Tag Archives: tragedy

Carl Hanneman Documents Fire of the Century at Mauston

It was the fire of the century in the tiny city of Mauston, Wisconsin. Life may have started normally on Friday, Jan. 5, 1945, but before 9 a.m. a massive fire broke out that threatened to wipe out the city’s downtown. The man called on to document the blaze for local law enforcement was Carl F. Hanneman, the druggist at the Mauston Drug Store. It may have been the most prominent collection of photos he shot, but was just one among many accidents, fires and crime scenes he photographed over the years.

Carl would have been readying himself for the trip to the pharmacy downtown when the fire broke out that January morning. About  8:30 a.m. the fire started in the rear of the Gamble Stores building along the north side of State Street. Within 30 minutes it had spread to four downtown buildings and threatened the entire business district.Mauston Fire 1

As firefighters from Mauston tried in vain to control the blaze in subzero temperatures, reinforcements from fire departments in Lyndon, New Lisbon and Wisconsin Dells raced to help. Carl stood just behind the line of rescue  workers and took photos.

It took five hours to control the huge blaze, which destroyed Gamble’s, Mauston Press Club dry cleaners, Samisch Bakery, the Fred Denzien barber shop and the All-Star restaurant. At one point during the blaze, the brick facade of the All-Star fell onto the street. Nearby businesses, including Vorlo Drug and Coast to Coast, were badly burned. Damage exceeded $80,000 – equivalent to more than $1 million in 2014 dollars. Mauston Fire Chief John Smith said calm winds kept the fire from sweeping through the entire downtown.

The extreme heat from the fire is evident along the roof line.
The extreme heat from the fire is evident along the roof line.

Carl’s efforts that day earned him a page 1 photo in the Wisconsin State Journal, and two additional photos on page 11. He served as a Mauston correspondent for The State Journal for many years, garnering numerous front-page stories and photographs.

Carl dated and signed the prints from the Mauston fire in January 1945.
Carl dated and signed the prints from the Mauston fire in January 1945.

Carl documented many local emergencies in Mauston and surrounding areas. He captured the moment when a semi-trailer plowed into the front of the Tourist Hotel, knocking down the sign and collapsing the awning. Many of these photographs have a custom “CF Hanneman” imprint on the back, so it’s obvious Carl shot a fair number of news  photos. Some photos from the 1945 fire have even shown up on Ebay.

One of three of Carl’s photos that appeared in The Wisconsin State Journal on January 7, 1945.
David D. Hanneman stands on State Street in front of the charred ruins from the 1945 Mauston fire.
David D. Hanneman stands on State Street in front of the charred ruins.
David D. Hanneman and his younger sister, Lavonne, survey damage from the 1945 Mauston fire.
David D. Hanneman and his younger sister, Lavonne, survey damage.
By summer 1945, the fire debris was gone and rebuilding was in process.
By summer 1945, the fire debris was gone and rebuilding was in process.

Tragedy in the Woods: Couple Murdered, Burned

It was supposed to be a winter camping trip in the woods of northern Minnesota. Rosina and Ernest planned to spend the winter in a cabin and  improve their health in the fresh, cold air. But the trip ended in tragedy as the husband and wife were murdered and their cabin set ablaze.

The sensational crime rocked the tiny town of Allen Junction, Minnesota in early February 1911. Rosina (Ostermann) Newman and her second husband, Ernest Newman, had not been seen for two weeks. Bert Sopher, telegraph operator for the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad, traveled 7 miles into the woods to the Newmans’ camp to check on them. He found the terrible sight, with the couple dead and their shack burned to the ground.

The immediate theory was that the couple were killed as part of a robbery, then the fire set to cover up the crime. When they left home in Minneapolis on Nov. 19, 1910, they carried with them $200 in silver and gold. Each also had a gold watch and heavy gold rings. They were last seen alive Jan. 28, 1911 by J.E. St. George. Mr. St. George had paid the Newmans $55 to care for his home and barns.

Two of Mrs. Newman’s sons, William and Charles Lawrence, rushed from Minneapolis to Allen Junction to investigate the murders. No one had noticed any suspicious characters in the area. The investigation was no doubt hampered by the rural crime site, and the fact the Newmans never visited Allen Junction except for supplies.

St. Louis County Deputy Coroner Henry G. Seeley set the date of death at Feb. 8, 1911. He listed the cause of death only as “murdered and burned.” There was some talk that the couple had befriended a trapper who might have been the murderer. But the crime was never solved.

The former Sarah Rosina Ostermann married Ernest Newman on Dec. 23, 1899.  She had five sons and two daughters by her first husband, Charles Simmons Lawrence, who died in 1904. She was the aunt of Rosine Bertha Henrietta (Ostermann) Hanneman of Grand Rapids, Wisconsin.

©The Hanneman Archive

Cemetery Neglect: Sad Resting Place for Little Ida Krosch

William and Crystal Krosch faced unthinkable tragedy during their first years in Wisconsin. The joy at the birth of their daughter Ida Clara Krosch in February 1858 turned to dread and sadness just a few years later. Sick with diphtheria, little Ida died two days after Christmas 1861 at the family home in the town of Eagle in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

Ida Krosch was laid to rest at Oak Grove Cemetery about a mile south of the village of Eagle. A 2-acre parcel carved out of the Kettle Moraine Forest, the cemetery was a scenic, peaceful place that no doubt brought some comfort to the family during visits to the little girl’s resting place. What shock they would feel if they witnessed what would become of the little country cemetery long after the family had moved to Minnesota.

What was going on in the world in December 1861? “It looks now as if we are to have good sleighing for Christmas, as several inches of snow fell during Sunday last,” wrote the Waukesha Freeman on Dec. 24, 1861. The newspapers were promoting a Waukesha visit by Gen. Tom Thumb, “America’s Man in Miniature” made famous by P.T. Barnum. And many local men were leaving their businesses to join Wisconsin troops in the Civil War.

The arch over entrance to Oak Grove Cemetery, Eagle, Wisconsin.
The arch over entrance to Oak Grove Cemetery, Eagle, Wisconsin.


The burial records of Oak Grove Cemetery are testament to the hardships of pioneer life in rural Waukesha County. It was common for families to lose young children to diseases such as diphtheria or typhoid fever. Ironically, an article run in the Waukesha Freeman the week Ida died wrongly predicted that diphtheria would be fatal in just one of 100 cases. Diphtheria would become the No. 1 killer of children in America during the coming decades.

The cemetery is replete with stories of the sadness of youth lost. James Lowry died at age 5 in 1858. Ada Severance died at age 4 in 1855. Arden Baldwin died at age 3 just months before Ida Krosch. Oscar Jaycox was just 1 when he died in 1858. Arthur Bigelow was 2 when he died in 1855. Orlando Cook was a mere 8 months old when he died in 1852.

‘Gone but not forgotten?’
‘Gone but not forgotten?’

Peter Grems, reported to be the first veterinarian in the Wisconsin Territory, is buried here. Charles Kilts, a bugler for Company K of the 1st Wisconsin Volunteers in the Civil War, is buried here, too. He died in September 1862.

No doubt the graves of these folks were tended to with care for many decades, but Oak Grove Cemetery has now become a sad monument of neglect and abandonment. Monuments have been toppled. Headstones lie in pieces. Many headstones are leaning badly. Grave sites are covered in thicket. Some have been swallowed by the encroaching forest. The wrought iron fence that separates the cemetery from nearby Highway 67 is rusty and listing. No doubt the families of these souls would be heartsick to see the state of this burial ground.

Broken tombstone of Eliza Mead, who died in 1870
Broken tombstone of Eliza Mead, who died in 1870.

Ironically, Oak Grove Cemetery is just across the road from Old World Wisconsin, the world’s largest museum on the history of rural life. Old World Wisconsin is run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Maybe if they included their neighboring cemetery on their tours this hallowed ground would not be in such deplorable shape.

For the most part, burials stopped at Oak Grove in 1967, 125 years after the cemetery was founded. We did find one interment at Oak Grove in 2007. Since the cemetery association that cared for the land disbanded long ago, upkeep of the cemetery falls to the local government. It appears the grass gets mowed, but that is no doubt where the maintenance stops.

Graves of Mary and William Reeves, d. 1856 and 1857.
Willie Larue Snover, who died at age 8 in 1869.

Under Wisconsin law, circuit courts can compel local municipalities to care for abandoned cemeteries, or even order the reinterment of the deceased in new cemeteries. Given that Oak Grove is a pioneer cemetery with the remains of the founding families of Eagle, as well as many Civil War veterans, it is very sad that more pride is not taken in preserving it.

Little Ida Clara Krosch’s tombstone can no longer be found at Oak Grove Cemetery. Maybe that’s just as well. Her parents and their descendants would no doubt hang their heads in sadness and shame to see what became of little Oak Grove Cemetery.

John Frederick Krosch >> William F. Krosch >> Ida C. Krosch

Grave of Martha Lowry, who died in 1873.
Grave of Martha Lowry, who died in 1873.