In every community you will find inspiring stories of courage, faith and perseverance. And so it was the case when I researched the 1863 founding of my hometown parish, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The project lasted several months, and turned up many fascinating stories from the mission-territory days of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.
Full confession (pun intended): I served as an altar boy for years at Sacred Hearts in the 1970s, and graduated in spring 1978 from the fine Sacred Hearts School. The current church, the third edifice in parish history, has some of the most stunning stained-glass windows you will find outside of a cathedral. That’s what initially drew me to the history of Sacred Hearts.
So what did I learn?
The church was founded during the second expansion of Catholicism in Wisconsin (the first being black-robed Jesuit missionaries who explored the territory in the 1600s). Much of the area at the time was untamed wilderness, now being colonized by immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe.
The early missionary priests rode circuits hundreds of miles long, often saying Mass in private homes or rustic buildings with no roof. Father Martin Kundig, an indefatigable traveler and founder of many Catholic parishes in Michigan and Wisconsin, had an uplifting experience in 1843. The faithful gathered in a private home for Mass overloaded the floor, and everyone except Father Kundig crashed into the cellar. The people reached up and supported the priest, standing on a narrow plank, so he could finish saying Mass.
These pioneers led often difficult lives. The John Sprengel family lost three children to diphtheria within one week in 1882. Emerand Aschenbrucker lost his first wife during the birth of their daughter, Anna, in February 1867. Nicholas Mosel lost his wife to typhoid fever at age 54. The church brought comfort to these grieving families, offering the sacraments and a reverent burial for the departed.
The Civil War affected every aspect of life during Sacred Hearts’ early years. Two young parishioners died during their wartime service, including one who was wounded in the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and died in a Confederate prison camp. Another died on a furlough in 1864. He was just 15. A third was wounded in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in June 1864.
When you set out to research a topic, you never know just what you will find. I found a very fascinating story in the “Catholic Pioneers on the Prairie,” which is what I titled the 28-page e-book that grew out of my research. I invite you to read the whole thing at Catholic Pioneers. View it online or download the e-book as a PDF file.
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.
People often talk about getting 15 minutes of fame. For the late Carl F. Hanneman, it was closer to 15 seconds in a new Wisconsin Public Television documentary on Juneau County, Wisconsin.
The hourlong documentary, produced as part of Wisconsin Public Television’s Wisconsin Hometown Stories series, includes a section on the death of Governor-elect Orland S. Loomis of Mauston. Loomis died on December 7, 1942 after suffering a series of heart attacks. He was to be sworn into office in January 1943. As a local correspondent for the Wisconsin State Journal, Hanneman filed a story on December 8 detailing Mauston’s grief at the loss of their hometown hero. His news clipping was used as a graphic during the Loomis portion of the documentary.
Carl’s ties to Loomis went beyond the 1942 political obituary. On election night, November 3, 1942, he was one of the only photographers at Loomis’ home as the election results came in and Loomis was declared the winner over Gov. Julius P. Heil. Carl’s news photo ran above the fold on Page 1 of the State Journal on November 4, 1942.
Hanneman (1901-1982) had known Loomis since about 1936, when Carl came to Mauston from Wisconsin Rapids to be a pharmacist for Dr. J. Samuel Hess Jr. He sought Loomis’ help in 1937 in obtaining his full licensure as a registered pharmacist (an upgrade from his existing license as an assistant pharmacist). At the time, Loomis was Wisconsin’s attorney general. Hanneman also worked to help elect Loomis as attorney general and governor. In recognition of his efforts, Loomis gave Hanneman a large pastel painting that once hung in his office at the state Capitol in Madison. The large-format pastel, weighing some 100 pounds in its hand-carved ornate frame, hung in the Hanneman home in Mauston and later in the home of Sun Prairie Mayor David D. Hanneman, Carl’s son.
The fascinating Wisconsin Hometown Stories documentary, which first aired in April 2014 and is now available on DVD, covers much more than Loomis and his political career. It traces Juneau County’s history from its early days, when towns like Mauston sprung up around grist mills on the Lemonweir River. It details the county’s cranberry farms, the massive Necedah Wildlife Refuge, the heritage of the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Indians, creation of the huge manmade Petenwell Lake, and development of National Guard bases including Camp Williams and Volk Field.
A prominent section of the documentary focuses on former Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson of Elroy. Thompson takes viewers on a tour of southern Juneau County where he grew up, including an old gas and grocery run by his father. Thompson served as Wisconsin’s 42nd governor from 1987 to 2001.
When he first ran for Wisconsin State Assembly in 1966, Thompson stopped in Mauston and met a pharmacist named Carl Hanneman. Carl was so impressed with the young lawyer from Elroy that he closed up shop for the afternoon and took Thompson all over Mauston, introducing him to other businessmen. From that day on, Hanneman always referred to him as “my friend Tommy Thompson.” It was a kindness Thompson never forgot.
Somehow the story of Carl’s early politicking for Thompson got left out of the Wisconsin Public Television documentary. Well, there’s only so much you can fit into an hour of television.