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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"

Yesterday in Kirkham Valley

In the early days the country east of Augusta was nearly all covered with a growth of white oak and pine.  To this community in 1870 came a family by the name of Joe Hall.  There were several families living in Kirkham Valley at that time.  The Hall family bought a home here which they lived on until they died and their son, Richard Hall and family continued to live on the same farm for thirty-six years.

There were two brothers, Carl and Andrew Kirkham here in 1882 when they were joined by another brother, Hiram Kirkham, who came here with a team of horses and a wagon.   Hiram had served as a soldier under the Stars and Stripes during the Civil War.  It is from these three brothers that Kirkham Valley got its name.

The Carl Kirkham family have lived on the same farm located on the Coon Fork Road for seventy years.  Carl Kirkham was one of the outstanding men of the community having served as town chairman, county board member and on the school board for many years.  He was a great lover of nature, especially trees and animals.  He was also a taxidermist and few were the homes near and far whose walls were not adorned by a mounted deer head with antlers, or a rug, gloves or mittens made by Aunt Mary Kirkham (his wife) from the hides tanned by Mr. Kirkham.

As the clerk of the school district, it became his duty to take the school census.  This duty was faithfully performed each summer by walking from house to house and for the small fee of from three to five dollars per year, did all of the clerk's work.

Aunt Mary Kirkham passed away in January 1948 at the age of 91 years.  She will long be remembered for her many acts of kindness throughout the Valley.  Her two sons, Earl and Steve, are still living on the original homestead.

Another one of our leading citizens is Wallace E. Kirkham who came here when a small child with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Kirkham.  Wallace was one of the promoters of early dairying.  He worked in a creamery for sometime, after which he ran a skimming station for a few years, until the cream separator came into existence and it was closed.  The skimming station was located southeast of the schoolhouse.

In the early years of his manhood, Wallace married Elsie Kelly and moved to the Bigelow farm, where he now resides.  He is now an active member of the school board, and is very good in drawing pictures of deer and other animals when not too busy and, also in writing, and reciting poems, which we all enjoy.

One of our most industrious and more recent settlers, living on the Coon Fork Road is Mr. Frank Ball who came to Kirkham Valley, together with his wife and family in 1906.  Through long hours and much hard work, he has carved a home out of what was a wilderness and made it into one of the outstanding dairy farms in the community.

In 1895, Fred B. Langworthy came to the valley from Elroy, moving by railroad and bought the Len Thompson farm, a farm which has remained in the Langworthy family ever since.  Mr. Langworthy was a member of the school board and town treasurer at an early date.  Mrs. Langworthy was another of the outstanding women, always ready to lend a helping hand equally free in case of trouble or for the betterment of the whole community.

David Butler lived on the farm now owned by Harry Canon who purchased it from Wm. Funk.  Another owner of the same farm was Earl Langworthy who lived there several years.  Henry Hall lived on the adjoining farm with Barbers across the road.  The whole valley was covered with an undergrowth of small timber mixed with white oak, pine and hemlock.  The neighbors living on the road north from the schoolhouse were Otto Kemp, Seymour Kelly, Peter and Chris. Justeson.

Seymour Kelly, a descendant of French and Irish ancestors lived in New England until he was eight years of age, then came to Durand where he received a common school education.  In 1884 he came to Kirkham Valley and settled on a farm where they had a logging camp.  In later years, Mr. Kelly became a prosperous dairy farmer.  Today, his son, Hugh Kelly, carries on the work begun by his father.

Peter Justeson was born in Denmark.  His father was a farmer and manufacturer of wooden shoes and spent his whole life there.  His mother was forty-six years old at the time of her death.  At the age of ten years, Peter was thrown on his own resources and went to work on a farm.  He came to the United States in 1870 and went to work on a railroad.  In 1878, Mr. Justeson married and came to Kirkham Valley formerly living across the road from the farm which the family are now on.  In 1919 they purchased the Ben Osborn farm and have since lived there.

At the extreme northeast of the district, a family by the name of Shoemaker lived.  This was later the E. S. Osborn place.

Another farm which has been ever foremost in Kirkham Valley is the Andrew Kirkham place.  Mr. Kirkham sold to Wm. Goede; other owners were Mr. Wendt; Mr. Behne and Mr. Otto Feldman, the present owners, who came here from Iowa in 1923.

Mr. Feldman was always a leader in both political and social activities.  He owns the Edgewood Dairy Farm, his preference being Jerseys.  Mr. Feldman moved to Augusta in 1943 but still owns his farm, the work being carried on by his son-in-law, Gerald Ball.

Charlie Rick and Randolph Wilkinson have owned farms in this vicinity for many years.  Mr. Rick bought his farm in about 1900.  He had many renters and after he was unable to run it, his son Harry Rick took over until 1947 when he sold it to Henry Strasburg who lives there now.

Mr. Wilkinson came from England to Wonewoc, Wisconsin, where he had a fine farm.  Leaving a son to carry on there, he came to Eau Claire County in 1899, first buying, clearing and building a set of buildings on the Grant Benway farm now owned by Dr. E. H. Horel of Augusta.  In 1901, he bought a farm one half mile south of the Kirkham Valley schoolhouse and built the buildings and made a profitable dairy farm now owned by his son, Randy Wilkinson.

In the year of 1893, the southern part of our district was covered with a heavy growth of white oak trees.  To this vicinity came the Willard Osborn Sr. family in that year and they together with Henry Barney, Henry Brunilson, Henry Herd and Oscar Monroe families cleared and built their homes.

In 1894 Mrs. Osborn's father, Mr. Phillips took the job of building the present Kirkham Valley schoolhouse.  He furnished the material, labor, and paint for $680.  The present teacher, Ruth Osborn is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Willard Osborn, and has lived in this community with her parents, since coming here in 1893, until their death about one and one-half years ago, and now resides in their home, formerly known as the Kirsher place, they having left their home in the southern part of the district after thirty-eight years of pioneering.

The first schoolhouse in Kirkham Valley stood about a mile east of the present one.  Later it was moved to the place where the new one was built in 1894.  The old building was moved about one half mile north and is now a part of the Floyd Dickinson residence.  This school has always had a large enrollment; at one time 60 pupils were on the register.  The present enrollment is 30.

Some of the many teachers who taught in Kirkham Valley are: 

George Harrison
Oritha Russell
Burton Headly
Abbie Paddock
Flo West
Theo West Livesy
Winifred Kirkham
Bertha Perry
Jennie Wadley
Blanche Toy
Ethel Moody Osborn
Alice Running
Doris Senske
Ruth Osborn
and others.

Near the Carl Kirkham farm on the Coon Fork Road, the Rubele family made their home for a time but in 1898, they sold out to Chester Moore who lived there until his death.  The farm since then has been owned by Gay Osborn and now Earl Canon resides there.

Coon Fork, the industrial and social center of the 1800s was located about five miles east of Augusta.  It was a lumber and logging center.  The old Coon Fork boarding house was at one time run by Wm. Strait and the saw mill owned by J. C. Smith.  To this mill thousands of logs were brought to be sawed into lumber.  This furnished employment and means for making a living and consequently, a number of homes were built there among whom were Palms' and others, and a schoolhouse for education has always been deemed necessary in our County and State.

Coon Fork was a lively place at an early date.  Many farmers from west of Augusta hauled mammoth loads of logs from the surrounding country to their homes for firewood as very little timber grew there.

People of an early date realized the need for relaxation from their hard work therefore, they gathered together on Saturday night for a social hour and good time.

After the logging days of Coon Fork and vicinity were over, another adventure was tried.  Mr. Wagerman having bought many acres of land around Coon Fork thought it would be profitable to raise sheep and likewise had several hundred there, thus furnishing work for herders and shearers.  The shearing was all done by hand.  This did not prove profitable and was abandoned in a few years.

To the old Boarding House came a family by the name of Bollinger in 1907.  Of this family, Martin remained at home longest and was a prominent mechanic in the neighborhood for some years.  He invented a bean sheller, fixed clocks, did carpentry work, was a photographer and did many other things.

Bollingers lived at Coon Fork for a time but after a while, the place was abandoned and today, nothing is left but a beautiful stream, the pines, and a few lilac bushes to speak of a once thriving community.

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