the healing spirit remains at White Star. As Mary said, "We're about love and light-and healing."

Sources: Holand, H.R., 1917, History of Door County, Wisconsin, Vol. I, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago; Kahlert, J., 1981, Pioneer Cemeteries, Meadow Lane Pub., Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; Microsoft Encarta, 1997; National Spiritualist Assoc. of Churches website; interview with Mary Larson Taylor.


Vladimir Rousseff: Mystery Artist

t's a powerful painting. A shepherd sits on a stone, playing his flute. Beside him, a stream disappears into the distance, tall trees arch overhead, and an inquisitive sheep stands nearby. The shepherd's hands are strong and his features distinctly middle-European. This pastoral scene, painted with bold brush strokes, is a mural at The Clearing, in Ellison Bay. Or more accurately, it was a mural at The Clearing. The shepherd and his sheep once looked down from the triangular wall of the balcony over the fireplace in The Clearing's Schoolhouse building. Fish Creek artist Vladimir Rousseff painted the mural for his friend, Jens Jensen. The mural no longer exists, and what happened to it is something of a mystery, because shortly after Jensen's death in 1951 it disappeared. It was probably painted over. But why? And by whom? It remains a mystery, but in a way the fate of the mural and the fate of its creator are similar-not many people remember either one. Although no longer a widely recognized name, Vladimir Rousseff was once a colorful part of the early Door County art scene . Born in Bulgaria in 1890, he studied art in Paris and later made his way to Chicago where he taught at the prestigious Chicago Art Institute during the late 1920s. In 1929 he won a $10,000 prize, and in 1931 the Art Institute featured his paintings in an exhibition. He turned his back on fame, however, and used his prize money to build a house and studio on a hill on Gibraltar Road in Fish Creek. He then moved his entire family from Chicago to Door County. Rousseffs diverse household consisted of his first wife, Min, a well-known illustrator of children's books, and his elderly parents, who quickly became familiar figures in Fish Creek. Writing in the book, Fish Creek Voices, Duncan Thorp recalled "Mama Rousseff' as a "sweet-faced old lady of sturdy Bulgarian peasant stock" who plied him with chunks of freshly baked bread and Mr. Rousseff as an old man who "trudged" into town each day to get the mail.


151 Everyone called stockily built Vladimir, "Walt." With his black mustache and fringe of dark hair, he was a recognizable figure wherever he went. A Bulgarian bohemian in Door County. An artist of substance. His sizeable collection of books, many with a leftist leaning, and his off-beat friends set him apart from the more conservative residents of Fish Creek. He loved arguing politics and discussing semi-radical writers, but it was all secondary to his art. In his studio, he labored over paintings in front of a big north-facing window. He worked in oil, a forgiving medium that allowed him to scrape the canvas numerous times until he was satisfied with the results. In the summers, he held forth at a small art school he founded, The Fish Creek Artists' Colony. He held classes on the porch of Welcker's Resort (now the White Gull Inn) and attracted a variety of students, including sons and daughters of summer people from Cottage Row. It was something of a status symbol to be one of Walt's students, although his volatile personality and insistence on perfection made the lessons quite a challenge. Students had varying views of the effectiveness of his teaching style. Martha Cherry, who now lives in Ephraim, was a student who took her first art lessons from Rousseff (Fig. 1), and inspired by his teaching, went on to study art in Evanston. She said he was "a very good teacher. I learned a lot from him, but if he didn't think you were doing a good job ... he'd come over and smash it all out, and you'd start it over. Fig. 1 - Martha Cherry, of Ephraim, in one of But it was good to do that, inVladimir Rousseffs painting classes in Fish Creek. stead of trying to figure out The classes were held on the porch of what is now what was wrong." the White Gull Inn. (Photo courtesy of Martha Betsy Guenzel, on the Cherry) other hand, didn't take kindly to his teaching methods. She told Lorraine Mengert, who was researching Door County's art history, that among the students in her class were "Madeline Tourtelot... and Blanche Claggett (who later became a professional artist) ... He was enchanted to be working with Madeline and Blannie. He hovered over their shoulders realizing he was fostering two stars. Occasionally he'd come over to me and hiss fiercely, 'That's not the way!' He would then grab my brush and paint over my offending efforts

152 in his own style . This left my canvas a mishmash with progress rather impossible. One day it became just too much for me-I quit and fled." Rousseffs own style was influenced by the artists he admiredModigliani, Manet, Gauguin, and Cezanne. Charlie Lyons of the Paint Box Gallery said there is a "Cezannesque quality" to Rousseffs work, "where he breaks the forms into cubic volumes and planes." He painted still lifes, portraits, and landscapes, but he had a special fondness for pastoral scenes. A fine example of Rousseffs style and choice of subject matter is "The Shepherd's Family," painted in 1928 {Fig. 2 below). Lyons believes it to be his version of the Holy Family and says its monumental figures are reminiscent of Gauguin 's work. The beautiful painting was owned for many years by Rousseffs good friend, George Apfelbach of Fish Creek. During the depression years, Rousseff was part of the government's Public Works Art Project {PWAP) and painted large canvases filled with farmers, fishermen, lumbermen, and other scenes of Door County life. Duncan Thorp said these Door County workers all "looked distinctly middle-European, as though Door County were inhabited by bands of gypsies." The paintings were intended for installation in public buildings constructed with federal funds, such as post offices or libraries. The local fate of these huge paintings is unknown, but outside the county, "The Tobacco Harvest" hangs in the Edgerton, Wisconsin, post office, and "Abe Lincoln As Postmaster" is in the Salem, Illinois, post office. In Door County, Rousseff displayed his smaller paintings at Dr. Welcker's Casino (now the Whistling Swan) and well-known people such as Dr. Frederick Stock, Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, purchased them. While many people greatly enjoyed viewing Rousseffs paintings, not all were interested in their artistic merit. When "The Shepherd's Family" hung in George Apfelbach's home, George's young son liked to bring his friends into the house so they could gape at the barebreasted woman in the painting. Rousseffs wife died of cancer while they were living in Fish Creek, and he married a young woman who had posed for him. Martha Cherry remembers her as "a real pretty gal." He eventually left Door County to become the chairman of the art department at a private girls' school in Illinois and later moved to Boston where he died at the age of 99. Although Rousseff was a respected artist and popular teacher, he's scarcely remembered locally-probably because his paintings are almost never seen in Door County. The Miller Art Museum owns none . The whereabouts of the large PWAP murals is unknown. The mural at The Clearing has completely disappeared. If there are works in private collections, they are inaccessible to the public . The only painting on public display is "The Shepherd's Family," now owned by the Gibraltar Historical Society. It hangs in the beautifully restored Noble House in Fish

153 Creek. A visit to the house is a chance to see Door County's only visual reminder of Vladimir Rousseff-an influential and colorful artist who for a while lived, painted, and taught in Fish Creek.

Fig. 2 - "The Shepherd's Family," a painting by Vladimir Rousseff. The striking painting is now owned by the Gibraltar Historical Society. (Courtesy of Gibraltar Historical Society)

Sources: Schreiber, W., and L. Schreiber, 1990, Fish Creek Voices, Wm . Caxton, Ltd, Sister Bay, Wisconsin; Mengert, Lorraine, 1996, Door County's Art History, published by L. Mengert; Telfer, Sid Sr., 1982, The

154 Jens Jensen I Knew, The Clearing, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin; archives of the Gibraltar Historical Society; interviews with Martha Cherry and Charlie Lyons;;


Arrulou Crest a/k/a Mrs. Johnson's Coffee Shop

"We were quite delighted the other day, When a patron was heard to say, For Good Coffee, Good Sandwiches, too, There is no place like Arrulou on 42." o begins an advertisement for one of Ephraim's quaintest restaurants-and one whose ultimate fate remains something of a mystery. The idea for what eventually became "Arrulou on 42" began with a friendship between a Chicago mail carrier and one of his customers. Early in the 1930s, the customer loaned the postman, Arvid Johnson, a summer cottage in Ephraim. Arvid and his wife, Ruth, were enchanted with the Door County village. Perhaps its Scandinavian heritage appealed to them, because both were born in Sweden. Although raising a daughter and living on a postman's salary, the couple managed to scrape together $400 to buy two wooded acres on the outskirts of Ephraim. Located at the corner of Highway 42 and Maple Grove Road, the property was not far from the entrance to Peninsula State Park's golf course. After buying their lot, Ruth and Arvid began to dream of a future in Ephraim. In 1936, the Johnsons had a well drilled and hired their neighbor, Alfon Jensen, to build a small house and a log cabin that would become a coffee shop. They named the little complex Arrulou Crest, a combination of their first names-Arvid, Ruth, and their daughter, Louise. Soon three small white signboards appeared beside the log cabin's front door. The top board proclaimed "Mrs. Johnson's," the middle board said "Coffee" and the bottom, "Shop" (Fig. 1). Mrs. Johnson's Coffee Shop was open for business. Ruth Johnson was a fabulous cook and baker. Soon golfers began stopping by for a snack, and they spread the word about her extraordinary pies and delicious sandwiches. Arvid came up from Chicago every weekend to help, but Ruth did all the cooking and


156 operated the place when he was gone. Helen Mickelson of Ephraim worked for Ruth during these early years. She remembers her as "a good , steady worker. She had a lot of ambition." Mrs. Johnson's Coffee Shop specialized in breakfasts, sandwiches, and baked goods . There are people in Ephraim who still recall the quality of the food . The pies were "absolutely fantastic, especially lemon meringue," said Eunice Rutherford, an accomplished pie-baker herself. Everyone raved about the coffee-Swedish coffee, made the old-fashioned way in a big pot with eggshells. And customers sent thank-you notes extolling her Swedish pancakes, coffee cake, waffles, and cherry pie.

Fig. 1 - The front of Mrs. Johnson's Coffee Shop faced Maple Grove Road in Ephraim, just off Highway 42. An unassuming building, the restaurant was noted for its wonderful Swedish coffee and baked goods.

Just as appealing as the food was the idiosyncratic decor of the log building. Accompanying the wire-backed chairs and handmade pine tables was an eclectic assortment of decorative objects reflecting the Johnsons' interests and apparently taken from their home. Paintings of Swedish scenes hung here and there on the varnished log walls. Cuckoo clocks, weavings, a collection of coffee grinders, embroidered curtains, deer antlers, and a prized collection of antique Swedish copper gave diners plenty to look at (Fig. 2). Canterbury bells bloomed outside and red geraniums spilled out of the window boxes. A friendly reception awaited all customers. Mrs. Johnson made a practice of emerging from her kitchen to visit with diners, and she remembered the favorite dishes of her many repeat customers. She welcomed all. One man dropped by each afternoon with his big, fluffy dog

157 and purchased one ice cream cone for himself and one for his dog. They sat outside, enjoying the sunshine, each licking his cone.

Fig. 2 - Interior of Mrs. Johnson's Coffee Shop. The decor was rustic and informal, with antique coffee grinders on high shelves, quaint lamps on the tables, and wire-backed chairs typical of the 1940s and 50s.

Ruth wasn't alone in Ephraim , even when Arvid was gone. The Johnsons' much-loved daughter, Louise, maintained a high profile in the small village. She was "a beautiful, beautiful girl," said Joan Peterson, who worked as a waitress at the coffee shop. Louise was a young teenager when the restaurant opened, and each year she grew more strikingly lovely. Slim, with cornflower blue eyes, she wore her blonde hair in a Veronica Lake hairdo. Friends remember she enjoyed showing off her fine figure at the public beach, and one said that just looking at her made other girls feel ugly. Arvid and Ruth adored Louise-and some said, spoiled her (Fig. 3). Arvid retired from the post office in 1949, by which time Louise had become a stewardess with American Airlines . Retirement allowed Ruth and Arvid to fulfill their long held dream of moving to Ephraim. The rotund Arvid, whom residents referred to as "Mr. Coffee Pot," became a familiar sight around town in his Lincoln Zephyr car. "He was kind of short and you could barely see his head sticking up over the steering wheel," said his neighbor, Ozzie Stenzel.

158 Living in Ephraim gave Arvid a chance to indulge his gregarious tendencies and his passion for gardening. He enjoyed chatting with customers and showing off the valuable stamp collection he'd assembled. Ruth, who never lost her Swedish accent, remained in the background, although she "spoke readily when he wasn't around," said Joan Peterson. She was a kind and considerate employer, who in addition to doing all the cooking for the restau. rant, always found time to prepare meals for the waitresses. The Johnsons' frame house sat on a wooded hill behind the coffee shop. Arvid landscaped the area Fig. 3 - The Johnsons in front of Arrulou Crest. At with a winding path, rustic the left is Arvid. Beside him is an unidentified persteps, and a little pool son; Ruth and Louise are shown at the right. where birds, squirrels, and chipmunks could drink. The chipmunks were his favorites. "He kinda tamed 'em up," said Ephraim resident, Bert Thorp. "He would be standing there and a chipmunk would jump into his hand and take a sunflower seed" (Fig. 4). He was always eager to show customers his gardens and animal friends. He even illuminated the gardens for night display. It seemed an idyllic life, the life they envisioned when they purchased their property nearly 20 years previously. Arvid had plans for the future, too-plans that included a museum for his stamp collection. "It is the future that counts," a newspaper reporter wrote after talking with Arvid. "The new cabins, the museum, the day when the coffee shop and its delicious food will also become a past event, and the whole coffee shop will be a delightful home in which the Johnsons will pass their declining years." Did this happen? Not in the way they imagined. Unrealistically, Ruth and Arvid longed for Louise to return home, but this was not to be. Instead a tragedy occurred on one of her visits back to Door County. She

159 and a young man she was dating went together to an establishment in a nearby village, and Louise left the place with another man. Distraught, her date attempted to chase them down in his car but lost control on a curve and was killed. The accident took place directly in front of Mrs. Johnsons' Coffee Shop. How this affected the family can only be imagined, but Louise did marry a year or so later, and a year or so after that had a son. Arvid and Ruth didn't care for her choice of a husband, and soon they seldom saw their beloved daughter. The coffee shop remained open a few more years, closing around 19 5 7. In their remaining years together, Arvid became a bit crabby and Ruth a bit forgetful. She eventually moved to a nursing home and Arvid was alone at Arrulou Crest. One day in 1965, when Arvid didn't show up for an important appointment, neighbor Herb Hardt went looking for his 72-year old friend . He found the door locked, lights on, and radio playing. When there was no response to his loud knocks and shouts, Herb Fig. 4 - Arvid Johnson feeding one of his friendly went for the sheriff who chipmunks. broke down the door. Herb said Arvid lay dead on the bed "with one hand full of heart medicine and one foot full of porcupine quills." He had evidently gone to the door in his bare feet, perhaps to feed "his" animals, gotten too close to a porcupine, and suffered a heart attack. Almost exactly a year later, Ruth died at age 74. She and Arvid are buried in Blossomburg Cemetery in Peninsula State Park. During the 1970s, Louise and her son came to Arrulou Crest for several summers, and then they stopped. Why? Arvid and Ruth, still miffed about their daughter's marriage, had apparently willed the property to Louise's son, and after his teenage years, his interest waned . Year after year, no one visited the spot where the Johnsons had welcomed so many guests. Wind and rain took their toll on the buildings. Windows

160 weren't secured, and the door to the house stood slightly ajar. Dust drifted over furniture, dishes, linens, personal papers, boxes of family mementoes, and souvenirs of the 1934 World's Fair. The copper and stamp collections had been removed, but the history of the Johnsons' life remained. Didn't Louise care about this family history? Didn't her son? These questions stayed unanswered, and when the property went on the market in 1990, the house still contained the possessions Ruth and Arvid had accumulated over the years. Today, the log cabin at Arrulou Crest has been converted into an art gallery. The careful renovation retains much of the look of the quaint coffee shop that once inspired a customer to write:

"The time has come for our goodbyes To the lady who makes those wonderful pies They're flaky, they're tasty, they're servedjust right There's pleasures and thrills in every bite." Sources: Advertising brochures for Mrs . Johnson's Coffee Shop; interviews with Herbert Hardt, Helen Mickelson, Joan Peterson, Eunice Rutherford, Ozzie Stenzel, Bert Thorp, and other friends and customers. We appreciate the willingness of an anonymous source to allow us to copy and use the photographs.


Cave Man of Door County

f anyone had been watching, they would have seen the figure of a man inch up the sheer face of the rocky Niagara Escarpment and approach the impressive mouth of Eagle Cave. Entering the cave is difficult, because it is located 25 feet above a stony beach and has an unstable limestone ledge jutting out high above it. Probably no one was watching as the cave man finished his climb, but he successfully entered the cave. The year was 1970, and the cave man, Gary Soule, was making and recording history. Gary, now in his late 40s, has devoted his life to caves. He has explored them, mapped them, and discovered them. He's been to caves in Russia, Australia, Monaco, Mexico, and Yugoslavia. He's been in caves throughout the Fig. 1 - Gary Soule in a water-filled passage United States (Fig. 1) and in nearly of 4-mile long Bowden Cave, West Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Gary Soule) every cave in Wisconsin. And each step of the way he has documented and recorded their history. His life combines periodic adventure with meticulous scholarship and countless hours devoted to research. He explains that the scientific study and exploration of caves is known as speleology, and he refers to himself as a "speleo-historian." He is quick to


162 point out that speleologists call themselves "cavers,'' not "spelunkers," who are casual cave sightseers. A childhood visit to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky launched Gary's lifelong fascination with caves. Today it's difficult to ask him a caverelated question he can't answer-ranging from the location of the world's largest cave (Borneo) to the length of the longest cave in the U.S. (350 miles) to the rules for cave exploration (never go alone and always take three sources of light). Gary is intimately familiar with Door County's caves and readily shares his knowledge. He describes the three types of caves that occur here. Sea caves are the most common. Wave action on the peninsula's dolomite rock formed these caves along ancient shorelines. Well-known examples are Eagle Cave in Peninsula State Park and the caves at Cave Point. Solution caves, formed by underground streams that dissolved away limestone about 60,000 years ago, are a second type of cave. Horseshoe Bay Cave near Egg Harbor and Paradise Pit Cave in Little Sturgeon Bay are the county's largest solution caves. The final type is the offset joint cave. Resulting from a buckling of the earth's crust, Dorchester Cave in Sturgeon Bay is the only major example on the peninsula. Other types of caves, such as lava caves and gypsum caves, occur elsewhere in the U.S. but not locally. Door County is home to 30 or 40 caves, according to Gary. He has been in every one of them and can rattle off their precise dimensionsheigh t, depth, length, width, and the exact dates of their discovery. July 20, 1968 and Oct. 20, 1972 are particularly memorable. He discovered Paradise Pit Cave on the first date, and the second date was when a construction blast uncovered Dorchester Cave. Although caves are not among Door County's better-known attractions and most are on private property, Gary can describe them in compelling detail. For instance, Brussels Hill Pit Cave is currently being excavated by anthropologists who consider it a significant site. It contains animal bones dating to the time of Christ, including bones of a deer 25% larger than any deer known today. At 3, 103 feet, Horseshoe Bay Cave ranks as the second longest cave in Wisconsin. Discovered by two hunters back in 1879, it is the only Door County cave not fully mapped and explored. Access to some parts requires crawling through spaces little larger than a body, but the cave also contains a room with a 55-foot ceiling, an intermittent 50-foot waterfall, and an underground river. The cave appears to end in water, but recently divers went down and discovered that it continues on past the water. How far, no one knows-yet. Dorchester Cave resulted from a major earthquake more than 50,000 years ago. Now, the dining room of the Dorchester Health Center

163 sits directly over the cave's largest room, while access is through a locked door in the basement. Wellever Cave, south of Egg Harbor, was the site of Door County's only underground wedding. Candelabra, one with an artificial bat hanging from it, lighted the two-room sea cave as the bride and groom, dressed in caving gear complete with headlamps, spoke their vows at a natural rock altar. Other caves in the county include Bear Cave in Fish Creek, Canal Cave near Sturgeon Bay, sea caves on Rock Island, sea caves in Potowatomi State Park, Snake Cave north of Brussels, Skunk Cave south of Sturgeon Bay, and a sea cave in Peninsula State Park that contains small stalactites. "A cave is a cave," says Gary, "only if it has total darkness, defined as 40% darker than the darkest, moonless night you'll ever experience in your lifetime." By that definition, he admits, many of Door County's caves, especially its sea caves, wouldn't be considered caves at all. A second definition, more appropriate for Door County, holds that "it's a cave if a man can physically crawl into it." Crawling into a cave, or more accurately, crawling out of a cave, presented Gary with one of his most frightening caving experiences. Early in his career, he was wriggling through an extremely narrow passageway when he decided to back out. Almost immediately his jacket bunched up around him, trapping him in the confined space. Completely wedged in, he was unable to move either forward or backward. Fortunately he doesn't suffer from claustrophobia and doesn't panic ("You've got to stay cool"), but he learned the first rule of dressing for cave exploration-wear coveralls. Despite the many dangers, Gary has never been so scared he wanted to quit. He says, "You get used to it. If you know what you're doing, you feel very comfortable." Cave exploration requires strength and endurance. Gary's method of staying in shape is unusual, to say the least-"! do stilt walking professionally." He "walks" in parades and celebrations in a six state area, and for the past 30 years he's worked the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee. He's proud of working in "every parade they've had." Costumed in a spiffy tuxedo or as a bearded Uncle Sam, Gary's picture has appeared in books, newspapers, and magazines, including People and Na-

tional Geographic Traveler. Amid a colorful swarm of clowns, jugglers, marching bands, pony hitches, and high-stepping horses, Gary fits right in. He waves, lifts a stilt high into the air, passes a flag between his legs, and "walks over" a child far below him. The intense and scholarly historian is transformed. "It's crazy," he admits. "It's either above ground or underground." Uncle Sam clowning around high above a parade looks carefree, but stilt walking requires tremendous stamina. Since each stilt weighs

164 10 pounds, Gary estimates he lifts 35 tons in the two-and-a-half hours he's on his stilts for the four-mile Great Circus Parade. "You get used to the balance," he says, "but you never get used to the lifting." Gary started stilt walking when he was just seven years old and in the second grade. Today when he is up on his parade stilts, his head is 10 feet above the ground. He has another pair that boosts him up to sixteen feet, and as he practices, walking around the neighborhood, he sits on garage roofs to rest (Fig. 2). The historical aspect of the Great Circus Parade appeals to the historian in Gary, but his real passion is the history of caves. In one small, tidy room in his Sturgeon Bay home, he has amassed an amazingly complete archive of the history of United States caves. Drawers and shelves reaching to the ceiling take up all the available wall space. File cabinets line the hall. It's exquisitely orderly and perfectly organized, with each item documented and indexed . What does he have? To start, 300 pins and 300 guidebooks from "show caves" (caves that are open to the public and charge an admission fee). He's been in every one, although some are now closed. There is a neatly boxed collection of 291 brightly colored matchbooks from 45 caves, as well as 1,000 cave-related reference books, 1,200 cave bumper stickers, 14,000 cave postcards, and 50,000 cave brochures. He can quickly put his hands on any given piece of paper or artifact-he knows exactly what he has and exactly how to find it. The work of preserving history never ends. It has been over 30 years since he climbed into Eagle Cave, but Gary is continuing to research its history. As a result of his long-ago exploration, he knows as much as anyone about this picturesque site (Fig. 3). The cave is 41 feet long and six to ten Fig. 2 - Gary is shown on his tallest stilts feet wide; at its end it is five feet high . towering over a pickup truck and a young neighbor. (Photo courtesy of Gary Soule) It contains seagull bones and virtually nothing else.





Door County, Wisconsin 31N 27E 14 SW/NW/SW C.R.G. Grade 4 survey comp leted by Kevin Hennings and Gary Soule in 1970.


0 I




10 feet


bluff line )

~ ::..--

: drip line

--..; Elevation 620

~ [email protected]



N Supplemental symbols:





- _ _ __

Nioqora Dolomite 41 feet of passage

Sister Bay Quad . N.S.S. Standard Map Symbols (1961)


Fig. 3 - Never before published map of Peninsula State Park's Eagle Cave, the largest sea cave in Door County. Sea caves were formed thousands of years ago during fluctuations in lake levels. Eagle Cave was formed during the Algonquin Lake period when Lake Michigan was nearly 100 feet higher than it is today. At that time the entrance to the cave was at beach level. The cave was mapped by Kevin Hennings and Gary Soule, who made the climb into the cave in 1970. The overhanging cliff (shown by the dashed line) makes entrance from above nearly impossible. The map shows that the cave is 41 feet in depth. It is 25 feet high at its entrance, diminishing to five feet at its end, with a 20 degree uphill slope. The width varies from six to ten feet. (Map courtesy of Gary Soule)

At one time a rickety ladder led up to the cave . Around 1919, park superintendent A.E . Doolittle replaced it with ladderlike steps, and the cave became a popular destination for photo opportunities (Fig. 4, next page). The steps are long gone, but the dates when they were built and removed are unknown. Gary is hoping to locate this information, and based on his past determination, he probably will. For instance, to explore one cave, he crawled more than 30 feet through underground water with only four or so inches of air space above it. He says, "To be a good stilt walker, it helps if you're 75% daredevil and 25% fool." The same might be said for cave explorers . Sources: Ott, Ruth, 2001, Journey to Beneath the Earth, Door County Advocate (January 9); Wisconsin Speleologist, Fall, 1972; Now it can be told, 1973, Door County Advocate (Feb. 27); interview with Gary Soule.


Fig. 4 - A view of Eagle Bluff in Peninsula State Park showing the steps that led to Eagle Cave in the 1920s. (From an old postcard, courtesy of Ephraim Foundation)


Door County's Largest Landowner

Ferdinand Hotz

magine owning land in Fish Creek that included not only the orchard

I property stretching from Cottage Row to Highway 42 but also a large

tract of land at the top of the Fish Creek hill. Include land along Spring Road encompassing the area of the Fish Creek Condominiums and half the valley below it, plus 600 feet of shoreline just north of the public beach. Add to the above holdings all of the Juddville Bay land and bluff, a big tract at Mud Lake (now Moonlight Bay), land at Clark's Lake, and part of the Ellison Bay bluff. How about including all of Newport State Park and acreage around Europe Lake? One man owned all of this . His name was Ferdinand Hotz, and his hobby was buying land. "It was like he was addicted to buying property," said his granddaughter, Mary Uhl. Born in Germany in 1868, Hotz came to Chicago when he was 16 years old. The teenager was already an accomplished jewelry designer, but because he spoke little English making a living was difficult. Luckily, a banker befriended him with an offer to fund his fledgling jewelry business. He encouraged Hotz to take his jewelry to Montana where booming copper mines had created a newly wealthy group of people. The Montana venture was a great success and before long Hotz had a thriving business selling expensive, custom jewelry. He built up an ex-

168 elusive customer file and made cross-country trips several times each year, selling his jewelry to an elite group of clients that included the Pabsts and the Uhleins in Milwaukee. He went on to become an international diamond merchant and an acquaintance of J.P. Morgan and Harry Winston. Hotz lived in Chicago with his wife Clothilda, daughter of the founder of the Brunswick Corporation. Their family included three daughters and a son (Fig. 1). Lengthy selling trips afforded him the time and opportunity to buy sizeable amounts of land, and his wife's considerable wealth enabled him to be truly expansive in his purchases. He owned a large amount of property in Point Reyes, California, as well as a huge ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. His Florida holdings included 10 miles of beach at Daytona.

Fig. 1 - Ferdinand Hotz and his wife, Clothilda, are shown with two of their children in the early

1900s. Clothilda was the daughter of the founder of the Brunswick Corporation. (Photo courtesy of Mary Uhl).

Hotz' introduction to Door County came as a result of a business trip. In 1905 he rode the train from Chicago to Marinette to call on a cli-

169 ent, and when he found himself with extra time, he took a boat across the bay to visit Fish Creek. He was impressed with its beauty and returned in 1908 with his wife and children. Their stay at Welcker's Resort (now The White Gull Inn) marked the beginning of the family's long association with Door County. They returned in 1911 and every year subsequently. In 1912 Hotz began acquiring local land, a habit he would continue for decades. His initial Door County purchases were in the Fish Creek area and included water-view property at the top of the Fish Creek hill, where he built three cottages. The first cottage was the family's residence and consisted of a living room, bedrooms, and an outhouse in back. There was no kitchen and no dining room. The family ate all their meals in Fish Creek at Welcker's. A year or so later Hotz built a second cottage that contained a kitchen, dining room and maid's room. Then he added a one-room cabin known as the "Studio Lodge," and finally he built a stone garage that featured a tower with a ladder leading up to it. The family spent their summers in the cottages, arriving by train or Goodrich steamer. Hotz commuted back and forth to his office in Chicago. Door County was a paradise for someone with an obsession for buying land. Tall and lean, Hotz was an avid hiker and accomplished photographer. On his outings he combed the county for land that appealed to him. After making numerous purchases in the Fish Creek area, he found other choice locations to buy. But he was a collector rather than a land speculator, and the land he bought always attracted him. He loved views of the water, and many of his holdings overlooked Green Bay, Lake Michigan, or inland lakes. In the early 1920s he made one of his favorite purchases-a large tract of land on Europe Lake. There, on a slope overlooking the lake, he built an imaginative log house (Fig. 2). His house was part of a remote complex of buildings. Access was by an old logging road, framed by a massive stone gate. A little house by the gate provided living quarters for the caretaker, Mr. Kincaid. Several other small houses and a carriage house were scattered deeper in the woods. The main house, with its beautiful view of the lake, was furnished in typical summer cottage fashion with rustic wooden furniture. Mounted on one wall was an astonishing example of Door County wildlife-a pair of deer heads with interlocked antlers . The magnificent racks of the two deer had evidently become entangled during a fight, and unable to extricate themselves, the deer starved. Hotz photographed them as he found them, standing in the deep snow, locked together in death (Fig.3). Mr. and Mrs. Hotz used the Europe Lake house as a getaway. It was a quiet, secluded place, and the couple spent long peaceful weekends there, away from the chaos of their family of four active children back at the cottage in Fish Creek.


Fig. 2 - The log cabin Ferdinand Hotz built on Europe Lake. Access was by a logging road that skirted the lake. Today the road is known as the "Hotz Trail," part of Newport State Park. (Photo courtesy of Mary Uhl)

A great many of Hotz' land purchases took place in the 1920s, and as the Depression crept in, people who had fallen on hard times often asked him to buy their land. He frequently obliged and as a result occasionally acquired swampy or otherwise undesirable property. But he kept buying, in Door County and elsewhere. At one time he considered buying the town of Fayette, Michigan, but gave up the plan when he couldn't purchase the mineral rights. He was afraid that without these rights, mining might resume and spoil the area's beauty. True collector that he was, Hotz didn't sell his holdings. When he died in 1946, his "Hotz Land Company" became a trust and his relatives were left with the massive task of disposing of its assets in order to pay taxes. They managed to keep intact the property that became Newport State Park by selling it to the State of Wisconsin in 1966. In 197 4 they sold the state the contiguous Europe Lake property. Sadly, little remains of the complex that once occupied the Europe Lake site. The stone gate still stands and the logging road is a hiking trail, but all the buildings are gone. The isolated location of the main house had always made it an easy target for vandals. They stole the deer heads long before the sale, and regularly broke windows. Nevertheless, for several years the house remained-stripped but still elegant. It was a welcome and evocative sight for hikers and cross-country skiers.

171 Although Hotz' son, Ferdinand L. Hotz, sent money for its upkeep, the house became a liability the park was no longer willing to assume. It was dismantled and moved to a location near Sturgeon Bay. Now young trees obscure the lovely view, and weeds clog the path down to the lake where Hotz' family scattered his ashes. But the sound of wind in the trees and waves on the shore are the same as they were over 70 years ago, when Door County's largest private landowner spent his weekends there.

Sources: Schreiber, E., and L. Schreiber, 1990, Fish Creek Voices, Wm Caxton Ltd, Sister Bay, Wisconsin; interview with Mary Uhl.

Fig. 3 - Two magnificent male deer that locked horns and died standing up, their bodies becoming covered by deep snow. (Photo courtesy of Mary Uhl)


The Great Alpena Blow


s the storm raged around him, the keeper of Cana Island Lighthouse struggled to keep its beacon burning. The lighthouse, perched atop a rocky promontory, guided ships into North Bay and away from a shallow rock shelf extending half a mile out into Lake Michigan. On this evening its light was vital, because a storm of frightening intensity had battered the area all day. The result was a near traffic jam of ships struggling through mountainous seas, attempting to make the relative safety of North Bay. The lighthouse keeper knew this storm was like no other he had experienced. A continual spray enveloped his lantern, 89 feet above the ground, and at times waves broke over the roof of the house at the base of the light. The date was Saturday, October 16, 1880, and the storm was the Great Alpena Blow. The devastating storm took its name from the Alpena, a wooden, side-wheel steamer owned by the Goodrich Transportation Company. The white painted ship was the "pride of her day," sometimes called "a swan on the waters" (Fig. 1) . She carried passengers and freight across Lake Michigan from Grand Haven to Chicago.

Fig. 1 - The Goodrich steamer Alpena, in safe harbor before she was lost in the gale of 1880. (From Elliott's Red Stacks Over the Horizon and the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society)

173 On the evening of Friday, October 15th, 1880, Alpena departed Grand Haven, Michigan, with 80 or more passengers and ten carloads of apples. It had been a calm and beautiful Indian summer day with temperatures reaching 70 degrees, but the barometer indicated a change was coming. Around midnight winds picked up and soon became violent. The temperature plunged to below freezing and snow fell as far south as Chicago. By 3:00 AM Lake Michigan was enveloped in one of the worst storms in recorded history. Throughout the night the fury of the storm increased. By Saturday morning, icy blasts of snow and sleet at times reached 125 miles per hour. Swirling winds, seeming to blow from all directions at once, whipped Lake Michigan into a maelstrom, and all ships caught on open waters were at the mercy of the treacherous winds. Alpena was one of them . Shortly after daybreak, several vessels reported glimpsing the sidewheeler laboring in towering waves. As she was buffeted from side to side, her paddlewheels rose out of the water, spinning uselessly and spewing frigid spray across her decks (Fig. 2). The last known sighting was about 35 miles off Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Captain Ludwig of the schooner Challenger spotted her struggling in turbulent seas and blowing distress signals. Alpena was never seen again.

Fig. 2 - An artist's conception of the Alpena wallowing in heavy seas shortly before she disappeared from the surface. (From Elliott' s Red Stacks Over the Horizon)

174 For three anxious days no one knew her fate. Then on Tuesday morning (October 19), pieces of a grand piano with the lid torn off washed up near Holland, Michigan-on the opposite side of the lake from where Alpena was last seen. It wasn't long until fire buckets with Alpena stenciled on them appeared on the same shore. In the days that followed , part of a stairway, life preservers, cabin doors, and even a few bodies were found strewn along 20 miles of Michigan coastline. Thousands of apples were seen bobbing in the surf at Saugatuck. Alpena was a victim of the devastating storm, and more than a hundred years later her tragic loss remains one of the great mysteries of the Great Lakes. The body of one woman, found wearing a corset that wasn't laced up and a partially-buttoned dress, led people to believe that the boat sank at night after the passengers had gone to bed. As for why Alpena went down, many guessed she attempted to change course and in the process of coming about in the heavy seas, her cargo of apples shifted and she was unable to right herself. Others believed her rudder chain broke. The questions of how many people were on board and where she was when she sank may never be answered. The storm that destroyed Alpena ravaged the entire east coast of Door County. In North Bay nearly 50 vessels, guided by Cana Island Light, sought refuge from the storm. Many were large, heavily loaded boats carrying grain, lumber, iron ore, coal, or salt. The bay was crowded to capacity, but even that sheltered environment wasn't completely safe. Numerous boats dragged their anchors and blew ashore, several collided, and schooners limped in with their canvas torn away. The bay became so full that Two Friends, loaded with salt, was forced to anchor at the mouth of the bay. She was broadsided by the wind and washed ashore on her side. As thunderous waves swept everything off the deck and smashed the cabin, the crew of seven took refuge in the rigging. Their pitiful cries for help could be heard above the howling winds, but no one dared approach their stricken boat. After the crew of Two Friends had spent many hours in the sleet and wind, local fisherman James Larsen attempted a daring rescue using a 14-foot boat borrowed from William Marshall, superintendent of what is now Marshall's Point. The storm was so ferocious that few gave Larsen a chance of surviving, and Marshall wouldn't lend him the boat without a cash deposit equal to its value . Volunteers carried the boat through the woods to the beach, and Larsen rowed the tiny craft through the storm to the stranded vessel. It took seven trips to rescue the men, one by one. Because waves prevented Larsen from getting close to the wreck, the numbed and exhausted sailors crawled out onto the jib-boom and lowered themselves into the rescue boat. In the hour-and-a-half operation, Larsen swamped

175 five times but succeeded in saving every sailor. He later received a gold medal for his courage. Boats seeking shelter from the storm in south-facing Baileys Harbor initially appeared safe, because all day Saturday winds blew from the northwest. But shortly after midnight the wind shifted to the southeast, and the boats were totally unprotected. At least seven went aground, two of which were declared total wrecks. Letty May washed up near the Range Lights and its crew waded ashore . Pauline, loaded with lumber and shingles, came into the harbor at the height of the storm, found it completely filled, and promptly grounded on a sand bar at the mouth of the harbor. Her crew clambered into the rigging and awaited rescue. In Jacksonport, the storm drove a boat full of timber ashore with such force that it demolished Charles Reynolds' pier and swept the 30,000 feet of planking stacked there into the lake. At Whitefish Bay three vessels wrecked . One was a total loss and the other two were driven so high onto the shore that the Door County Advocate said "a person can walk around them dry-shod." Thirty boats were reported ashore at Plum Island, and others were wrecked at Mud Bay and in the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. Seas were so high that the canal's piers were completely under water and a heavy pile driver on one pier was washed into the lake. Although the great storm eventually blew itself out, the aftereffects were long lasting. The lighthouse keeper at Pilot Island observed that the water surrounding him was white for a week. He speculated the storm pulverized so many limestone rocks from the bottom of the lake that a white lime powder formed and remained in suspension in the swirling water. Boat owners incurred staggering monetary losses-more than 90 boats were sunk, completely wrecked, or badly damaged. "Saturday was a bad day for marine insurance," stated the Door County Advocate. The greatest loss , however, was the loss of life . It is estimated that 118 people died in the Great Alpena Blow, many of them on the steamer Alpena. Exactly how many people died when the ship sank will never be known, because the passenger list went down with her. To put the loss in perspective, consider that the 75 to 100 people she carried are far more than the 29 that perished in another Great Lakes tragedy nearly 100 years later, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The location of Alpena is still a mystery. Her final resting place has never been found, but an ironic remembrance of her fate occurred in January, 1909, nearly 20 years after she went down . On that day, her side-wheel name board, plainly lettered with the words ALPENA, was found-at Alpena Beach, Michigan. Sources: Bowen, D.T., 1952 , Shipwrecks of the Lakes, Freshwater Press, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio; Elliott, J .L. , 1967, Red Stacks Over the Horizon,

176 Wm. B. Erdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan; Hirthe, W.M ., and M.K. Hirthe, 1986, Schooner Days in Door County, Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Door County Advocate, 1880 (Oct. 21), Sinking of Goodrich Steamer Alpena and all on Board Lost; Door County Advocate, 1880 (Oct. 21), Wind and Wave: An Account of the Damage Done by the Elements on Saturday; Door County Advocate, 1880 (Oct. 28), Marine In-

telligence: The Tracks of the Great Storm-The Alpena Disaster-Wrecking Notes; Door County Advocate, 1880, A Friend was at Cana Island (Nov. 11); Ritz, Herbert, 1925, Lake Michigan Disasters, published by Manitowoc Maritime Museum, Manitowoc , Wisconsin; crick /alpena.


Captain McGarity And S.S. Carolina Brought World To Door County

n the late 1800s, city-dwellers from Chicago, Milwaukee, and even St. Louis, seeking ways to beat the summer heat, found their way to the small villages scattered along Door County's shoreline. The rocky peninsula's scenic vistas, clean air, and slower lifestyle had great restorative powers. From the turn-of-the-century until the Great Depression, the Goodrich Transit Company of Chicago played a key role in bringing tourists to Door County, thus opening it to the outside world. During the early 1900s the Goodrich steamer that had the greatest impact on the lives of Door County's residents and visitors was a huge black and white ship with a red smoke stack. The S.S. Carolina, a star of the Goodrich Line, had as its master one of the most skilled captains sailing the Great Lakes. His name was Daniel McGarity. Over the years he made many friends in Door County and came to be widely admired. Born in Big Rapids, Michigan in 1889, McGarity was 15 when he signed on as a $15.00/month scrub on the Goodrich steamer Atlanta. His boss was a bos'n (boatswains mate) who couldn't leave the booze alone. Within a couple of weeks the bos'n was fired and McGarity was promoted. The steamship that was to become the S.S. Carolina was built in Philadelphia, three years after McGarity was born. Christened the S.S. Hartford, it ferried cargo and passengers across Long Island Sound. Twin screws (propellers) drove the ship, which had a steel hull and wooden superstructure. It was 220 ft. long, had a beam of 40 ft., and drew 13 ft. of water. Sleek-looking for its time, it could attain a speed of 16 mph, although generally it cruised at about 14 mph.




The ship underwent several changes in ownership and names before being sold to Goodrich Transit around 1905. Goodrich sailed it to Manitowoc for a major reconstruction that included reconfiguring the superstructure, installing newly appointed staterooms for overnight travelers, and refurbishing the dining room. Finally, the ship received a new name, S.S. Carolina. In 1906 it began service on the Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Mackinac Island route, with intermediate stops at Sturgeon Bay, Ephraim, Sister Bay, Washington Island, and Fayette. The large ship accommodated two hundred or so passengers and its crew of nearly a hundred included a wide range of specialties: officers, engineers, firemen (who shoveled Fig. 1 - Daniel J. McGarity on the coal to heat the boilers), cooks, waitbridge of the S.S. Carolina. (Photo ers, waitresses, housekeeping staff, courtesy of Ephraim Foundation) and strong sailors who wrestled cargo. Daniel Mc Garity took command of the S.S. Carolina in 1914. Earlier in his career, he served as a seaman and later a first mate, working hard and learning a tremendous amount about steamships . In 1912 his wide experience helped him pass the federal examination for captainone of the youngest ever to qualify. He took great pride in achieving such a position of responsibility in only eight years. Every summer from 1914 until 1927, McGarity and his ship were a regular sight along the Door County shoreline. A gregarious man, McGarity made many friends along the way and always received an enthusiastic welcome. At dockside, he wore a big smile (Fig. 1), but when his ship was underway he was all business. In the winter he took the helm of other Goodrich ships, since the S.S. Carolina wasn't equipped to break ice. On its northward leg, the S.S. Carolina departed Chicago on Mondays at 2:00 PM and arrived at Mackinac Island on Wednesday at 7:00 AM. Southbound departure from Mackinac was at 6:00 PM Wednesday, with arrival back in Chicago at 4:30 PM Friday. Trips from Chicago to Door County required an overnight stay in one of the ship's staterooms, a special treat for youngsters. Passengers usually slept soundly thanks to

179 the rhythmic throb of the big steam engines. Next morning they assembled in the large dining room to eat a splendid breakfast. Those who slept late could indulge themselves in an equally fine lunch. According to Mary Alice Gustafson, collector of S.S. Carolina memorabilia, a typical luncheon buffet served on board ship around 1930 included "Beef Broth with Barley, Baked Whitefish with Fine Herbs, Chicken Croquettes, Green Peas, Breaded Veal Cutlets in Tomato Sauce, Cold Roast Beef, Potato Salad, Creamed Onions, Boiled Potatoes, Sliced Tomatoes, Cabinet Pudding, and Ice Cream." All for only a dollar.

Fig. 2 - "Boat Day" in Ephraim. People are seen lining the decks and standing on the dock, the latter either awaiting friends, preparing to board, or just gawking. Long dresses, suspenders, and parasols are much in evidence. At the left is a 1920s vintage automobile. The steamer ferried autos, as long as their gas tanks were drained of fuel. The crew used muscle power and wooden planks to move cars on and off the ship. (Photo courtesy of Ephraim Foundation)

C.F. Wiley, son of one of the earliest summer visitors to Ephraim, arrived on the S.S. Carolina and wrote about his family's trip from Chicago. "At a speed of around 10 miles per hour, the steamboat worked its way north; putting in at one harbor after another Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Kewaunee, Algoma. Soon the rolling pastures of Wisconsin, with their dairy herds, gave way to the thick, green forests of white birch, beech, hemlock, fragrant pine, balsam and cedar trees that stretched in every direction." Most firsthand accounts of travel on the S.S. Carolina dwell on pleasant aspects of the journey. Perhaps passengers tended to forget bad weather experiences, but Alice McCummins (deceased) is one passenger

180 who did not forget. In a 1978 interview, she recalled her first trip on the S.S. Carolina. "It was beautiful when we left Ephraim. We got outside the canal at Sturgeon Bay, and it blew and thundered and lightninged [sic] all night. The Carolina was just a trip boat, and it just rolled and everybody on that boat was sick. We got to Milwaukee some time the next morning. I remember I went into the dining room to have breakfast with the family, and the dishes fell off the table. A bunch of people got off, barely dressed, and took the train from Milwaukee to Chicago. There was a bunch of Catholic sisters on board and they stood out on the deck with the prayer books in their hands all the way to Chicago." Although the S.S. Carolina was generally a stable ship, it did have a few peculiarities. When fully loaded, the ship tended to wallow in heavy seas, and occasionally the stern would slide up out of the water so the propellers were no longer submerged and spun uselessly in the air. Unless the engineers could quickly throttle back, the engines would accelerate to the danger point. After one such incident in a late season gale and snowstorm, McGarity managed to wrestle the laboring ship to a nearby port. When engineers examined the S.S. Carolina in dry dock, they discovered that the port propeller had spun off most of its four blades and only stubs remained. There is no mention of how passengers fared on this trip! The arrival of Captain McGarity and the S.S. Carolina, bringing tourists, automobiles, and supplies, was an important economic and social event in Door County villages. This is how C.W. Wiley remembered it. "In Ephraim in the summer, 'boat day' was a weekly occasion that was anticipated by all in the village. It was a time of gathering together for most of the cottagers, the short-stay vacationers in the many hotels, and quite a number of the villagers who were not occupied with feeding and tending to the needs of the summer people. It was almost an established obligation for a crowd of several hundred persons to congregate at Anderson's Dock, just before noon every Tuesday, to greet the Goodrich passenger steamer Carolina" (Fig. 2 above). Perhaps the most colorful greeting came from Englebert Folda, who lived on Horseshoe Island just beyond the mouth of Eagle Harbor. C.W. Wiley described it this way. "As the Carolina came abreast of the little cove harbor on the south side of Horseshoe Island, [Folda] would come down to the pier and ... [salute] the ship's flag by firing a shot (from a small, cast-iron cannon] as she went by. In acknowledgement, (Captain McGarity] would return the salute with a proper blast from the ship's whistle." Another custom of McGarity's was to sound the ship's siren as he backed away from Anderson's Dock to make his turn and head north. People up to two miles away enjoyed hearing the sound echoing off the surrounding bluffs.


Fig. 3 - Coal smoke billows from the S.S. Carolina as it prepares to pull away from Anderson's Dock in Ephraim. Usually, Captain McGarity backed the ship out, then turned the bow to the south and swung the boat in a half circle as he continued his route northward. Coal-fired steam engines were notorious for belching dense clouds of smoke and soot when laboring. (Photo courtesy of Ephraim Foundation)

Maybe we tend to romanticize steamship days in Door County. No one wrote or talked about the garbage tossed overboard. And there's little mention of the soot that drifted down over both passengers and those waving goodbye-or the black coal smoke that poured forth from the funnel and enveloped village docks on windless days (Fig. 3). At the time, these probably seemed like minor problems. Maybe it's best to leave well enough alone. Let's go ahead and romanticize the good-old-days of steamships. After all, they did open up Door County to the outside world.

Sources: Elliott, J.L., 1967, Red Stacks Over The Horizon, Wm. Erdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan; Wiley, C.F., 1990, Did The Eagle Get You, Dr. Moss?, Wm Caxton, Sister Bay, Wisconsin; Frederickson, A.C. and L.F., 1963, Ships and Shipwrecks In Door County Wisconsin, Door Co. Pub. Co., Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Gustafson, M.A., 1985, Coming Of Steamer Carolina Was Big Event At Ephraim, Door County Advocate, July 11; McCummins, Alice., from an interview in 1978 taped by Jane Bielefeld.


How Did Oldtimers Survive Winter Without L.L. Bean?


t's early January, 12 degrees above zero, 3 :30 in the afternoon, time for our mile walk on Ephraim's unplowed back roads. After an early morning snow, the day is ending up clear and crisp. We discuss our winterwear. One of us is outfitted in a Patagonia pile jacket over a Woolrich lumberjack flannel shirt with a knit turtleneck underneath. The other wears a Gore-Tex jacket stuffed with prime goose down. Our pants are thick cords over thermal underwear. Polartec fleece hats protect our heads, and L.L. Bean's Mountain Pile Snow Walkers with 200 grams of Thinsulate insulation and 100% polyester fleece inside keep our feet warm. All high-tech stuff. As we walk, we talk about how quickly faces, hands, and feet chill when the temperature approaches zero, and as we near the Ephraim Moravian cemetery, our conversation turns to early settlers of Door County. How did people survive frigid winters in the old days? In the late 1800s and early 1900s they didn't just hole up in their cabins and houses until spring. They spent a fair amount of time outdoors. If winters in the old days were as bad as we hear, then how did local folks manage without L.L. Bean? After talking with some of them and a bit of reading, we found out they fared pretty well. The late Eldred Koepsel, farmer and co-founder of Koepsel's Farm Market, said hard work kept him warm outside in the wintertime. Just in case, however, he also wore "good woolen underwear and pants ," and rubber galoshes (the kind with buckles that were worn over shoes or boots) with a thick pair of wool socks underneath. By the 1940s, felt liners were available for rubber galoshes, which made them even warmer. Elda Smith (deceased), who like Eldred Koepsel was born and raised in the German community east of Ephraim, was 99 years old when she explained how she dealt with cold weather in the old days. "We

183 wore stocking caps and scarves and whatever you could tie around." She walked a mile and a half to school, even when it was below zero. If it was both bitterly cold and windy, her mother heated a stone or flatiron on the stove, then wrapped it in a blanket or piece of flannel. Her father hitched a horse to a sleigh, threw on some straw, loaded up the kids with the heated stone at their feet, and off they went. Elda always wore long underwear in the winter, but only the cotton kind, because wool underwear "was too itchy on the body." And nearly everyone wore mittens, because "finger gloves weren't warm enough." Most kids' mittens were knit, but it was possible to buy leather ones in Sister Bay. Elda said it was important to keep your feet warm, "because when your feet got cold you were cold all over." Folks who grew up staying warm during Door County winters knew the key to comfortable survival was the first layer-long underwear. The 1908 Sears catalogue listed a diverse assortment of winter underwear for both men and women (Fig. 1), with fabrics including cotton, camel's hair, wool, wooland-cotton mixture, and fleeceFig. 1 - Typical winter underwear styles lined. For $3.30 you could order shown in the 1908 Sears catalogue. the heaviest, most cold-resistant wool underwear known to man. Weighing 3-4 pounds, "Alaska Underwear" was designed for "hunters, prospectors, surveyors, farmers, and miners." Children were a different story. "We had so much fun we just didn't think about the cold," said Jon Kordon, a local dentist who attended the Pioneer School in Ephraim. A favorite winter activity was sledding down Highway Q. The kids began their run up near the present village administration building and launched their Flexible Flyers down the hill between the churches. With enough snow and just the right runway conditions, sleds could become airborne over the steep, snowcovered steps going down the hill next to the Hillside Hotel. Bundled up in his Mackinaw coat over several sweaters, wool stocking cap, heavy pants over long underwear, and buckled boots with thick socks, Jon

184 didn't pay much attention to the cold-especially when pulling the sled back up the steep hill for the next run. Hollis Wilson of Ephraim, now in his 90s, said that each winter he and his brothers got a heavy pair of high top leather boots from a shoemaker his father knew in Milwaukee. The boots , along with a sheepskin coat and other winter apparel, kept them pretty warm . He also remembers the downhill sled run described by Jon Kordon. In March, when the snow thawed and then froze again, Hollis said that it looked as if some of the sleds could "go about 60 miles an hour on that icy run ." It seems that veterans of long ago Door County winters survived cold weather in the same way we do today-by layering their clothing. They began with wool underwear, and after putting on warm wool socks and sturdy shoes, they sat in a chair or on the floor and tugged on rubber galoshes. Before buckling them up they carefully tucked pant legs into the boots . Sally Jacobson, Ephraim Foundation archivist, slipped plastic bread bags over her shoes and fastened them at the top with a rubber band. She said this provided extra protection against snow that might creep in over her boot tops when she was sledding. Chilblains, a swelling of the feet or hands due to frostbite, could be a problem. Sufferers soaked their numbed feet in warm water, or rubbed snow on them until the feeling returned, but as their feet thawed out, tingling and itching replaced the numbness. Hollis Wilson recalled rubbing his chilled feet against the school desk in front of him to thaw them out. Augusta Brungraber, who was raised on a farm a mile or so east of Ephraim in the German community, walked well over a mile to the one-room schoolhouse in Ephraim, and she claimed that in wintertime her feet never did thaw out during the school day. Thanks to fleece, wool , leather, fur , and heavy rubber boots, old timers managed very nicely. If Bunda's Store in Sister Bay or Anderson's Store in Ephraim didn 't have the cold weather apparel you needed, there was always the Sears Roebuck and Co. catalogue. In 1908, Sears offered basic fleece-lined kid mittens for 57¢ or the deluxe model made of genuine buckskin , with fleece-lining and "coney" fur at the wrist for 91¢ . "Dr. Wright's Celebrated Sanitary Fleece Lined Underwear" was available, top or bottom, for 84¢ . Warm caps of seal fur, guaranteed to keep the cold out, were just $1.32. Muskrat fur was more expensive. For those on a limited budget, corduroy caps with pull-down ear flaps were popular. Sears also sold flannel shirts , wool sweaters , and men's sheeplined duck and corduroy work coats. If you had the money and really wanted to keep the elements at bay, you could invest $4.44 in the "Lumbermen's King Sheep Lined Duck Coat with a Large Genuine Wombat Fur Collar." Wombat? In the 1902 catalog, Sears showed an entire coat made of "Extra Silver" wombat fur for $16 .00. The catalog claimed it to be the "best wearing and warmest fur coat manufactured" and pointed

185 out that "some manufacturers try to imitate genuine wombat coats by using colored sheepskin." By 1914, the price of the wombat coat had increased to $26.00 (Fig. 2), and Sears had expanded its fur coat line to include a "Jet Black Curley Dog Coat" for $20.00 (Fig. 2) and a Russian Buffalo calf coat for $25.00. Our XXXX Quality Silver Wombat Coat for $26.00.

Jet Black Curly Dog

Coat - $20

Fig. 2 - The handsome coat on the left is made from wombat pelts and the one on the right is made from dog pelts. Of the dog coat, Sears claimed: "This coat is not an ordinary black dog coat... it is made from jet black, curly dogskin, carefully selected ... thoroughly deodorized, (and) no offensive smell." (1924 Sears Catalogue)

Only well-to-do city folks, like some of those in Sturgeon Bay, could afford full-length fur coats. Most men living in Door County were farmers, and their winter coats were made of duck or corduroy lined with blanket material, although some wore patterned wool Mackinaw coats on special occasions. The 1908 Sears catalog featured boots that L.L. Bean would "invent" a few years later (Fig. 3). The Sears version had a sheepskin lining

186 and a rubber shoe part attached to a leather upper, all for $2.98. Leon Leonwood (no wonder he was called L.L.) Bean created his nearly identical boot in 1912. Today his 12 inch version sells for $89.50. Sears recommended their genuine "Detroit Alaska Lumbermen's Sock," all wool and with a double foot to ensure toasty feet even if you weren't a lumberman. They were pricey at 90¢ a pair, but the description suggested that lumbermen living in Detroit Alaska (wherever that is) apparently swore by them. Our investigation of winter wear in the old days was both disappointing and reassuring. We had to give up our image of oldtimers fighting the elements in raccoon caps, animal skins, scarves made of gunny sacks, and straw-lined Fig. 3 - Sears sold this waterboots. It was reassuring to find that they proof boot in 1908 for $2.98. dealt with cold in much the same way we do today. Sheepskin, furs, heavy flannel, wool apparel, and sturdy rubber boots, served nicely in the absence of Polartec, "thermal" underwear, Gore-tex, and Thinsulate. And we're happy that no wombats have to lay down their lives to make a Polartec coat. So what if Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean weren't around in the late 1800s and early 1900s? Sears Roebuck was there to keep people warm in wintertime, and when the new catalogue arrived, the old one was still useful-in the outhouse.

Sources: Sears catalogues of 1902, 1908, and 1914; interviews with Eldred Koepsel, Jon Kordon, Elda Smith, Hollis Wilson, and Augusta Brungraber.


It Rained Hellfire ... And Words Fail Us

Michigan 1,280,000 Acres Lost In The 1871 Fires



Lake :Michigan


Extent of the northeast Wisconsin fires of 1871 (dotted lines)

oseph Lasure was a typical farmer in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, near the state's northeastern corner. He had a wife and five children. The apple of his eye was his nine-year-old daughter, Floy, who was beautiful, bright, sweet-tempered, and the smartest child in her one-room school. When fire swept toward their farm, the Lasure family ran for their lives. Little Floy, who was small for her age, led the way, encouraging the


188 others to keep up with her. Floy's father carried the three-year-old and her mother clutched the baby. When her mother fell after managing to run almost 500 feet, her father had to put down the three-year-old to pick up the baby. Floy's 13-year-old brother then grabbed the three-yearold and ran for nearly a quarter of a mile before he too sank down, exhausted. Floy shouted words of encouragement to her family, but the inferno gained on all of them, and when Floy attempted to run over a strip of burning grass, her dress caught fire. The little girl became a screaming torch and she, her mother, and four brothers died quickly. Only her badly burned father managed to escape. The sight of his daughter burning to death haunted Joseph Lasure for the rest of his life. Scores of other families in northeast Wisconsin died just as quickly on the same day. It was October 8th, 1871. The past winter had brought little snow, and there had been few spring rains. In Wisconsin and other midwestern states, the dry, hot summer droned on into the fall. According to an extra issue of the Green Bay Advocate, small fires were seen on the horizon "night after night," and "by day the streets [were] filled with smoke, shutting in everything from sight." Even in southern Door County small brush fires were burning here and there. By late September a number of small swamps smoldered with peat burning underground, and forests began to crackle and pop with flame . Fueling the hundreds of small fires around the area were piles of brush left behind by loggers and by settlers who discarded tree limbs and their own brush alongside cleared land. In addition, piles of bark, slab wood , and sawdust at local sawmills grew increasingly drier as the summer wore on . Peshtigo, a booming town straddling the Peshtigo River, had a population of 2 ,800 and one of the largest sawmills in northeast Wisconsin. It was owned by the Peshtigo Lumber Company, which also operated a wooden utensil factory nearby. The factory was said to be the largest of its kind in the world, with 97 saws cutting 150,000 board feet of lumber each day. The sawmill and factory generated tons of waste wood and sawdust every month . "Sawdust was a given in Peshtigo and in every mill town, and people used every ingenious method possible to dispose of it. They shoveled sawdust over the village streets and roads, poured it under the sidewalk boards and the foundations of their houses and shops. They even stuffed bed-sized envelopes of coarse ticking fabric with [sawdust] to make mattresses" (from Gess and Lutz' book on the Peshtigo fire). In spite of efforts to find new uses for sawdust, great mounds of it accumulated in and around area sawmills. The big circular saws were driven by wood-fueled steam engines that regularly belched cinders, and a fire every now and then was a common occurrence. Usually they were

189 quickly extinguished, but in the fall of 1871 the dry countryside was a tinder box that spawned one small fire after another, started by wayward sparks, careless loggers and farmers, or workmen involved in building the new railroad. A correspondent for the Green Bay Advocate described a harrowing trip he made from Oconto to Peshtigo one evening in late September. The horses were forced to run to keep from being singed by fires burning nearby. As fires swept to the tops of tall trees, they made a hissing sound and their trunks became columns of fire. "Thousands of birds, driven from their roost, flew about as if uncertain which way to go, and made night hideous by their startled cries. Frequently they would fly hither and thither .. . then hovering for a moment in the air suddenly dart downward and disappear in the fiery furnace beneath ." During the last part of September and the first week of October, smoke and ash filled the air in northeast Wisconsin, and residents often resorted to placing wet cloths over their noses and mouths when they were outside. With the nighttime glow of fires visible in the distance , families thought about escape routes in case the fires came their way. Frank Noyes, editor of the Marinette and Peshtigo Eagle, tried to be optimistic and reported on September 30th that the fires ". .. have nearly died out now in this vicinity." Little did he know what was to come. Newspapers of the area tried to keep readers informed, but the news was always a day or so late and often inaccurate. By early October, the telegraph line from Green Bay north to Marinette was burned out and most of the news thereafter was by word of mouth. Firsthand reports came from those fleeing remote farms and settlements, and from travelers finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. On Sunday, October 8th, the air was heavy with smoke. Morning church services in Peshtigo went on as usual , with worshippers saying many anxious prayers. The morning was cool, but as the day wore on the temperature steadily increased and the southeasterly wind became brisker. By evening, residents began to feel hot gusts of wind. "About half past eight o'clock we could see there was a heavy fire to the southwest of [Peshtigo], and a dull roaring sound like that of heavy wind came up from that quarter," reported G.J. Tisdale in the Green Bay Advocate. By nine o'clock the wind had become a gale. With dropping barometric pressure and rapidly moving currents of superheated air, Peshtigo and other communities were caught in a tornado of fire. Tisdale wrote that "within twenty minutes of the time it struck the outskirts of town, everything was in flames." He was staying at the Peshtigo House Hotel when it caught fire, and he realized his only hope was to make it to the nearby Peshtigo River. As he ran out the door of the hotel, he was picked up by hot winds and thrown onto his head. He was blown off his feet numerous times before he managed, in a rain of fire and hot

190 sand, to throw himself into the river. The blowing sand was so hot it burned small blisters on his exposed skin. At about the same time, Reverend Peter Pernin was also thrown about by the tornadic winds as he tried to reach the river. The air, he later wrote, "was no longer fit to breathe, full as it was of sand, dust, ashes, cinders, sparks, smoke , and fire. " "A thousand discordant deafening noises rose on the air together. The neighing of horses, falling of chimneys, crashing of uprooted trees , roaring and whistling of the wind, crackling of fire as it ran with lightning-like rapidity from house to house .... " After being knocked down repeatedly by the whirlwinds, Pernin finally made it to the river, where he encountered b ewildered people and animals struggling to survive (Fig. 1) .

Fig. 1 - Detail from mural in the Peshtigo Fire Museum depicting the chaos as people and cattle sought shelter in the Peshtigo River.

Tisdale and Pernin shared the river with scores of men, women, children, cows, and livestock. They dodged burning logs floating with the current, pushed away dead and dying animals, and endured screams from all directions . Many were severely burned. Those who lived kept wet clothing over their heads as protection from the intense heat, and they intermittently submerged themselves to escape flaming embers .

191 Tisdale reported that "Within three hours of the time the fire struck the town, the site of Peshtigo was literally a sand desert, dotted over with smoking ruins." The big barn of the Peshtigo Lumber Company burned with over 50 horses in the stable . Only ashes and horseshoes remained. At the same time Peshtigo was disappearing, the firestorm was devastating Kewaunee County and moving up through southern Door County. Fires raced through New Franken, Forestville, and Brussels, heading northeast. Just south of Sturgeon Bay was the settlement of Williamsonville (originally called Williamson Brother's mill). The thriving little community of 76 people contained a sawmill, store, boarding house, large barn, a blacksmith shop, grist mill, and a number of houses and outbuildings. By the time the firestorm raged through Williamsonville, only 17 people remained and the buildings were smoldering embers. Historian Charles Martin helped drive a wagon load of supplies to the Williamson ville area on October 10th, two days after the fire . He describes his journey as a dreadful experience, for the air was stifling with dense smoke from still burning timber, mixed with odors of wild and domestic animals that had been roasted alive. But the journey was nothing compared to what they found at Williamsonville. "The sight was the most horrible imaginable! Dead bodies were strewn in all directions; and most all burned beyond recognition. Something like thirty-five bodies lay in one heap! Some had one or both legs burned off; another was an arm, while still another had the head or other parts burned to a crisp-men, women, and children composing the pile." Martin interviewed several survivors , who recalled "a sheet of fire that rolled along over the tree tops, then sparks came down as large and thick as rain drops ." Many rushed for the most open part of the cleared area, a potato patch, but nearly all were roasted to death. "It was there that thirty-five dead lay in one heap." One old woman sat under a wet blanket near where the group perished, and survived. A woman whose head rested against the lower part of the same wet blanket, but was not covered, died in the heat. "One of the most shocking reports concerned two men that endeavored to kill themselves by pounding their head against a stump, while they were fairly roasting!" Seven people sought refuge from the flames in a well-only five survived. Today Highway 42 passes through the middle of what was once Williamsonville. Located less than a mile south of Southern Door High School, Tornado Memorial Park is a memorial to the community that once occupied the site. Within a stone's throw of the highway stands the well in which seven people sought shelter from the flames. The human tragedies of the Peshtigo fire were far greater than those of the Chicago fire that occurred on exactly the same day. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 made news all over the country with 250 lives

192 lost. In Peshtigo, Williamsonville, and other northeast Wisconsin communities at least 2,400 square miles were burned and, officially, 1,500 lives were lost. The true number will never be known-people and communities were widely scattered, there were transient visitors to the area, and immigrants were coming and going. For years after the fire, charred bones of forgotten and unknown fire victims were found around the countryside and in what remained of forests. The actual number of lives lost in northeast Wisconsin probably exceeds 2,000 .

Fig. 2 - Fence marking the mass grave in the cemetery next to Peshtigo's Fire Museum, where 350 unidentified people are buried.

Today in Peshtigo a small museum memorializes those who died in the fire . Next to the museum is a cemetery where 350 unidentified victims of the fire lie in a mass grave (Fig. 2). The fire didn't leave much to display in the community's "holocaust museum." When asked, "Where are the artifacts of the fire?" Marian Elias , a curator at the museum, somberly pointed to a small display case just inside the museum's front door. It holds a charred pocket bible and a dime welded to a silver dollar by the intense heat (Fig. 3 below). Nearby are a few other relics from the fire-a clump of charred wood, a small porcelain dog, a china pie plate cracked by the fire , a toy sewing machine, and a very large bible found floating in the Peshtigo River several days after the inferno. That's about all that remained, except for another bible found open to Psalm 106: "Oh praise the Lord for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever." Since the fire left so little to recover, the museum presents unburned clothing, implements, utensils, and other reminders of everyday life from the turn of the century that have nothing to do with the great fire . The museum relies on literature and murals to provide the graphic

193 detail necessary to understand why the Peshtigo Fire is considered to be one of America's most destructive natural disasters. The powerful murals are the work of Sheboygan artist Luanne Harff-Burchinal, who painted them in the 1970s. They portray the chaos created by the fire, including a scene near the bridge across the Peshtigo River. Vivid red and yellow colors depict a wall of fire in the background, with flames outlining a horse in the Fig. 3 - A small pocket bible (left) found after right foreground struggling to the fire and a dime welded to a silver dollar found in the rubble of the burned drug store. keep from falling off the bridge (Fig. 4) . It took the artist four months to complete the work, and she said, "I put my whole art education in that painting-it is the most dramatic piece I have ever done."

Fig. 4 - The main wall mural at the Peshtigo Fire Museum. The oil painting was created by artist/designer Luanne Harff-Burchinal of Sheboygan. The artist said her work was greatly influenced by the French Romanticists, Eugene Delacroix and Theadore Gericault.

Of all the words written about the firestorm, little mention is made of the emotional scars the survivors carried to their graves. Many would never discuss what they saw and heard on October 8 th, some retreated

194 into themselves and became reclusive, and some lost their minds completely. What's to be learned from the great fires of 1871? Why should we assault our sensibilities with such grim stories of destruction? One reason is to honor the memory of the people of Williamson ville and Peshtigo, who are part of local history. Their fate reminds us of the fragility of humankind. Another reason is to recognize that compared to the forces of nature, man exercises only limited control over his environment. The fires of 1871 that burned northeast Wisconsin defy description. "Exaggeration would be utterly impossible," said one eyewitness. Writers have labored to convey the horror of the firestorm, but always with inadequate results. It was, literally, a time when hellfire rained down on innocent people. And words fail us ...

Sources: Gess, D., and W. Lutz, 2002, Firestorm at Peshtigo, Henry Holt and Co., New York; Holand, H.R., 1917, History of Door County, Wisconsin, Vol. 1, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago; Leschak, P.M., 2002, Ghosts of the Fireground, Harper Collins, San Francisco; Martin, C.I., 1881, History of Door County, Wisconsin, Expositor Job Print, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Pernin, Rev. Peter, 1971, The Great Peshtigo Fire: An Eyewitness Account, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 54; Wells, R.W., 1968, Embers of October, first published by Prentice-Hall, Inc. and reprinted by the Peshtigo Historical Society in 1995; Great Fire at Peshtigo, 1871, Green Bay Advocate, September 27; The Great Chicago Fire, 1871, Green Bay Advocate, October 12; Great Fire at Peshtigo, 1871, Green Bay Advocate Extra, October 13; Great Northern Fire, Green Bay Advocate, November 2; The Great Peshtigo Fire, Pamphlet distributed by the Peshtigo Historical Museum; Scorched Earth: The Great Peshtigo Fire Remembered, 1998, compiled by Rich Christianson with the aid of personnel at the Peshtigo Fire Museum (via the Internet); Letter from Nora Hodgins, a survivor of the fire at Peshtigo, to her sister, dated October 13, 1871, copy provided by Marian Elias, Peshtigo Fire Museum.


Joe Wildcat Proprietor of Castle Romance

" H e was one of the oddest characters ever known here," read his obituary in the 1909 Door County Democrat, and no one who knew him would dispute it. From his outlandish clothes to his fondness for skunks to his quirky hotel, there wasn't much that was conventional about Joe Mardin. Nearly everyone called him Joe Wildcat, because his hobby was trapping and capturing wildcats. During his spectacular wildcat captures, he threw an old coat over the surprised animal and with his long hair flying, flung himself on top of it. Amidst hissing, clawing, swearing, and kicking he wrestled the wildcat into submission. He enjoyed keeping a few of the critters in captivity-but not in cages, as would be expected. After putting collars on them, he staked them out on his property to function as "watch cats." Joe Wildcat showed up in Door County sometime after the Civil War and bought himself a farm. He eventually lost it and subsequently purchased 43 acres at Shivering Sands, about eight mile s north of Sturgeon Bay. He lived out on his property and enjoyed occasional trips into Sturgeon Bay, where he'd visit with friends or mount a soap box to expound on his experiences in the Civil War, where he had served briefly in the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. For his trips to town, he wound bright ribbons around his knee britches and covered the front of his old army jacket with a colorful profusion of badges and society pins. To top it all off, he braided his black hair that reached halfway down his back and tied the braids "with as many gaudy ribbons as a backwoods girl's at her first dance ," according to historian H.R. Holand (Fig. 1). His appearance alone was enough to stop traffic , but that wasn't the extent of the commotion he caused . Thanks to his affection for skunks, a smelly cloud of unmistakable origin announced his presence as he made his way down the streets of Sturgeon Bay.

196 Joe's enthusiasm for skunks culminated in 1904 when he hatched the plan of sending several crates of live skunks to the World's Fair in Chicago. No one knows why the captain of a Goodrich liner agreed to take them aboard, but they weren't with him for long. As soon as the ship left the harbor and began rolling on the waves of the open lake , the annoyed skunks responded in a predictable fashion. The equally annoyed captain responded by dumping the lot overboard. Despite his many eccentricities and a lack of formal education, Joe Mardin was plenty smart. Frank Long, editor of the Door County Advocate, was his friend, and Holand referred to Joe as "The Sage of Shivering Sands." At town hall debates, he would take on all comers on any topic and usually win, but a tendency to dream and think unrealistically were often his undoing. In the early 1900s Joe's intelligence and his unrealistic dreams combined to result in one of Door County's most unlikely ventures-the saga of Castle Romance. The man who many considered only a colorful oddity was one of the first to sense the possibilities of Door County tourism and one of the first to try to capitalize on it. Typically, his plan was impractical. He wanted to build a 500-room hotel on his property on Shivering Sands Creek, along with a marina that would require dredging the creek between Lake Michigan and Dunes Lake , a distance of at least a mile and a half. A lack of credibility, as well as numerous other obvious problems, caused to him to dramatically scale back his dream. Nevertheless, he did manage to build a hotel, Fig. 1 - Joe Wildcat Mardin, all dressed but the edifice he constructed defied up and ready to go to town. (From Holand) every conventional notion of what a hotel should be. Joe put up his three-story building in an idyllic spot on the shore of Shivering Sands Creek, not far from the edge of Lake Michigan. Working with a limited or possibly non-existent budget, he built his hotel out of

197 driftwood and planks he picked up along the lake shore . Some of the wood was lumber that washed up after falling off passing ships. Holand explained that the wood and logs were "lightly trimmed with an axe and then solidly fastened together with huge spikes, bolts and twisted irons in the fashion of a breakwater crib or mountain castle." "It was one of the queerest constructed buildings to be found in this state," said the Door County Democrat. Joe named it Castle Romance and planned to open it in May, 1906. Castle Romance had a long way to go before it lived up to its name. On the first floor, Joe kept his pigs and some say he installed his flock of ducks on the second. The third floor was intended for tourists and featured several iron beds and an old square piano. There is no evidence, however, that any vacationers checked into Castle Romance. The building was troubled from the start, first with weasels and skunks that wanted to share the living space and next with a dangerous tilt. Joe built the hotel on the shivering sandy site without a foundation, and soon it began to list and sag as it shifted toward the creek. It was an object of interest and curiosity but unsafe as a lodging for tourists and almost certainly, unappealing to potential guests. Although his dream of making a name for himself in the tourist industry slid away with his outlandish hotel, Joe was able to live in Castle Romance until the end of his life at age 74. Exactly three years after the hotel was scheduled to open, a neighbor dropped by and found Joe's body-seated in a rocking chair with his feet in the oven. It seemed fitting that Joe Wildcat, who had lived an unconventional life, should leave it in an unconventional fashion.

Sources: Holand, H.R., 1917, History of Door County, Wisconsin, Vol. 1, S .. J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago; Lotz, M.M., 1994, Discovering Door County's Past, Holly House Press, Fish Creek, Wisconsin; Interview with Orv Schopf (Sturgeon Bay), who is writing a book on Joe Mardin entitled

Tinker, Thinker, Stinker.


Chambers Island: Sweet Dreams And Harsh Realities

erhaps it could be called a paradise. With 19 miles of shoreline, a 500-acre lake, and dense hardwood forests, Chambers Island appears to float serenely on Green Bay. But looks can prove deceiving. The history of this 3,200-acre "paradise" reveals that although the island has been home to a surprising variety of people and enterprises, except for one, none lasted. The Potowatomi called it Nakomah. They and other Native American tribes inhabited the island , left burial mounds, and then , like the island's succeeding occupants, moved on. It became known as Chambers Island in 1816 when Colonel John Miller, in command of an exploratory expedition, named it in honor of one of his officers, Captain Talbot Chambers. Although explorers and missionaries stopped regularly at the island in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was 1837 before the first known white settler, a Quaker named Stephen Hoag, arrived. Settlers from the British Isles and the eastern United States soon joined him . Primarily boat-builders, lumbermen, and fishermen, they chose the island because transportation by water was the most efficient way to get their products to market. Island life was precarious, but these first pioneers managed to subsist on fish, venison, and produce from their gardens. Slowly the settlement grew, and by the 1860s it had become a thriving village of 250 people with a post office , school, sawmill, and small shipyard. The austerity of the early days eased , and residents had time for tea parties, sewing circles, and dances. In 1868 the U.S. Government recognized the importance of Chambers Island when it constructed a lighthouse on 56 acres of land purchased from an island resident for $250 . The lighthouse was nearly identical to Eagle Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park, the only difference being a square tower


199 on Eagle Lighthouse and an octagonal tower on Chambers Island Lighthouse (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - View of the lighthouse and associated buildings on Chambers Island. (Photo courtesy of John and Donna Thenell)

During the 1850s and early 1860s, Chambers Island was the site of an extraordinary shipbuilding venture. Captain David Clow (also written Clough), an experienced boat-builder and sailor, moved to the island in the early 1850s and established a tiny shipyard. There , he and his wife, Sarah, began construction of a remarkable ship. David and Sarah cut trees themselves and sawed them into planking with a whipsaw (a two-person saw, five to seven feet long). They pinned the boat together using wooden nails and very little iron. Construction took seven years, and in 1862 they launched the result of their labors-a two-masted schooner, 120 feet long, proudly named the Sarah Clow. It was the largest sailing vessel yet built in Door County and one of the largest on the Great Lakes. Captain Clow used his ship to haul grain and other freight, but just one year after its launching, the schooner went aground on the shore of Lake Erie. The insurance company declared it a total loss, paid off Clow, and abandoned the wreck. He bought it back for $10. With the help of his crew, he re-floated the vessel, and after repairing it, jubilantly sailed back to Chambers Island. The Clows sold the schooner in 1866, and it met its ultimate demise in 1869 during a monstrous storm that swept the Great lakes . By the 1890s, as primitive roads were established on the Door Peninsula, families began abandoning Chambers Island for a lessconfining life on the mainland. The island village rapidly dwindled and eventually disappeared. Leathern Smith of Sturgeon Bay purchased a

large part of the island and harvested more than 20 million board feet of white pine. Much of this lumber was used for construction of the original Sturgeon Bay Bridge since the fine, straight trees made ideal bridge pilings. When Smith had finished logging, Fred Dennett arrived on the scene. He was a man with dreams and plans-and he had the financial means with which to realize them. By 1898 he had bought up the entire island, except for the lighthouse tract. As president of Wisconsin Chair Company of Sheboygan, he had a use for the island's remaining hardwood trees. But he saw far beyond financial gain. He dreamed of an island paradise, a utopia. Dennett's dream began with the construction of a lodge and several other beautiful buildings (Fig. 2) on the north shore of Lake Mackaysee. One of two lakes on Chambers Island, spring-fed Lake Mackaysee is six to eight feet higher than the surrounding waters of Green Bay and contains two islands of its own.

Fig. 2 - The Dennetts' lodge on the shore of Lake Mackaysee. The steps lead down to the lake. (Photo courtesy of John and Donna Thenell)

The Dennett family and numerous guests spent each summer on the island, imparting an air of luxury and sophistication. Their lodge had electricity, supplied by a gas generator, and each bedroom had hot and cold running water. A staff of servants, including a chef, was in residence. A lover of Shakespeare, Dennett had the walls of his dining room

201 decorated with scenes from Shakespeare's plays, and he named one of his boats As You Like It. One summer he attempted to raise a flock of 8,000 White Pecan Ducks on Chambers Island (Fig. 3), figuring that Lake Mackaysee was an ideal duck habitat. As the owner of Door County Farms in Ellison Bay, he had demonstrated the importance of sustainable agriculture decades before it became a fashionable concept, but the duck experiment was not a success and the venture proved unprofitable.

Fig. 3 - Fred Dennett's flock of White Pecan Ducks in their pens near the shore of Lake Mackaysee on Chambers Island. (Photo courtesy of John and Donna Thenell)

When Dennett died in 1922, his daughter inherited the island and for four years operated a fashionable girls' camp there. Upkeep of the island, however, became too costly, and Fred Dennett's dream of an island paradise gave way to reality when the family sold Chambers Island to a group of Chicago investors in 1926. Calling themselves The Chambers Island Company, the investors planned to develop the island into an exclusive resort community. They promised a golf course, yacht harbor, swimming beach, 1,000-acre game preserve, clubhouse with dining room, bridle paths, shops, and stores . Marketed as easily accessible by plane from Chicago, they proposed a large airfield and hanger. No private cars were to be allowed on the island. By 1928 the developers had printed up an elaborate, coffee-table size prospectus featuring a detailed map (Fig. 4) . The prospectus show-


Fig. 4 (above) - A map shown in Sylvan Chambers Island, a fancy prospectus produced in 1928 by the Chambers Island Association, which proposed developing the island. A business district is shown, along with airstrips, a game preserve, park, and a "forest primeval." (Courtesy of Ephraim Foundation)

Fig. 5 (right) - A proposed summer home, as shown in the Chambers Island prospectus. The wording below the drawing says: "This invigorating surcease from the tension of towns is far away in spirit. But nearby in miles and minutes." (Courtesy of Ephraim Foundation)

1'A l1:11~i111m11/n1'.Jll•N',!11(>/ li>ll1U(t{m /J~"Of

In 'pin1, !Ji.1 •k