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.
Sometimes the smallest details can result in a breakthrough discovery. Such was the case in identifying the adorable little face of an unknown baby in our photo archive. Many times I passed over the photo of the tyke leaning on a small wooden chair. His face was distinctive. He looked, well, familiar. Who was he?
During a recent perusal of the photo library, I had an overwhelming sense that I’d seen this baby before. He had facial features similar to members of the Harry V. Cole family of Nekoosa, Wisconsin. Harry and Anna Cole were my father’s great uncle and aunt. Their daughter Gladys was an attendant in my grandparents wedding in 1925. Dad spoke often of the Hanneman family visits to the Coles in Nekoosa, especially of the rousing games of sheepshead played between my Grandpa Carl and Harry Cole. I recalled a Cole family portrait published in a book somewhere, and this baby looked like the one in the book.
After rummaging around, I found a PDF copy of History of Wood County, Wisconsin,a mammoth 1,000-page tome published in 1923 by H.C. Cooper Jr. & Company. There it was on Page 551, Harry and Anna Cole with four children. Wow, the baby looked so similar to the one in my scanned photograph. As I stared at the book page (which was pixelated and poor quality due to the extreme file compression of the PDF), it dawned on me that not only was it the same baby, it was the exact same photo! Except there was no wooden chair and no grass in the background.
Now why would the book publisher cut the baby from another photo and superimpose him onto the family portrait? Obviously, there was a story behind it. So I dove into my Family Tree Maker software to see what I could learn about the Coles and their children. Among the Cole progeny were a boy named Russell Robert and a slightly younger boy named Robert Russell. This was already confusing. Russell Robert was born in 1920 and died in January 1922. The book History of Wood County (Page 550) mentioned that Russell was the youngest Cole child and that he died.
I dug through the first few pages of the book and saw that it was published in April 1923. That was a little more than a year after Russell died, and six months before Robert was born. So the baby in the photos had to be Russell. Based on all of the evidence, it appeared the book publisher cut an outline of Russell from the photo with the chair and grass, and superimposed it on the family portrait. It is safe to assume the family sat for the portrait not long after baby Russell died.
I ran a search on Newspapers.com and found a short article on Russell’s death from the January 25, 1922 issue of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune:
YOUNG NEKOOSA LAD DIED ON SATURDAY
Russell, the two year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cole of Nekoosa passed away Saturday after a prolonged illness of pneumonia.
Funeral services were held at the home Monday morning, Rev. C.A. O’Neil officiating. Interment was made in Forest Hill cemetery at Wisconsin Rapids. Mr. and Mrs. Cole have the sympathy of the entire community.
The following relatives from out of town attended the funeral: Mrs. M.J. Cole, Fond du Lac; Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Cole, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Treutel, Mr. and Mrs. John Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Goldammer and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ladick of Vesper.
Another photo mystery solved. The creative book production people at the H.C. Cooper Jr. company found a fitting, and convincing, way to memorialize a young life taken too soon.
Before I embarked on this ongoing genealogy voyage in 2006, I’d never seen so much as a photograph of my Aunt Evelyn (Deutsch) Mulqueen. All I knew of her is that she died very young, leaving my Uncle Earl Mulqueen to try to raise six children. It was this tragedy that led to a blessing in my life, when Earl and Evelyn’s daughter Laura came to live with the Hanneman family in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
As I made my way through thousands of images in the photo collections from my father, my Grandpa Carl Hanneman and my maternal grandparents Earl and Margaret Mulqueen, I was happy to discover more about this forever young mother, gone too soon.
Most recently, my project to digitize the 8mm film collection of Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. has brought forth the first moving pictures of Evelyn Mulqueen. The newest batch can be viewed below. These are very short glimpses of a beautiful young woman tending to her family in South Milwaukee. Carrying her infant son, Mark, or engaging with Laura, Tom, John, Brian and Earl Jr. (Bud). These are moments frozen in time. More than 50 years later, we get to witness the gathering in front of the Mulqueen home, the Christmas present opening, and the family barbecue. Normal family events, but now given such weight with the knowledge of how many of those pictured have died.
Evelyn A. Deutsch was born in Cudahy, Wisconsin, on April 24, 1929, the only daughter of Michael Deutsch (1882-1963) and the former Theresa Ulrich (1891-1967). Her parents, who emigrated from Austria, married in April 1917.
Evelyn married Earl James Mulqueen Jr. on December 14, 1949 in Cook County, Illinois. Her husband was a U.S. Marine war hero who lost a leg in May 1944 while preparing for the U.S. invasion of Saipan. The couple had a large family, with Bud (1950), Thomas (1953), John (1956), Brian (1959), Laura (1960) and Mark (1962) rounding out the bunch. An aggressive brain cancer took Evelyn from her family on February 2, 1963. She was just 33.
The family experienced more than its share of suffering with and after the death of Evelyn. Earl died in August 1980 at age 57. The family also saw the premature deaths of Tom (age 51), Brian (age 40) and Mark (age 46). Those tragedies are in part what makes these video images so compelling and precious. Viewers get to share a time when these heartaches were far away, and only smiles graced the frames of the 8mm film.
As he prepared his six-seat Beechcraft C35 Bonanza airplane for takeoff, Richard E. Rickman asked airport manager John Stedman if he should take the most direct route, across expansive Lake Michigan to Detroit. Stedman cautioned against it, telling the pilot to fly east across Wisconsin to the lake, then hug the shore and make his way over to Michigan. This approach would presumably be safer, and provide great views for Rickman, his wife and four children.
It was just after the dinner hour on Labor Day 1960. The Rickman family packed themselves into the aircraft at Alexander Field in Wisconsin Rapids, ready to make the flight home to Detroit. The family had been to Drummond, Wis., to visit Helen Rickman’s parents, then flew to the Rapids to visit other relatives.
Richard, the son of a longtime shoe-store proprietor, grew up in Wisconsin Rapids. He was a descendant of pioneer resident Matthias Hanneman, who came to Wisconsin in 1866 from Pomerania. A factory representative for the Ogden Manufacturing Co., Rickman married the former Helen Anderson in December 1949 and they later moved to Michigan. Their first child, Richard Edward, was born in Lansing in May 1953. Robert John was born in Lansing in March 1955. Catherine Helen was born in Detroit in June 1956; and Patricia Ann joined the family in Detroit in September 1957.
The final day of the Rickmans’ visit was spent at the airfield. Rickman gave plane rides to his sister, Elvira Pluke, her husband Nolan and their five children. Rickman primarily used the single-engine aircraft for business trips. The family had recently flown to California in the plane, and then used it for the Labor Day weekend visit.
The wheels of the Beechcraft left the ground of Alexander Field at 6:30 p.m. The Rickman family flew along the western shore of Lake Michigan. They were treated to an incredible view of the Chicago skyline as the aircraft flew less an a mile offshore. The first sign of trouble came near 7:30 p.m., when Rickman issued distress calls that were heard by ships and aircraft as far north as Milwaukee. Rickman radioed Meigs Field in downtown Chicago and asked permission to make an emergency landing because the plane’s engine was cutting out.
Officials at Meigs Field gave Rickman permission for an emergency landing. He veered the aircraft out over the lake and circled to attempt a landing. Witnesses at nearby Oak Street Beach saw sparks trailing from the airplane. The 185-horsepower Continental engine caught fire and became enveloped in smoke. Suddenly, the 25-foot-long airplane turned straight down and plunged headlong into the lake. Hundreds of horrified beach-goers saw a blinding explosion as the plane hit the water.
William J. Cempleman saw the fiery crash from aboard the yacht Playtime. “The whole lake looked afire. Flames soared twenty-five to thirty feet,” Cempleman said. “When we got to the scene, a big circle of water was flaming. All we could see was an airplane wheel floating.” As the Playtime circled the crash site, Cempleman saw the charred body of little Catherine Rickman, 4, floating about 15 feet from the flames. Newspapers across America later published a dramatic Associated Press photograph of a police marine officer carrying the lifeless body of Catherine to shore. Resuscitation efforts failed.
Police and Coast Guard vessels searched the waters off Oak Street Beach into the night. Divers used underwater lights to aid in the search, but found no trace of the aircraft or the other members of the Rickman family. Divers resume the search on September 6, but did not locate the wreckage or the other victims until September 7. Diver Jeff Daxe, a commercial pilot, was the first to reach the bodies. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that one body was found 50 feet from the fuselage, while the other four were inside the wreckage. After the victims were recovered and taken to Burnham Harbor, it was discovered that Richard Rickman’s watch stopped at 7:38 p.m.
The impact sheared off both wings, but only one was found. The engine and propeller were found some distance from the rest of the wreckage in about 30 feet of water. Two weeks after the crash, the Civil Aeronautics Board issued a preliminary opinion that engine failure had caused the crash. In late October the CAB confirmed that opinion, but said the engine would be sent back to the manufacturer for testing. It’s unknown if that ever happened.
The six members of the Rickman family were memorialized at a funeral service on Saturday, September 10, 1960 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids. They were buried at Forest Hill Cemetery.
Richard Edwin Rickman was born on April 27, 1926, the youngest child of Edwin and Renata (Rathke) Rickman. Edwin John Rickman was the son of Christian Wilhelm Ludwig Theodor and Amelia Bertha Emilie Auguste (Hannemann) Rickman. Amelia’s father was August Friedrich Hanneman, the son of family patriarch Matthias Hannemann. Richard Rickman graduated from Lincoln High School in 1943 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July 1943. He served more than three years in the Navy during World War II and was discharged as an ensign in September 1960. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in business administration.
SHAWNEETOWN, Illinois — Children skipped happily along the streets of this southern Illinois town on the afternoon of Sunday, April 3, 1898. Sunday school had let out and the rest of the sunny day was theirs to claim. A large crowd of adults ambled along the walk, crossing Market Street and continuing on their way home. At the north end of Market Street, the levee that protects the town from the Ohio River was badly strained by rising water. But if the townsfolk were worried, it did not show on this spring day.
About 4:45 p.m., a 10-foot section of the levee collapsed and river water began pouring through the breach onto Market Street. The hole in the levee quickly grew to a half-mile wide, exploding into a wall of onrushing flood water that raced into the center of town. The flood rush hit the town like a blast from a double-barrel shotgun. Dozens of homes in the immediate path, many nothing more than shanties, were suddenly swept away. The small buildings were thrust along, some of them smashing against sturdier structures like the courthouse. Within mere moments, a quarter of Shawneetown’s homes were gone, the remains of which tumbled along in the rolling boils of a massive flood.
The people of Shawneetown were no strangers to floods. They had waged war with the Ohio River for generations. The Ohio always won the battle, but the people rebuilt time and again. As heavy spring rains swelled the Ohio again in March 1898, the older folks in town knew it could mean big trouble. But the relatively new levees were supposed to prevent it. Levees were built in 1884 after back-to-back years of devastating floods that twice wiped out much of the town. Today, the Ohio River again claimed its superiority with the ferocity of a jungle cat.
“About 50 small frame houses along the line of the levee to the south were crushed like toys,” witness T.J. Hogan of Omaha, Illinois said. Stunned residents scrambled for higher ground. Women on the streets struggled through the muddy waters, holding their babies aloft as the flood waters reached neck level. “The strongest houses, built especially to resist floods, went down like corn stalks,” wrote photographer Benneville L. Singley. “There was a wild rush for the hills. None had time to secure either treasure or clothing.”
A few miles northwest of Shawneetown, the Daniel J. Dailey Jr. family was preparing for Sunday supper on their farm in North Fork Township. Florence (White) Dailey, 30, prepared the meal while the children helped ready the table. The Dailey home was a busy place, with Delia, Millie, Daniel and Maggie scuttling about. Maggie, just 2 ½, grew up to become our own Margaret Madonna (Dailey) Mulqueen of Cudahy, Wisconsin.
The Dailey and White families had farmed this area of Gallatin County since the early 1860s. Daniel J. Dailey Sr. brought his young family from Ohio about 1860. The 1860 U.S. Census shows the Dailey family consisted of Daniel, 30, Hannah, 26, Mary, 4, and Daniel J., 2. The White family, from which Florence (White) Dailey came, settled in Gallatin County nearly a decade before her birth. The 1860 census showed the White family included father Don, 24, mother Sarah, 24 and children Mary, 5, Wiley, 3, and James, 6 months. Florence was born in November 1869.
We don’t know how long it took word to reach North Fork about the massive breach in the levee. It was most likely the next morning. The news no doubt sent Daniel Dailey towards Shawneetown with other area farmers, while Florence (White) Dailey gathered supplies for what would soon become a massive relief effort. By nightfall on April 3, the river had flooded dozens of square miles in and around Shawneetown with water up to 15 feet deep.
By morning, the town was devastated. Those who could scrambled to the roofs of their homes to escape the rising terror. Dozens raced into the Gallatin County Courthouse, the Riverside Hotel and the Ridgway Bank, seeking shelter on the upper floors of these sturdy structures. A few early rescue boats and canoes drifted into town and began rescuing the stranded. “Hundreds of those who escaped the rush of water were perched on roofs, trees and along the top of the levee,” a newspaper dispatch read. “They were taken from their dangerous positions as rapidly as possible.” Survivors were taken to nearby Junction City, where an emergency camp was established.
Upstream, carpenters, farmers and any able-bodied men began building flat boats that would be used to ferry supplies and people. When word reached dry land in nearby towns, frantic wires were sent to Springfield for help. The situation was pure panic. Newspapers across America carried dramatic headlines; FLOOD AT SHAWNEETOWN. Some predicted hundreds of deaths. One paper even pegged the toll at 1,000.
Meanwhile, rescuers shortly had weather to battle. The cold rains had started again, whipped by 30-mile-per-hour winds that made the sheets of rain cut like glass. Relief efforts were being coordinated at Ridgway, some 12 miles from Shawneetown. The governor sent more than 100 tents and rations for more than 1,000 people, but initially the displaced could rely only on the charity of neighbors and strangers. It would be weeks before the deep flood waters began to recede. Doctors hurried to the area to help prevent sanitary conditions from sickening the townsfolk.
On April 5, the Shawneetown relief committee released a statement and called for donations: “The whole town is submerged. One tract of twelve acres is about 15 feet under water; this was formerly covered with small dwellings and is now absolutely bare. On this tract the greatest loss of life occurred. It is evident that bodies cannot be recovered, nor any absolute knowledge of the number of deaths obtained until the waters abate.”
When the waters finally receded, the full toll of the disaster could be chronicled. There were 25 killed by drowning. Some 143 houses were demolished or rendered untenable. About half of those floated away on the rising river. The relief committee distributed more than $22,000 and helped rebuild many homes. Losses were estimated at in excess of $300,000.
Gallatin County Sheriff Charles R. Galloway suffered particularly stunning personal loss. After learning his daughters Dora, 19, and Mary, 12 were killed in the flood, he then learned of the drowning of his wife, Sylvester. Photographer Singley wrote that the sheriff’s hair “turned suddenly white from grief at the loss of his wife and two daughters.” In some cases, entire families were wiped out, such as Charles Clayton, his wife and their four children.
Until 1883, Shawneetown was completely at the mercy of the river. That year, after floods had again wiped out much of the village, construction was begun on a levee system. The levee was still incomplete in February 1884 when the river overpowered it, pouring floodwaters into the town. “Within 24 hours from that time, all the poorer people of Shawneetown were homeless, their houses drifting about and away in the turbulent flood,” read a report prepared for the Illinois legislature.
There was something in the community’s DNA that willed the folks to rebuild. This was a longstanding feature of life in Shawneetown. Morris Birbeck, writing his 1817 Notes on a Journey in America, remarked: “As the lava of Mount Etna can not dislodge this strange being from the cities which have been repeatedly ravished by its eruptions, the Ohio, with its annual overflowings, is unable to wash away the inhabitants of Shawneetown.”
As true as Birbeck’s observation was, the Ohio struck at Shawneetown with disastrous results again in 1913. That year, more than 1,000 people took up residence in tent cities built on the nearby hills. An emergency hospital was built to care for the injured and sick. In 1932, the levee was raised to 5 feet above the high-water mark from 1913. But nothing would hold back the flood waters in 1937, when what was called a 1,000-year flood swamped the town. After more than a century of floods and destruction, Shawneetown would not rebuild on the lowlands. The state and federal governments helped move the village onto hills 4 miles back from the river.
Margaret Dailey, who was referred to in Census documents as Maggie and Madge, moved away from North Fork and went to school at Northwestern University. She finished her studies in June 1920, and shortly after married a young man named Earl James Mulqueen in Racine, Wisconsin. The Mulqueen family home, which eventually relocated to Cudahy, welcomed 11 children between 1921 and 1944.
— This post has been updated with an additional photo of the flood, and a correction on the location of the first photo to Uniontown, Ky., rather than Shawneetown.
United States Marine Cpl. Almeron A. Freeman was scheduled to finish his three-year military service in just a matter of months. After nearly 1½ years in Korea with the 1st Marine Division, Freeman was headed for California aboard a U.S. Navy transport in March 1955. He never made it home. The Douglas R6D airplane slammed into a mountain peak on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. All 66 aboard were killed.
My father, David D. Hanneman, played football with Freeman at Mauston High School. Although Freeman was a year behind Dad in school, he was the same age. Freeman played left guard and wore No. 64 during the 1950 season. Dad played left tackle and wore No. 66. They were both muscular and athletic. Freeman’s death left a deep impression on Dad. In 2006, when planning the Mauston High School Class of 1951’s 55th reunion, Dad made sure Freeman’s photo was included in the program.
Freeman enlisted in the Marine Corps on August 27, 1952, directly after his graduation from Mauston High School. He was an infantry rifleman with the First Marine Division. He landed for duty in Korea just four months after an armistice ended Korean War combat and began a tense “peace” along the 38th Parallel.
At the end of his tour, he flew from South Korea to Tokyo, then to Hickam Field on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. Just after 6 p.m. on March 21, 1955, Freeman was onboard a U.S. Navy R6D transport that left Hickam for Travis Air Force Base in California. Some 3½ hours into the flight, the plane developed radio problems and turned back for Oahu. Just after 2 a.m. on March 22, the plane was seen roaring low over the Navy’s Lualualei ammunition depot. Marine Pfc. Joseph T. Price, on guard duty at Lualualei, said the pilot turned on the landing lights and discovered the plane was headed straight into the Wai’ane Mountains. At the last second, the plane made a hard right, but slammed into the mountain about 200 feet below the tip of Pali Kea Peak. The explosion “lit up like daylight for about a minute,” Price said.
The resulting fire was so hot that it took rescuers nearly two hours to get close enough to confirm there were no survivors. The 66 killed included nine Navy crewmen and 57 passengers: 17 U.S. Air Force, four Navy, 12 Marines, 22 U.S. Army and two civilians (a mother and her baby daughter). It was the worst air disaster in Hawaii’s history. The U.S. Military Air Transportation System, which operated the flight, had flown 1.12 million passengers and crossed the Pacific nearly 42,000 times between January 1951 and March 1955 with no fatalities. The crash was caused by crew error. The plane was 8 miles off course when it struck the mountain.
Almeron Arthur Freeman was born February 3, 1933 in Dresbach Township, Minnesota, the son of Irvin M. Freeman and the former Lilah Jenks. Prior to 1940, the family moved from Houston County, Minnesota to Mauston. Irvin worked as a service station attendant. In addition to being a starting guard on the football team, Almeron was a member of the highly rated Mauston boxing team.
He came from a proud family military tradition. His great-grandfather and namesake, Almeron Augustus Freeman, served in the Civil War with the 1st Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery. The battery served under General William Tecumseh Sherman and General Ulysses S. Grant at the battle of Vicksburg, the battle of Port Gibson and later in defense of New Orleans. The elder Freeman later married and became a river pilot moving lumber on the waterways of Wisconsin.
Marine Cpl. Freeman was buried May 17, 1955 at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Due to the nature of the crash and fire, the remains of 40 service members were buried in a group grave site containing nine caskets. A memorial service for Freeman was held at Mauston High School on May 15, 1955.
The tragedy of the March 1955 air crash extended beyond the immediate victims and their families. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marion “Billy” Shackleford was scheduled to be on that flight, but because he forgot his travel papers, he was denied boarding. He was spared the fate of the 66 crash victims and returned home to Alabama to report for a new assignment. On April 19, 1955, the car he was driving was hit head-on by a Trailways Bus. He was killed instantly. His father, working on a nearby construction job, witnessed the accident. Like Freeman, Sgt. Shackleford was the great-grandson of a Civil War veteran.
His death was given only passing notice in the Wisconsin State Journal, the state’s official newspaper. “May he rest in peace,” the brief item from April 9, 1864 read. So it was the unwritten that was truly remarkable in the all-too-brief life of James Moore, soldier of the Wisconsin 12th Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.
The son of Irish immigrants who settled to farming in the Town of Sun Prairie, Moore was just 14 when he enlisted in Company I of the 12th Infantry Regiment in late September 1862. Moore and Lemuel C. Neal of Sun Prairie enlisted together at Camp Randall on September 29, 1862. Moore was a boy who went to fight in a man’s war — a theme that would be repeated, most especially in the “war to end all wars,” World War I. His youth, just five months past his 14th birthday, seems quite remarkable for an infantry private. The sacrifice of his very young life in the fight to save the republic should always be remembered.
Moore saw combat and the horrors of America’s bloodiest war, although the 12th Infantry Regiment did not take part in the most famous battles of the Civil War. These men rebuilt and guarded key railroad lines, supported the battle of Vicksburg and took part in General Sherman’s Meridian Expedition in February 1864. That month they marched 416 miles, aiding in the capture and destruction of Jackson, Brandon and Decatur as they proceeded to Meridian. “A shell exploded in the ranks of Company I, killing Eugene Baldwin and W.H. Murray, wounding O. Lind, J.W. Dean, John Thorp and George Everett,” read the account in the 1866 Military History of Wisconsin.
Shortly after the Meridian campaign, Moore was among some 700 men in the regiment sent home to Wisconsin on a 30-day furlough. After rolling into Madison via rail at 5 a.m. on March 21, the men ate a hearty supper at the Railroad Restaurant and then marched to their quarters at Camp Randall. The next day they were welcomed by Wisconsin’s newly minted governor, James Taylor Lewis. The Wisconsin State Journal published a chronicle of their service, noting the regiment had marched more than 2,000 miles to earn itself the nickname “the Marching 12th.”
The newspaper asked the community to be patient with these and other young soldiers, home from the stress of war with full bellies and money in their pockets. “Brave boys, they are going back, and the voice that now makes the night hideous with bawdy songs will utter its last accent in a victorious cheer upon some future battlefield,” the paper wrote. “Yes, they are going back, and he who is now a ‘drunken soldier’ will bear the dear old flag in triumph, amid the whistling bullets and screaming shell, to plant it on the battlements of the enemy.”
The soldiers of the 12th were discharged to their homes on Thursday, March 31. It is a safe assumption that Pvt. Moore was ill when he reached his family farm in the Town of Sun Prairie. He took to bed. His death on Monday, April 4 came before he had any chance to enjoy the well-deserved furlough. We don’t know what disease or illness claimed his life, or if he was exposed to it in battle, on the train ride home or at Camp Randall. His funeral Mass was held at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church, which his father helped to build just a year before. His parents and two sisters had the sad duty of burying young James just as Wisconsin shook off the winter of 1864.
James Moore was born in Ohio on April 15, 1848, the only son of Mathew Moore and the former Catharine O’Neill. His parents emigrated from Ireland and spent some time in Ohio before settling on a 37-acre farm on the western edge of the Town of Sun Prairie in May 1850. Mathew and Catharine carried the loss of their son with them every day. Around 1875, the family left the farm and moved into the village of Sun Prairie, where Mathew died on April 28, 1891. Mrs. Moore died on Feb. 22, 1907 at age 93. Their daughters, Margaret Moore and Sara (Moore) Flavin, are buried near their parents — and their soldier brother — at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Cemetery in Sun Prairie.
Moore was among the more than 224,500 Union soldiers who died of disease, exposure or other non-battle causes in the Civil War. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, the state sent more than 91,000 boys and men in 56 regiments to fight in the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865). More than 12,000 died, including nearly 8,500 from disease.
His compatriot Lemuel C. Neal survived the war and went on to live a long, productive life. The son of Thomas Neal and the former Olive Dolley, Lemuel was one of nine children in the Neal farmhouse when he left home to enlist in the fall of 1862. He mustered out of service on May 31, 1865 and returned to Sun Prairie. His mother fell ill that fall and died on October 29 at age 45. The family left Wisconsin for Iowa, and eventually Lemuel settled in the Town of Turtle River, North Dakota. He married the former Ellen Forest and started a family. He kept moving west, later settling at Lewiston, Idaho. In 1896, he was awarded a patent for a clothespin by the U.S. patent office.
Neal again moved west, settling in Oceanside, California before eventually moving to Santa Ana. Neal and Ellen had two sons and two daughters. Ellen died in 1920. Neal remarried in February 1921, taking Clara Skelton Jones as his bride. Neal was hospitalized at the U.S. veterans hospital in Sawtelle, California in 1922, suffering from heart disease and high blood pressure. At the time, records listed his occupation as a merchant. He died at that same hospital on February 13, 1936. He was 91.
A fire in April 1926 at the parish priest’s residence in Vesper, Wisconsin, spread so fast that the building was reduced to its foundation before firefighters arrived.
Fire broke out in the rectory of St. James Catholic Church on Monday, April 19, 1926. Calls went to the Wisconsin Rapids fire department, but its firemen were all out battling grass fires. Villagers were on their own.
Neighbors rushed into the burning building to pull out as much as possible before the home was lost to the flames. It’s not known if the parish priest, Rev. Charles W. Gille, was at home when the fire broke out. Within a matter of minutes, the home was, as firefighters say, “totally involved.” The buckets of water thrown at it were of no use. By the time firemen from Marshfield arrived, it was too late.
The former residence of the Henry Stahl family on Benson Avenue was purchased by the St. James parish in 1919 to serve as a home for the parish priest. The loss from the fire was estimated at more than $4,000. The photos were taken by Carl F. Hanneman, whose father-in-law, Walter Treutel, lived just down the block from the fire scene.
This was a day I’d long dreaded. I knew it was coming, and prepared for it the best I could. But I feared it still, because I did not have an answer for the question it posed. How do I — how could I — say goodbye to our family home?
I walked through the now nearly empty house and I still had no answer. So much had happened during the nearly 14 years we lived here. Our third child joined us here. They all grew up here. Our oldest went off to college from here. I started a home-based business here; a business that failed during the long recession. That’s what eventually brought me to this day, just a short time before foreclosure would take it all away.
I stood in the front entryway and listened. Nothing. The quiet was almost deafening. A few boxes and odds and ends were scattered about, but very little remained of the home I loved. This is not how a home is supposed to look. I’m struck by how cold and empty it is. No pictures on the walls. No dogs running to the window to bark at the mailman. No children watching a favorite movie. No charcoal grill cooking steaks out on the deck. No carefully decorated Christmas tree in the corner of the family room, sending out a warm glow into the night. No family saying grace at the dinner table. This is not how I want to remember our home.
I start to walk the house. Almost like a projected movie, the memories flowed, right before my eyes.
I peered outside the small window to the left of the front door. I can almost see my late father coming up the sidewalk with a broad smile and saying, “Hello, Jofus” (that was his little word play on my given name after St. Joseph). September 15, 2006. That was the last time he was here. The sun glints off his silver hair, he waves, and is gone.
I turn and start to head up the stairs to the second floor. The paint color is darker on a large section of the wall. For most of the time we lived here, a giant quilt hung on the wall, embroidered with the saying, “In a House with Love, All things are Possible.” The carpeting on a section of the landing looked new where a small cherry bookcase sat. The case had belonged to my Grandpa Carl. On top of the case I had a shrine with candles, a large crucifix and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On many nights those candles burned in prayer for a dying relative, a sick friend or some special intention. I used to get angry at our son for dipping his fingers into the hot wax and either making fingerprints on the wood, or rolling little marble-size balls of warm wax that he left along the edge of the bookcase. What a silly thing to get upset about. How I wish I could put the case back and have those wax fingerprints again.
At the top of the stairs, I paused. This was the site of one of the most frightening events in family history. Samantha, then 4, was playing with a magic kit. It had a small polystyrene ball and a black tube. Her little eyes turned to a look of terror when she realized the ball had become lodged in her throat. My wife tried the Heimlich maneuver and smacking Samantha between the shoulders. It didn’t work. In desperation, she picked little Samantha up by the ankles and held her upside down. Pop! Out it came. The tears of relief flowed.
I turned left and entered the master bedroom. The heart of the house was now nearly empty. In the corner still stood a chest of drawers. I opened the top drawer and saw an envelope and more than a dozen plastic baggies. Each bag contained a tiny tooth, snatched from under a child’s pillow and replaced with a gift. It was good of the Tooth Fairy to leave them. I kept them all. I picked up the letter, which was addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole. It even had a stamp on it. I gathered the bags and the letter into my pockets. Precious memories need to be kept.
I walked down the hallway toward the children’s bedrooms. On the wall I could see the outlines where our wedding photos used to hang. How young we all looked on that Saturday, December 1, 1990, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. I still had hair and was 40 pounds lighter. What a blessed day that was. Such a contrast to the sadness of today.
As I approach the first bedroom, I see a large hole near the bottom of the wooden door. I remember the day in 2002 I rushed home from work because our then 10-year-old son Stevie had kicked a hole in the door in a fit of anger. As I walked inside the room, I could almost see my son’s battery-operated pteradactyl, flying in circles, anchored to the ceiling by fishing line. The wooden dressers that once sat along the western wall for years had glass aquariums on top — home to hermit crabs, green anole lizards and frogs. The anoles had a diet of live crickets, which were as likely to escape into the carpet as end up in a lizard’s stomach.
Across the hall, I was impressed by the cheery green paint of another child’s bedroom. There were glow-in-the-dark stars pressed all over the ceiling. Pet nets hung in the corners, once home to dozens of stuffed animals. They are empty now. This room had changed hands several times over the years. It started out with white walls as a nursery. The white steel crib sat against the far wall, waiting for its new resident. She came home on a July 4 during our first summer here. It was 104 degrees outside. Little Ruby spent a week in intensive care with a hole in her lung. She was our third baby. We worried so much about her. Every peep on the baby monitor sent us scurrying down the hall. But all was well. How many times I sat in the oak rocking chair in this room, feeding Ruby a bottle. There’s no feeling in the world like rocking a newborn in the still of the night. I thank God for the experience, and the memories.
There was one last bedroom on my tour. Over the years it was painted blue, white, pink and yellow. Today I saw a toddler bed tucked in the corner. I was reading a book to a curly hair redhead. It was a classic Dr. Seuss tome, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?It was a favorite of all three children for its memorable, rhythmic lines. “Dibble dibble dop dop, cock-a-doodle-doo! Mr. Brown can do it. How about you?” Once the book was done, we started a nightly ritual to see how long I’d sit by her bed as she fell asleep. I started the bidding. “I’ll stay THESE minutes,” I said, holding up two fingers. “No, THESE minutes,” Samantha shot back, holding up five fingers on each hand. After a few rounds of this, she usually won. Now I wish I had these minutes back again. As I turned to leave the room, I saw both daughters asleep in their beds. A small lamp threw off just enough to illumine the room. In my head I could hear a favorite Nat King Cole song:
Lights out, sweetheart / One more perfect day is through
Lights out, sweetheart / One more perfect dream come true
We’ve reached the hour of parting / So kiss me tenderly
Lights out, sweetheart / Close your eyes and dream of me
Close your eyes and dream … of me
Back down the stairs, I stood in the foyer again. My grandmother’s 1899 Singer sewing machine had been the centerpiece for years as the staging place for all sorts of family displays. I saw the children gathered around the Advent wreath, taking turns lighting the purple and rose candles. Or placing Baby Jesus into the Nativity creche on Christmas Eve. Most of the year it was covered with framed family photos, from the kids’ sports and school pictures to the large wooden-framed antique photo of my Grandma Ruby Hanneman (1904-1977).
I walked into the kitchen and was overwhelmed with memories of family meals, birthday parties, family meetings and prayer time. I recall our weekly ritual of doing a “blessing cup” ceremony, where each of us would take the blessing cup and talk about something we are thankful for. Ruby, who was very young when we started the tradition, always said the same thing: “I’m sankable (thankful) for my skoowa (school).” It never got old. Today, the table is gone and the blessing cup is packed away. I am still most thankful for it all.
I looked out the sliding glass door to the deck. Suddenly the gas grill was fired up and I was cooking steaks, vegetable kabobs and hot dogs. On the corner of the deck, a fire pit crackled with warmth in the fall night, with our children and the neighbors gathered around, toasting marshmallows. A group of children and adults sat in chairs on the deck, watching me light fireworks for July 4th. “Ooh, pretty! Light the big one now, Daddy.” I looked up at the second-story windows and saw the low flickering light from a television playing a favorite Disney movie, Aladdin.
I walked around the front of the house and the snow was suddenly 3 feet deep. On the porch was my Dad’s handmade wooden Nativity scene, which daughter Samantha had repainted and restored. It glowed a welcoming gold, red and green in the cold darkness. I walked toward the garage and all three kids came running down the driveway with their fishing poles and a tackle box in tow. “Wait for me!” one yelled, as they ran towards the neighborhood pond. How I miss those fishing days now.
I walked back inside and stood at the foot of the stairway. I listened, but heard nothing. Heavy silence. Nobody home anymore. My heart was so heavy, it felt like stone. I never wanted this day, but now it was here, and at an end. “Thank you so much,” I said out loud, almost expecting the house to answer me. “I’m sorry I failed you. Thank you for sheltering us for so long. I will never forget.” There was one more word I thought I should speak, but the lump in my throat kept it from coming out. I just couldn’t say it.
I pulled out of the driveway for the last time and started to drive away. I stopped and looked out the window. More than a decade of memories were visible to me all at once. They swirled around the house like fairy dust. In the upper window, my oldest daughter laid on her bed, reading a book. On the front lawn, our preschool children splashed in a pool. Relatives filed in the front door with armloads of Christmas presents. Our son sat in a lawn chair on the porch, studying for exams. All three children romped during a nighttime snowstorm. “Dadda, it’s snowing!”A petting zoo was set up in the front yard for a birthday party, with children taking turns riding a pony around the block. A tent was set up for a summertime sleepover. The smell of steaks wafted from the backyard grill. My Dad got out of his blue sedan and walked up the driveway with a wave. Voices rang out from the children’s rooms:“I had a bad dream.” “Santa came!” “I got all As!” “I love you, too.” “I’m really proud of you.”
I rolled down the window and took it all in. I waved and bid all of the memories to come with me. And so they followed. Some things are just too precious to leave behind. ♦
It might not have been the Hatfields and McCoys, but thesimmering feud between the John Hinz and William Moody families of Wood County, Wis., almost turned fatal in February 1902.
The Moody and Hinz farms sat just across the road from one another in the Town of Arpin, about a mile north of Vesper, Wis. On Monday, Feb. 3, trouble started when the two family dogs got into a fight. Members of both families then got into a roadside meleethat ended with William Moody being shot in the chest by 22-year-old Frank Hinz.
Newspaper accounts of the donnybrook varied wildly. The Marshfield Times said Moody was “probably fatally wounded”by the “young criminal” Hinz, whom the paper said has a “sneaky and guilty look about him.” The Grand Rapids Tribune called Hinz a “poor shot,” noting that he missed once and actually shot his own father in the wrist with another of his bullets.Lena (Treutel) Moody, aunt of Ruby Treutel of Vesper, swung an axe handle at Frank Hinz during the fracas.
The Tribune said neither man was seriously wounded, although three surgeons responded to the scene. Hinz was arrested by Wood County Sheriff James McLaughlin and charged with assault with attempt to kill Moody.
According to newspaper accounts, the dispute between the families involved pets, children and parents. A few months before the shooting, Martha Hinz reportedly threw pepper in the face of one of the Moody children. The dogs would fight whenever they came into contact.
On the day of the shooting, Lena Moody and John Hinz got into a shouting match in the road after the most recent dog fight. When William Moody came upon the scene, he got into fisticuffs with the elder Hinz. Young Frank Hinz retrieved a revolver from the farmhouse and fired several shots at close range.
At his trial in May 1902, the prosecution called numerous witnesses, including William Moody, Lena Moody, daughters Esther and Anna, and Lisetta (Treutel) Moody, another aunt of Ruby Treutel. Each witness for the state was paid $2.28 for their appearance in court. Hinz was found guilty of a reduced charge of simple assault and fined $50 plus court costs by Justice of the Peace T.J. Cooper. With costs the total levied against Hinz was about $200, in lieu of a six-month jail term.