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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"

History of the Sands School District

The district of the Sand's School is located among many pleasant hills, where the sturdy Norwegians have made their home.  Among the first settlers were the Hoversons, Sands, Monsons, Halversons, Tweets, Thompsons and Tollefsons.  Many of these early settlers left their homeland to avoid the military training which every many was required to take at the age of twenty-one. After coming to America by sail boat, which took about sixteen weeks, they made their way to Wisconsin by covered wagon drawn by oxen or horses.  Upon reaching this community the settlers either homesteaded or secured railroad land which could be purchased for one hundred dollars a forty.  Most of the homes are located behind hills so that the springs would be close by.  When it was necessary to dig wells, the water was located by means of a forked willow stick.

The work during those days was much more difficutl than in the present electrical age.  The people earned their living by cutting cordwood, digging stones for foundations and by farming. Mrs. Tom Tollefson recalls the early dairy farms, which consisted of two or three cows.  The milk from these cows was kept in a stone jar in the cellar until the cream came to the top.  This cream was then churned into butter, which often tasted of potatoes etc. which were also kept in the cellar. This butter was then sold in Eleva in one-half gallon jars.  A cloth was placed over the jar - salt was put over the top of the cloth and another cloth tied over the top of the cloth.  This kept the butter from picking up odors.  Mr. Tollefson packed the butter in wet grass in his buggy and started his trip to Eau Claire at two o'clock in the morning so that he would reach Eau Claire before it got hot enough to melt the butter.  The butter sold at ten cents a pound.  This money was then used to purchase other necessary articles.  Cloth at this time sold for four or five cents a yard, coffee was nine cents a pound and eggs - eight or nine cents a dozen.  This trip was made to Eau Claire every two or three weeks.

Most of the trading was done at Hadleyville (a small settlement which has entirely disappeared) and Eleva which was known in the early days of its settlement as Dog Town or New Chicago.

Many of the things which we now consider necessary in our daily life were almost unknown at this time.  Many farmers raised sugar beets, but often the families went all winter without it. Boughten shoes were very unusual.  Mrs. Tollefson's father, Torjer Hoverson made the shoes for his own family.  He learned the shoemaking trade in Norway.  Tillie Hoverson (now Mrs. Tollefson) was thirteen years old when she had her first pair of store shoes.  She earned these shoes with the help of her sister by herding cattle all summer.  The pair of shoes was all they received for their summer's work, yet at this time they thought they were well paid.

Mrs. Tollefson tells of beer being made in her home by means of a stone mill which was set up in the kitchen, whihc did not leave much room to do other work.  This mill was a large chipped limestone affair with a hollowed center.  Another stone was placed over this and a wooden handle turned the top stone inside the hollow.  Grain, either barley or wheat, was washed, sprouted and dried before being ground into malt.  The malt would fall over the edges of the stone mill onto clean sheets which had been placed on the floor.  This malt was then gathered up and placed in the bottom of a wooden barrel which contained some sticks.  The juice, which later changed to beer, drained out of a cork in the bottom of the barrel.  The beer making was begun in October so that the beer would be ready by Christmas time.  The foam from this beer was poured over straw and dried until yeast was needed for bread.  Hops were then cooked and foam from the beer was added to make the yeast.  The hops were raised on the farms.

Many of the early settlers died of diptheria.  The people who died were buried in rough board boxes on the farms because there was no church grave yard.  The people who died in the winter could not be buried until in the spring.

Among the famous or infamous people who lived in this community was a LeMoen and the well-known Jesse James who kept stolen horses among the hills until it became necessary to move on to another region.


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