One of the privileges (or burdens) of being the oldest child, is you often are behind the camera and not one of the subjects featured by it. At least that was the case the day this photo was snapped of the Walter Treutel family of Vesper, Wisconsin.
Walter Treutel (1879-1948) leans on his Ford automobile. In front are his children Marvin R. Treutel (1916-2005), Nina H. (Treutel) Wilson (1914-2005), and Elaine M. (Treutel) Clark (1920-2010). The photographer that day was Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977).
The image was likely from 1925. That was a monumental year for the Treutel family. It opened with a tragedy: the death of Walter’s wife, Mary Helen (Ladick) Treutel, who was just 41. Mary died after undergoing surgery at a Marshfield hospital, but a postoperative infection set in, leading to her death. Later that year, Ruby married Carl F. Hanneman (1901-1982) at St. James Catholic Church in Vesper.
The other member of the Treutel family, Gordon Treutel, died of pneumonia in February 1911. He was just shy of 11 months old.
When the wooden covered bridge was built over Cedar Creek in 1876, memories of the Civil War were still fresh and the main modes of transportation were horses and oxen pulling buggies or wagons. The clip-clop of hooves and the rolling thunder of wooden wheels have long since faded, but Wisconsin’s last covered bridge still stands proud at age 140.
Located on a scenic route some 20 miles north of Milwaukee, the beautiful span no longer carries vehicle traffic but is still a boon to pedestrian traffic and those armed with cameras. It has served as the backdrop for countless photos over the years. It is such an important landmark to nearby Cedarburg, Covered Bridge Park was built around it and a historic marker from the Wisconsin Historical Society was placed nearby.
Our look at this magnificent bridge goes back to late June 1941. Pictured are Nina (Treutel) Wilson (center) and her daughter, Laurni Lee. Nina is the sister of my grandmother, Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman. I believe the photograph was taken by Emma (Treutel) Carlin, who at the time was working at the Washington County Asylum in West Bend. In her scrapbook, Emma kept a July 1941 news clipping on the bridge from The Milwaukee Journal. Across the top of the page, she wrote, “I rode over this bridge June 30, 1941.”
The Milwaukee Journal article bid poetic tribute to the old bridge:
“Grayed with the snows and suns of many years, it might tell a hundred tales to the traveler who would stop and bend a sympathetic ear. …Leaning under the weight of its years, this friendly bridge (it has no name) still creaks and rumbles heartily and bears its passing burdens of farmers and curious visitors as trustily as the day its last dowels and wedges were driven tight.”
At that time, the bridge still carried live traffic, although only vehicles weighing 3 tons or less. It was built with just enough height to accommodate a wagonload of hay. The structure was welcome shelter in summer and winter for horses and drivers alike. The bridge is 12 feet wide and 120 feet long. Its construction has been described as a masterpiece, using lattice trusses with interlaced 3-by-10-inch planks. It is held together with 2 inch hardwood dowels. Its road surface is covered with 3-inch planks. A concrete support was added beneath the midway point in 1927 to help the bridge support motorized vehicles.
Wisconsin once had dozens of covered bridges. The last one to be demolished (in 1935) spanned the Wisconsin River at Boscobel. But the folks of Ozaukee County worked hard to ensure their covered bridge would be maintained for future generations. It was taken out of active service in 1962, as another bridge was built over Cedar Creek to handle vehicle traffic. In May 1965, the state historical marker was installed next to the bridge.
Stevie Wilson and Laurni Lee Wilson made their own Christmas greeting in December 1942 with this photograph sent to their Uncle and Aunt, Carl and Ruby Hanneman of Mauston, Wisconsin. They even included greetings from their dog, Melissa. The Wilsons lived in Waukegan, Illinois, where the Hanneman family often visited. Stevie and Laurni Lee are the children of Lawrence and Nina (Treutel) Wilson. Nina is Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman’s sister. Merry Christmas!
Our newest “Eye on the Past” feature photo shows a charming little grocery store located about 1.5 miles west of Lake Michigan in Waukegan, Illinois. Wilson’s Food Store was located at 1814 Grand Avenue, operated by my Dad’s aunt and uncle, Nina (Treutel) Wilson and Lawrence Wilson. Nina was a younger sister of my Grandmother Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman.
The Wilson family, including children Steve and Laurni Lee, operated the grocery in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The family living quarters were behind the store. Any time someone entered, a bell rang in the back and family members took turns waiting on customers. Shown on the right side of the photo are Laurni Lee (Wilson) Breedlove and Steve Wilson. Emma (Treutel) Carlin (1877-1962) is holding baby Bonnie (Treutel) Young. In front of them is Bonnie’s older sister, Patricia (Treutel) Anderson. Emma was Nina and Ruby’s aunt from Arpin, Wisconsin. Bonnie and Patricia are Laurni Lee and Steve’s cousins.
Lawrence Wilson was a longtime chemist and plant superintendent at Pfanstiehl Laboratories in Waukegan. I distinctly remember Uncle Laurie and Aunt Nina coming to my wedding in December 1990 in Racine, Wisconsin. Somewhere I have a video of them arriving at the reception at Racine’s Memorial Hall. After retirement, the couple moved to Arizona. Lawrence died in 2001, and Nina passed away in 2005.
The little brick building in the photo still stands, although over the years it was extended on both sides to include other businesses. The vintage metal signs in the photo advertised Orange Crush and 7up soda. Window stickers promoted Sealtest ice cream, Hydrox sandwich cookies, and produce (cut corn, green beens, wax beans and broccoli).