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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"
History of Bears Grass Area, 1855 - 1948
Bears Grass in the early days was wild burnt-over brush lands which made cultivation on a large scale impossible until the difficult task of clearing the land had been accomplished. However, the accomplishment was not realized until after many years of continuous grubbing, hoeing, and tilling. Therefore, today we find our land very productive and in a high state of cultivation. Farmers at first specialized in grain farming but have since changed to dairying and the use of modern machinery as; hay balers, combines, choppers and corn pickers, which are beginning to replace old machinery and methods.
One of the earliest pioneer families to come to this wild land during the covered wagon days was Patrick and Clarissa Herrick who, prior to their coming here in 1855, had lived in Pennsylvania and two years in La Crosse County. They purchased 300 acres of land, their original homestead being now owned by their grandson, Harlow Herrick (1949). It was purchased in 1858 for $2.15 an acre from the United States Government, being school and university land.
Their son, William H. Herrick took over the homestead in 1865. There Patrick and his wife Augusta Stubbe Herrick who had lived on a farm adjoining the Herrick homestead spent the remaining years of their lives. Mr. Herrick served the district as clerk on the school board for many years.
Mrs. Herrick was also a devoted Christian and a life-long member of the Lutheran Church, attending regularly and as long as she was able to be about. She was skilled in the art of rug making and other handiwork, caring for a flower garden for which she was widely known.
Their son, Harlow, and his wife Doris, took possession of the homestead in 1921 and are the present occupants.
Another known pioneer settler of this community was August Sell who purchased his pioneer homestead from Julius Frase, Nov. 8, 1881. May 2, 1895 Mr. and Mrs. Edward Sell took over the homestead. They were also active members in the church and community and always ready to lend a helping hand.
Mr. and Mrs. Ewald Sell are the present occupants of the Sell homestead having had it in their possession since June 10, 1937.
One great-great-great-grandchild and two great-great-grandchildren of Patrick Herrick, attending the Bears Grass School at present are: Patricia Erdman, Roger and Donna Herrick. Great-grandchildren of August Sell now attending are Shirley, Donald and David Sell.
Others that have lived most of their lives in this community are Wm. Swanke, Mrs. Paulina (Henke) Sell (both deceased), Mrs. Alvina (Lissock) Honadel and Mrs. Louise (Schacht) Kunert.
Many other families besides those already mentioned have lived in this community for over half a century or prior to 1910 are Erdmans, Dehnke, Moldenhauer, Bremel, Volbrecht, Kuehn, Block, Elbert, Messerschmidt, Kunert and Stubbe.
As this area became populated, a church was erected on the sight near the present school facing the east. That church was rough lumber structure stripped with batten, unpainted and erected on high blocks. The interior walls were made of sand, straw, and plaster, being white-washed at intervals when necessary.
The land for the new and present church was donated by Theodore Block just diagonally across the road from the old church site. The new structure was erected in 1893 by Mr. William Neibuhr, contractor of Fall Creek and Mr. Fred Henke, carpenter with the congregation donating their assistance with needed. The first marriage solemnized in the new church by the Rev. Otto Broem united Henry Erdman and Otelia Block.
Rev. Frederick of St. Johns, Town of Lincoln, served the people of
Grass until a regular pastor was called. The following
served Bears Grass:
The people of this area also provided for the education of their children. In reviewing record books, it was found that prior to 1874 districts No. 5, 4 and 2 must have been connected in some way as John Schofield Dist. No. 2 (Lincoln Valley View) was paid the sum of $22.50 on March 4, 1875 for division of property and E. Stevens, Dist. 4 (Rodell) was paid the sum of $76.50 for division of property. Heretofore those districts must have been united. Records show Bears Grass began in 1874 with a special meeting. Carl Schwanke was paid the sum of $20.00 for part of the present school site. The officers elected at that time were:
Erdman Fredrick, treasurer for a term of two years, and
Herman Frase, clerk for a term of three years.
The original school building, an old structure, stood about twenty feet west of the present building and faced the south. It was a one room school and had seats made of pine boards which were very uncomfortable and in general were too large for the children. It was heated by an old box stove with a big round sheet iron dome on top of it to furnish more heat. It was about four feet long and as high as a man is tall. A humorous incident related of one man teacher who would put his feet up on the stove at recess time and noon, chewed tobacco and spit the juice under the stove on some bricks that were there to prevent the heat from the stove from setting the floor on fire.
In 1875 the sum of $175 was raised by special tax for teachers wages and $41.75 was added to above amount for the purchase of fuel and other necessary expenditures. School was taught three months during the winter term commencing in November or January as the board saw fit and two months during the summer beginning in April or May depending on the condition of the roads.
In 1876 school was in session six months, three months during the winter and three months during the summer.
In 1880 school was in session seven months.
In 1889 Alfred Herrick, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Herrick, had the honor of being the first pupil to graduate from the Bears Grass School. Miss Anna Smith was the superintendent, who gave the examination in Augusta to all candidates in the territory neighboring Augusta.
July 1, 1895, $200 were raised toward building a new school.
In 1897 school was in session eight months. Peter Fetter of Augusta built the present school and furnished all material except plaster for the sum of $469. Wm. Swanke, Ernest Lissack, Henry Bremel and Michael Moldenhauer were on the building committee. Wm. Swanke and Fred Schadler were on the committee to inspect building material. August Schiefelbein delivered the necessary stone. The old school building was sold to Emil Hanselman who lived on his father's farm about two miles south of the school. He used the lumber to build a shop where he made bee hives and other equipment for his bee yard. Mr. Hanselman now lives in Augusta and still is in the bee supply business and keeps bees (1949).
Alfred Herrick taught the last year in the old school and the first year in this new school. That year the children gave a program to raise money to buy the bell that was erected on the north end of the present building. That bell has been in use ever since.
In 1911 Herlanda Erdman and Theresa Stubbe were the next two pupils to graduate from the Bears Grass School. Records of graduates were not kept after that.
July 9, 1928 another parcel of land was purchased from Wm. Swanke to enlarge the playgrounds. Baseball being the favorite sport, therefore more space was needed. Many pupils after graduating, continued to excel in baseball and other forms of athletics.
In 1939 the school was wired for electricity making possible the use of modern conveniences and devices.
February 1946 the oil burning heating unit was installed and the interior redecorated, making it more comfortable and pleasant for pupils and teacher.
Records also showed that the district provided for the cleaning of the school house, chimney and stove pipes since its organization in 1875.
Among the other early settlers we notice the following: S. B. Kidder, Nicholas Matz, Uriah Harrington, Henry Stevens, Eli La Grave and Chas. Shong. The Shong farm is still operated by a descendent, Richard Shong. Albert Knuth purchased the former La Grave farm. Lorain Schroeder, Lowell Stevens and Paul Wolfgang live on what was known as the Stevens' farm.
These early settlers saw the need of an education for their children so a log school house was built on the southeast corner of the present Wm. Harke farm. No records could be found of that school.
The minutes of the meeting of September 28, 1874 show that it was voted to raise $400 toward building a school house on the site of the present Rodell School. The minutes of following meetings show that from time to time needed repairs were made. At the meeting of July 24, 1897 it was voted to add twelve feet to the south end of the schoolhouse.
We noticed that the box type stove was used until 1907 when it was replaced by a heating plant.
In 1874 the school term consisted of five months, three of which were the winter term and two the summer term. It was usually voted to have a male teacher for the winter term and a female teacher for the summer term.
It was voted in 1897 to have a term of eight months divided as follows: two and one half months fall term, three months winter term, and two and one half months spring term. The minutes of the meeting of July 7, 1924 show that the voters favored a nine months term.
In the minutes of July 1, 1889 it was voted that the clerk keep the books at his house and if the children wanted a book they should come to his house and bring the money and pay for the book. At every meeting the clerk should give the account of the books bought and sold. Eight years later or in 1897 it was voted to have free text books.
In 1876 the schoolhouse was cleaned twice a year which was at the beginning of each term. As the terms grew longer it was cleaned more often.
The minutes of 1881 show that it was voted to use the schoolhouse for religious purposes.
The present school building was built in 1915. It is heated by a furnace. In 1945 electricity was installed. From time to time new equipment is added and necessary improvements made to keep it up-to-date.
Bessie F. Greene of Altoona was the first teacher in the new school. She is now Mrs. P. R. Knobel and lives in St. Paul. In answer to our letter she wrote:
Records show that she taught here for three years.
Voechting of Fall Creek was the last teacher in the old school
Teachers having taught here since 1874 are:
first census discloses the following names familiar to many:
the early history of the school, records show teachers were hired for
winter term preferring male teachers and another was hired for the
or summer term preferring female teachers. Records show the
teachers taught the Bears Grass School:
reviewing the past records available, it was found that the following
served the district in the different offices. Three
Bremels served the district as Treasurer:
Past and present officers are to be complimented on preserving record and minute books for future reference.
We wish to thank all who have in anyway helped to compile this history. Present scholars of the Bears Grass School -- Donald Volbrecht, Marlene, Marlys and Roger Dehnke, Shirley, Donald and David Sell, Duane and Diane Rugotzke, Roger and Donna Herrick, Henry Frank, Jane Messerschmidt, Patricia and Deanna Erdman, and Mrs. Clara Honadel, teacher.
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