|Left to right, Arvella Sorenson, Mabel Peterson, Margaret Johnson, Gladys Erickson, Huldah Peterson, Ruth Sherry, Martha Hagen and Elsie Olson are posing for a photo outside of Our Savior’s.|
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014
At Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Westby on Sunday, June 26, 2011 Pastor Norm Rose conducted his last service before retiring. And so for the second time in three weeks, the congregation of OS said goodbye to a well-loved pastor, since Pastor Gary Daines retired three weeks ago. And as is proper for a good Lutheran church, the farewell for Pastor Norm was marked with good music and good food.
|Pastor Norm Rose|
The worship service was interwoven with music. Bach, Handel, and a lovely rendition of “Beautiful Savior” were contributed by the organ. As opening hymn the congregation surprised Pastor Norm with his favorite hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.” It made a very special moment for a man who has been “telling the story” for forty-four years. In fact, it was such a moving moment that it took Pastor Norm some time to recover his composure.
On behalf of WELCA, Lynette Johnson presented the pastor with a lovely wooden plate painted by Karen Hankee. The center of the plate depicted Our Savior’s Church. Lynette thanked Pastor Norm for his years of service at Our Savior’s. This thank you echoed the sentiments of many in the congregation.
The sermon for Pastor Rose’s final service was built on thoughts triggered by the reading in Genesis 22 of the story of Abraham and his son, Isaac. The pastor told the congregation that when he felt the call of God forty-four years ago to “Feed My sheep,” he first answered, in that succinct way of his, “Lord, You really blew it this time! I have no gift for such a calling.” But though our God is a demanding God, He is also an all-seeing and all-knowing one who provides us with our needs, just as He provided Abraham with a ram to replace Isaac as an offering. And so He provided Pastor Norm the guidance he needed along the path to his long years of service in the ministry. As a fitting conclusion to the sermon, Ron Evenstad sang “How Great Thou Art.”
After closing prayers the congregation repeated the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” and succeeded again in nearly overwhelming Pastor Norm. And they joined the organ in an anthem postlude of the same hymn, making it three for three and surely a memorable service for the retiring pastor.
A potluck followed the worship service, with a large spread of dishes designed to please the eye and the palate. The great number of hot dishes reminded this writer that “hot dish” and “Lutheran” have been closely linked for a long time.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
From the program of the 1940 Legion conference in Westby
A bustling little city, with a population of 1,400 busy people, most them are the descendants of the Norse Vikings. Progressive peace loving and hospitable.
During the 1940s, Westby’s State Street had more than its share of ‘watering holes’
Westby is situated in the midst of Wisconsin’s dairyland in Vernon County (named Bad Ax County by the first settlers). Situated on splendid roads and highways which branch out to all parts of the country. U.S. 14 and S.T.H. 27, the last named also known as the “Old Indian Trail” and which winds its way among the rolling hills and country sides of Monroe, Vernon and Crawford Counties, dipping down to the mighty Mississippi past the famous old Fort Crawford and down through the picturesque river city of Prairie du Chien. A few minutes drive from Westby, one can swing down into the lovely valleys of Spring and Timber Coulees, hereabouts called “Little Norway,” and truly a paradise on earth. Thousands of people from near and far every year drive down through lovely valleys to feast their eyes on this scenic wonderland, right here in this or own God’s Country.
Spring fills the air with romance, and so it does also fill these beautiful valleys with fishermen, there to match their wits with the wily brook and rainbow trout which in abundance make the rippling streams their habitat. Many are the stories (fish stories) spun by nimrods who fish these streams in the spring and summer.
Westby boasts of fine churches, modern schools, a well stocked pubic library, municipally owned power and light plant, modern water system, newspaper (The Westby Times), a fine modern creamery with a large patronage, tobacco packing and warehouses, several up to-date food stores, two general merchandise establishments, one dry goods and notions store, furniture store and funeral parlor, bakery and five restaurants, five taverns and a hotel, a new modern $25,000 playhouse (The Westby Theatre), a telephone company, two drug stores, two lumber yards, two coal dealers, two meat markets, a machine and truck body building shop, three garages and repair shops, two implement dealers. Farmers Exchange, and a flour and feed merchant, a shoe store, jewelry store, a paint store, a tailor shop, a billiard parlor, the Vernon Electric Co-op and REA affiliated headquarters office is located here. We have a strong banking institution with total assets well over $1,500,000, a fine City Hall which houses the jail, street department and splendidly equipped fire department, a harness and shoe store. Westby has eight gasoline service stations, four insurance offices, lawyer, physician, two dentists and three real estate dealers, five sanitary dairies, live stock and shipping yard, a hatchery, a plumbing shop and several painters and electricians. There is also an exclusive dress shop, a beauty shop and two barber shops. There is a flour and feed mill, building and contracting firms, a tin shop and several carpenters and cabinet makers as well as many other individual business and professional enterprises such as bulk oil and gas distributers.
Notice the corner of the band stand on the left.
Mother Nature has presented Westby with a beautiful natural park situated in a wooded rocky glen in the northwestern section of the city. Thousands of tourists from all parts of the country have visited this beautiful spot and marveled at its natural beauty. Stately oak trees and velvety ferns dot the landscape and flowers in abundance loll in the crevices of oddly shaped rock formations.
The Our Savior’s congregation and many other community well-wishers bid “Farewell” to retiring pastor Gary Daines Sunday, June 5, 2011 with fitting encomiums and a standing ovation. The church was filled almost to capacity, with nearly 700 people attending morning worship; even the front row pews were called into service, a sight that is by all accounts rare in Lutheran churches!
|Pastor Gary Daines|
In the long history of the Lutheran church, music has played an important roll, from the Reformation on, strengthened not a little by the music of the great master composer and organist (and devout Lutheran) Johann Sebastian Bach. And special music was offered throughout the service, beginning with the well-known and powerful Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, played by organist Vanessa Mills.
Intertwined with the bible readings of the day were vocal offerings: Devi Stoffregen and Emily Breuer sang a beautifully blended duet version of “Here I Am, Lord,” accompanied by Linda Dowling, and Kristi Homstad sang the lovely “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You,” accompanied by Sandy Iverson. Just before the Gospel reading came a stunning a capella rendition of “Prayer of the Children,” directed by Monte Dunnum and sung by a men’s chorus of about thirty voices, most of them the voices of young men from the area who had been confirmed by Pastor Daines or had been influenced by him during their adolescent years growing up in Westby. The special music continued during the reception of the sacrament as a trio with Deb Easterday, Sharon Olson, and Janice Fortney sang “Nearer My God to Thee” and “When the Roll Is Called up Yonder.”
Congregational singing resounded in the church for the hymns “How Great Thou Art,” “Lord, Speak to Us,” and the final “God Be with You til We Meet Again.”
“Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth; oh, sing praises to the Lord.” (Psalm 68) And sing we did, to praise the Lord and to celebrate as Pastor Daines steps into retirement after decades of service to God, to Our Savior’s, and to Westby.
Written by an unknown writer in an unknown year
The area around the present city of Westby was first settled by Norwegian immigrants in 1848. Many families came from Norway and bought land in the townships of Coon and Christiana, among them, Evan Gullord, Hans Olson Libakke, Hans Neprud, Ole Gullord and Martin Paulhaugen. Each one took a claim of land, and in 1849 and 1850 many more settlers came. They found here the trees which provided materials for their building and heat for their homes and the many springs and creeks, water. It was the good land.
Ole T. Westby, who was among a large group of settlers, arrived in 1867 bought forty acres of land on Coon Prairie and built a frame building to be used as a store and hotel in what would later become the current city of Westby. A general store and Blacksmith shop were located one mile south in what is now called 'Old Town'.
When the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad built a branch line from Sparta to Viroqua in 1879, they erected a station in the new settlement and called it Westby Station to honor Ole Westby, who would become one of its better customers. The railroad gave the impetus for many businesses to be started here. Up to this time all goods had to be hauled from Prairie du Chien or Sparta by wagon.
Dr. Schreiner north of the intersection
of Second and Main streets in the early twenties.
Both Methodist and Lutheran parishes were established in 1852. The first church was built in 1856-57 on Coon Prairie, south of the city, which served the entire area for many miles around.
Emily Westby opened a private school in 1880 upstairs over her fathers general store. In 1883, a school district was organized and a two-story school erected on the present site of the Westby Cooperative Creamery. The first school building having become inadequate was replaced in 1894 by a larger four-room building erected on the same site. In 1910, a brick two-story building was erected on a new and larger site, that of the present complex of school building. The first high school class was graduated in 1914. A new high school was built in 1936. This was remodeled into a Junior High after a larger high school was built in 1966. The Earl C. Knutson auditorium and gym combination was built in 1961, together with a new elementary grades center and other additions in recent years.
The first resident Westby doctor was Dr. J.K. Schreiner, who was later joined by Dr. J. Schee.
Westby Station was incorporated as a village in 1896 and by popular vote was made a city in 1920.
For many years Westby and the surrounding area were the hub of the tobacco industry. M.H. Bekkedal and C.T. Shannon built large tobacco warehouses where the tobacco was sorted before being shipped. This provided seasonal employment to any people, both men and women.
The first school building having become inadequate was replaced in 1894 by a larger four-room building erected on the same site. The site of the current Westby Cooperative Creamery. In 1910, a brick two-story building was erected on a new and larger site, that of the present complex of school buildings. This building was torn down in the late sixties. This new building included both a grade school on the lower level and the first high school on the second floor. A new high school was built in 1936. This was later remodeled into a Junior High after a larger high school was built in 1966. This Junior High has also been torn down. The Earl C. Knutson Auditorium and gym combination was built in 1961, together with a new elementary grades center and other additions in recent years. At present, the Westby Area School District serves elementary centers in Bloomingdale, Coon Valley and Chaseburg, as well as at Westby, with the high school located in Westby. After the article was written, Bloomingdale and Chaseburg schools have been closed.
The Coon Valley State Bank, which weathered the depression and bank closings in 1932, opened a main office in Westby in 1933 buying the Bekkedal Bank and changed its name to Westby Coon Valley State Bank.
Westby ranks second in the state in the number of cooperatives located in a community, namely, Westby Cooperative Creamery, Vernon Telephone Cooperative, Westby Cooperative Credit Union, Vernon Electric Cooperative, Vernon County Farmco, Vernon-Crawford D.H.I.A., Tri-State Breeders Cooperative and the Westby Farmers Union Cooperative.
There are several service clubs: Kiwanis, Lions, Sons of Norway, Senior Citizens, Norseland Garden Club, Rod and Gun and American Legion and Auxiliary.
|Snowflake Ski Hill in 1923|
Westby is well known throughout skiing circles for its Snowflake Ski Hill in Timber Coulee. Skiers from all over the world come for its annual tournaments which have been held since 1923. Olympic tryouts and national meets have been held here. Junior ski tourneys are also held annually.
Westby has several small but growing industries: a butter packaging plant, a creamery, a hardwoods plant, a Nordic Industries plant making furniture and a National Farmers Union gas plant. The P. Lorillard Tobacco Company receives tobacco from local growers at a warehouse here.
Besides its annual ski tournaments, Westby is also famous for its Syttende Mai celebrations every May.
But, most of all, it is famous for its traditional Scandinavian hospitality and friendliness over a cup of coffee.
This following history of Westby was written my Miss. Elaine Bakken, who studied this Vernon County community as a high school English project. Her story appeared in the La Crosse Tribune on Tuesday, June 24, 1958. A few amendments have been made.
The territory where the town of Christiana and the city of Westby are now located was first occupied by Winnebago Indians. In 1848 the first Norwegian settlers came; among them were Evan Gullord, Hans Olson Libakken, Hans Neprud, Ole Gullord and Martin Paulhaugen. Each one took a claim of land. By 1850 numerous settlers also had arrived on Coon Prairie.
In 1851 this area was called Crawford County and was served by the Springville Post Office. A short time later Crawford County was divided and this area was called Bad Ax County, with Coon Prairie as the local Post Office. Shortly Bad Ax was changed to Vernon County.
In 1858 Hans Ramsrud built a house that today has become Westby’s oldest house. Ramsrud had a blacksmith on the corner of State and Main, the location of Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts in 2015. Also on this corner were two houses when Ole Westby built his general store in 1864 at the location of Organic Valley. The first building that Ole Westby erected was used as a mercantile business and his second building, across the street from his first was built in 1874 and was used as a mercantile business as well as a hotel on second floor. A few years later it was used as the first school for Westby children. Mrs. Ole Westby was the former Sarah Dahl and was kept quite busy waiting on customers and looking after the hotel. In 1879 the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad completed its branch line from Sparta to Viroqua. The name Westby Station was given to this railway station by the railroad to honor Ole Westby.
The railroad brought with it a boom to Westby. Three stores, two grain warehouses, one hotel and several dwellings were erected within a short time. The only excitement in those days was when the stage came through from Sparta to Viroqua, with passengers and mail. The stage went south one day and north the next. Quite often newcomers from Norway who stopped off here were happy to find people who could speak Norwegian.
Dr. J. Walloe was the pioneer doctor of Coon Prairie, but the first doctor who settled at Westby was Dr. J.K. Schreiner. He was followed a short time later by Dr. J. Schee.
Among the early settlers were two pioneers by the same name. They were Hans (Bakken) Syverson and Hans (Skaara) Syverson. Their mail kept getting mixed up so Hans (Skaara) changed his last name to Bakken. Hans Syverson and Hans Bakken were among the first in this area to raise tobacco, and Hans Bakken soon was called “Tobak Hans” by his friends.
M.H. Bekkedal put up his first crop of tobacco in 1892. During the daytime he helped out in the Ballsrud store owned by Christian Hansen Ballsrud located at the current location of Borgen’s Restaurant. After working hours in the store, Bekkedal would pack tobacco in wooden grocery boxes of every shape and size. Later he rented the butcher shop, which was a frame building, later the site of the Westby Theatre. He bought more tobacco and soon he needed more room and some help so he hired Ole Johnson and Andrew Nottestad. This was the beginning of an industry which prospered and grew in Westby.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Written by Peder P. Hektoen
|Located on the Black River Indian trail one mile south of the current|
intersection of State and Main streets, Coon Prairie General Store,
owned by Peder Evenson Gullord, the first store in the area,
also served as postoffice from 1857 to 1880.
During the sumer of 1848 Evan Gullord arrived on Coon Prairie coming up the valley from Coon Valley through Timber Coulee seeking a suitable place to settle. Two years earlier this single man from Biri, Norway, came to Koshkonong located near Madison. In 1848 he filed claim on land on Coon Prairie. This was not legally right, so when he came back that fall to settle his claim, he discovered that two Americans, LeMars and Smith, had taken his claim. He took a new claim in Township 13, sections three and four.
Accompanying him were Hans Nilson Neprud with wife and four children: Nils Gudbrand (Oium), Helene (who later married Evan Gullord), and Elias; Hans Olson Libakken with his wife and one child, and Evan Pederson with his wife and children. All these were from Biri and settled on Coon Prairie. It is believed there were no settlers on Coon Prairie prior to 1848.
A year or two before 1848 a few American families settled in the Viroqua area.
In 1849 Ole Gullord, father of Evan Gullord, came with his wife and four children, namely Tosten Westby, who was already married and brought his wife and three children; Henrick Gullord and two daughters (later, Mrs. Nils Neprud and Mrs. Lewis); Tjøstul Oium from Fron, his wife and daughter (who married the aforementioned Gudbrand, son of Hans Neprud; Martin Paulhaugen from Gustad, his wife and son Amund; Klemet Berg with wife and children from the Oiers Church area; and a brother Jan Hovde.
Others who came that same year included Syver Galstad and family from Biri. In 1850 more natives of Biri who came included Peder O. Hegge, his wife, stepmother and five sisters of his wife; Tosten Nilson Unseth, a widower, with sons Evan and Peter, with five children; Ole Halvorson Heggestuen with wife and daughter Helene; and Per Gudbranson, who later married Helene Heggestuen and later took her last name.
Many others from Biri came shortly thereafter, either in 1850 or a year or two later. Among these were Tollef Hanson Strandbakken with his family and parents, and Albrect Albrekson, brother-in-law of Tollef Strandbakke. Tollef died in 1861 and just a few years later his parents also died. Later arrivals included Torger Neprud with his family, and in 1851 his brother Nils Skundberg with his family. Lars Onsrud also came with them.
Jan Bergum from Land church area, his wife, daughter Berthe Marie and son Vitus came to Coon Prairie in 1850. During the fifties the daughter married Jeremiah R. Rusk, who was governor of Wisconsin from 1882-1889. Torger Fremstad, his wife, and the half brother of Jon Bergum’s wife came to Coon Prairie in 1850 or 1851. They had arrived in Koshkonong during the summer of 1850 and were married by A.C. Preus. It is interesting to mention here that Bjornstjerne Bjornson is related to Mrs. Jon Begum and Torger Fremstad. Also arriving during these years were Tollef Saugstad and family from Ringsaker, and Jacob Michelet and family from Lillehamer. John Michelet had come about a year prior.
During the early fifties there were many who came from the area of Flekkefjord, incuding Michael Larson (the father of Pastor Christian Larson) Lars Tollakson, Erik Virak with his wife and stepdaughter, Peder Barstad, with his family; Halvor Egeland and family; Enoch Enochsen, Christian Egeness and family; Chris Sigbjørnson, Michael Lindahl, Nils Nilson; Nils Roiland and family, and Andrew Larson and family. Added to these in 1854 were Tonnes Larson and family; also Osten Kjeland and Tobias Regevig with their families.
From Oiers parish were Johannes Berg and family; Ingebret and Erick Tandhaugen and their families.
Between 1850 and 1855 Torjus Gunderson, or Torjuson came from Telemarken with his family. They accompanied Sven Stevens and John Spellum. Others from Telemarken had arrived at Koshkonong earlier. Included were Ole Ulland, and Even Christenson Ulland and their families. Since they both came from Faaberg parish, it is possible they were related.
In 1854 Lars Thorsdaard and his brother-in-law Gudbrand Theige and their families left Norway for America. They were from Ringabu. In company with them were Johannes Bjorge and family from Oilers. Towards the latter part of their journey, many became ill with cholera. Gudbrand, father to Ole and Edward Theige, died from complications in Koshkonong. Many years later, when Edward Theige was in Koshkonong for a Synod meeting, he searched for his father’s grave but it is not known if he found it.
Lars Thorsgaard’s wife was Ingeborg, born Himrud. Lars was a well-to-do man and bought land from Halvor Egeland where he settled and where he died in 1884, a year after his wife died.
Most or all of these early settlers made their journey in sailboats and landed in Quebec. This is also where Lars Thorsgaard first set foot in America.
At that time it was customary to travel by boat to Milwaukee. From there thy completed their journeys as best they could. Those who could afford it bought oxen and went here and there, but usually through Koshkonong where they met relatives and friends. Some caught a ride with travelers and others set out walking.
In 1857 the number of settlers on Coon Prairie increased considerably with the arrival of many from Oiers parish. Johannes L. Hovde, his wife, son Lars and other children, Amund Kolbo and family, Johannes Bershaugen and family and Gunner E. Alstenstad with wife and daughter Annetta (who latter married Simon Mockrud) as well as others were included in this group.
|Hans Ramsrud 1858 house located at original|
location at State and Davidson streets
Hans Ramsrud, a single man, was one of the early ones to arrive from Biri about 1850. In 1858 his house was said to be the nicest house in what became Westby. Staying with Hans Ramsrud in 1859 was Anders Jenson Eide (Little Anders) and his wife. A card game called “Vist” was often played.
Johannes Hagen and parents came from Lands Parish in 1856, and in the early days Johannes sharecropped part of what was then called the Christenson Farm, where Ole Benson later lived. A couple of years later he bought the land where his son Carl now lives, at the time not cultivated. Shortly after his arrival he married Karen, also from Land Parish, who came over along with the same group. Included in that group was Andrea Vassend, who died in 1922. Also, but not in the same group, was the Andreas Hammersborgand family. He had stayed for a while in Wiota, in LaFayette County, where there were many from Land.
In 1861, Gudbrand Struxness arrived from Land with his family. His brother Halvor stayed in LaFayette County for about a year before following Gudbrand to this area. Gudbrand’s son, Ole Struxness, who lives in Westby, was five or six years old then. That year Andreas Hanson came from Land. Andreas “Snedker” settled on what is today known as Lovaas Ridge.
The first ones to emigrate from Hurdalen came to Muskego when Pastor Stuf was there. Among these were Kristoffer Bratlie and family and brothers Kristen and Joe Tostrud. Erik Bratlie became postmaster in Westby, serving for many years. Mrs. Elias Neprud, Mrs. Evan Unseth and Mrs. Fleisher were children of Kristoffer Bratlie. They resided a year or so in Muskego before moving to Vernon County and Coon Prairie in 1855. The oldest daughter, Berthe, was Mrs. Evan Saugstad.
Written by Michele Michelet Boyer
Rare old letters and family stories open a valuable window into the past and make real the lives of people living long ago. They can tell the story of a family, and give a rich history to an area. Jacob Post Michelet was a merchant in Lillehammer, Norway in the mid 1800s and it was quite likely that his store was a gathering place and the place where news and information was exchanged. Many people came to Coon Prairie from that area of Norway. Letters crossed the ocean from Coon Prairie to Norway and family responded. So it was that Jacob Post Michelet wrote to his teen aged son Johan who preceded him to Coon Prairie from Lillehammer, Norway in 1850. Jacob Post wrote on April 6, 1851. “I received your precious letter on New Year’s Day at 3:00 in the afternoon and it transformed our day from a dismal one to a happy one. I decided at once to take your advice and follow you to America …. We expect to leave around the middle of May I will write to you from New York and you can expect to meet us in Milwaukee”… Johan at this time was a young man of 18, charged with great responsibility for the family. Jacob Post continued “your efforts ought to concentrate in every way on gathering information about the most fertile and best place for us to settle … what is most advantageous to us, dear Johan, because your own as well as the entire family’s welfare depends on your thoughtful consideration as well as what kind of fortune we can expect in America.”
As it turned out Johan Michelet was well up to the responsibility given him by his father. In a Westby Times front page article March 25, 1993, Margaret Gulsvig wrote “Johan Michelet’s name became so prominent in the history of Westby; the town could easily be Michelet today, though Ole T. Westby was given the honor.” In Westby, John Michelet built a grain warehouse, and was Westby’s first grain buyer. He was active in early Westby serving as township chairman, assessor, and treasurer, as well as a member of the county board. He helped start several schools and served on school boards. He also served as postmaster from 1884 to 1888 and operated a general store for about 15 years starting in 1891 at the age of 61.
Jacob Post Michelet brought his wife and 3 young children and a new infant to Coon Prairie in 1851 when he was 55 years old. He built the cabin home for his family, which is now preserved at Skumsrud, the large first cabin on the left as you enter the park. However, in leaving Norway he left family members behind that had been part of his young life, family he knew he would never see again. A word of mouth family story tells of a tragic life changing event in the life of the young Jacob Post Michelet. This story was preserved in oral tradition for over 100 years and finally written down by Marion Grimsrud Nereim granddaughter of John Michelet and great granddaughter of Jacob Post Michelet.
The Sled Story
I told them! I told them! I told them not to cross the lake. I know it is only the 25th of February, but that lake is seldom safe, even in the coldest weather.” Sophie Amalia rushed around the bedroom, pilling blankets over the body of her husband, lying where the boys had dropped him. Christian Fredrik spoke up “Far wanted to get back in time to conduct church services. He insisted that we cross the lake. It is much shorter than going around.”
I told them! I told them! I told them not to cross the lake. I know it is only the 25th of February, but that lake is seldom safe, even in the coldest weather.” Sophie Amalia rushed around the bedroom, pilling blankets over the body of her husband, lying where the boys had dropped him. Christian Fredrik spoke up “Far wanted to get back in time to conduct church services. He insisted that we cross the lake. It is much shorter than going around.”
A week earlier Johan Wilhelm Michelet had asked his 3 boys to go with him up into the hills. He was the pastor of the small church in Moland area Norway. The time was the early eighteen hundreds. Johann Wilhelm Michelet had broken with family tradition to study for the ministry. All his ancestors in Norway had been military men. It was unthinkable that any member of the family would do anything but serve in the army. When Johan Wilhelm clung stubbornly to his ambition to serve the church, the family rallied to help him. He was sent to Copenhagen to study. He was an excellent student and his teacher expected great things from him.
He had a happy marriage to beautiful Sophie Amalia. Together they often camped in the mountains until the increasing family made it necessary for her to stay home. Then the boys went with him. He was a great teacher. He taught them to appreciate the wilderness and survive in it. He told them and they learned.
On the first Sunday in early February 1805, the father and the boys broke camp early to hurry back to conduct church services. Approaching the lake Christian Fredrik suggested, “Let’s go around. The weather has been mild.”
“No” Far answered safely seated on the big heavy sled pulled by the boys. “We must hurry, Mor will be looking for us and I have a great idea for a sermon. It will keep them in their seats until afternoon.”
The boys reluctantly stepped out on the ice. Jacob Post pushed while the others pulled. When they were half way across the lake the crackling ice became more ominous. The boys walked lightly over the bad ice but the runners of the sled were soon running in shallow water. The boys in terror turned toward the nearest shore but that was a mistake. The ice broke into large chunks and the sled slid into the icy water.Far shouted “come help me I can’t kick out of the blankets” Simon threw himself down on the crackling ice and grabbed this fathers hand. He shouted to his brothers “pull my legs! Hurry! Stay away from the edge of the ice.” Jacob Post the youngest was at the end of the line. All pulled frantically and slowly Far was pulled up on the ice away from the hole. One of the boys has unconsciously kept the sled rope in his hand and the sled was recovered. Far was laid on the sled, shaking with cold, clothes dripping and lips blue, but conscious enough to tell them where to go and what turns to take.
When they reached home around noon, Far had lapsed into unconsciousness. Mor was frantic when she saw them and heard what had happened. After Far had been put into bed, Mor ordered them, “Get stones and put them in the fireplace. Pour a cup of hot water, I’ll try and have him drink it.”
In spite of the frantic nursing care, the hot stones and the hot drinks, Far lay quietly and unconscious in his bed. On the third day life went out of him, Feb 27, 1805 As a widow, Sophie Amalia eventually had to leave the parsonage. By that time Jacob Post Michelet who was my great grandfather was in military training in Copenhagen. He begged to be released from the academy to take care of his widowed mother. –This story
Written by Marion Grimsrud Nereim from verbal version passed down through the family over years..
This tragic accident and resultant death of Parish minister Johan Wilhelm left his children without a father. Records tell that Jacob Post Michelet was educated at the military academy in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied law in Christiana (Oslo) for a time then later became a successful merchant in Lillehammer.
But, what of those Michelet family members left behind? Christian Fredrik, the oldest brother of Jacob Post Michelet and the one to suggest “let’s go around” the lake, in the previous sled story, remained in Norway. The leadership and responsibility he exhibited as a boy on that cold February day long ago, was characteristic in later years as he became a general in the Norwegian army.
General Major Christian Fredrik Michelet was born in Fredrikshald, Norway on Dec. 7, 1792 the son of parish minister Johan Wilhelm Michelet and his wife Sophie Amalie Tuchsen. He started his military career with the Danish Land Cadet Academy in 1805 (immediately after the death of his father) at the age of 13. and he was a second lieutenant with the Slesvig Infantry Regiment in September of 1809 at the age of 17. By 1811 Michelet was with the Akershus Sherpshooter Regiment and in 1812, he was Premier Lieutenant. In 1814 he first participated in a raid in Sweden, and was later the Adjutant for Colonel Lieutenant Huitfeldt who was commanding officer of a battalion of sharpshooters and light infantry soldiers stationed along the border south of Orje and Michelet was a part of this battalion as the commanding officer for the Bergen Company during the skirmishes by Degernes Church, Rakkestad, and by Trogstad Church. He held many positions and received many promotions until 1851 when he was appointed Colonel and commanding officer, first of the 2nd Akershus Infantry Brigade and three years later for the 1st Brigade and at the same time, commanding officer at Fredriksten. Immediately afterwards he was promoted to General Major. He remained in that position until he resigned in 1868 at the age of 78.
He died a few years later on May 13, 1874, at the age of 82. With these assignments in mind it is not necessary to emphasize the position held by Michelt as an officer and the trust coming from the highest authorities. General Christian Fredrik was married to Edie Michaline Rasch. They had 11 children three of whom became military officers.
It is likely that Jacob Post Michelet kept in touch with his family back in Norway, by letters after settling on Coon Prairie in 1851...and it is quite possible that he might have received a letter from his brother Christian Fredrik telling that he had been promoted to General of the Norwegian army. A few years after settling on Coon Prairie, Jacob and Gregeine had a 6th child. This baby boy born April of 1855 was named after his brother Christian Fredrik. Sadly baby Christian Fredrik only survived for a year dying July 1856. Marion Grimsrud Nereim wrote “ no one seems to know for certain but long years ago I heard from an elderly woman that when this boy died (Christian Fredrik) another man had also lost a child and the men walked out on a field and decided where to dig and that was the start of the Coon Prairie cemetery. The minister lived in the area and I think it was before the church was built.”
The Coon Prairie book says “Coon Prairie cemetery was dedicated when the infant daughter of the first pastor was laid to rest there September 11, 1855. The congregation was incorporated July 29, 1854.”
If baby Christian Fredrik was not the first baby boy buried in Coon Prairie Cemetery he was certainly one of the first. Today that grave is marked with a large headstone under three trees in a peaceful part of Coon Prairie Cemetery. It is the resting place of pioneer Jacob Post Michelet, his wife Gregine and their infant son Christian Fredrik. From the very beginning, the Michelet family was a part of many “firsts” in the development of the area through the years, as Coon Prairie, Bad Axe Co. became Westby, Vernon Co. and always remembering their heritage and strong connection to Norway.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Old and new WAHS lamp logos.
Sept. 29, 1989 was the first appearance of the Historical Society lamp logo. This logo was used for some time but after a few years it was difficult to get a good copy of it. The new logo made its introduction, April 2000. Both drawn and copyrighted by Evelyn Larson.
The design is based on the Tiffany Lamps that were popular in the 1800s and would have been used in many Victorian homes.
The original drawing had two closed books with the lamp. In the newer sketch, one of the books was opened and included a pair of wire frame glasses. To quote Evelyn “History is an open book, not a closed one.”
Friday, October 31, 2014
|Built in 1900, the old stand pipe (water tower) was the location for the photos taken below in 1921.
The Stubbur, Tourist Center is located at this location today.
If a single picture is worth a thousand words,
these photos must be worth a novel.
|On the hill, slightly hidden behind the train smoke is the Westby Grade School built in 1910. Brothen Brothers Blacksmith shop is the darker building bottom center.|
|Looking almost directly west you can see where|
Davidson Park and woods is located today.
|Stabbur — Tourist Center|
The site was originally a police station. Once the police station moved downtown, the first responders of Westby moved to the site. During their time, the original building burned down. The land was vacant for several years while the city of Westby moved on. Then one day the Stabbur was found on Monroe Johnson’s farm. Monroe had traveled to Norway and, seeing this unique shape, came back and built one for himself. The city of Westby, wanting the building as their tourism site, sent Elaine Lund to investigate. Monroe agreed to allow it. The Westby Area Chamber of Commerce bought the building and the prep work for transportation began. Reverend Charles Anderson, a minister from Ontario, prepared the Stabbur for transportation. The Vernon Electric crew raised the power lines in Cashton that were too low. Service organizations donated the remaining money needed for the transportation of the Stabbur from Cashton to its current location. Once the Stabbur was moved to Westby, the Westby Area Chamber of Commerce donated the building to the city of Westby.
In Norway, the Stabbur is used as a storehouse. Traditionally this is the place where courtships began.
Open April 1 - October 31.
By Elaine Nelson McIntosh submitted by RuthAnn Wilson
We Bakkes may be a bunch of ethnocentric Norwegians, but once in awhile some of us have observed the merits of others outside of this group, and brought them into the Bakke family through marriage. The “clan” now includes spouses of Danish, Italian, Dutch, Scotch and other heritages.
One of the first steps in acculturating these exotic spouses is to introduce them to Norwegian foods. What foods are most representative of Norwegian cookery? Well, there’s Klub … or blood sausage… oh, and there’s lutefisk - cod which has been treated with lye! But these are foods which even some of us Norskies don’t like so much any more. So they should surely serve as an acid test of your new spouse’s loyalty to you. If you do inflict one of these foods shortly after the honeymoon, be sure to have on hand several of the more tolerable Norwegian foods to soften the experience, like sandbakkels, fattigmand, or fruit suppe.
|Lefse, ready to be eaten|
I was wrong. Lefse was not a hit with my spouse.
One day, years later, when the subject of lefse came up, he asked, “How do you make that stuff, anyway?”
I replied, “Well, for a nice big batch, you’d take about 4 cups of cooked, mashed potatoes, add butter, milk and flour to make a stiff dough…”
“Ugh! You can stop right there,” my Tom said. “No wonder I have always ‘Lefset’ alone!”
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Evelyn Larson, Nisse Creator
Nisse playing a flute in front of
Erik’s Butikk during the seventies
The American/Norwegian Nisse is the happy go lucky type and not a gloomy gus. One of these happy guys graced each sign and still do on the new signs around Westby today 45 years later, repainted but never replaced. The Nisse was cutout of three quarter inch marine plywood. Many business places had one or two designed for their store. Jim Weber jewelry store had one holding up a rather large diamond, David Vosseteig Furniture had the largest display with two Nisse, a house, tree, two Nisse carrying a sofa and a little dog running along.
The public library had the first girl Nisse, she was scolding the boy Nisse for dropping his books. Then, Farmers Union, had the largest ones ever made. One eight foot Nisse carrying a feed sack and a seven foot one with an oil can. Eric Leum’s store had a flute player. The Westby Beauty shop had a boy and girl Nisse. There were four painted on the wall down stairs at the American Legion. A large mural painted in what was then Flugstad’s Hardware, now Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts, it is still there along with more paintings of Nisse on the gift shop cupboard doors, done later.
Since most of this was done in 1969 to the mid seventies the others have all gone by the wayside by this time. A copyright on the Nisse was applied for and granted in 1969. There are now seven federal copyrights on Ole the Nisse. With people wanting to send him to their friends and relatives in many states and even overseas a copyright is necessary.
|Boy and girl Nisse retouched and now in front of Westby's Bekkum Memorial Library|
Nisse get lonely too, so Ole found himself a wife. They have a boy and a girl and a troll they adopted, plus a dog and a cat. The Trollsons can be seen on the front page of The Westby Times every week. Being very civic minded they participate and remind every one of things going on in the community. Evelyn also likes to paint on canvas, doing wildlife and other scenes. She also does Rosmaling on wooden plates and design work besides doing the bulletin cover for her church for the past many years.
|Westby Times cartoon|
|Ole Westby, left, Sarah Westby, right|
Ole T. Westby
One of our first citizens to volunteer his services as a soldier in Uncle Sam’s army, Ole Tostensen Westby was born in Biri, Norway, on May 2, 1840, and came to the United States with his parents June 16, 1849, who on October 1 came to Westby, then known as “Coon Prairie” to join a few earlier settlers who had found their way to this “wilderness” the year before.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Ole T. Westby enlisted in the 15th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment on December 24, 1861, and served until February 13, 1865, when he was discharged with his Regiment.
Records in the files of the Adjutant General’s office in Washington, D.C., show that he first served as a “fifer” and drummer, but later served in the Ordnance Corps under the command of Wisconsin’s famous soldier, Colonel Heg. For “outstanding services” as an ordnance man, he was “mentioned in dispatches.” Records also show that he was suffering from “disability” and was hospitalized for a long period at Monterey, Miss., and wounded in the arm at Lovejoy Station, Georgia.
After his discharge from the Army in 1865, he returned to Coon Prairie and bought 80 acres of his father’s farm and engaged in farming until he opened a General Store on the site which is now occupied by Organic Valley. In November 1865 he married Sarah Dahl. She was the first female assistant at the Coon Prairie Post Office. The couple had 11 children: Emilie, Jonette, Bergine, Regine, Olga, Julius, Sarah, Lindahl, Lillie, Walter and Otis.
Ole and Sarah Westby’s general store was one of the few businesses located at this location which is now Westby, until 1879, when the C.M. & ST. Paul Railroad completed the building of a branch line from Sparta to Viroqua. There are not any known photographs of Westby’s first store. The name Westby was given the railroad station by the railroad company, to honor Westby’s most prosperous citizen of the time. The site of their store was almost overlooked when the new railroad chose a location for their depot. The railroad originally wanted to locate the station about two miles further north. This attempt was foiled however by two La Crosse merchants, Mons Andersen and C.B. Solberg, who urged that the station be built nearby their good client, Ole Westby.
In 1874, Westby built his second store, a much larger building with a hotel on second floor across the street from his first store. Corner Mechanics is located at this location today.
Ole T. Westby died in January 7, 1897 and was laid to rest in the Coon Prairie Cemetery.
How I Got My Driver’s License, edited by RuthAnn Wilson
|Esther Flugstad Bakke — 1932|
I began learning to drive when I was fifteen. My father and mother both wanted me to learn to drive so that I could take mother to visit Grandpa and Grandma Olson and Aunt Martina on Sunday afternoons. Father wanted it so he could take a nap Sunday afternoon. He worked hard during the week. And besides, he was terribly bored listening to women-talk at Grandma Olson’s. Grandpa Olson was very deaf.
I hated it.
We had a Dodge Touring car. The gearshift transmission was stiff and hard to turn. I wasn’t strong enough to do it quietly nor did I have the needed expertise. This was before the invention of the automatic transmission. Every time I ground the gears, Father would let out a very loud and very disapproving “Harr—umph”. He was proud of his car. He had bought it new and kept it in tiptop condition. He was adept with machinery. He had no trouble understanding the concept of gasoline compression and how it worked. An insult to his prized car was almost a personal affront.
When I turned sixteen (in March 1929), father decided that I ought to have a driver’s license. A law that drivers must be licensed and been passed a year or so earlier, but left no means of enforcing it unless the local authorities chose to do so… to which they took very haphazardly. Boys who had been driving tractors on the farm since they were nine of ten didn’t even bother with a license.
But Father was a stickler for obeying the law. He filled out the proper license application form, including a total of the actual miles I had driven, and mailed it in. Father, being meticulously honest, painstakingly figured out to the nearest half-mile that I had driven all of seventy-seven and one-half miles!
But the form was returned! I needed to have had the driving experience of a minimum one hundred miles. I was told to go in and have a driver’s test. So Father took me to the courthouse in Viroqua where official matters like driver’s licenses were handled. He went into the Sheriff’s office and told him that he wanted a driver’s license for his daughter.
“Where is she?” the sheriff asked.
“She’s out in the car”, Father replied.
It was a hot July day. The sheriff was sitting as close to the open window as he could. No air conditioning yet in those days. He looked at the shimmering hear waves across the lawn. No way was he giving up the comparative coolness of his office.
He looked again and saw that there was a live body out there.
“Well, tell her to be a little careful at first… That will be twenty-five cents,” he added, and signed my driver’s license.
When Grandma Moved the Woodpile By Moonlight, edited by RuthAnn Wilson
|Esther Bakke — 1998|
Grandpa Martin Bakke once made the remark to a friend, “Anna isn’t a woman. She’s a mule.”
This was in no way meant to be derogatory. He meant she was stronger than most women, and also tenacious, determined and possibly a bit stubborn. He might have been bragging a little, too. Not everyone had a wife like that.
Martin himself was not strong. Before his marriage, he worked in sawmills in La Crosse, When he wrote home to his family in Norway, he had often complained that working with the huge logs was hard work.
It was Grandma Anna’s turn to entertain the Avalanche Ladies Aid. It was a small group of neighbors and they met in one another’s homes. Everyone hosting it put forth their best efforts.
It was winter. Grandpa Marin had put a woodpile strategically placed directly in the front of the door leading into the dining room where the wood-burning stove stood. “Handy,” he thought, “what was wrong with that?” Everyone knew what woodpiles were for.
“Not so,” thought Grandma. She was not going to have her guests walk around a messy, dirty woodpile to get into HER home!
Before her marriage, she had worked in the household of the wealthy Mons Anderson in La Crosse, known as the “Merchant Prince”. She had learned much and her quick mind had absorbed the niceties there. She would have a nice home, too, she was determined.
She nagged at Grandpa for days that he and the boys must remove this eyesore. He ignored her, which he often did when he encountered an untenable position. Besides, the boys were busy stripping tobacco. It was important to get the tobacco to market as soon as possible. It was the cash crop that paid the taxes on the farm.
Finally came the evening before the Ladies Aid meeting. Everything else was ready. Fresh bread, cakes and cookies were in the adjacent summer kitchen. Floors had been scoured; everything dusted, and the rooms all polished to a gleam. BUT – there was that ugly woodpile! Grandma was frustrated and thoroughly angry. Everyone else had gone to bed.
It was late, and the moon was bright. Grandma took matters into her own hands. She put on her sweater, along with a warm burst of determination, and she moved that woodpile, chunk after heavy chunk, around the corner to the back side of the house. Problem solved, and now the ladies could walk directly into Grandma’s welcoming front door.
When Grandpa went outdoors the next morning, did he smile, just a little bit, into his mustache? We’ll never know, will we?
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Written by Hjalmar R. Holand and
translated into English by Oivind M. Hovde.
Øiumsdalen about 50 years after Iver Øium
dammed up the river and built his sawmill.
Just after brothers Iver and Tjøstul Øium were reunited in Timber Coulee, Iver decided to build one of the first sawmills in the county: There was a stream on his property which he dammed up and thereby got a waterfall. Generally a lot of machinery and an iron wheel are needed when one build a sawmill. Iver didn’t have this and had no money to buy it, but he had great ingenuity. He went out in the woods and with ax and knife carved the whole contrivance out of oak. But he had to buy the saw blade, for that had to be of steel.
This was what one called an up-and-down saw. The saw blade was fastened to a frame which went up and down. Naturally sawing was slow. The saw master could sit on the log and could take it easy during the sawing, or he could run over to the cabin and have a cup of coffee while the saw worked itself through the log. But it was much better than using the hand saw.
Iver was a much better letter writer than Tjøstul, and soon there was a large immigration from Gudbransdal to Timber Coulee. Among these was Isak Dalen, a smith whose wife, Randine, was related to the famous Wise-Knut. There was a spring near the Isak Dalen house and this spring was often covered with a brown liquid. One summer Isak filled a bottle of this liquid which he intended to send to the state laboratory for analysis. But nothing came of that.
During the fall of that year he received a remarkable letter from Wise-Knut, which read about as follows:
“I see you have a bottle of brown water which you intend to have analyzed. But you don’t have to bother with that, because it has no meaning whatever. But if you need coal, it might pay to dig under the large stone slab which lies near the spring in the lower end of Small Coulee. It is, however, surer to try between the birch trees which stand upon the hill below the outlet from the field you have up on the ridge. It will not be worthwhile to spend much money or work searching for coal, for that would not pay.”
Isak Dalen and all his neighbors thought this a most remarkable letter for none of them had mentioned Isak’s bottle, or for that matter talked about the environment there. But Wise-Knut’s letter showed that he saw and knew the terrain as if he lived there himself.
Timer Coulee, the upper end of which belongs to Coon Prairie church, together with the other nearby valleys, is the most pronounced Norwegian area in America. The Norwegian language with the original old Norwegian diction is heard everywhere, and one finds here more of the Norwegian customs, fashions and household things than anywhere in America.