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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"

History of Hales Corners School District

It is hard to state exactly when the history of the Hales Corners School District began.  From the geological standpoint we see evidences of the time when it was under water.  The shale layers with fossil shells tell that story.  The soil, mixed with cobblestones which can be seen in some of the cuts along the highways, gives evidence of the glacial period.  The good topsoil which covers most of this area indicates the ages that have passed since the glacial invasion in which plants grew and decayed to make it.

The Indians that lived nearest this area were the tribes called the "Chippewas" and the "Winnebagoes".  No Indians lived here because there was a time between the tribes.  Neither one of the tribes hunted here because its members did not want to get into quarrels or fights.  Because of this, there was much game to be hunted when the white men came.

Today the only reminder of the Indians is a groove running in a general north and south direction across Hales Woodlot.  This was once an Indian trail.

No information is available regarding the explorers or fur traders who may have visited this district.  As they usually followed the streams large enough to carry boats or canoes, our district may never have been visited by white men until government land surveys were made.

The first land within the present school district boundaries to be bought from the government was a part of the Adolph Dehnke farm.  This first land owner within the district was James A. Logan who was given title to the land in 1855.  His residence, however, was in the northeastern part of the present Scott Valley District.

The first people that came to this district came from the East.  Many of them were workers who thought they could get a better and easier living in the West, as Wisconsin was called at that time.  Later settlers came from countries in Europe.  Many people in this area came from Germany.

The settlers had different ways of getting here.  Some of them came by railroad as far as Illinois.  Some of the people came by stagecoach.  The people that came by boat came up the Mississippi River.  They came up the Chippewa River to Eau Claire.  The rest of the way they came by land.  Covered wagons drawn by ox teams brough some of the families from southern Wisconsin and from Illinois.

The early roads through the district were trails that usually followed the higher land and sought the driest place when it was necessary to cross a valley.  One of these trails crossed the district from what is now the William Zielsdorf farm, running northwest to what is now the Walter Abley farm.  Continuing in the same general direction it joined the stage road south of Brackett.  Later roads were surveyed and placed on section lines.  Today, County trunks K, O, V, and HH are the principal highways in the district.

The first car owner in the district was William Maher who had a White Steamer.

The F. & N. E. Railroad was built across the district in 1912.  A station called Valley View was built where the railroad crossed the Robert Kuehn farm.  This railroad operated until the increased use of trucks and a decrease in shipping of hay and grain made it unprofitable.

When the early settlers came, they found a prairie area with grasslands, brush and some trees that were mostly oaks.  Many springs flowed into the valleys where the land was marshy and pools of water stood.  Some of the pools were large enough so that children paddled around on them with rafts and flat-bottomed boats.  Wild ducks nested in the area.

The springs served as the water supply for most of the first settlers.  A good spring often determined the location of the building site on a farm.

Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and some cranberries grew wild on the soils of which each variety is adapted.  As canning was not yet practiced, blueberries were dried and pickled and cranberries were frozen for winter use.  If sugar was available, some jams and jellies were made.

Game was plentiful.  Deer were often seen and bears were seen occasionally.  Partridge, prairie chickens, quail, rabbits and squirrels were hunted especially by the boys of the community.  On one occasion in the fall of the late 1850s a herd of elk came down the valley from the north seemingly traveling before a severe blizzard.  The men of the neighborhood including the Hales, McCauleys and Sargents started in pursuit.  The hunt took them miles from home into the hilly area, then unsettled, toward Strum and Eleva.  Some of the elk were eventually shot. The blizzard struck.  The hunters stayed in the woods that night, and returned home the following day.  Some of the party went after the elk meat with an ox team.  The carcasses had been hung in trees out of the reach of wolves.

The late summer and the fall of 1856 were very dry.  Danger of prairie fire was imminent.  After an early frost, prairie grass, sedge and cat-tails were tinder dry.  One day smoke loomed on the horizon in the northwest.  Charles H. Hale yoked his oxen and plowed a furrow around his dwelling and then plowed another with larger circumference and burned the vegetation between.  He did the same at the L. D. McCauley cabin.  Mr. McCauley had gone to southern Wisconsin to bring his family to the new home.  The fire with nothing to check it, billowed down the valley and over the range of hills to the south in an incredibly short time.  It was eventually checked and burned out at Beef River.  The homes before mentioned were saved and also some stacks of marsh and prairie grass hay which were of vital importance in keeping the oxen through the winter.  The fire was reported to have been started by a traveler on the stage road near Brackett, who having lost a nut from his wagon, lighted a fire to burn away the grass and make the search less difficult.  Practically all of the trees in the central and western part of the school district were killed by the fire.  Woodlands at the present time have grown up since the date of the fire.

Building materials were scarce in the district.  The first homes were of logs or were rough board structures having but one or two rooms.  As transportation was so difficult, the pioneers brought little or no furniture with them.  These first homes had home-made tables, stools, benches, and beds.  The settlers soon began to replace these make-shift homes with more permanent structures. Materials for new houses and barns in many cases were hauled from Coon Fork by ox teams.  Some of the farmers built temporary homes, usually referred to as shanties, in the Coon Fork area. They cut and hauled their own logs to the mill and hewed out the framework for their buildings. This gave winter employment.  The hauling of the lumber with ox teams to the farms required weeks.  Except on one or two farms the homes that were built about 1860 have been replaced by more modern structures.

No community exists long without a call made by the grim reaper.  The first death in the community was that of Eddie Burnell, three-year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Elias Burnell.  It was then in 1859 that an acre of land was set aside for the Scott Valley Cemetery.  A number of years later, the Chapel, which had been a Good Templar's Hall was moved to the east of the cemetery.  The Chapel served for many years for church services, Sunday School, funerals, socials, Memorial Day programs, etc.

Until four years ago the building which served as a stage station stood on the Woodrow Randall farm.  This house was built by George McLellan about 1850.  The principal stage coach route ran from Sparta to Eau Claire.  Many travelers and teamsters dined or spent the night at the McLellan state station.  The place was famous for its fine foods and high standards.  A large upstairs room served as the dance hall in the community fulfilling a recreational need.  The post office for the area was at McLellan's during the stage coach era and in later years.  It was generally known as Otter Creek Post Office.

The stage coaches used on the Sparta-Eau Claire route were lumber wagons with an enclosed body suspended on leather strips that served as springs.  The traveler may not have been jarred, but he certainly was bounced as the coach lurched along the rough road.  One stout lady who tipped the scales at well above two hundred insisted that she had lost forty pounds when she terminated her trip at McLellan's.

In patriotic duty the district has never failed.  At the time of the Civil War feeling ran high. Ten of the young men from the four farms that met at the corners went into service.  They included five Sargent boys, Thomas N. and James McCauley, William Casporus, and Charles H. and J. Fairfield Hale.  Of this group four lost their lives while in service.  Two Civil War veterans who lived in the district for many years after the war were Ephraim Wilcox and August Zielsdorf.

In World War I Leander Olia was in the service.

Gaylord Krenz served in the African and European theaters in World War II.  Elmer Marten and Shirley Rahl served with the army and navy respectively in the South Pacific.  Edward Zielsdorf was with the occupation forces in Japan.  Milton Jungerberg and Robert Krenz were also in the service.  Sidney Potts served at air bases that protected the Panama Canal.  Richard Potts is now stationed in Alaska.

People of the district have taken much interest in political and community affairs.  In these days of radios when all important political speeches are broadcast, it is hard to understand the interest that caused the men of the community to drive with teams nearly twenty miles to Eau Claire to attend a party rally or listen to campaign speeches.

The district has progressed through most of the stages of agricultural developments in central Wisconsin where the land was not forest covered.  As soon as the land was broken, fields of wheat were sown.  The cradle was used for cutting the grain in the earliest years.  The reaper and wire binder were used before the twine binder came into use.  The fields were fenced with rail or board fences and the cattle pastured along the roads and on untilled areas and waste land.  Later laws required that animals be kept off the roads.

When the wheat farming became unprofitable, oats, barley, and hay became the principal crops. These were sometimes hauled to lumber camps and later shipped to city markets.

Home manufacture of butter for sale was common before 1900.  About that time a skimming station was operated on the August Zielsdorf farm now owned by Leonard Zielsdorf.  The use of the cream separator on the farms, and the sale of whole milk brings the dairy store up-to-date.  Much improvement has been made in the barns.

A few variations from the general type of farming have been made at times.  When the T. Olia family moved to the district in 1903, they built a tobacco shed and raised tobacco for several years.  Carl Ziehlsdorff raised silver foxes in addition to his general farming for a number of years.

A brief history of land ownership gives the names associated with the settlement and development of the district.  

  • The Henry Kuehn farm where Warren Kuehn resides was first owned by Justin White and later by John Meek, Robert E. Scott and Robert Kuehn.
  • The William Zielsdorf farm was started by Harvey Preston and Charles Hutchinson.  It was owned by Albert Artis for a number of years before the present owner took possession about thirty-five years ago.
  • The former owners of the John Logan farm were Amos Shepherd and Nathaniel Logan.
  • James Sargent and sons started the Mrs. John Zielsdorf place.  Later owners were a Mr. Jackson and Charles McCauley.
  • The Shiel farm in the northeastern part of the district has been a part of the Shiel property since its purchase from the government.
  • The Mrs. Max Lange farm was formerly owned by John Maher and later by his son William.
  • Jackson McCauley was the first owner of the farm which includes the building sites of Leonard Zielsdorf and Carl Ziehlsdorff.  Mr. McCauley sold his property to William Maass who subsequently sold to August and Frederick Ziehlsdorf, the fathers of the present owners.
  • The Walter Abley farm was formerly owned by Emil Zielsdorf.  Elias Burnell was its first owner.
  • The Adolph Dehnke farm has probably had more owners than any other farm in the community.  The pioneer owners of parts of it were James Logan, C. C. Spafford and James McCauley.  George Lewis, Eudora Wilcox, the Mahaney family and William Kohnk were later resident owners of the farm.
  • The land in the northwestern part of the district was first held by railroad companies.  Later owners have been J. Smith, Paul Zielsdorf, Ernest Marten, and Harry Schacht.  The Fred Sieg farm was previously owned by C. W. Hale and Charles Burnell.
  • Former owners of the Henry Fethke farm were Theodore Fethke and Samuel and Henry McCauley.
  • The Edward Fethke farm was owned by Peter and Joseph Chaput in early times.
  • The Alma Krause farm was formerly owned by William Stelter and August Erdman.
  • The first owner of the Mrs. Bert Wilcox farm was Thomas McCauley, who sold it to his brother-in-law Ephraim Wilcox, father of the late Bert Wilcox.
  • Ambrose Summer, Peter Chaput, and John Erdman were former owners of the William Johnson farm which LaVern Johnson rents.
  • Jeremiah Mahaney, August Messerschmidt, and Jerry Miller were previous owners of the Richard Miller farm.
  • The first owner of the Bernhard Krens farm was James McCauley.  For a number of years the farm was owned by non-residents until purchased by Edward Geisler and later by the recent owner.
  • The Mrs. G. Haas farm was first owned by James Sargent and later by Andrew Johnson.
  • Isaac Burgess, C. Thompson and Allen Thomson were former owners of the L. T. Randall farm.
  • James Young owned the Leander Olia farm for many years before it was bought by Mr. Olia's father.  The Joe Vaughan farm was formerly a part of the Olia farm.
  • The H. Schiefelbein farm was formerly the Rufus Ellis place.
  • The Charles W. Hale estate was previously owned by Charles H. Hale who bought it from John Kimball in 1856.
  • Lorenzo McCauley was the first owner of the farm, now the home of Mrs. August Schacht.
  • Marvin Zielsdorf's farm was owned in early years by Wm. Hale and R. Thiel.

It is an interesting fact that the first school tax paid by the earliest settlers was for the support of the Robbins School on the present Highway 53 near Eau Claire. By 1857, enough families had arrived in our district to demand the erection of a school. The district included all of what is now Otter Creek except six sections in the southeast part of the town. Pupils also came from the east part of Clear creek.

The first schoolhouse was built just west of the present John Logan building site.  The building was never pasinted and most of the equipment was homemade.  The first teacher in this school was George Campbell who taught for three months starting in January 1858.  The pupils enrolled for that term were:  Sarah Sargeant, Frederic Sargeant, Chas. Sargeant, George Sargeant, Edward Sargeant, Zelma McCauley, Henry McCauley, Henriette McCauley, Greenleaf McCauley, Frances Bride, Electa Bride, John Scott, Charles Scott, Ira Bills and James McCauley.  Orthography, reading, writing, grammar, geography, and arithmetic were the subjects taught.

The first school house served from 1858 until 1870.  The school district had then been divided and the building was sold to James Shiel for $35.00.

The second school house was located on the northwest corner of the present Mrs. John Zielsdorf farm.  All of the older members of the community remember this second school with its two entrances and with a raised platform at the north end of the school room on which the teacher's desk stood in earlier times.  It was typical of the schools built before 1900, having windows on both sides, no basement and heat being provided by stoves -- the last being the jacketed type still in use in some rural schools.

The cost of building this second school hosue and running the school amounted to $902.85 in 1869 - 1870 and $958.63 in 1870-1871.  As soon as building costs were paid, the expense of running the school dropped to $259.37 for the school year 1871-1872.  Mrs. James Young was the first teacher in the school.

In 1924 plans for building a new school house were made.  A site east of the Scott Valley cemetery was purchased from A. W. Schacht.  The change in site was made in order to provide better play ground facilities and in hope of securing a more satisfactory water supply.  The present school house was then built.  As building costs were fairly high at the time, approximately $5,000 was expended on it in addition to materials from the old school hosue which were used.  Herman Zielsdorf was the first teacher in this school.

In the earlier days the school year was divided into a summer term and a winter term.  The summer term was attended by the girls and small boys and was usually taught by a woman.  The winter term was usually taught by a schoolmaster and was attended by the older boys and girls besides those who attended the summer session.  Records show a range in the ages of the pupils from 6 to 21 years.  The largest enrollment at any time was 39.  The pupils attended school until they or their parents decided that their education was completed.  The first class to be graduated consisted of Flora Burnell, now Mrs. Flora Rea, Eau Claire; Annie Burnell, now Mrs. Annie Sloan, Chippewa Falls; Bert McLellan, Eagle, Wisconsin; and Charles Johnson, Ladysmith.  Their graduation took place in 1890.

The second class to graduate consisted of J. V. Young and Alma Ziehlsdorf.  The graduation program for this class of 1895 follows:

 Songs -- "Vacation" and "Open the Gates as High as the Sky" by school.
 Essay -- "Slavery" by J. V. Young.
 A Patriotic Drama -- "From Feudalism to Freedom."
 Essay -- "Education" by Alma Ziehlsdorff.
 Song -- "Twilight is Falling" by a Quartette
 Presentation of Diploas by Supt. Anna Smith
 Song -- "Farewell" by School
 Miss Cassie Conley was the teacher

The 1920 class was the largest to complete the eighth grade in the Hales Corners School.  The members of this class were:  Otto Schacht, Clarence Schacht, Donald Wilcox, Victor Miller, John Logan, Miriam Logan and Ruth Hale.  All of this group completed four years of high school.

The 1948 graduates were Elnora Potts and Clara Lou Vaughan.

As the school district has been organized for ninety years, many teachers have helped to give the children of the communtiy their elementary education.  The following list of teachers is not quite complete as records are missing for a few years.

 George Campbell
 Agnes Barland
 Mary Boardman
 Alonzo Frizzell
 Amelia Paul
 C. W. Morris
 Emily Roberts
 Mr. Sutherland
 Mr. Stone


Mrs. J. Young Kit Currie
H. E. Polley Cassie Conley
Aggie Chadbourne Susie Wadley
Nellie Snow Elgie Chrysler
S. R. Anderson Anna Logan
Josie Marshall  Jennie Mahaney
Elwin Wright Ina Moore
D. S. Roberts Carrie Greene
F. E. Richardson Nora O'Dowd
M. J. Arries Mrs. Gaskell
Florence Chadbourne Carl Doughenbaugh
Benson Allen Lillian McVicar
Maggie Partridge Blanche James
Rose Kyle Alice Richards
Mary Hauxhurst  Flora Burnell
Libbie Kearney Libbie Tinker 
Julia Muzzy Julia Bolles
Mary Bolton Alma Ziehlsdorff
Mina Strader Pearl Young
Katie Jones  Amelia Larson
Nellie Wells Minda Christianson
Minnie Silkworth Emma Taggart
Jennie Wadley Ivis Hoyt
Anna Browne G. Harriet Thompson
Hattie Hewitt Helen Schroeder
Clara Herrell  Myrul Parker
Margaret Zank Hazel Murphy
Evelyn Davel Esther Hale
Herman Zielsdorf

 Herman Zielsdorf
 Bertha Henderson
 Florence Monroe
 Sadie Stelter
 Bernice Boettcher
 Eleanor Berg
 Marie Olson
 Herbert Bruns
 Adealia Tollefson
 Goldie Seifert
 Olive Nix
 Jane McFaul
 Esther Hale

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