The change from summer to fall always reminds me of leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. With more than a dozen huge oak trees in our back yard in Sun Prairie, we always had mountains of leaves to romp through during fall. On windy days, the air in our back yard was filled with falling leaves. Before the days we had to help rake and bag the leaves, we dove into the pile with reckless abandon.
My own children had a similar experience in our first home on the north side of Racine. We had maple and apple trees that left plenty of seasonal detritus across the landscape. I have some precious video (see below) of our oldest, Stevie, running through the leaves at my childhood home in about the year 1995.
Fall always meant trips to the pumpkin farm, huddling around the fire pit on the back deck, picking fresh apples at local orchards, and of course getting the snowblower tuned up and ready for winter. It is a season of change, of color, of transitions. As the years pass, it also becomes a season of reflection and wistfulness.
Whether by voluntary enlistment or draft, the Civil War that began in April 1861 took fathers and sons away for years — and sometimes forever.
Michael Kennedy of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, was in the first wave of men to enlist after President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to defend the Union. The son of Sylvester and Mary Kennedy joined the 16th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment at Camp Randall in Madison on November 21, 1861. The regiment mustered into service on January 31, 1862 and left the state on March 13 en route to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. After several days encampment along the Tennessee River, the 16th Wisconsin was attached to the Sixth Division, Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Brigadier Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss.
Early on April 6, Capt. Edward Saxe of the 16th Wisconsin’s Company A was ordered to make an advance toward the Confederate line. Within a short distance, an enemy volley killed Saxe and Sgt. John Williams. Thus opened the deadly Battle of Shiloh. The Battle of Shiloh went down in the annals of war as one of the bloodiest ever fought. It was a turning point for the Union. For much of the day, a desperate battle raged back and forth between Union and Confederate forces.
“The rebel hordes were coming on in front and flank, rolling up great columns like the waves of the ocean,” wrote Pvt. David G. James. Companies were moved in and out as ammunition and supplies ran short. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant told Gen. Prentiss if he could hold his position until sundown the army would be safe. Prentiss and his troops held until 5:30 p.m., when they were surrounded and more than 1,000 men taken prisoner. April 6 closed “at that time the bloodiest battle ever fought on the American continent,” James wrote. Prentiss’ Sixth Division suffered 236 killed and 928 wounded, in addition to the 1,008 captured.
At some point in wild battle, Kennedy was seriously wounded and captured by Confederate forces. Union troops were not able to recover bodies or make a full accounting of the missing until April 7, 1862. Kennedy was held prisoner at Corinth, Mississippi, where he died from his wounds on April 26, 1862. He was 20 years old.
We don’t know how much the captivity contributed to Kennedy’s death. Confederate prison camps were notorious for squalid conditions and severe mistreatment of Union soldiers. Kennedy was one of 39 soldiers from the 16th Wisconsin who later died from wounds sustained in the Battle of Shiloh. Overall, the 16th Wisconsin suffered 62 dead and 189 wounded in the battle. Kennedy is buried at Sacred Hearts Cemetery.
In every community you will find inspiring stories of courage, faith and perseverance. And so it was the case when I researched the 1863 founding of my hometown parish, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The project lasted several months, and turned up many fascinating stories from the mission-territory days of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.
Full confession (pun intended): I served as an altar boy for years at Sacred Hearts in the 1970s, and graduated in spring 1978 from the fine Sacred Hearts School. The current church, the third edifice in parish history, has some of the most stunning stained-glass windows you will find outside of a cathedral. That’s what initially drew me to the history of Sacred Hearts.
So what did I learn?
The church was founded during the second expansion of Catholicism in Wisconsin (the first being black-robed Jesuit missionaries who explored the territory in the 1600s). Much of the area at the time was untamed wilderness, now being colonized by immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe.
The early missionary priests rode circuits hundreds of miles long, often saying Mass in private homes or rustic buildings with no roof. Father Martin Kundig, an indefatigable traveler and founder of many Catholic parishes in Michigan and Wisconsin, had an uplifting experience in 1843. The faithful gathered in a private home for Mass overloaded the floor, and everyone except Father Kundig crashed into the cellar. The people reached up and supported the priest, standing on a narrow plank, so he could finish saying Mass.
These pioneers led often difficult lives. The John Sprengel family lost three children to diphtheria within one week in 1882. Emerand Aschenbrucker lost his first wife during the birth of their daughter, Anna, in February 1867. Nicholas Mosel lost his wife to typhoid fever at age 54. The church brought comfort to these grieving families, offering the sacraments and a reverent burial for the departed.
The Civil War affected every aspect of life during Sacred Hearts’ early years. Two young parishioners died during their wartime service, including one who was wounded in the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and died in a Confederate prison camp. Another died on a furlough in 1864. He was just 15. A third was wounded in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in June 1864.
When you set out to research a topic, you never know just what you will find. I found a very fascinating story in the “Catholic Pioneers on the Prairie,” which is what I titled the 28-page e-book that grew out of my research. I invite you to read the whole thing at Catholic Pioneers. View it online or download the e-book as a PDF file.
In the winter of 1966 or 1967, a young father designed and hand-crafted an outdoor nativity scene to decorate the family home in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. David D. Hanneman (1933-2007) painted the set freehand and put it on display just under the garage window of his home on Wisconsin Avenue. The nativity scene was a fixture at the home in those early years, but eventually was put in storage and forgotten.
Forty years later, after David Hanneman died, the badly weathered Nativity figures were rescued from a trash can in the garage. Over the next 18 months they were restored to almost original condition and put on display in the Village of Mount Pleasant.
The original backers and braces were removed from the cutout figures of St. Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus. New 1-inch-thick plywood backers were crafted with a jigsaw, then glued to the figures and anchored with wood screws. Heavy L-shape stabilizing braces were screwed into the backers to give the figures sufficient weight to withstand winter winds.
Samantha J. Hanneman, David Hanneman’s granddaughter, did most of the paint restoration work. With a special set of art brushes, she applied metallic gold and flat black paint to maintain the original look. Touch up paint was applied sparingly to the faces and hands of the figures to keep the hand-drawn details.
The newly restored Nativity scene was put on display at the Hanneman home in Racine County in December 2008, making the old tradition new again for another generation. The crèche was displayed for several years, but had to again be put in storage when we lost our home. Now the figures again wait patiently to have a new home where their warm glow will fill the Christmas night.
St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first Nativity crib or crèche on Christmas Eve 1223 in Greccio, Italy. St. Francis was eager to make the birth of Christ something tangible for the faithful. He had a manger built, brought animals to be part of the set, and had Holy Mass said before this representation of the birth of Christ. After the preparations were finished, St. Francis and some of his followers went to the crèche for the Mass. After a short prayer by Francis, a vision of the Christ child appeared on the hay.The miracle stirred the animals and greatly moved the faithful who witnessed it.
When David D. Hanneman was elected mayor of the city of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in April 2003, it continued a Hanneman family tradition that stretches back more than 400 years to the county Regenwalde in the Baltic Duchy of Pomerania. Hanneman’s election as mayor on April 1, 2003 capped his nearly 40-year public service career — and put him in good family company.
The Hanneman family from Kellner, Wisconsin — from which David Hanneman descends — traces its roots to Pomerania, a picturesque land of Germanic peoples that dates to the 1300s. His earliest known ancestor, Matthias Hannemann, was from the village of Zeitlitz in the kreis, or county, of Regenwalde. Regenwalde means “woods of the Rega River,” referring to the picturesque waterway that ambles 100 miles through the county and empties into the Baltic Sea. This area has long been known for agriculture, fishing and forests, and it bears strong geomorphic similarities to the state of Wisconsin. The village of Zeitlitz covered about 2,200 acres and had approximately 100 households.
Records trace the Hannemann (the original spelling had two ‘n’s at the end) family back at least to 1582 in Zeitlitz. The Hannemanns made up one of the predominant families in Zeitlitz, based on the number of entries found in the Lutheran church register. Many church records were destroyed in a fire in Stramehl in 1720, but the register from 1582 survived. At that time, there were a number of Hannemann families in Zeitlitz, and they owned some of the larger farms in the village. One of these men, likely the eldest brother, held the title of schulze, or mayor of Zeitlitz. Being the schulze was unlike the elected political position of mayor found in modern-day American communities. It was an inherited job, and the duties centered on making sure work was performed equitably in the village, and that the taxes of grain, goods or money were collected for the estate owner. The term schulze can have various related meanings, including “village headman,” mayor or even constable.
As farmers, the Hannemanns were also involved in providing financial support for the local minister and the church. Each tenant farmer paid his taxes in measurements of grain. The unnamed mayor Hannemann and Peter Hannemann were each responsible for taxes on two Hufen in Zeitlitz in the year 1582. A Hufe was the amount of land needed to sustain a family. There could have been more Hannemann families living on those four Hufen, but the church records only listed the major land tenants who paid taxes.
In the nearby village of Groß Raddow (about 6 miles from Zeitlitz), the Hannemann family had a similar history. A tax list from 1666 includes the names of Tews Hannemann (the schulze, or village mayor), Heinrich Hannemann, Chim Hannemann and Peter Hannemann. For at least several generations, it appears the Hannemann family inherited and passed on the office of mayor in Groß Raddow. In 1717, Hans Hannemann was the mayor, so we believe Hans is a descendant of Tews Hannemann.
The Matthias Hannemann family began emigrating to Wisconsin in 1861. Matthias left his home in 1866 and came to Wisconsin through Quebec. The family settled in and around Kellner, a tiny hamlet that straddles the Wood-Portage county line southeast of Wisconsin Rapids. At one time, the Hannemanns owned and farmed more than 1,000 acres in Wood and Portage counties. David’s great-grandfather, Christian Hanneman (Matthias’ son) was the last of this clan to come to America in November 1882.
Dave Hanneman (1933-2007) was first elected to public office on April 2, 1968 when he became Fourth Ward alderman in Sun Prairie. He served only one term as alderman, but stayed active in city politics, pushing the city to upgrade its sewer system to prevent backups into residential homes. He again ran successfully for alderman in 1988 and stayed on the Sun Prairie City Council until 1996, when he was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors. He held that post until being elected Sun Prairie mayor in 2003.
“Dave was involved in the growth of Sun Prairie and believed in progress for the community. He worked and helped champion the Highway 151/County Highway C project, which included working with the state Department of Transportation,” said Bill Clausius, who served on the city council and county board with Hanneman. “Dave was involved with the West Side Plan, which brought the Sun Prairie Community together to envision the future of the West Side. Dave supported and worked to begin the West Side Community Service Building. This facility includes a west side location for police, fire and EMS. His vision was to provide essential services to Sun Prairie residents and to shorten response times in case of an emergency.”
Clausius continued: “In 2003, Sun Prairie won the ‘Champions of Industry’ Award of Excellence as one of the best managed small cities in America. Dave personally raised $32,000 in donations from area businesses to fund production of a video featuring Sun Prairie, and highlighting Sun Prairie’s achievements.”
I have nothing but good memories of Halloween. Growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, October 31 was a date we looked forward to. Whether we got to buy a costume at the dime store or made our own, it was always an exciting night.
One of my most vivid Halloween memories was documented in my book, The Journey Home. I recall Dad tearing out the front door in his sock feet. I wondered what was happening. We figured it out a few minutes later when he dragged two teenagers into the front door and made them apologize for smashing our lit pumpkins. He then turned them over to Sun Prairie police.
We had one sad Halloween when my brother David fell into the neighbors tree well and spilled all of his candy. We all shared to make up for it. Another year, we went across town to “trick or treat” at a few houses of family friends. At one door, I was shocked that the lady who answered called me by name. “How does she know me with this costume on?” I wondered. My brother chimed in, “You forgot to put your mask down.” D’oh!
Perhaps the most fun we had was creating our own costumes. Lighting the end of a cork on fire, then using the charred remains to paint black whiskers on our faces. Stuffing pillows up an oversized shirt helped complete the hobo look.
It wasn’t until toward the end of my trick-or-treating days that the scare over supposed razor blades in candy apples occurred. Hospitals offered to X-ray candy bags to check for pins or razor blades. That made me wonder if the candy would then glow? Ah, as it turned out the whole thing was a fraud that took on the sheen of urban legend.
Once I had my own children, Halloween took on a new dimension. Our firstborn was too shy to go door to door, so we made our main stop at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Eventually, Halloween became a major event. French onion soup or chili simmered in a crock pot while we took the kids around the neighborhood collecting goodies. Then we retreated into the warmth of the house for good food, warm apple cider and pie. The kids also ate candy.
With the more recent controversies claiming Halloween as un-Christian or even satanic, it was refreshing to read this article on About.com regarding the Catholic roots of Halloween.