This week I organized and inventoried records from the City Clerk of Crandon from 1938-1950. There were a few interesting items because of Crandon growing as a city and because of the war effort. The city under took the enormous task of putting in a water and sewer system starting in 1941 and continuing to 1942 at the urging of the Public Health Department in order to provide the citizens with clean drinking water. The City of Crandon started the project with the assistance of the Work Projects Administration providing the labor and more than half of the cost of the supplies needed. Then at the end of 1942 The Works Projects Administration was being disbanded as a federal agency and the sewer and water systems in Crandon were not fully in place yet. There were quite a few frantic letters from the City Clerk to the headquarters in Madison asking them to complete the project or send another federal agency to complete it because the city could not function with only half a sewer and water system in place. From what I could gather from the correspondence the government granted Crandon a long term loan to pay for the rest of the project. Can you imagine the whole city in an uproar after hearing they would be stuck with only half the houses being able to receive water? The things we take for granted today and the huge undertaking our ancestors had to go through to provide us with the modern comforts is something to reflect on this Fourth of July weekend.
This week’s archival discovery reminded me that no matter what time period someone lived in we still hold commonalities that come with human nature. I came across the guest register book for the Park Hotel in Crandon formerly owned by Osborn and Poppy which was located on Madison Avenue near the courthouse. The book had the signature and address of guests from 1886- 1895. It was fascinating finding out that some visitors came from as far as London England! The signature that made me smile was the one by Wild Bill from Big Horn in 1888. Even in the 19th century people found it funny to leave false names in hotel guest books! I hope you think of this post next time you spot Anita Bath or Amanda Huggenkiss in a register book.
This week I discovered the story of a local resident whose short life was filled with great accomplishments and who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I came upon this information from a printed power point sent to the library by a student from the St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in 2006. As part of the requirement for the student’s history class he must have been assigned to research a statue or memorial on campus and he chose the “Himes Memorial Fountain”.
Thomas Forest Himes was born in Crandon on June 10th 1923 to Colonel Forest H. Himes of the Wisconsin National guard and his wife. His father also owned the F.H. Himes Lumber and Coal Company in town. At the age of fourteen Thomas was sent to the St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, WI. During his four years there he excelled as a student, an athlete, a leader, and was immensely popular among his fellow cadets. A few of the awards and he received were:
President of the 1941 Senior Class
Member of the Officers Club
Most Likely to Succeed
Most Popular Captain
Most Efficient Cadet
Best All Around Fellow
Most Modest Cadet
Expert Rifle and Marksmen
Dr. Delafield Medal(Highest Honor for a Senior)
After Thomas’s extraordinary success at the academy he was admitted to Lawrence University where he finished a semester before joining the U.S. Army following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a member of the 4th Army 80th Division and deployed as Second Lieutenant and Platoon Leader. Thomas was sent to France on August 3rd 1944 where he swept across the country on foot liberating villages and towns. On September 25th 1944 in order to prepare for an attack on the German lines Lieutenant Himes, along with a few others, went on a reconnaissance mission to locate the German lines to allow their regiment to move into the most optimum position the night prior to the attack. But the Germans had this area heavily guarded and they shelled the U.S. soldiers killing Lieutenant Himes instantly. St. Johns Academy erected the Himes Memorial Fountain on their campus with funds given to them by the Himes family that stills stands today.
This is only one of the many stories of the brave men and women from Forest County who chose to serve their country and accomplish tremendous feats in the face of death and war. We should be proud of our veterans and very thankful! To learn more about local residents who served in the military visit the Veterans Office and Museum on Main St. in Crandon.
My second week as the summer archivist was fantastic! On Monday I received a wonderful tour of the Forest County Historical Society Museum from Terry Thompson. There are a lot of neat displays and fascinating stories that can be found at the museum. I encourage everyone to plan a visit and support your local history! The museum hours are 10 am-4 pm on Tuesdays, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
My interesting find in the archival collection this week has to do with my family history. I came across a collection on The Flannery Sisters, a well known country singing duo from the 1930’s and my great great great aunts. Ruth Alene and Violet Flannery better known as “Billie and Allie” began their music debut by performing for concerts, parties, and singing in the church choir in their hometown of Gladstone, Michigan. Their mother and father were originally from Northern Wisconsin but moved to the Upper Peninsula. The Flannery sisters got their big break when a barn dance road show from Chicago played at the Gladstone theatre. Billie and Allie performed for the managers and then were asked to join the Midwest theatrical tour and sing on the radio in Chicago every weekend. A few of their recorded hits on their 1935 album were “Come Back to the Hills” and “Wild Western Moonlight”.
Consider taking some time to delve into your family history you never know what you are going to find!
I am the new archivist for the Crandon Public Library and Forest County Historical Society. This summer I will be working on organizing and cataloging all the archival information for these two institutions. Some of the items that I am working with include: photographs, postcards, letters, government records, local organization’s meeting records, books, and pamphlets. If anyone has any items they would like to donate to enrich the historical collection of Forest County feel free to visit me at the Crandon Public Library I will make sure your items are preserved for future generations to learn from and enjoy!
Every week I am going to post something about a unique or interesting item I find in the archival collection. This week I organized the Assessment Rolls for the city of Crandon dating from 1909-1976. The collection contains information on the real estate assessment and tax roll as well as personal tax roll, bank stock, occupational assessment and a summary of real estate and personal properties for the city of City and adjoining villages.
Since it is my first week I am going to give you two fun facts!
In 1909 only one person, Dr. Decker, owned an automobile in the entire city and the car’s estimated value was $250.00.
In 1921 the city government started assessing occupational taxes and would have certain categories for occupations that paid taxes on their livelihood. Throughout the 1940’s the books recorded occupational taxes for the category of “Domestic Mink Farmer” and “Bee Keeper”. How many mink farmers were living in Crandon Wisconsin that they had to create a whole category for it! How times have changed!