Tag Archives: Dane County

Procession Brings Body of Fallen Firefighter Home to Sun Prairie

Dozens of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles escorted the body of  fallen Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr from the medical examiner’s office to the funeral home late Wednesday.

The 15-year fire department veteran was killed Tuesday evening July 10 when a gas leak set off a massive explosion in the 100 block of West Main Street. The blast leveled several buildings and triggered a five-alarm fire that required mutual assistance from area fire departments. Sections of downtown Sun Prairie were still off limits four days later.

Fire engines, squad cars and rescue vehicles from around southern Wisconsin formed a long memorial procession from McFarland to Sun Prairie. The hearse carrying Barr’s body processed through fire station No. 1 before arriving at the Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home. Ladder trucks from the Waunakee and Columbus fire departments formed an arch under which the procession traveled.

The following departments were represented in the procession: Belleville-Exeter-Montrose, Black Earth, Burke-Bristol-Sun Prairie, Cambridge, Columbus, Cottage Grove, Cross Plains-Berry, Deerfield, DeForest, Fitchburg, Footville, Madison, Maple Bluff, Marshall, McFarland, Milwaukee, Monona, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Town of Madison, Verona, Waunakee and Wonewoc.

Sun Prairie Tragedy Reminds of Massive 1975 Downtown Fire

The huge explosion and fire that leveled numerous buildings in Sun Prairie on July 10 and 11 reminded me of another massive fire in the same area more than 40 years ago. On March 3, 1975, a fast-moving fire destroyed the Schweiger Walgreen Drug Store and Hillenbrand’s shoe store in the 200 block of East Main Street.

The fire alarm was sounded at 1:51 p.m. that day, bringing 33 firemen from the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department to the scene. They were shortly joined by another 25 firefighters and trucks from Stoughton, DeForest and Marshall. The fire was discovered in the basement of the Schweiger Walgreen’s store, 214 E. Main St., and quickly spread to the adjacent Hillenbrand’s and apartments above both buildings. It took more than five hours to fully contain the blaze. The last crews left the scene at around 11 p.m.

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Firefighters battle a blaze at the Schweiger Walgreen Drug Store in Downtown Sun Prairie on March 3, 1975. (Sun Prairie Star-Countryman photo)

Margaret McGonigle, 75, became trapped on the roof of the drug store building when the stairs down from her apartment were blocked by fire. She was rescued by the snorkel truck from the Sun Prairie Fire Department, according to the March 6, 1975 issue of the Sun Prairie Star-Countryman. Mrs. McGonigle was the widow of pharmacist John M. McGonigle, whose family owned and operated McGonigle’s Drug Store for more than 50 years before Robert Schweiger purchased it in 1970. She was also postmaster of Sun Prairie for 38 years before retiring in 1966. John McGonigle died in September 1965.

I distinctly recall going downtown with my father to view the aftermath of the fire. I recall the outriggers on the snorkel truck, and large amounts of road salt around the tires of the fire engines. The pharmacy held special memories for us, since my grandfather, Carl F. Hanneman, was a reserve pharmacist who occasionally worked for McGonigle’s. The Hillenbrand clothing and shoe stores were run by John Hein, a good friend of my parents, and the shoe store was managed by Roger Reichert, also a family friend. Reichert lived above the store and lost all of his belongings in the fire.

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Volunteers move boxes of shoes from the Hillenbrand clothing and shoe store, 206 E. Main St., Sun Prairie. (Sun Prairie Star-Countryman photo)

The state fire marshal investigated the blaze, but was unable to determine a cause. Damage to the structures and contents was estimated by Fire Chief Milton Tester at $200,000. Within a week, Schweiger’s opened in temporary quarters on Bristol Street. The buildings were a total loss and had to be demolished.

“Many fine things have been said about our volunteer firemen before. But last week’s fire had to be one of their finest efforts,” read the “Shavings from the Editor’s Pencil” column in the Star-Countryman. “I spent nearly three hours in that biting cold watching those magnificent, heroic firemen work. Not once did I see anyone so much as flinch at going into a burning building or otherwise approaching a dangerous situation.”

Both the 2018 fire that claimed the life of Capt. Cory Barr and the 1975 fire had one thing in common: a pharmacy. The Barr House tavern at the corner of Bristol and Main streets, owned by Capt. Barr and his wife, once housed the Crosse and Crosse Drug Store, according to the Sun Prairie Public Museum. The building dates to the 1890s.

The Schweiger fire was one of three major blazes in Sun Prairie in 1975. On Aug. 10 that year, fire swept through the Moldrem Furniture store at 13 N. Bird St. in the Bird Street Centre. The fire did about $185,000 damage to the 34-year-old business. The store was a total loss. A backdraft blew two firefighters out the front doors of the store. Retiring assistant fire chief Arnie Kleven described the fire as his most frightening in an August 2017 interview with The Star. Kleven said the doors probably saved his life that day. Wiring in the air conditioning system was cited as the cause of the fire.

In July 1975, shorted wiring sparked a major fire in the garage and offices of Bill Gawne Ford Inc., 425 W. Main St. That fire caused an estimated $85,000 damage.

(This post has been updated with details on the Moldrem and Gawne fires.)

©2018 The Hanneman Archive

Dane Priest’s Murder Unsolved 20 Years Later

For years, Father Alfred Kunz said the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in the village of Dane, northwest of Madison. On Saturday, 20 years after the priest was brutally murdered in the adjoining parish school, a Solemn Requiem Mass was said for his soul at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church.

Several dozen people attended the Latin Requiem Mass for Fr. Kunz, held in the beautiful St. Mary church west of Madison. It had every bit of the sacred reverence that Kunz brought to the Latin Masses he celebrated at St. Michael’s in Dane. Standing in stark contrast to the beauty of the incense, bells and Gregorian chant was the fact that Fr. Kunz’s killer has not been brought to justice.

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Fr. Alfred Kunz, 1930-1998

Father John Zuhlsdorf reminded those in attendance that a Requiem Mass is not a celebration of life, but a funeral Mass for the souls of the dead. He urged the faithful to think of their own deaths, and to pray that they not die without benefit of the sacraments, including anointing of the sick. Dying without the sacraments, known as an “unprovided death,” is a truly frightful thing, Zuhlsdorf said. He prayed that God would admit Fr. Kunz into the Beatific Vision of Heaven. (The photo atop this article shows Fr. Zuhlsdorf blessing the catafalque, which serves as a stand-in for the casket in Requiem Masses where the body of the deceased is not present.)

In the narthex of St. Mary’s stood an easel with a framed photograph of Fr. Kunz, inscribed with the words Ecce Agnus Dei, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It was a testament to Kunz’s 42 years of service as a Catholic priest in Cassville, Waunakee, Monroe and the village of Dane. It also spoke of the wounds left behind by such a violent death, perpetrated on a holy man dedicated to serving others.

Brutal Murder

On March 4, 1998, Kunz’s body was discovered in a school hallway by a teacher arriving for the workday. Kunz’s throat had been cut, causing him to bleed to death from a severed carotid artery. The edged weapon used to cut his throat was never found. Police said the killer might have discarded a knife or weapon that was a treasured possession; something he carried every day. Kunz’s body was found face down, at the foot of a statue of St. Michael the Archangel.

The ensuing investigation is said to be the most expansive, and expensive, in Dane County history. Yet no arrests have been made. On the 20th anniversary of Kunz’s murder, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department has begun releasing new details on the case in hopes someone will come forward with a tip that could break the case open. The department started posting details to a Facebook page set up in Fr. Kunz’s name. Some of the posts were written in first person, as if Fr. Kunz were speaking. After a few days, Facebook removed the page and all related content, with no explanation.

Father Kunz was last heard from at 10:23 p.m. on March 3, 1998, when he made a telephone call to a priest friend. Earlier that evening, Kunz attended the taping of a radio program, “Our Catholic Family,” with his friend, Fr. Charles Fiore. After being dropped off at St. Michael’s about 10 p.m., Kunz eventually returned to his living quarters in the school. The perpetrator, laying in wait, might have gained access through a window in Kunz’s apartment. Police said Kunz defended himself and tried to fend off the attack. Kunz was a former Golden Gloves boxer, in good physical shape despite his 67 years. Here is how the sheriff’s department described what happened:

Inside the school hallway, upon inserting my key into the lock of my private quarters and opening the door, it was then that the killer made his move. I saw and confronted the killer; I wasn’t afraid of him. He attacked, but we both landed some punches. The killer then attacked me with a weapon, and then pulled out a knife. I was knocked to my knees, and the killer then slashed my neck, which caused the fatal loss of blood.

On March 3, 1998, someone in the St. Michael school office overheard Fr. Kunz having a heated phone conversation, the sheriff’s department said. Kunz told the caller he could not see them that day. “Furthermore, I don’t think we have anything else to talk about,” Kunz said.

A criminal profile of the murderer suggested he not only knew Fr. Kunz, he was likely familiar with the layout of the church and the school. A former FBI profiler said the killer was most likely surprised by the amount of blood that resulted from the attack. The perpetrator left the school that night covered in blood. He might have been in an altered state of mind that night, and has lived in with regret, and denial, ever since. Details of the crime indicated a “very strong personal motive,” according to then Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin.

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Father Kunz’s hands had defensive wounds, meaning he valiantly fought off his attacker. (Dane County Sheriff’s Department Photo)

The sheriff’s department said large amounts of parish money had been moved from account to account prior to the murder. Some “very large checks” were also cut. The week before the murder, collection money was missing from the St. Michael’s sacristy. Four months before the murder, Fr. Kunz told a friend: “Please, please pray for me.”

The murder case exposed biases and hostility in the media and community against the Traditional Latin Mass that Kunz so loved and revered. The TLM is the Catholic liturgy as it has been celebrated for millennia. Fr. Kunz regularly said the Latin Mass, although he also celebrated the Novus Ordo, or new order of the Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Catholics from around Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois drove to St. Michael’s in Dane to participate in the 10 a.m. Sunday Latin Masses offered by Fr. Kunz. This was years before Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which stated priests around the world can offer the Latin Mass without permission from a bishop.

One investigator remarked in 1999 that “people have described Kunz’s followers as cult-like.” This attitude smears traditional-minded Catholics and suggests they are followers of a priest instead of Jesus Christ in his Catholic Church. Latin Mass participants were described in media stories as “extremely conservative,” even rigid or at the fringe of Catholic life. Prior to Vatican II in the 1960s, the Latin Mass was simply Catholic, celebrated in the same way around the world. A profile of the Kunz case published in Las Vegas Weekly magazine in 2002 said the Latin Mass “seems to a visiting outsider like a postcard from some musty, long-forgotten time.”

From Devout Catholic Family

Alfred J. Kunz was born on April 15, 1930 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. He was one of eight children of Alfred J. and Helen T. Kunz. His father emigrated from Switzerland in 1914. His mother was born in Michigan, although her parents came to America from Baden and Württemberg, Germany. Alfred Kunz Sr. was a cheesemaker. He established his own business, the Fairview Cheese Factory, near Stitzer in the Town of Liberty. The Kunz family was devoutly Catholic, attending daily Mass at St. Mary’s in Fennimore. The senior Kunz died on March 3, 1965, exactly 33 years before the attack that ended his son’s life. Mrs. Kunz died in January 1993 at age 98.

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Crime scene tape surrounds St. Michael Catholic School on March 4, 1998. (Dane County Sheriff’s Department photo)

A young Alfred heard a calling to the priesthood after suffering a nearly fatal bout of appendicitis at age 10. As he regained consciousness from surgery, he told his mother, “I want to be a priest.” In 1944, Fr. Kunz entered Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, for a 12-year course of study. At the time, it was the only seminary in the United States under direct supervision of the Vatican. In November 1950, Kunz was featured in an essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, pictured serving Mass for Msgr. Gilbert Schmenck, procurator of Pontifical College. Kunz was ordained a priest at Pontifical College upon his graduation on May 26, 1956. According to his cemetery monument, he also held a canon law degree. He said his first Mass on June 3, 1956 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Fennimore. Fr. Kunz served at parishes in Cassville and Waunakee before becoming assistant pastor at St. Victor’s Catholic Church in Monroe. In June 1967, Bishop Cletus O’Donnell named him pastor of St. Michael’s in the village of Dane.

On a very stormy day in April 1965, Fr. Kunz had a brush with death just outside Monroe. As he was leaving town in his automobile, a tornado blew across the road, spinning his car around. When the winds had passed, Fr. Kunz’s car was pointed back toward Monroe. “I saw the light,” he told The Milwaukee Journal, “so I returned.” The storms that day did damage across a wide swath of southern Wisconsin.

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Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reads prayers of absolution at the Solemn Requiem Mass for the soul of Fr. Alfred J. Kunz, held at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church.

Fr. Kunz became known as a faithful and tireless defender of the truth of the Catholic faith. This in and of itself would have been unremarkable in another period of history when modernism didn’t have such a hold on an increasingly secular society. He was a vocal opponent of abortion and promoter of the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death. He once held a funeral for an aborted child at St. Michael’s, burying the baby at the foot of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He preached the truth about the sinful vice of sodomy and spoke against no-fault divorce. His introduction of the Latin Mass at St. Michael’s rankled some people, even though the Novus Ordo Mass was offered as well. He said Mass for the school children every weekday. Three times a week those 8 a.m. Masses were in Latin.

Fr. Kunz worked hard to ensure that St. Michael’s Catholic Church was rebuilt in the 1970s after it was destroyed by fire. He handled maintenance tasks at the church and school, and even mowed the grass at the cemetery. He took no parish salary and drove a well worn Volkswagen in order to save money. His presence at monthly fish fry fund-raisers was almost legendary. He slaved in the hot kitchen to make sure enough food was available to serve all comers.

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Blood spatter on the student lockers at St. Michael Catholic School show how violent the attack on Fr. Kunz was. (Dane County Sheriff’s Department Photo)

The case of Fr. Kunz has at times been dominated by conspiracy theories and harsh assessments of the murdered priest. Because he was an exorcist, some contend Kunz was killed by Luciferians, or someone under Satan’s influence. The sheriff’s department contends Fr. Kunz had “intimate” relationships with women in his parish, although it has never provided details or indicated the source of this information. One former St. Michael parishioner questioned by the sheriff’s department said she felt Fr. Kunz’s name was dragged through the mud with such unsubstantiated allegations.

In a social media dispatch on the case, the sheriff’s department said, “Father Kunz taught that sending children to public school was a mortal sin. Father Kunz didn’t like his teachers socializing with the parishioners. Could someone have disagreed with Father Kunz’s views?” There was no source information offered on the claim that Fr. Kunz taught that going to public school was a mortal sin. The department also said Fr. Kunz was viewed as “very controlling; he had disbanded the church council and didn’t have a finance committee.” Police now say former St. Michael Catholic School Principal Maureen O’Leary was uncooperative during the investigation, even though she and Fr. Kunz were close. O’Leary suggested that the Dane County Sheriff’s Department should call off the the investigation and mark it “unsolved,” police said. “Could something she knew have been a motive for the killer?” the sheriff’s department asked on Facebook March 7, 2018.

Kunz’s friend Fr. Fiore was an early critic of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy and covered up by U.S. bishops. Fr. Kunz was a canon-law adviser to The Roman Catholic Faithful, a now-defunct nonprofit group dedicated to exposing sexual misconduct among priests and bishops. Because of this, some believe Kunz might have been killed to keep him from identifying priests or bishops who sexually abused boys or teenagers. Kunz was said to be helping Fiore prepare a report on sexual abuse by clergy, for delivery to Pope John Paul II. Father Malachi Martin said he believed Kunz’s killing was a “deliberate attempt by those who hated what he represented and what he was doing, to silence and disable him permanently.”

A tribute written on the 10th anniversary of his murder described Fr. Kunz as “completely faithful to Christ and the sacraments.” Written by Toby Westerman of Tradition in Action, the tribute continued:

“Like Christ the High Priest, he poured himself out for the love of God and the good of souls. In the words of his close friend and one of the founders of the pro-life movement in the United States, the late Fr. Charles Fiore, ‘in the end Fr. Kunz even poured out his own blood for Jesus and His flock.’ “

An appearance Fr. Kunz made at a public memorial service in 1967 seems in retrospect almost prophetic. Kunz was among five clergy members who spoke words of comfort at Juda High School for nine seniors killed when a plane crashed into the motel where they were staying on a class trip. More than 1,500 people attended the service in the Green County community, located between Monroe and Brodhead. Fr. Kunz spoke of the hope for the Christian dead, reading words from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

“We who live, who survive to the Lord’s coming, will in no way have an advantage over those who have fallen asleep. …The dead in Christ will first rise.”

At the conclusion of the March 3, 2018 Solemn Requiem Mass for Fr. Kunz, the faithful spilled into the narthex of St. Mary’s. They shared memories of Father Al, and wondered aloud if his murder will ever be solved. They spoke most of his love for the Traditional Latin Mass, and how his work helped lay the foundation for traditional Masses now said at St. Mary and other parishes across Wisconsin. Father Al would have been very much at home here in Pine Bluff. On this sunny March day in 2018, in fact, he was at home. ♦


—This article was updated at 9:07 p.m. and 11:26 a.m. CST March 7, 2018, 11:00 a.m. CST March 6, 2018, and at 9:35 p.m. CST March 4, 2018, with new case details from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department.

Anyone with information on the murder of Fr. Kunz should contact the Dane County Sheriff’s Department tips line, 608-284-6900, or via email, tips@danesheriff.com. The department set up a Facebook page in Fr. Kunz’s name, but Facebook has removed the page. The Fr. Kunz Twitter page is still being used by the department to share information on the case. Use the hashtag #whokilledfatherkunz.

Video: Mayor Dave Hanneman Assesses His First Term in Office

During his two years as mayor of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, David D. Hanneman made several appearances on the local television public-affairs program called “City Talk.” You might think that local cable access programming would be uninteresting, but in this case, you would be wrong. Hosted by former Sun Prairie alderman Don Hooser, the show on KSUN always featured thought-provoking, in-depth discussions of issues facing the city. Topics included the city’s master plan to develop its west side, something that has beautifully come to fruition in the years since.

When Dad passed away in 2007, Hooser arranged to re-run theses programs in Dad’s memory. Hooser still hosts a local public-affairs program, now called “Talk of the Town.” The program below, in which the mayor discusses his first term, was taped in late 2004.

Related: New Mayor Weighs in on the Issues

New Mayor Weighs in on the Issues

During his two years as mayor of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, David D. Hanneman made several appearances on the local television public-affairs program called “City Talk.” You might think that local cable access programming would be uninteresting, but in this case, you would be wrong. Hosted by former Sun Prairie alderman Don Hooser, the show on KSUN always featured thought-provoking, in-depth discussions of issues facing the city. Topics included the city’s master plan to develop its west side, something that has beautifully come to fruition in the years since.

When Dad passed away in 2007, Hooser arranged to re-run theses programs in Dad’s memory. Hooser still hosts a local public-affairs program, now called “Talk of the Town.” The program below was taped on September 24, 2003.

A Time for Fall Memories

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.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Bloody Battle of Shiloh Claims Michael Kennedy

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.

(This story was excerpted from “Catholic Pioneers on the Prairie,” a 28-page booklet written on the founding of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.)

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Catholic Faithful Plant the Cross on Wisconsin Ground in 1863

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.

Stained-glass depiction of St. Paul, from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.
Stained-glass depiction of St. Paul, from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.

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.

    Rev. Francis Xavier Etschmann said the first Mass in Sun Prairie at the home of James Broderick.
    Rev. Francis Xavier Etschmann said the first Mass in Sun Prairie at the home of James Broderick.
  • 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.

    Founding Sacred Hearts parishioners Mary and Michael Conley.
    Founding Sacred Hearts parishioners Mary and Michael Conley.
  • 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.
The 28-page e-book can be found at catholicpioneers.com.
The 28-page e-book can be found at http://www.catholicpioneers.com.

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.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Restoring Grandpa’s Handmade Nativity Scene

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.

The original Nativity scene as built by David D. Hanneman, circa 1967.
The original Nativity scene as built by David D. Hanneman, circa 1967.

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 retouches details on the Baby Jesus figure built by her grandfather, David. D. Hanneman.
Samantha J. Hanneman retouches details on the Baby Jesus figure built by her grandfather, David. D. Hanneman.

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.

©2014 The Hanneman Archive

Hanneman’s Mayoral Election Continued 400-Year Tradition

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.

Mayor Dave Hanneman cuts the ribbon at opening of the Sun Prairie fire station. (Sun Prairie Star Photo)
Mayor Dave Hanneman cuts the ribbon at opening of the Sun Prairie fire station. (Sun Prairie Star Photo)

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.

Mayor Hanneman Speaks at a veterans' event.
Mayor Hanneman speaks at a veterans’ event. (Sun Prairie Star Photo)

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.

Mayor Dave Hanneman cuts the cake at the 5th birthday of the new Sun Prairie Public Library.
Mayor Dave Hanneman cuts the cake at the 5th birthday of the new Sun Prairie Public Library.

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.

The Sun Prairie Star Countryman carried news of Hanneman's election as alderman in 1968.
The Sun Prairie Star Countryman carried news of Hanneman’s election as Fourth Ward alderman in April 1968.

“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.”

— Adapted from the forthcoming book ‘Treasured Lives.’
©2014 The Hanneman Archive