The real estate surrounding Cameron Park in the tiny village of Vesper, Wisconsin, played an important role in the histories of the Hanneman and Treutel families. This village square was the nexus of commerce and family life at the dawn of the 20th century. It was home to a number of Treutel families, who came from Germany through Waukesha County seeking a new start.
A hand-drawn map made by Elaine (Treutel) Clark has surfaced that adds detail to how the town square was laid out and where the family homesteads sat more than a century ago. The map, likely drawn sometime in the 1980s, was provided to us by Elaine’s daughter, MaryClark. Because all of the old Treutel homesteads in Vesper are now gone, the map provides missing detail on what the village looked like in the early 1900s.
As documented elsewhere on this site, the family of Johann Adam Treutel and the former Katharina Geier emigrated from Bremerhaven, Germany, to New York between 1849 and 1854. The family initially settled in Milwaukee before it began to branch out into other areas of Wisconsin and in the deep South of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel, the widow of Philipp Treutel, moved north with her children after Philipp died in 1891 near North Prairie, Wis.
Most of the Treutels lived on properties along Anderton Avenue in Vesper, along the western side of Cameron Park. Most also had their places of business along the same street, including a general store, a butcher shop and a smithy (blacksmith shop). The first of the Treutels to come to Vesper was Adeline B. (Treutel) Moody, who settled on a farm outside of the village. Her family was involved in the Moody-Hinze shootout incident.
In late 1898, Charles W. Treutel made a trip to Vesper to “look after his landed interests,” according to the Wood County Reporter. Charles and his brother Henry A. Treutel later established a blacksmith shop that eventually became a service station and auto-repair shop. Treutel Brothers was located on the Hemlock Creek, just across from the northern edge of Cameron Park.
The Treutels purchased what had been known as Goldsworthy’s store at the corner of Anderton and Cameron avenues. Oscar and Walter Treutel bought the store from C.R. Goldsworthy, one of the major land owners in the area. Oscar was the main proprietor, as Walter became a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. The post office was originally located in Treutel’s store. Emma (Treutel) Carlin was the seventh postmaster of Vesper, starting her 11-year tenure in the fall of 1906. Just south of the Treutels’ general store was the butcher shop of Orville Carlin, Emma’s husband.
The map also shows the “priest house,” which was the home of Father C.W. Gille in April 1926 when a fast-moving fireleveled the building before firefighters could reach the scene. Carl Hanneman or wife Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman documented the fire in photographs. Father Gille presided at Carl and Ruby’s nuptial Mass on July 14, 1925 at St. James Catholic Church.
Along the east side of Cameron park we see a village hall, the location of a community gathering documented in an “Eye on the Past” feature on this web site. The building hosted a lot of functions over the years. For a time it was home to a roller rink operated by Harry Cole.
The southeast corner of the map shows the Vesper Graded School, where my grandmother, Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman went to school and later taught for a time after earning her teaching license. The well-built structure still stands, now serving as a private home.
The center of the park shows a bandstand, which many times was the center of activity with band and string concerts. The Vesper Cornet Band played in the park on more than a few occasions. The talented group of musicians included Charles Treutel,Henry Treutel and Orville Carlin, the husband of Emma (Treutel) Carlin.
Not far from the bandstand is an indicator where the Ku Klux Klanburned a cross sometime in the mid- to late 1920s. It was one of Elaine’s vivid memories from early childhood. We could find no reference to it in the Wisconsin Rapids papers. The Klan was certainly active during that time period. If this occurred before April 1926, it would have been directly across from the home of Father Charles W. Gille, the pastor of St. James Catholic Church.
Last but not least is the Walter Treutel homestead, along the western side of Cameron Park with its rear facing the Hemlock Creek. The Treutel children had lots of space to play in the field behind the house. The map says they went ice skating on the Hemlock Creek on winter days. We have many photos showing the home’s exterior, but no images from the inside of the house.
One beautiful young lady truly stands out among the 160 pages of the 1922 Ahdawagam. What is an Ahdawagam, you ask? It is the name of the school annual, or yearbook, at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids. Ahdawagam is an Indian word that refers to the “two-sided rapids” along the Wisconsin River.
The specially featured young lady was touted for her musical talents and participation in a wide range of student activities. She is Ruby V. Treutel (1904-1977) of Vesper, Wis., before she became Ruby V. Hanneman as the bride of Carl Henry Frank Hanneman (1901-1982).
It is indeed a treat to stroll through the pages of this early 1920s book, 98 years after it was published. It was a very different era, and these young people seem so mature and serious. Although maybe that is because we came to know them much later in life.
Ruby’s first appearance in the book is near the front, in the senior portrait section. Right between Irene Timm (“Timmy”) and Florence Van Dyke (“Flo”). No nickname is mentioned for Ruby. The listing has five lines describing her school activities: Glee Club, Ahdawagam staffmember, Dramatic Club, Mask and Wig Club (founding member), Gamma Sigma musical society, and a performer in the school operetta for three years. Ruby’s slogan certainly fits the woman we came to know: “Music hath charms and so has she.”
She is next listed in the “Class Mirror” section. Her answers included: Heart = Carl; Mind = Church’s (pharmacy where Carl worked); favorite occupation = singing; wants to be = opera singer; and “ought to be” = second Galli Curci. The last item is a reference to Amelita Galli-Curci, the Italy-born coloratura soprano who was an acclaimed opera singer in the early 20th century.
A few chapters later, in the Music and Drama section, we find Ruby’s stronghold. She was president of the 87-member Glee Club, which encourages development of musical talent. The club also performs an operetta each year.
Just pages later we find Ruby in the group photo for Gamma Sigma, which draws the most musically talented students in the school. She was among the founding members during the 1921-22 school year. The group offered regular public singing and instrumental performances.
Ruby played the lead role in the Glee Club operetta production of Sylvia. The club and the performance were directed by Elizabeth Bradford, Lincoln High School’s musical supervisor.
The operetta was no small-time school production. It received a preview article on the society page of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune on Jan. 17, 1922. Sylvia was originally slated to be performed at Daly’s Opera House in Wisconsin Rapids. Two weeks before opening night, the opera house burned to the ground. Firefighters were hampered because the hydrants near the opera house were frozen and water had to be pumped from the Wisconsin River. The fire forced the operetta production to relocate to Lincoln High School for the Jan. 27 performance.
The Daily Tribune published an extensive review in the Jan. 28 issue. The reviewer sang the praises of Ruby and her co-performers. “Miss Ruby Treutel scored in the title role, as the haughty sweetheart of the court poet. As an actress, she showed unusual ability in every situation,
“but it was as a singer that she won the hearts of the crowd completely.”
Ruby shined with her rendition of “Unto Thy Heart” with a violin obligato by Esther Levin. The number “seemed to appeal to her listeners especially, for they accorded her enthusiastic and well-deserved applause,” the Daily Tribune review said.
We’ve documented elsewhere on this site the musical talents of Ruby Treutel Hanneman. She performed in various theaters, starting when she was just 17. In April 1921, Ruby “brought down the applause of the house time after time” with her performance in the play “The Fire Prince,” according to the Daily Tribune.
Ruby’s next yearbook appearance is on a photo-collage page. She and future husband Carl are doing some kind of goofing around. The photo isn’t real clear, but it appears Carl is either playing some kind of stringed instrument or wielding a fishing pole or a sword. See what you think. Many of the photos in the collage seem to be related to the operetta.
It is impressive to see how dressed up these students are on every page of the yearbook. Ladies in dresses and the young men in suits and ties. Fashion was the rule of the day.
Finally, Ruby is pictured among 17 members of the Ahdawagam yearbook staff. She served as editor of music and drama.
Ruby’s final mention in the book is on a list under the heading “The Great White Way.” All of the people on the list were described as lights (“head light,” “flashlight,” “candle,” etc.). Ruby is listed as “Star Light.”
Carl gets the last word. He appears in the alumni section, where he is listed for his job as a druggist at Church’s Drug Store. Carl graduated from Lincoln High School in 1921.
The staff box for the yearbook says it was Vol. 10 for the Ahdawagam. The editor-in-chief was Viola J. Nash. The book was produced by the Hein-Sutor Printing Company of Wisconsin Rapids.
Sometimes good fortune comes in waves. For the second time in as many months, we’ve been blessed to find a photographic image of a long-ago ancestor. First it was a great-great grandfather, Philipp Treutel,whose faded image on a carte de visite came from the 1860s. Now we’ve been given a studio photograph of another great-great grandfather, Joseph Ladick (1846-1905). Along with a group photo taken at a wedding, for the first time we have two images of the senior Ladick.
Both of these family patriarchs come from the tree of my grandmother, Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977). The wedding photo above was taken on September 22, 1890 at the marriage of Joseph Chezik and Mary Moravets. Joseph Ladick is at left rear, and we believe his son, Joseph, is at right rear. The portrait below of Joseph Ladick Sr. is undated.
Joseph Ladick brought his family to America from Bohemia in June 1881. We believe the Ladick family is native to Bilina, a city northwest of Prague in the modern day Czech Republic. They sailed aboard the SS Silesia on May 22, 1881 from Hamburg, Germany. The ship register lists their residence as Ronkovic, Austria. There does not appear to be such a place, so I examined the written document and the writing is very hard to decipher. There are a number of villages near Prague in Bohemia that could fit what is written on the register, including Radonitz, Raudnitz, Rakonitz and Radnitz. The exact location might remain a mystery, but it seems clear the family was living in northwest Bohemia at the time of their emigration.
Sailing aboard the Silesia in May and June 1881 were Joseph Ladick, his wife Mary (Mika) Ladick, and sons Joseph, 6, and Frank, who was an infant. They reached New York on June 5, 1881. We don’t know their path to Wisconsin, but it probably included sailing the Great Lakes and possibly some rail travel to Milwaukee. They settled on a farm in the Town of Sigel in Wood County. Shortly after the Ladicks settled in Wisconsin, their daughter Mary Helen was born (December 28, 1883). Later children were Anna (1886) and Celia (1891). Frank married Mary Mras (1898). Anna married Harry Victor Cole (1903), and Celia married Oscar Goldammer (1908). Son Joseph died of pneumonia in November 1894 at age 19. He was buried at the St. Joseph Cemetery near Vesper.
The day after her birthday in 1902, Mary Helen Ladick married Walter Treutel of Vesper. The Treutels were transplants from the Town of Genesee in Waukesha County. They settled in Vesper, where Walter became a rural route postal carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. Walter and Mary’s first child, Ruby, was born at 1 p.m. on June 22, 1904, delivered by Dr. F.A. Goedecke. The couple would later have four other children: Gordon, Nina, Marvin and Elaine.
In early 1905, Joe Ladick became ill with intestinal and bladder cancer. In March of that year, he went to Marshfield for an operation. By early October, his condition became critical. He died on October 12, 1905 at age 59. The newspaper pronounced it this way:
“Death’s angel visited our city last Thursday, appearing at the Lydick (sic) home and taking with it their father, who had been confined to his bed for about six months previous to his death, he leaves a wife and four children. The funeral was held at the house and the remains were interred in the Rudolph cemetery.”
Joe Ladick was actually buried at Holy Rosary Catholic Cemetery in the Town of Sigel. His is one of the earlier monuments in the cemetery. On a recent trip to the area, we cleaned his marker using Treasured Lives RestoraStone™ process, which removed biological growths, dirt and air pollution from the stone. Now, thanks to a generous cousin, this beautiful stone is no longer the only visual history we have of him.
For most of his adult life, Carl F. Hanneman said he studied pharmacy at Marquette University in Milwaukee, securing the academic knowledge required to pass the state of Wisconsin pharmacy board exam. Even his obituary in the May 30, 1982 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal stated, “He was a graduate pharmacist of Marquette University.”
Now, more than 90 years after Hanneman’s days of youth in Milwaukee, a question has been raised about where he studied to prepare for his nearly 60-year career as a pharmacist. As The Hanneman Archive was preparing to donate Carl’s student notebooks, study guides and formulary books from his days at Marquette, staff at the university’s archives said they could not find him in an initial search of the graduate database.
The College of Pharmacy at Marquette was disbanded in 1918, as World War I decimated the ranks of students and faculty alike. The plan was to re-establish the pharmacy program after the war, but those plans were never realized and Marquette never again had a pharmacy degree program. So what to make of Carl’s story and his history? We can assume he did not fabricate it, since he was licensed in Wisconsin for 57 years. So, what to do when presented with a mystery? We dug into it.
Some facts in our favorite pharmacist’s story are well-established. Carl Henry Frank Hanneman was born on October 28, 1901 in Grand Rapids, Wood County, Wisconsin (the city’s name was changed to Wisconsin Rapids in 1920). He was the youngest of five children of Charles and Rosine (Osterman) Hanneman. (We related elsewhere on this sitesome of the confusion surrounding his birth when he sought a copy of his original birth certificate in 1946).
His father Charles, whose full name is Carl Frederick Christian Hanneman, emigrated to Wisconsin in November 1882 from county Regenwalde in the Baltic Duchy of Pomerania (now in Poland and Germany). His mother was native to Wood County, Wisconsin. The senior Hanneman toiled at manual labor. He started as a saw mill worker and later became a farm hand for his brother William at the dawn of the 20th century. Charles worked on the 1908 construction of the sewer system in Grand Rapids, earning 17.5 cents per hour. He later worked in a paper mill. Young Carl had a good role model for hard work.
Carl attended public schools, graduating from Lincoln High School in 1921. He was a smart young man, with equal talents at science and art. Shortly after high school, he began work as an apprentice at the well-known Sam Church drug store. A spark was lit. Carl felt a calling. Carl’s apprenticeship at the Church drug store lasted nearly five years. We believe the person who told Carl about Marquette University was Mark C. Whitrock, a 1913 Marquette pharmacy graduate and pharmacist at Sam Church. Nearly 10 years Carl’s senior, Whitrock was also a member of the Wisconsin Rapids city council.
Among Carl’s Marquette papers is a pharmacy course notebook originally belonging to Whitrock. It is from a theoretical pharmacy course taught by Dr. Hugh C. Russell, a physician and professor in Marquette’s College of Pharmacy. Whitrock gave the book to Carl to help him prepare to study for work as a druggist. What to do, since the pharmacy degree program at Marquette was no more? With some help from the Marquette University Archives and Carl’s own writings, we found the answer.
In 1923, Marquette began offering a “short course” in pharmacy under the auspices of the College of Dentistry. The school newspaper, the Marquette Tribune,said the course was “not part of the regular curriculum of the university.” What? The courses in chemistry, organic chemistry, pharmacy, pharmacognosy, toxicology and drug identification were rigorous. They were taught by the aforementioned Dr. Russell and Professor Frederick C. Mayer, both former deans of the Marquette College of Pharmacy. The two-semester program was designed for young men and women with pharmacy experience, in preparation to pass the state exams.
Carl enrolled in the pharmacy short course in the winter of 1924. We know he paid tuition (he referenced in later writings having to save before enrolling at Marquette). He lived in the 700 block of 37th Street in Milwaukee, just west of the Marquette campus. We have a number of photos of his fiancee, Ruby Treutel, visiting him at Solomon Juneau Park in Milwaukee in 1924.
The books Carl left behind contain hundreds of pages of meticulous notes on chemistry, pharmacy and related subjects. Two of the books have Marquette pennant stickers on the front. Carl’s pocket-size copy of the Guide to the Organic Drugs of the United States Pharmacopœia has a Marquette University seal on the cover. His exam book shows he scored an 82 percent on one test in 1924. The test was corrected by someone identified only as “A. Mankowski.” So far, we have not identified that person further.
It seems odd that Marquette would offer such a program but not count it as official curriculum. The university offered certification programs in other subjects. We have no paper certificate or other document showing Carl matriculated from the pharmacy short course, but we will ask Marquette to check its records thoroughly. Otherwise, Carl and many others like him from the 1920s would be Marquette orphans, educated by the university but not claimed as students or course graduates.
Carl traveled to Madison on January 24, 1925 for the state Board of Pharmacy examination. He was one of 105 applicants seeking licensure as either a registered pharmacist or assistant registered pharmacist. Carl was among 76 people who passed the exam that day. On January 30, the Wisconsin State Board of Pharmacy issued him certificate No. 3252 as a registered assistant pharmacist. With his credentials in hand, he returned home to Wisconsin Rapids. Mark Whitrock hired him as a druggist for the brand new Whitrock & Wolt pharmacy on Grand Avenue.
Six months later in nearby Vesper, Carl married his longtime sweetheart, Ruby Viola Treutel. After working at the Whitrock pharmacy much of 1925, Carl and Ruby moved to Janesville. Carl took a druggist job with the McCue & Buss Drug Co. in downtown Janesville. After about six months, Carl and his now-pregnant wife moved to Fond du Lac, where Carl started work for Fred Staeben at the Staeben Drug Co. Just weeks later, they welcomed their first child, Donn Gene Hanneman.
By Christmas 1927, the Hannemans moved back to Wisconsin Rapids. Carl became a druggist for his old employer, Sam Church. He stayed in that job for five years. In March 1933, the family welcomed another son, David Dion. Carl then left the pharmacy world for a sales job with the Consolidated Water Power & Paper Co. That assignment lasted for several years.
Pharmacy was his calling, so Carl looked for a chance to retake his place behind the druggist’s counter. In February 1936, Carl was hired by Dr. J. Samuel Hess Jr. to be an assistant pharmacist at the Mauston Drug Store, which was attached to the Hess Memorial Hospital in Mauston.
We wrote elsewhere on this site of Carl’s heartfelt September 1937 plea for assistance obtaining a full registered pharmacist license. He wrote to Orland S. Loomis, a well-known Mauston attorney and former state senator who was then Wisconsin’s attorney general. Carl regretted not taking the full registered pharmacist exam in 1925. At the time, he was six months short of the five years of apprentice experience required to become a registered pharmacist. Now 12 years later, lacking that higher license, he could not officially manage the Mauston Drug Store because of a quirk in state law regarding small-town pharmacies. The better license would mean better salary, something that became crucial in August 1937 with the birth of the Hannemans’ third child, daughter Lavonne Marie.
We don’t know if Loomis wrote back or helped Carl with his license issues. (Loomis became governor-elect of Wisconsin in 1942, but died before taking office. As a correspondent for the Wisconsin State Journal, Carl photographed Loomis at the Loomis home in Mauston on election eve in November 1942). Carl became a full registered pharmacist on July 12, 1944. He was among nine people issued new licenses that Wednesday in Madison. He was issued certificate No. 5598 by the Wisconsin State Board of Pharmacy. The certificate was signed by Oscar Rennebohm, a well-known Madison pharmacist who later became Wisconsin’s 32nd governor.
So the mystery is solved. Carl Hanneman did enroll in and complete a short course in pharmacy at Marquette University in 1924. It remains to be seen if Marquette will claim him and his many colleagues who studied in the pharmacy short course in the 1920s. His class notes, study guides and other materials from that time will be donated to the Marquette University Archives later this summer.
A sample from one of Carl Hanneman’s pharmacy notebooks.
Carl’s notebooks contained meticulous notes on chemistry and other subjects.
Professor Frederick C. Mayer was one of at least two faculty who taught the pharmacy short course.
Carl earned his registered assistant pharmacist license in January 1925.
Carl F. Hanneman taking his suits to the cleaner at Janesville, Wis., on April 5, 1926. Carl and his wife, Ruby V. Hanneman, were on their way to dinner. Carl was a druggist at McCue & Buss Drug Co. at the time.
Carl F. Hanneman served as an apprentice at the Sam Church drug store (shown at right) in Wisconsin Rapids. He was later hired as an assistant pharmacist after completing his education and working at three other pharmacies.
In 1926 and 1927, Carl F. Hanneman worked for the Staeben Drug Co. in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
The Mauston Drug Store, circa 1930. Image courtesy of the Juneau County Historical Society.
I’m generally not a fan of social media page “likes” or shares or fan praise. While it is one metric of success in the online world, it also can set us up for easy disappointment. That being said, I was quite pleased to see my grandparents’ wedding photo draw such nice comments on an Instagram page dedicated to preserving the stories behind photos.
Saving Family Photos featured this 1925 wedding portrait today, along with the newspaper story published shortly after the marriage of Carl F. Hanneman and Ruby V. Treutel. As of this writing (less than one full day on display), the photo has 1,016 likes. A sampling of the viewer comments:
“I have a similar picture of my grandparents. You’ve inspired me to frame it.”
“Wow! Beautiful picture!”
“A true treasure.”
“Stunning photo. Love every detail. A gift for you to have this.”
“Can’t love this enough…still looking for photos of my grandparents weddings.”
“That is now may favorite wedding photo! What a treasure!”
I submitted the photo to Saving Family Photos from Treasured Lives, our sister site. If you are on Instagram, find them @savefamilyphotos. You can also see the gallery on their web site.
A simple family snapshot taken around 1918 is the only photograph we have showing Walter Treutel and his wife Mary (Ladick) Treutel together. Taken at the Treutel home in the village of Vesper, Wisconsin, the photo shows a teenaged Ruby along with younger siblings Marvin, 2, and Nina, 4. Elaine Treutel would come along in 1920. Baby Gordon Treutel died in 1910.
Walter was a rural route postal carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, while Mary tended to the family home on Anderton Avenue. The couple were married on December 29, 1902 in Vesper. Walter had recently relocated to Vesper from North Prairie in Waukesha County. Our Grandma Ruby Viola (Treutel) Hanneman was their first child, born June 22, 1904. Ruby was born at 1 p.m., delivered by Dr. F.A. Goedecke.
We learned recently that Mary’s nickname was Molly. That factoid came from none other than cousin Mary “Mollisu” Clark, the daughter of Elaine (Treutel) Clark and Max Clark.
Mrs. Treutel died at just 42 years old in January 1925. She had an operation in nearby Marshfield, but a post-operative infection claimed her life on January 31. She did not live to see her daughter Ruby get married that summer, and she did not get to see her other three children grow into adulthood.
Eight uniformed, ax-wielding men and their sword-bearing commander grace this photograph from Vesper, Wisconsin, circa 1910. The men were Foresters, a ceremonial drill team from a fraternal group called the Modern Woodmen of America. The Woodmen organization dates to the 1880s. It was formed to provide financial relief when the family breadwinner died. Drill teams would participate in parades and at other public functions to promote the group and show patriotism.
At farthest left in the photo is Walter Treutel (1879-1948), father of our Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977). The fourth man from the left is Orville Carlin (1874-1934), Ruby’s uncle. Walter was the longtime rural-route postal carrier in Vesper. Orville operated a butcher shop and meat market at Vesper before moving his business to nearby Arpin. He was the husband of Walter’s sister, Emma (Treutel) Carlin (1877-1962).
This photograph from my Grandmother Ruby V. Hanneman shows the interior of the State Bank of Vesper in the village of Vesper, Wisconsin, circa 1912. Scrawled on the back of the photo in pencil is the following notation: “First Vesper Bank. Jones Cashier, Martin President, Oliver V-P.”
George E. Martin was president of the State Bank of Vesper, chartered in December 1911 with capitalization of $10,000. Owen Oliver was vice president and Burton Jones was cashier. It is not clear if these are the three gentlemen shown in the photo. The bank made slow progress at first. A new management team was put in place in 1913, with Vesper hardware merchant George H. Horn serving as president, farmer Arthur P. Bean vice president and Fred Ellsworth cashier. According to the 1923 History of Wood County, Ellsworth sold his share in 1919 to three investors from Wisconsin Rapids. The bank subsequently grew from $55,000 in deposits to $140,000 and was considered one of the strongest country banks in the area.
We only have two photographs that show Carl F. Hanneman at school, and both appear to be from the same year. In the first, Carl is the second pupil in the second row at a school in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin. Wearing a tie and cardigan sweater, Carl is one of a half-dozen or so boys in the class. The clock reads 11:59, so the class photo was scheduled just before the lunch break. It is a well-kept and neatly appointed classroom. The girl sitting in front of Carl could easily be mistaken for his future bride, Ruby V. Treutel, although she went to school in nearby Vesper.
The second photo was taken outdoors at an entrance to the school. Carl is third from the left in the first row. At the time, the Hannemans lived on Baker Street in Grand Rapids, so the Howe School would have been the closest public school. But the building in the photo does not match exterior details of the Howe School, so it’s unclear where Carl spent his elementary school years.
Her reign may have been brief, but for one day in 1922, Ruby V. Treutel was front-page news as the most popular single woman in Wood County, Wisconsin. To help celebrate dedication of a new bridge across the Wisconsin River, the community organized a popularity contest to find the Queen of the Bridge.
The Queen of the Bridge contest invited the nomination of single women of Wood County. The contest winner would preside at the dedication of what came to be called the Grand Avenue Bridge, linking the east and west sides of Wisconsin Rapids over the Wisconsin River.
Miss Ruby Treutel of Vesper was among the early nominees for the Bridge Queen, and she jumped to a lead after the first weekend of balloting in September 1922. The front-page headline in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribuneon Sept. 25, 1922, proclaimed: Ruby Treutel and Mary Herron in Spirited Contest. “A spirited race between Miss Ruby Treutel of Vesper and Miss Mary Herron of this city developed as a result of the week end balloting in the Bridge Queen popularity contest,” the article read, “with Miss Treutel leading by slightly over 200 votes of the 43,000 cast for these two candidates.”
Ruby’s 22,570 vote total was more than twice that of the third-place contestant and far ahead of the 10 votes for Miss Pearl Brewster. But, like fame and money, the lead would not last as the contest balloting steamed along for two weeks at such a rapid pace the contest was ended early. In the first week, more than 1.3 million ballots were cast. The Bridge Committee had trouble keeping up with the tallying, which would exceed 20 million votes by the end of the contest.
By September 28, 1922, Ruby’s vote total had more than doubled, to 45,240. But this now paled in comparison to contest leaders Eva Manka and Mary Herron, who had more than 500,000 votes between them. On Sept. 30, Herron’s vote total ballooned to 989,000, far exceeding Manka’s new total of 640,000. Ruby was in a respectable fifth place with 171,000 votes. By the time the committee decided to cut voting short on Sept. 30, balloting was at a fever pitch. The final vote totals were:
Mary Herron, 5,336,570 votes
Mildred Bossert, 3,645,840 votes
Eva Manka, 1,763,360 votes
Manon Matthews, 1,016,510 votes
Margaret Galles, 711,550 votes
Alice Damon, 618,550 votes
Ruby Treutel, 608,050 votes
Maurine Dutcher, 492,410 votes
Pearl Possley, 486,600 votes
Ruth McCarthy, 460,510 votes
Miss Herron was crowned Queen of the Bridge. On Oct. 18, 1922, she attended the huge dedication ceremony and officially christened the span the “Grand Avenue Bridge.” It was indeed a grand event, with thousands of people, a parade and even aerial acrobatics performed by the Federated Flyers stunt team, which did loops in the sky with its planes, and thrilled the crowd with wing walking.
The Grand Avenue Bridge has long been an important part of Wood County’s infrastructure. The 1922 version replaced an old wood and steel span. Bridges across the Wisconsin River date to the 1870s. In earlier times, bridge was an important link between the former towns of Grand Rapids and Centralia,which later joined to form the city of Wisconsin Rapids.