W A U P A C A S I T E S A N D S T O R I E S
Waupaca Junior Historians
“That which thy father olde hath left the to posses, doe
thou earlie holde to show his worthynesse.”
This small guidebook has been prepared to aid you in your tour of Waupaca’s Historical Sites.
One hundred years ago, in 1857, a small rural settlement, known as “The Falls”, became the village of Waupaca. This year, 1957, Waupaca celebrates one hundred years of progressive growth.
One fine site which is not mentioned in this text is the Waupaca Centennial House, now located at South Park. This home, formerly located at the corner of Franklin and Fulton Streets, is one of the oldest buildings in Waupaca. The Waupaca Historical Society has had the building moved to its present site, where it will serve as a museum.
The research for this pamphlet was done by many junior historians. The site markers were made under the direction of Mr. John Morgan, Industrial Arts Instructor, by Gerald Stearns, Bob Montgomery, Gordon Behm, Alan and Ronald Johanknecht, and John Fallgatter. Judy Anderson, Class of ’58, is the Student Editor. Especial thanks are due Mrs. Meroe Anderson for typing and assembling this book.
American History Teacher
Before Waupaca acquired the first real public library, the only collection of books actually in circulation was that of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
In 1899, the Monday Night Club, in conjunction with the Women’s Club, aroused public interest in a library. A town meeting – in the Court House – formed a Library Board. The board rented the back room over the post office, which is now the Firestone Store. Bookcases, tables, and chairs were donated and the library opened with one thousand books.
Miss Winifred Bailey was the librarian from 1899-1909; then Miss Mary Benlick served until 1950. The present librarian is Mrs. Nina Smith.
The library remained over the post office for fifteen years until Attorney John Hart, a member of the board, applied to the Carnegie Foundation. The necessary requirements were met and the library was dedicated in June, 1914.
The Methodist Church
While visiting his brother, Silas Miller, a Methodist minister, preached the first sermon in Waupaca in the year 1850.
Soon thirty-six people gathered together under the leadership of the Reverend L.S. Hayward to form the first church in Waupaca, which became a member of the Fox River District of the Methodist Church.
The congregation grew fast and in 1853 it had sixty members. A place where they could meet every Sunday was necessary, so a small white frame building with a large bell tower was constructed. It was dedicated on the tenth of February, 1854.
Services were very long, usually from two to three hours, followed by Sunday School. There was always an evening service and very often an afternoon service.
Each family rented a certain pew, in which they were to sit each Sunday.
Church Records, Mrs. Alton Hansen Bill Suits
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
According to the Episcopal Church records, Bishop Kemper held a service in the M.H. Sessions house in 1856. The “Little Brown Church”, as it was first called, was built and consecrated in 1863. It was located on Jefferson Street on the present site of the Modern Garage. After the fire of 1904, in which the old opera house and the church were destroyed, its location was changed to the corner of Main and Randall Streets. The lot on which it now stands was donated by Mr. E.L. Browne.
In May, 1856, Reverend M.F. Sorenson from Mishawaka, Indiana, was called to be the first pastor of St. Marks. He remained here for fourteen years. Because he spoke Danish, he was able to talk to and help many Danish settlers.
In the fall of 1956, St. Mark’s celebrated its centennial.
The Mead Murder
October 7, 1882, was a cold, rainy night … a perfect night for a murder!
H.C. Mead, the eccentric proprietor of the Mead Bank, located on Jefferson Street near the present office of Mr. Tom Browne, had the odd habit of doing most of his work at night. After supper on October 7, Banker Mead returned to his office. While he had been eating, someone had cut the screen from the window which was located in the back of the building. It is assumed that while Mr. Mead was working the murderers climbed in through the window, hit him over the head and proceeded to rob him. Mr. Mead must have regained consciousness and recognized the murderers, thus making it necessary for them to kill Mead so that he could not identify them.
The next day, when he didn’t go to the hotel to eat, one of the waitresses went over to the bank to investigate. She found him shot through the head. The waitress who found Banker Mead used to tell my grandmother about the incident.
Though many men were accused, nothing could be proven. The Vandecar Trial in 1883 ended in acquittal. The murderers still remain … unknown!
The first post office was started in 1850, with E. Sessions as Post Master. Some authorities say that Captain David Scott was the first. The mail route at this time ran from Green Bay to Plover; O.E. Druetzer was carrier.
Before this time the nearest post office was at Oshkosh, so John Vaughn went there to get the mail. Later Captain Jack ran a sailboat from Oshkosh up the Wolf River to Gill’s Landing, until the water froze and the boat was ruined. He charged five cents each way for letters and two cents for newspapers.
Of course, the post office needed a name, so the townsmen wrote to the Post Master to have it named Waupaca. Because Weyauwega had already spoken for this name, we almost had to take another. After some bickering, Weyauwega settled for its present name and our post office was christened Waupaca.
The post office has had but four locations, the first being where Albert Kreeger’s Barber Shop is now located. Next it was in the present Bammel’s Furniture Store an then the Firestone Hardware Store. Waupaca is now one of the few fortunate cities of its size to have its present Federal Building, which was built in 1939.
De Danskes’ Hjem
The Danes’ Home was organized on January 6 1877, by eleven men or social and literary purposes. It was located at the east end of the hill that runs along Granite Street. A lot was purchased from Mr. Demerest for $600.
At this time Waupaca was having a new courthouse constructed. The people who belonged to the Danish organization bought the old courthouse and used it as a social center and library.
As the Danish population grew larger, the building committee hired contractor Hans Knutsen to build a new home. This building was completed in March of 1894. It contained a lodge room, library, theater and dance hall. The Danes’ Home had a library of one thousand volumes and a membership of three hundred at one time. By 1940 there were only thirty-two members.
In 1945 the Danes’ Home was closed and today it is used for business purposes.
The City Hall
The first City Hall was located on North Main Street. Conrad Gmeiner built the new City Hall on the same site in the same year. The mayor at that time was A.G. Nelson. The old City Hall was moved to Jefferson Street next to the Friberg’s car lot. This building was used as a fire department.
The First Courthouse
The location of the first courthouse in the City of Waupaca was that of the present bandstand in Courthouse Square. In 1855, when it was built, this building was the mot important one in the city, for it represented Waupaca’s claims to the county seat and al the benefits that went with it.
It may seem strange, but Courthouse Square itself was once offered for sale for $2.50 and was not bought because the townspeople had spent all of their money on other land. The land, however, was bought and donated to the city, which granted a perpetual lease to the county.
This original building was replaced in 1881 with the present courthouse because of a need for more room. After it was used as the Danes’ Home at the end of North Main Street, the old courthouse was moved to its present location next to the river on Mill Street, where it is now used as a second-hand store.
The Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church
A meeting was called of all Danish people in this vicinity to organize a congregation. They met, adopted a constitution, and the name “Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church of Waupaca” was adopted. July 1, 1872, Reverend R. Andersen was installed as first pastor. The following year a church was erected on Mill Street. The church was then named the Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church because the cornerstone ceremonies were held on June 1, 1873, Pentecost Sunday. This building later became the Waupaca-Green Bay Depot, and is now the storage warehouse for the Gray Czeskleba Oil Company.
In the spring of 1878 there was a division of the congregation, and some of the members with-drew to organize Our Savior’s Scandinavian Lutheran Church.
In the fall of 1904 the old church building was sold and money was subscribed for a new church, which was built on the corner of Waupaca and Maple Streets. This building served the congregation until later consolidation of the two Lutheran congregations. Then it was sold to the Assembly of God congregation.
The Baxter School, with Mrs. Theodora Thompson LeGro as the first teacher, was located on the corner of Oak and Ware Streets. Mrs. LeGro was paid $1.25 per week; the parents paid according to the number of children sent. The school opened in the summer of 1851 and there were twenty-one pupils in attendance.
The Parish sisters came from Vermont in 1855. They conducted a private school for one year and then married Mr. Browne and Mr. Lord.
In 1856, Dr. Cutting Marsh conducted a Ladies’ Seminary in his home. Miss Hebard, who came from Attica, New York, and Miss Stede were teachers in the seminary.
The Union High School, which was located where the present high school is, was built in 1867. The present high school was built in 1912. Two of the most famous teachers were Duncan MacGregor, in 1861, and George Watson, present State Superintendent of Schools.
Grand Army Home
The Grand Army Home for Veterans was formed for the purpose of providing a home for disabled veterans of the Civil War, their wives, their widows, and their mothers. Plans for the home were originated at the Department Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic at Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1884. In 1887, the present site was selected from among many offers. This land was a gift from the generous citizens of Waupaca.
In 1886 the Home had a capacity for fifty members and by 1923 the enrollment had jumped to 418. This was mainly due to the increase in buildings. From eight in 1888 the number had been increased to eighty-six in 1924.
Laws have been amended, permitting the entrance of veterans of the other national conflicts. In 1952, with the addition of many more buildings, the capacity had reached its peak of 496. The Home now consists of 136 acres of land and 110 buildings.
An Interesting Anecdote
The old Waupaca High School was condemned and sold to Sam J. Lollin, my great uncle, for the sum of $100.
There were old white pine timbers about one foot square and over fifty feet long. They were not sawed but were hewed with a broad axe. The joints were made by drilling holes and using wooden pegs instead of the present day spikes and bolts.
My father says these timbers are very sound material in his barn today.
By Mrs. Rob Holly
I remember when there were so many passenger pigeons that when they flew above they looked like one big cloud. They were beautiful, big pigeons.
About seventy-five years ago, two men brought three or four grain sacks full of these birds to our farm. The men had killed them all and were bringing them to my father to try to get rid of them. But, he asked what had happened to them. They said they had just thrown things at them and they fell. I felt awful about this, and my father said, “It just isn’t right.” It was on this day that I learned my first lesson on conservation.
Now there are none of these pigeons left. In the 1900’s there was one left in a zoo. People looked all over trying to find a mate for this bird. They didn’t find one and finally the pigeon died. Now, as far as we know, they are all gone.
Told to Sandra Vaughn and Nancy Brown
Traveling to Waupaca
Grandpa said that when he used to go to town with a load of potatoes, he would start out real early in the morning and wouldn’t get back until late at night.
He would take the horses and when he got part way up Rural Hill, he would have to block the wheels and let the horses rest. Otherwise, they couldn’t make it.
When they got to town, they would take their horses to the barn where the armory is now. Here they would be fed for a quarter while Grandma did some shopping.
Then, on the way home, they’d have to be really careful on Rural Hill, so that the wagon wouldn’t run the horses over. They only went to town about once a month.
This is where we live now. We can go to town now in fifteen minutes.
A Young Girl’s Remembrance
By Mrs. Louis Miller
I can’t remember if this Indian I knew as a little girl of seven was Chief Waupaca or his brother. His name was Swan’s Choppie Dog. He lived in a little cabin about two or three miles from our home.
On the way home from the village of Marion he would stop at our house. Sometimes he would just sit silently on the porch for hours and then he would point to a flying bird and say, “See Shied Pok.”
One evening while we were having supper, I saw him take three heaping teaspoons of sugar in his coffee. I wanted to tell him not to use that much because we couldn’t afford it. My mother always let us have only a small amount of sugar.
Sometimes Choppie Dog would leave without saying a word.
Told to Kay Miller
There was a horse trough in the Courthouse Square where the horses were brought to water. Sometimes the water would spill out and then ducks would come and swim on it. This was where the Information Booth is now located.
In the spring, even though it was forbidden, some of the boys would break off ice cakes and float down the river as far as the Fisher-Fallgatter Mill.
One day during a big celebration in town, somebody brought a preserved whale in a big box. They kept it down by the Soo Line Depot and charged ten cents to see it. The odor of it was horrid, but all of the children in town went to see it.
Mr. A…. was the owner of a gas company in town. He had two sons. The car barn where the street car was kept was located on Oak Street. One day, Mr. A’s two sons went down there; one boy dared the other to drive the car. He thought he knew how, so he started the car and drove it right through the barn door.
The old high school was just covered with tar paper. It had an old pot-bellied stove. When it was really cold, everyone would sit around the stove and give book reports. Each student would ring a hot brick wrapped in newspaper to keep their feet warm.
By Mrs. C.J. Schrock
One of the first families to settle in the area of Dayton was the Dayton family. It seemed that every month Mr. Dayton had to travel through the wilderness to Berlin, where he bought supplies.
Once, when he went to Berlin for supplies, Mrs. Dayton was waiting for him to return and, after a number of days, she decided to got out into the woods to see if she could hear his wagon approaching. During this time, she happened to lean against a tree and just as she did so, something clawed at her arm. It ripped her flesh quite badly. This thing turned out to be a wild cat.
Told to Ray Moeller
An Early Automobile
Will you stop your busy life for just a few minutes and go back fifty years with me? There were no radios, no T.V., few telephones and few electric lights. There were no blacktop or concrete roads and only two cars in Waupaca!
The driver of one car, my father, was a stern, tall man with a heavy mustache. On this bright, hot Sunday afternoon he decided to take us for a ride to Weyauwega. He wore a long yellow duster and a straw hat and gloves. He always had a black cigar in his mouth. Oh, yes, he carried a gold-headed cane. The car, his pride and joy, was one of the first Red Ramblers. It had tiny wheels, a crank on the side and of course, no top or windshield. The seats were built high and no doors were needed.
My mother wore a long white dress, smartly fitted, a huge leghorn hat, tied on with a long chiffon scarf which was so long that the ends traveled behind us as we drove along.
My two sisters and a girl friend from Chicago were elegantly dressed with many laces and frills and big hats.
I was three years old and dressed in a blue sailor suit, high button shoes, and a big straw hat with an elastic under my chin.
By today’s standards, weren’t we a funny looking lot?
We all got into the car and with our heads held high and pride sticking out all over my dad, we sailed out of town at two miles an hour. It was blistering hot and the sand was ten inches deep in lots of places. We went fine for about three miles. Then something happened to the Rambler. My father fussed and looked and tinkered and took his duster off, puffed harder on his cigar and became more and more cross. The girls asked questions, got in the way and were roundly scolded. I was tired and cried. There were no garages and no one to call to help my father in his trouble. My mother could take it no longer, so we walked home. Mother carried me most of the way, and it was hard plodding in the weeds and sand. We came home in a far different mood. However, it never daunted my father for his Rambler was a wonderful car.
Who am I? Alton Hansen from the Machine Shop on Jefferson Street.
Told to Betty Call