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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.

The Rev. Frederick of St. Johns, Town of Lincoln, served the people of Bears Grass until a regular pastor was called.  The following pastors have served Bears Grass:
 

F. W. Ruedeger H. F. Proehl
H. Bruss H. Stute
Otto Broem Otto List
Henry Mueller Chester L. Thalacker

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:

Ludwig Quast, director for a term of one year,
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.

Photo of the Bears Grass Students, 1916

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:

"Yes, I was the first teacher in the new school.  I began my teaching career there September 27, 1915.  Lots of pleasant memories there for me."

Records show that she taught here for three years.

Erna Voechting of Fall Creek was the last teacher in the old school house.  Teachers having taught here since 1874 are:

TEACHER YEAR TEACHER YEAR
Nettie Day 1874 Ernest G. Herrell 1886
Alice A. Hubbard 1875 Chas. E. Ketchum 1887
George W. King 1875 Diana Dighton 1887
Nellie Snow 1876 S. C. Stevens 1887
Rosa Devlin 1877 Abbie Spencer 1888
Martha Hutchinson 1878 Nellie O'Brien 1888 - 1889
Freeman Works 1878 - 1880 Wm. L. Vallean 1889
Bertha E. Himebauch 1880 Charity Prutsman 1890
No Record 1881 Isa Bullis 1891
Ella Barnes 1882 Gay Warren 1891
Wm. P. Hathaway 1882 E. W. Woodford 1892
Sarah A. Gilbert 1883 Ethel Furguson 1892
Julia Muzzy 1884 Kate Livermore 1892 - 1894
S. C. Stevens 1884 Grace Smith 1894 - 1895
Ida Campbell 1885 Alice Richards 1895 - 1896
S. C. Stevens 1885 Florence Dickey 1896 - 1897

The first census discloses the following names familiar to many:
 

BOYS
GIRLS
Albert Thiel Emilie Erdman
August Schecht Emilie Thiel
William Schwanke Pauliene Thiel
Gustav Schwanke Hulda Thiel
Emery Warnke Wilhelmiene Brummund
Leopold Lambrecht Emilie Brummund
Albert Quast Emilie Lambrecht
Robert Biegel Hulda Lambrecht
John Rick Paulina Henke
Herman Thiel Henriette Schacht
Edward Thiel Ida May Howe
Nelson Howe Rhoda Howe
Emil Henke Cora B. Howe

In the early history of the school, records show teachers were hired for the winter term preferring male teachers and another was hired for the spring or summer term preferring female teachers.  Records show the following teachers taught the Bears Grass School:

TEACHER
TERM
TEACHER
TERM
Laura Smith 1875 - 3 mo. Maud Carbina 1906 - 1908
Laura Smith 1876 - 2 mo. Minnie Nichols 1908 - 1909
Emilie Smith 1876 - 2 mo. Bertha La Marche 1909 - 1911
Helen Bride 1876 - 1877 Harriet Roach 1910 - 1911
Daniel S. Roberts 1877 August F. Lange 1911 - 1912
Jennie Limbacker 1878 - 1879 Carl Pettis 1912 - 1913
Flora E. Richardson 1879 - 1880 Susanna Zank 1913 - 1915
A. E. Hays 1881 Elsie Toy 1915 - 1916
Emma Tainter 1881 Elsie Frase 1916 - 1919
Wm. Roberts 1882 Mae Kierstead 1919 - 1920
Emma Richardson 1882 Mable Frase 1920 - 1921
Wm. Evens 1883 Clara Markham 1921 - 1922
Florence Chadbourne 1884 Emma Stubbe 1922 - 1924
L. J. Artis 1884 - 1885 Dorothy Huston 1924 - 1925
Florence Chadbourne 1886 Lillian Peterson 1925 - 1926
Hattie Hewitt 1886 - 1887 Gladys Bagley 1926 - 1927
Mary Logan 1888 Sophie Knudtson 1928 - 1929
Eugene Pfund 1889 - 1890 Mary Knudtson 1928 - 1929
Samuel Finger 1890 - 1891 Naoma Steen 1929 - 1931
Carrie Works 1893 Gretchen Alf 1931 - 1932
Grace Caldwell 1894 Emma Stubbe 1932 - 1933
Cora Shong 1894 Sylvia Wegnen 1933 - 1935
Milo Sulhvan 1894 Edna Schauer 1935 - Feb. 1938
Harry Eaton 1895 Mrs. Cecelia Seig Feb. - Jun. 1938
Foster Polley 1895 - 1896 Dorothy Biesterveld 1938 - 1939
Alfred Herrick 1896 - 1898 Juel Johnson 1939 - 1940
Harry Eaton 1898 Louise McCann 1940 - 1941
George Livesay 1899 - 1900 Lucille Grohn 1941 - 1942
Frank Strader 1900 - 1901 Ruth Osborn 1942 - 1943
Flora West 1901 - 1902 Dora Johnson 1943 - 1944
Isabelle V. Towne 1902 - 1904 Mrs. Lucille Korth 1944 - 1945
Mayme Roach 1904 - 1905 Mrs. Clara Honadel 1945 - 1948
Bessie Shong 1905 - 1906    

In reviewing the past records available, it was found that the following have served the district in the different offices.  Three generations of Bremels served the district as Treasurer:
 

CLERK
TREASURER
DIRECTOR
Herman Frase Erdman Friedrick Ludwig Quast
Wm. Herrick Carl Schwanke Michael Lambrecht
Adolf Lambrecht Herman Biegel Friedrick Schedler
Fred Munchow Theodore Block E. A. Lessack
G. E. Elbert F. Schadler Leopolt Lanbrecht
John Volbrecht Emil Stubbe H. Kunert
Henry Block Henry Bremel Herman Biegel
Emil Stubbe Henry Strasburg A. G. Erdman
Hilary Elbert Herman W. Bremel Julius Honadel
Delbert Stubbe Werner Bremel Ed. Kuehn
    Theodore Erdman

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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