This week I have been investigating the Civil Court records from Forest County with the help of some amazing volunteers, that date back to the turn of the 20th century when the county originated. This week’s discovery contains an air of unsolved mystery, a bit of legend, and factual information from historical documentation. This is the story of James Walsh, a prominent attorney, who may have gotten away with murder and more. According to the newspapers in 1905 James Walsh’s wife, Frances, was found dead from a gun shot wound which James claimed was self inflicted. James and another young woman from town were in the house the time of France’s death and James was thought to be guilty of the crime but never convicted because of his powerful role within the town. This week I found a Civil Court case convicting J.A. Walsh for wrongfully committing John Hanson and Mrs. Anna Mc Hugh to the Northern Hospital for the insane and E. Bailey to the Industrial School for Boys. He was also fined for pushing the court cases through to make sure these people were locked away. He had to pay around $60 for his actions. Anna was listed in the 1940 census as still residing in the insane asylum but there were no records of John being committed. Was Anna Mc Hugh the young woman that witnessed the murder? Was he covering his guilt by wrongfully using the law to his advantage? I will have to dig deeper into history to find out the answer. It is rumored that Frances Walsh still haunts her former Crandon residence possibly trying to seek justice for her death.
This week while I was exploring the historical documents of our great county I found a ledger from 1941-1942. It appears to be created by a school nurse who documented the name of the student, the diagnosis, and treatment. The main ailment of the school children was a cut finger, with more than twenty children coming in with this complaint. The nurse treated this injury with a dose of iodine and a bandage. In fact, from the records in seems that iodine was used in almost every case from cuts to splinters, everywhere on the body a child scraps up when on a playground. The nurse had to remove quite a few bugs from children’s eyes and dealt with insect bits. Apparently in the 1940’s soda paste is the go to fix for an itchy mosquito bite! I have never tried it but its something to keep in mind after a long day outside when you start to feel the welts the pests left on your body. Let me know if it works!
This was a colorful week in my archival world because I organized and analyzed Justice Court Dockets. These large books include information on any legal disputes or court appearances in the City of Crandon’s history which you can imagine is as entertaining as watching the day time court television shows like “Judge Judy”. There were the standard disputes you would expect with many complaints about people being too drunk, hunting or trapping out of season, and driving recklessly. As I scanned through the document one case caught my eye because of the punishment that was doled out.
On June 15th, 1939 Charles Stegall claimed that Lenard Montgomery came into his house and took a watch with a value of $19.00. Lenard plead guilty and his punishment handed down by Judge Clarence Sipple was: signing a promise that he would never take or steal anything from now on because he understands it is wrong. Now I know why they are called the good old days! I wonder if this vote of confidence from the judge was all it took for Lenard to change his ways or if he broke his promise? I will have to investigate deeper into the archives another day to solve the mystery!
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!