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"Eau Claire County History, 1949"


History of Sheldon Valley School Area

by Agnes Goodremote and Ellen Loomis

History of Sheldon Valley as told by Mrs. Ida Brownell, the oldest living resident of this community, also one of the first pioneers of the valley.

Mrs. Brownell was thirteen months old when she came with her parents from Barrie, Mass. in January 1864.  They traveled with horses and hay rack.  There was only a trail to follow.  Late in the evening the horses refused to go any farther, the father got out to see what the trouble was and found that they were at the bank of the river.  If the horses had gone another step they would have all drowned.

There was no settlement at Mondovi at this time.  Her father, Mr. Peeso homesteaded land where James Andress now lives and also eighty acres of farm now owned by Walter Heike.  He bought two hundred acres of railroad land.  In order to file on their claim they had to work very hard to improve their land.

There was one solid forest all the way to Eau Claire.  One house between here and Eau Claire, this was sort of an inn or halfway house.  This road was only a trail and didn't go where it is today.

They cleared a small piece of land to put up the little log cabin.  With a yoke of oxen they cleared a small piece of land.  Their few cattle ran at large, they would go for miles to herd them.  The land was infested with snakes.  There were all kinds of animals except wolves.  There were bears, deer, bob cats, hedge hogs, squirrels, partridges.  One could shoot a dinner any time, any where.  The creek that runs behind the present school abounded with fish.

There were no barns, only straw sheds for cattle in winter, in summer they had log corrals in which the cattle were put while being milked.

One night while her father was absent, she and her mother were trying to milk the cows, her grandfather who lived near-by called to them to go to the house and bar the door because there was a bear in the corn field nearby.  The door of their cabin wouldn't close tightly so they pushed the heavy furniture against it to keep the bear out.  The next morning they could see where the bear had been at the door.

During this time more homesteaders were coming in -- Harveys, Fords, Sheldons and Jacksons that are still in the district (Jacksons).

Mrs. Hoyt, a widow with six children, whose husband had been killed at Gettysburg came to settle in this community.  This family built their own cabin, cleared land for crops, and cut their own wood.

When Mrs. Brownell was about 10 years old, pa and the neighbors built a board shanty school house.  Their seats were low benches along the wall with the higher benches for desks.  When one wanted to get out the whole row would have to move out.  Teacher's desk was home made by farmers.  They could have school only in the summer because they had no way of heating the room.  They could stick their hands out between the cracks.

They used this building for three or four years, then organized a district.  In 1880 the present building was erected (upper room).

Before the time of an organized district, they had a select school.  In this school the teacher was paid one dollar a week for each child.  Some of the first teachers were Charley Ford, and Almira Bond.  The main punishment in those days was a "licking."  For whispering the teacher would put an inch block of wood between their teeth so they couldn't talk.

In the meantime settlers to the south were blocking out Mondovi.  There was a blacksmith shop where Farmer's Store is now.  Hotel where the Fisher's oil station is.  The Methodist Church, which was at first a community church.

When they went to town they traveled with oxen and a pung, or go-devil.  The Hoyt family got a hogshead, made a door in it anchored it to the go-devil.  They were very proud of their covered "buggy."

Christmas trees were very scarce.  There was to be a program in church and the young people were very happy to go.  They took a yoke of oxen which were not very well broken, they ran all the way to town upsetting the bobsled different times.  The women screamed and yelled and afterward they wondered who was more frightened, the oxen or they.

In order to get pure water, these settlers had to dig a well and bring up water with a bucket.  They had a log that they would push up and down to raise and lower the bucket.

When they came west they brought a bed, table and cook stove with them.  They could not buy kerosene here, but brought some with them, (however no one had lamps at that time!)  Mrs. Brownell helped her mother make candles.  When the lard ran out they cut a hole in a square oyster and put a rag in for a wick.

Their shack had only a very few windows, they had no screens, but had put a thin white cloth over them.  They were sitting near a window sewing, suddenly they heard a noise.  A little fawn jumped through the window and ran out the open front door.

The grandfather was a carpenter ad had built them a fine new log home four or five rooms downstairs and three or four upstairs.  They even had a buttery.

They couldn't buy any clothing here, but they brought much with them.  The grandmother had spun many white woolen sheets to bring along.  In their new home they had lamps, "my but that was a luxury we surely thought that we had everything then!"

Children of all ages attended school, the very young would go to sleep.  One day a snake crawled in the room and crawled over a sleeping child.

Mrs. Brownell was "well educated" when she started school she knew her a b c's.  Her father was a teacher.

The mother made butter and cheese which they took to Eau Claire once a month.  It was really good butter and cheese.

If any one was real sick someone would ride on horseback to Eau Claire to get a doctor.  No matter how sick they were, the doctor could only see them once a week.

Mrs. Brownell's father taught school in Gilmanton when the school was organized in 1880.  This was about fourteen miles from their home.  The Mondovi School district was organized shortly after this and was a two room school.  Mr. Gilkie and Mary Jane Holmes taught here.

The Peeso's had six yoke of oxen which they used on their farm.  They used a cradle to cut their grain.  When the reaper came they were very happy.  Mrs. Brownell drove the oxen on the reaper many times.

For many years there was no mail delivery except by stage that came from Rock Falls once a week.

When rural delivery came, Ellis Evans delivered mail once a week, then twice a week then three times a week.

Mrs. Brownell saw Indians here only once.  This time her mother had come downstairs in the morning to build a fire and there were two Indians sleeping on the floor near the stove.  They were friendly with her father and he knew they would do no harm.  He said Indians could stay in his house any time they wanted to.

Sheldon Valley received its name from the Sheldon's of whom there were three families.

This little story was told by Mrs. Brownell.  "One afternoon when a neighbor girl and I were rounding up the cattle, we were scared of the animals and snakes all around.  When we got the cattle lined up so they would go down the trail home, we grabbed on to the tail of one and went kiting through the air toward home."

  

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