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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"


History of the Altoona School District

Stores of Altoona

Storekeeping is one of the three businesses still in existence that were the occupations in early days of Altoona.

J. B. Stallard and Botsford Brothers rand the first two general stores in Altoona.  One store was located on Lynn Avenue between the present Charlien Dress shop and the old Post Office.  One was located where Kopplin's store now stands.

A Freemans General Store was located where the auditorium now stands.

The Gothel Brothers operated a store on Lynn Avenue.  Later Mr. Leo Looby purchased the store and still directs it.

A man named Walter Whitwam ran a butcher shop called Cheney's Market for several years.  Now a dress shop occupies that building.

Mr. Shute operated a general store on the corner of Lynn and Division Streets.  He had it for years until Mr. Emanuel from Fall Creek purchased it.  Then in 1946 Mr. Kopplin purchased the store.  He has streamlined it and made it into a self-service store.  A greater array of merchandise is now handled.  It operates on a larger scale than before.  There are six workers employed there now.  Looby's Store sells only meat and groceries.

Altoona has been more progressive in the past than it is now.  It looks forward to a better and more prosperous future.

Parks of Altoona

The first park in Altoona was on the west side of Altoona.  The Ladies Aid started the park after the World War in 1918.  The plot of ground is about three blocks square for the park.  There are many trees in the park.  Each tree in the park was dedicated for the soldiers in the First World War from Altoona.  The school boys and girls planted the trees for the park.  Nothing has been done to improve the park so it is just as it was when they started it except that the trees have grown much larger.

Mills of Altoona

A paper mill was built in Altoona in 1800.  It was located where the Equity Livestock buildings are now located.  The finest kind of paper was made there.  It was discontinued and torn down in 1926 because there was no profit in it.

Hotels of Altoona

About sixty one years ago, when the population of Altoona was about eight hundred, there were four hotels.  One was the Railroad Eating House or the Omaha Eating House, another was Andersons, and another the Martin.  All of these hotels were built for the purpose of serving the railroad men who often didn't live in Altoona but had to lay over here.

The Railroad Eating House or the Omaha Eating House isn't in Altoona today, but let's get some history on it.  At this time the hotel was located where the stockyards are today.  Some of the people who operated this hotel were Poils, Mayers, Jenkins, and Jess Miller.  Later on the Catholic Church bought this hotel.  It was later converted into the St. Mary's School, the only high school in Altoona then.

Anderson's Hotel was located on the left side of the north end of Division Street.  This building later burned.

The Altoona Eating House was on the corner of Lynn and North Street.  The hotel was owned by Kenean.  It has been torn down.

Another good hotel was Mr. Martin's Hotel which was called the Martin.  Today there is no regular hotel, but there is a rooming house which was built by Mr. Hannagan Miller.  He rented it to a man named Finnay Smith who is at the head of it now.  Mr. Babbitt runs a small rooming house on Spooner Avenue.

Today the reason why there are fewer hotels is that most of the railroad men live in Altoona, therefore there is not a demand for hotel service here.

There were two livery stables in Altoona.  They were owned by Mr. Green and Mr. Cob.  Mr. Cob built the first stable in 1898.  Then Mr. Green's stable was opened in 1902, on the corner of Hayden and First Street West.  Later it burned.  There was a stage coach running between Eau Claire and Altoona.  It was pulled by two white horses.  There was a blacksmith shop here too.  It was operated by the Railroad Company in 1898.  The blacksmith was Mr. Campbell.  The Mueller Garage took the place of the blacksmith shop of earlier days. It is located on the north end of Division Street.  Auto repair work takes the place of shoeing horses for farmers of surrounding territory.

Transportation of Altoona

The first means of transportation was the railroad.  A stage coach was operated by Mr. Hart who made trips between Eau Claire and Altoona, at fifteen cents a round trip.  Later Mr. McDonald operated a coach establishing a schedule time.  In 1914 an interurban line was opened between Eau Claire and Altoona.  The first street car was number 103.  It came as far as Woodington's Gas Station and then went around the block and back to the depot.  It was fairly modern.  In 1932 buses took the place of street cars.

Trucking wasn't ever very important until now.  Altoona has the stock yards which requires a lot of hauling of livestock.  The stores did not require much hauling of merchandise.

The railroad still forms one of the important means of transportation because it carries mail, freight, and passengers.

Today some of the more modern methods of transportation are the automobiles.  Practically every Altoona resident operates a car.

A still more modern means of transportation is the airplane.  Lawrence Radisewitz is Altoona's only resident who operates an airplane. The nearest airport to Altoona is Eau Claire, where any Altoona resident may go to fly to the Twin Cities or Chicago any day of the week.

Offices of Altoona

In 1918 the only bank that was ever in Altoona was established.  Claude Hayden was the Cashier of this Altoona State Bank located at the north end of Division Street.

In 1891 a Dr. Baily opened up an office above the present Beauty Salon.  He couldn't build up a prosperous practice because Altoona is so near a large city which people patronize.

About 1891 a man named Mr. Cross opened up a drug store which burned later.

In 1883 the first Post Office was opened across from the depot.  Later a cement block building next to Looby's Store was used as a Post Office until in 1940 when a new Post Office was built on the corner of Hayden and First Street West.  The first Postmaster was Mr. Travis who was succeeded by Mrs.Deily, then by Mr. Howard, Lucille Edgell, Richard Kielty and Arthur Henning.  The Postmaster now is Mrs. Henning and her assistant is Mrs. Thompson.

Mr. Travis was also the only acting lawyer Altoona ever had.

In 1887 the first fire department was organized.  Altoona has had fire protection ever since.

In 1887 on the second Tuesday of April, the first election was held and the first officers were:  Mayor J. K. Brazil; Clerk A. Freeman; Treasurer, P. P. Jacobs; Assessor, J. Colburn; Alderman, First Ward:  W. G. Campbell, and F. R. Williams; Second Ward, James Clune and W. Botsford.

The first city marshalls were Mr. Riley and Mr. Miller.

Altoona has never had any dentist.  A photography shop was recently opened by Leland Kofoed in the basement of the Beauty Shop.

Printing Office of Altoona

A printing office was opened on Tuesday, May 6, 1896.  It published the "Altoona Head Light".  This printing office was located on Division Street between Lynn and Spooner Avenues.  This printing office was owned by the Smith Brothers.  Later this was discontinued because the owners moved back to Chippewa Falls.  Then the League Brothers from Rochester started one.  After they quit the business, there was no printing shop for many years.

Then Mr. H. V. Albrecht started a newspaper called "The Altoona Tribune".  Mrs. Ester Struck was the first reporter, followed by Mrs. Grace LaPage.  The paper was printed in Eau Claire where Mr. Albrecht owned a printing shop, but the paper was sent to the Altoona Post Office where it was distributed to the Altoona citizens.  Mr. Albrecht sold the printing company and the newspaper to the Lehman Printing Company who operated it for a short time.  The paper was discontinued in 1947.

Early Pioneers of Altoona

Altoona was settled by people from Eau Claire and Kilburn.  Some of the early pioneers were:

Ives was an engineer on the Omaha Railroad.  Hawker was a machinist at the Altoona Roundhouse.  McGrouary was a coal and ice dealer.  Kennyson operated a roller skating rink.  Babington was an engineer on the Omaha Railroad. Semisch was a farmer within the city limits.  McDonald operated a coach between Altoona and Eau Claire.  An old addition was named after an old settler, Mr. Shute, who was a bridge and building foreman.  Mr. Clune was a railroad engineer.  J. B. Stallard and the Botsford Brothers owned a general store in Altoona.  Mr. Kensmoe was a barber.  Mr. Hall was an engineer on the Omaha Railroad. Rahn had a saloon in Altoona.  Brown was a chief clerk for the Bridge and Building Department.  Grasby ran a barber shop.  Thompson ran a barber shop.  Lenz ran a saloon.  Koory was a common laborer.  

The first city officers were:  Mayor - J. K. Brazil.  City Clerk - A. Freeman.  Treasurer - P. P. Jacobs.  Assessor - J. Colburn.  Aldermen, First Ward - W. G. Campbell; Second Ward - J. R. Wilson; Third Ward - James Clune; Fourth Ward - W. Botsford.  One of the first school principals was Mr. L. A. Wilson.

The only Altoona pioneer who is alive now is Jack Clune of Merrillan, Wisconsin.

Barber Shops of Altoona

In the early days because of the nearness to Eau Claire, business lessened in Altoona.  But barbering is one business that still survives. The first barber shop was located on Spooner and Division Streets.  It was opened by C. B. Thompson in 1888.  Mr. Thompson came from Cumberland.  The second shop was opened in 1896.  It was located on First Street West and on Spooner Avenue in the middle of the block.  It was operated by Bill Gaud who came from Elroy.  Mr. Kensmoe opened the third barber shop which was located on Spooner Avenue.  He came to Altoona in 1928.  He served the community seven years.  Then a man named Mr. Fowler ran a barber shop in an apartment house located next to the LaPage home only a few years, later it was torn down.  At the present time the only barber shop is Darrell Jarosch.  He bought the pool hall from Mr. Emanuel.  Mr. Jarosch made a part of the pool hall a barber shop.  He did this in 1944. He now has a flourishing business.

Railroad of Altoona

At first Altoona was called East Eau Claire.  In 1887 it was incorporated as a city receiving a charter from the state.  It was then the smallest city in the United States.  In 1882 the Omaha Railroad selected this site for a terminal. It was named by Mr. Beal from Altoona, Pennsylvania.  Altoona refers to railroad exchange.  This location was chosen for a railroad exchange because of the nearness to the river and the levelness of the land and the convenience as a division point between two large cities.

A roundhouse, a place for repairing and sheltering locomotives, was built in 1882.  At the same time a depot was built.  Later it burned.  A new and bigger one was built in 1930 which is still used today.  The ice house provided refrigeration.  Other buildings include coal sheds, offices and saw mills.  The Railroad built ten pairs of switch tracks.  All the railroad buildings are on the original location except the depot. Railroading is considered the most important industry because three fourths of the population make their livelihood through this work.

Up to 1881 the only light system Altoona had was kerosene lamps on posts which were put on main streets.  The lamps had to be lighted by a torch.  Later gasoline took the place of kerosene.  The city was lighted with gasoline lamps from December 1903 until October 1911. These lamps were not so good because the city had to hire a man to light the lamps.  The people then voted for electric lights.  Charles King put the first thirty-two lights in.  The people of Altoona had to vote to change the lighting system on Tuesday, April 11, 1911.  The power for the lights then came from Cedar Falls.  Now Altoona gets its power from the Northern States Power Company.  There are a few people in Altoona now without electric lights.

The Altoona Stockyards

There are two stockyards in Altoona.  One is the stockyard owned by the Railroad Company.  The Equity Stockyard was established in 1946.  It was built by the Milwaukee Branch.  It is located on the right hand side of County Trunk A, north of the county shops.  The Equity is used for farmers who want to bring their animals in to sell.  The Equity is used for buying animals from the farmers and sells them to the big packing companies.

Altoona's Churches

The first church in Altoona was the old wooden schoolhouse where services were held every Sunday.  Then the First Baptist Church of Eau Clarie used this building and had a flourishing mission.

The Methodist Church was the first church building to be built here.  It was then called the Union Church.  This building burned and has been rebuilt as the present Methodist Church.

The Episcopal Church of Eau Claire purchased the old school building which was made into the present Episcopal Church.  Reverend P. B. Morrison conducted services every Sunday.  Today services are conducted by the Episcopal minister of Eau Claire, the Very Reverend Dean Hoag.

In 1916 the Catholic people of Altoona built the St. Mary's Church.  Their priest is Father Noonan.

The Bethlehem Lutheran Church was established in 1906.  It has been remodeled a few times.  The pastor at the time was Reverend Nickel.  The pastor now is Reverend Krinke.

The Water System of Altoona

The old public well which was located where Kopplin's Store now stands could tell an interesting story.  Sometimes trodded little feet of children carrying buckets to be filled with the cold clear water, half of which was spilled before the home was reached, and then skipped won the path to fill the pail again.  Then at times the old well yielded its cool refreshing water to the feeble old men.  Often the busy housewife left her task to dray the much needed water for the home.  Occasionally the quick steps of the men of the house could be heard coming down the path with pails in both hands returned to replenish the reservoir of the home.  Later every resident had wells on his own property.  Some had bucket wells while others had the water piped into the home.  In 1919 the present water system was installed.  A pump house is located at the foot of a hill at the south end of First Street West.  A water tank is built on the hill just above the pump house where the water is stored.  At present nearly everyone has running water in the home.  Altoona has good pure water because it comes from deep bedrock and is tested regularly.

Library of Altoona

The Altoona Library was started December 2, 1941 by the Altoona Women's Club.  The city donated a room in the Auditorium for the library.  It started with borrowed books from Eau Claire which were rented out to people at the rate of five cents per person for two weeks. Later the community put on a Hillbilly Wedding on October 2, 1942 to earn money to buy books of their own.  Seventy five books were then purchased.  There is a yearly circulation of one thousand books at present.  The adults use the library more than the young people.  The first librarian was Mrs. Ellen Evenson.  Other librarians were Eleanor Rieck, Alice Thurston, Ione Rudolphson and Audrey Sveeh.  High School students take charge of the library at present.  It is open to the public Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 4:00 to 8:00.  Those in charge are Jean Klohs and Ione Rudolphson.

Altoona Sewage System

The first sewage systems in Altoona were buildings on each individuals property.  Later some citizens built their own cesspools.  Then in 1929 a sewage system was put in by the city government.  At first the pipes were clay type, but in 1937 the steel pipes were put in.  The disposal plant is located north of Division Street near the Eau Claire River into which the sewage is emptied.  This made possible more sanitary conditions in Altoona.

Means of Communication of Altoona

In 1871 when the railroad was started there was a telegraph installed at the depot.  This was the first means of outside communication in Altoona.  All telegrams had to be called from the depot.

Jennie McGraw had the first telephone which was installed in 1897.  There were only two wires from Altoona to Eau Claire.  Calls could be made only with people living in Altoona or in Eau Claire.  In order to call long distance a person had to go to the depot.  Today there is a dial telephone in nearly every home.

In 1923 Charles Steuding owned the first radio in Altoona.  It had earphones that were put on the ears, and only one person received the messages.  Every year a few more people bought radios until almost every family has a radio now.

Theaters of Altoona

The theater was started about nineteen ten on the corner of Spooner Avenue and Division Street.  The proprietor of the theater was Mr. Cole.  The theater wasn't very big because it could seat only about fifty people.  At that time silent movies were shown.  The proprietor talked about the pictures as they came on the screen.  The theater was open twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday.  Five or ten years later the proprietor moved away.  After he left there weren't any movies until midsummer of 1947 when a traveling theater came to town.  These movies were shown outside of the Auditorium for a short period of time.  Since Eau Claire is so close, Altoona residents patronize the five theaters of Eau Claire.  As a visual aid project the school uses movies for special class projects occasionally.

Recreation in Altoona

Mr. Kennyson operated a roller rink across from the depot in early years.  There was a dam on the Eau Claire River which furnished a lake for recreation in the form of boating and fishing.  Many citizens built boat houses along the river.  Dancing has always been a form of recreation in Altoona.  School offers athletics, plays and parties.  There is now a recreation hall where they play pool, table tennis, and a few more games.

In the more recent years Altoona has been outstanding in basketball.  The first team was organized in 1921 by J. S.  Jensen.  The names of the first players are Leonard Fitzgerald, Bertrum Gunn, Marshall Lehman, Vernon Gongoll, Willard Raymond, Hugh Raymond, Wilton Botsford, Glen Stocks, and Harry Jensen.  The manager was Clarence Loken, and the Coach was J. S. Jensen.

Altoona has received first place in district tournaments in the following years:  1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948

All of these tournaments were played at Eau Claire.  In 1939 they went to Madison and won the tournament.  In 1941 they went to Madison but lost.  Altoona has won in 1939, 1941, 1947, 1928, 1930, 1948 and 1942.

Schools of Altoona

The first school was built in 1882, east of the present school.  The first school was a one room wooden structure heated by a wood stove. It was meagerly furnished with double seats, few books and teacher's desk.  In 1892 another building was constructed.  This building consisted of three rooms with three grades in each room.  The first and second grades were housed in the building what is now St. Lukes Church.  The third to eighth grades were house in the building east of the present school building.  The first and only high school was St. Mary's school, which accomodated the first eight grades and high school.  The high school was a private school.  In 1911 a new brick building was built which is the present public school.  It housed the first eight grades.  Then in 1912, an addition was built for a high school, a kindergarten and a gymnasium.  It was fairly modern.  Since that time the school has made many improvements.  Stokers have improved the heating system.  Showers have been added to the convenience of the athletic program.  It has purchased a movie machine and a loud speaker.  Many of the rooms have a radio.  The school provides recreation in the form of baseball, golf and basketball. Forensics is a part of the school program.  The school band has won a recognition in tournaments.

The St. Mary's School has been changed to a school for boys.  It is called St. Benedicts.  St. Benedicts was conducted at St. Joseph, Minnesota for over forty years.  In the summer of 1938 St. Benedicts was transferred to Altoona.  Then St. Mary's was discontinued as a grade and high school.  There were twenty-two boys at first, later there were sixty two boys, and at the present time there are eighty boys and many on the waiting list.  Boys come from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and North Dakota.  Last May fifteen boys graduated. Many recreational activities such as baseball, basketball and football are offered.  The school specializes in music both vocal and instrumental.


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