Velkommen til Westby

Velkommen til Westby

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

History of Westby Public Schools, written in the 1940s

Pioneers of this community will remember way back when most of the present site of Westby City was located within the limits of the Clockmaker school district. In 1880 a first school was established when Miss. Emile Westby (later Mrs. R.H. Nustad) opened a private school in a room above the Ole T. Westby store. In this school of more than half a century ago, the following were enrolled: Bennie Thoreson, Christian Hanson, Edward Peterson, Clara Syverson, Ole Swiggum, Peter Swiggum, Oliver Gilbertson, Nettie Westby, Olga Westby, Julius Westby, and Sarah Westby (now Mrs. Reque, still living in Westby).
   Second Grade School, replacing a smaller building at the same site
built in 1894 on South Main

In 1881, another private school was opened by Miss Matilda Gilbertson (later Mrs. E.C. Bergh) in a room over the Simon Syverson machine shop. In 1883, a new school district was formed which elected the following board of education: Andrew Moen, John Michelet and Simon Syverson—three staunch pioneers. The purchased a school site on Main Street (now occupied by a modern creamery) and built a two-story frame building. At first only one teacher was employed, but attendance increased and in the fall of 1885 it was necessary to employ two teachers and occupy the second story. The first teacher was Regina Gullord (Mrs. Anton Mitby) and she was school mistress for the eight grades. Other teachers of the period were Miss. Patience McGermott, Miss. Anna McGermott and Ida Gullord (later Mrs. John Rudie).

In the fall of 1893, because of a further increase in attendance, the upper grades were moved into the Temperance Hall across the street.

Westby Temperance Hall located on South Main
In the fall of 1894 a new two-story, frame four room building was built on the old site at a approximate cost of 42,800. At first only three rooms were occupied, but increased enrollment saw the building fully occupied with two grades in each room. J.K. Kjorlog, now a physician in Madison, served as Principal in the this school from 1898 to 1901. Misses. Thea Gullord, Ilga Natwick, Ruby Delap and Tilda Omundson were the teachers during this period. This school was classed as a First Class State Graded School. The building was occupied for about sixteen years, but became rather crowded near the last and more room was needed.

The question of a new building and location was the paramount issue of the day. After considerable discussion the ground, now occupied by the present school building was acquired. This land, purchased from Wittus Bergum, consisted of two and one-fourths acres. At the annual meeting in July, 1908, the meeting voted to erect a new school building, the cost of which was limited to $20,000. The board at this time consisted of Mrs. Malla Neprud, director; Reverend Martin Gulbrandsen, treasurer;  and Olaf Peterson, clerk, and it was due to their splendid vision and their untiring efforts that much progress was made in the school plans.

Once the Westby schoolhouse was new and now
is forgotten, except to only a few
Ground was broken for the new school building in November 1908. Many people thought the proposed building would be too large and that it would not be fully occupied for a long time, but in less than three years (1912) some of the lower grades had to be moved to the old building. The new building was occupied in 1910. The board of education at this time consisted of A.J. Running, president; H.A. Nerison, treasurer; and Paul Steenson, clerk. 

The class of 1910 was the last to graduated from the old graded school house, and the first to graduated from the new four year high school. The year 1910 witnessed the opening of the new school building and the introduction of the tenth grade into the Westby school system. It was also during this year that the movement for a four year high school culminated in victory when the voters of the community passed almost a unanimous vote for a Free High School. On August 19, 1911, C.P. Cary, then State Superintendent, signed the certificate of establishment for a Free High School. In 1911 and 1912 the complete four year high school course was introduced.

The years 1910 to 1914 were especially important ones in the development of secondary education in Westby. Many precedents were established that have been carried down to the present day. Not only was a curriculum of academic subjects organized that would permit students to enter the University of Wisconsin, but also a varied program of extra-curricular activities. Basketball (both boys and girls), forensics, literary clubs, annual and numerous other organizations were started that provided a well balanced program for the young men and women of that day. Alfred L. Godfrey served as principal from 1910 to 1912 and was succeeded by L.E. Weiland in 1912. In 1914 the first Westby High School class was graduated. Graduates were: Eugene Ballsrud, Magna Davidson, Joel Hendrickson, Reuben Hagen, Otis Holman, Paula Mockrud, Dorothy Kingslien, Axel Nestingen, Ester Neprud, Olga Reque, Albin Saugstad, Henry Sveum, Harold Stevlingson, and Earl Unseth. L.E. Weiland served as administrative head of the school from 1912 to 1922. During this time there was a gradual increase in enrollment and a broadening of the school curriculum.
For many years, the high school was on the left, gymnasium in the middle
and grade school on the right. Anyone remember the tunnel connecting
the high school with the grade school

Mr. A.P. Euler, succeeded Mr. Weiland and served as Principal from 1922 to 1927. During Mr. Euler’s administration significant additions to the curriculum were made. The voters approved the organization of a more complete science course, the re-installment of the kindergarten (which had been voted out in 1916), a manual training and domestic science department. A barrack was erected to house the domestic science department, which building after the completion of the new high school, became known as the band building. Band practices were held here regularly, first under the able baton of the late Otto Brown, and later under the direction of Victor Olsen, present bank instructor. This building the past year had been re-located and serves as the garage for the school busses. To Mr. Euler and the school board of that time also goes the credit of paving the way for a new building, the present high school. This building, constructed at a cost of $74,000, was ready for occupancy in 1925. This new high school made it possible to delegate the other structure completely to the grades and to relinquish the old site on main Street. Board members during this period were: H.O. Stevlingson, Richard Grimsrud, Sr., Emil Sveen, J.T. Hage, Dr. O.T. Nestingen, Mrs. L.C. Bekkedal and Mrs. J.O. Holum.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Westby Main Street Construction cost a little less in 1900

Written in 1985 by Peter Margolies, editor of the Westby Times

The first house in Westby to have official
city water was the house located on
the corner of State and Davidson Street.
The water for this house was supplied from
windmill located on the highest point
south of where Davidson Park
is located today
According to a 1901 edition of The Times, “Our village had absolutely nothing in the way of water supply for fire purposes, hoses, ladders, etc. and the village was entirely at the mercy of the flames, should a fire break out.

The village board at once decided to bring about the much needed improvement of erecting a steel water tower and providing the village with suitable fire hose, ladders etc. To successfully fight fires.

Accordingly they called a special election to be held May 31, 1899, for the purpose of voting the proposition of bonding the village for $3,800 to build a steel standpipe 16 feet in diameter and 50 feet tall.

The subject was thoroughly discussed and two public meetings were held previous to the election and the result of the vote was 69 for bonding and 37 against bonding…

…It can be said that the work preformed was satisfactory in every respect. The board now turned their attention to the subject of pipes for distribution (of water) and digging of trenches.

The pipes were purchased from the United States Cast Iron Pipe and Foundry Co., and cost about $34 average per ton. The pipes ordered consisted of eight-inch, six-inch and four-inch – about 350 feet of eight inch, 1,500 feet of six inch and the balance being four-inch pipes.

One of, if not the last windmill located in downtown
Westby. Hardly visible in this photo taken before
1910 has the windmill located behind where
Treasures on Main is located today. Before 1920,
all windmills had disappeared from village of Westby
It will thus be seen that Westby has made no mistake in using too small distribution pipes, but has aid the foundation for one of the very best water works systems of any village in the state.

Messers. John Makken and Ole Evenson were awarded the contract of digging and filling the ditches, at $1.10 per rod. (One rod equals 16.5 feet.)

Mr. William Tewalt of Viroqua laid the leaded the pipes. Seven fireplugs were placed at different points and four water hydrants were secured to be placed at the terminus of the water mains, north, south, east and west.

It was the intention of the board to use the old village well by running the old well to an eight hole, but it was found that the expense of so doing, was almost equivalent to drilling a new well and in as much as the village would be without water during the time of the repairing of the old well – this fact and the fact that the location of the old well was too low and possibly too close to the stockyards, the board decided to sink the new well near the standpipe.

The well is 300 feet deep and is cased 110 feet from the surface – it is drilled an 8-inch hole and furnishes as good water as can be found in any part of this state. Cost of the well $313.20…”

The well is 300 feet deep and is cased 110 feet from the surface – it is drilled an 8-inch hole and furnishes as good water as can be found in any part of this state. Cost of the well $313.20…” 

The original water tower (stand pipe) built in 1900 at a height of 50 feet. Today
the Stabbur would be located down the hill and in front of the stand pipe
“…About 100 rods of 4-inch pipe were laid last fall and four more fire plugs were installed. With more than 600 feet of hose, nearly every residence within the village can get fire protection from our system.

The amount of pipe used in the system is three carloads or 123,890 feet at a total cost of $1,995.75. The total amount for digging trenches is $493. Amount of pig lead used is $118.22.

It is an improvement of which all our citizens should feel justly pround and they also have the satisfaction of knowing that every part of the work done, is done as it should be, as the prime object of the village board has been to make the plant meet the demands of the village at present and also for time to come.  

The efficiency of the system has never in a single instance been sacrificed in order to make a saving of a few dollars.

Sometime in the 1920s 15 feet was added in height as
well as a roof to keep out dirt and flying creatures
that were falling in our fresh water supply
Our system furnishes a pressure of about 40 pounds which is ample in case of fire – we have 11 fireplugs to serve us – 600 feet of good rubber hose, thus enabling the fire company to reach nearly every residence in the village and all business establishments, most of the latter with two streams.”

According to Westby Public Works Supervisor Dean Warren, cost have gone up somewhat since 1900. For example, while the well dug in 1900 cost $313.20, the last well dug in Westby, in 1975, cost “about $250,000”.

When the water system was installed in 1900 it cost six cents a foot to dig (by hand) and about a penny and a half per foot for the pipe. To lay pipe today cost about $10 per foot according to Warren.

Erected in 1984,
the current water tower
Total cost of the original system, including pipe, digging, and leading was $2,506.97. Estimated cost of this summer’s repairs to the system – $425,000.

Of course, it is not just construction costs that have gone up since 1900. According to the Vernon County Historical Society, at the turn of the century corsets sold for $1 (reduced to 75 cents). Ladies extra heavy winter underwear 25 cents. Wallpaper was available for 2.5 cents per roll. A beaver coat cost $11, a men’s suit $15.

The Gypsy Romance was playing at the Viroqua Opera. Tickets went for 15, 25 and 35 cents. And if you were interested in moving west, land in South Dakota was selling for $4 to $15 per acre.

In Westby a half-acre site for construction of the original standpipe was sold by Mr. Ole Thoreson for $100. The site is described as a 60-foot hill, located in the center of the village. On top of this hill and located on solid rock is located the standpipe–a natural elevation such is seldom found in any village or city. And is seemingly intended by nature for just this purpose.

Eighty-four years later a newer version of the standpipe (water tower) is just two blocks south from the original location.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Westby's Oldest House

Hans Ramsrud house
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. Also at this intersection were two houses when Ole Westby built his general store in 1864. 

Hotel Evans

Hotel Evans — 1908
Westby has had one New Year’s Eve that is still remembered today, 113 years after the fact. Hotel Evans, center in photo, was the scene of a New Year’s Eve party for the ages on December 31, 1901. The reason for this celebration was the Grand Opening of the Restaurant located at the hotel. A six-course dinner was served that included but not limited to New York Counts on half shell, Home-grown Celery, St. Julian Claret, Roast Bronze Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Fillet of Beef, Early June Peas, Chicken Salad, Neapolitan Ice Cream and Assorted Cakes.

The Musical Program was by Langstadt’s Orchestra that included America, Saterjenten’s Söndag, My Old Kentucky Home and the evening ended with Hot time in the old town. 

Fifteen toasts were given by the local Westby Businessmen including Dr. J.K. Schreiner, Mayor, A.H. Dahl, C.T. Shannon, Albert Spellum, John Michelet and C.O. Brye.

Arrangements for this celebration were made by C.T. Shannon, Albert Spellum and O.A. Unseth. Invitation committee included C.O. Brye and the Honorable A.H. Dahl was in charge of Toasts and Speakers.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tornado — May 1, 1930

Oium's Garage from the rooftop across the street

Oium's Garage
Building rebuilt — Today, 203 A to Z Antiques
Oium's Garage Interior

E.T. Borgen Restaurant - Building rebuilt
Today, the front yard of Connelly Law Office

Rudies on left, O.P. Anderson Furniture on right
Today, Borgen's dining room, left and Treasures on Main, right

O.I. Holmen's General Store
Rebuilt — Now part of the parking lot at 200 South Main Street

Westby had another tornado on July 3, 1983

Westby State Bank

The Bank of Westby located on the corner of First and Main was owned by Carl Brye and sold to Martin Bekkedal in 1902. Almost immediately Bekkedal made plans to build a new and impressive bank on the corner of State and Main streets. The original name was going to be Bank of Westby but was changed to Westby State Bank before opening day in 1904. Bekkedal Bank closed October, 1932.

Now the location of Treasures on Main, Carl Brye
had his Bank of Westby at this location
The Coon Valley State Bank was organized in 1905 by Edwin B. Knutson and twelve other investors. The first Board of Directors consisted of Edwin B. Knutson, two local businessmen and two farmers.

In 1915, the organizer of the bank, Edwin B. Knutson, moved on to a banking career in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His brother, Irvin N. Knutson ( ”INK”), came to the Coon Valley Bank as cashier and manager. Irvin had previously been affiliated with a bank in Blair, Wisconsin.  Later, Irvin became president and served in that capacity until his death in 1963.

In 1933 at the peak of the Great Depression, all of the nation’s banks were closed because of the infamous “Bank Holiday.” Many banks were destined never to reopen, including the two banks in Westby, just nine miles from Coon Valley. The Coon Valley State Bank had been given a clean bill of health, and reopened without restrictions.

Construction started in 1903 on the Unseth Bekkedal building
The people of the Westby area were seriously handicapped without the services of a bank, so a group of Westby business people approached the Coon Valley State Bank, expressing an interest in having the bank establish a branch bank in Westby. At that time, branch banking was not permitted in Wisconsin, so the legislature quickly passed a bill to allow for branch banking into “bankless” communities.

Because of the larger size of the bank building in Westby, the former state bank, the headquarters of the bank were moved to Westby in 1933 and the name became Coon Valley State Bank - Westby Station, with C.O. Veldey as the manager. In 1937 the name was changed to Westby-Coon Valley State Bank.

By Christmas 1904 a few of the businesses located in the new Unseth
Bekkedal building had opened and the remainder opened in early spring of 1905
In 1940, the FDIC was seeking new owners for the bank in Chaseburg and the Westby-Coon Valley State Bank was urged to make this an additional branch. Thus, in July, 1940, the transition took place, with Alvin Dummer as manager and Lincoln V. Knutson as bookkeeper. No depositors’ dollars were lost in this transaction.

After the death of Irvin N. Knutson in 1963, Ollie Veldey became President and served until his death in 1967. Lincoln V. Knutson, son of Irvin N. Knutson, was then elected President and served in the capacity until the bank was sold on August 1, 1992 to Fortress Bancshares, Inc. Edwin B. Knutson, son of Lincoln V. Knutson, who joined the bank in 1971, became Executive Vice President in 1986 and Chief Executive Officer in 1987 and chairman of the board in 1999.

Upon the sale of the Westby-Coon Valley State Bank to Fortress Bancshares of Hartland, Wisconsin, Jon C. Bruss was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors and Palmer “Duffy” Hoffland became President, Chief Executive Officer and a Board member. In 1993, a five-month remodeling and restoration of the bank building, built in 1905, commenced, attempting to respect the historic integrity of the building while providing efficiency, convenience and pride to customers and employees alike.  

For more than 60 years, the interior of the Westby State Bank had very few changes

The Westby-Coon Valley State Bank namesake held strong for 55 years, until the bank was sold in 1992 to Fortress Bancshares, Inc. and was officially renamed Fortress Bank of Westby in 1996. During this time the bank building in downtown Westby underwent a major restoration process and several new branches of the financial institution were opened throughout the area, including branches in La Crosse, West Salem and Prairie du Chien.

In 1994 the then Westby-Coon Valley State Bank established a branch bank location West Salem, Wisconsin. On November 30, 2003 Fortress Bank was acquired by Merchants and Manufacturers Bancorporation of New Berlin, Wisconsin, along with other two banks of Fortress Bancshares. The bank shortened it’s name to Fortress Bank in early 2005 and Palmer “Duffy” Hoffland was elected Chairman of the Board and Daniel L. Diehl was elected President & CEO in January 2005. In April 2005 the bank established a branch bank location in Onalaska, Wisconsin and will acquire an existing branch bank of another bank in Prairie du Chien in August of this year.

In 2003, Fortress Bank of Westby and all its branches were sold to New Berlin-based Merchants & Manufacturers Bancorporation MMBC, but the name Fortress Bank remained even after the merger with MMBC. That changed in 2007 when Fortress Bank was bought by BMO Financial Group, of which Harris is a part of and soon after the bank name was officially changed to Harris.

The Harris Bank branch in the village of Chaseburg, which was damaged in flooding in 2008, was officially closed by the company in 2010 and the Westby branch closed June 29, 2012. The Coon Valley branch of Harris Bank, which closed February 22, 2014, was the last of a long-standing tradition to close bringing an end to the financial institution that was the heart of Westby, Coon Valley and Chaseburg for decades. 

Organic Valley now owns the Unseth Bekkedal building

Unseth > Rudies Drug Store

Photo taken in the twenties shows the O.A. Unseth Rexall Drug Store
on the left. Pickwick Clothes Shop in the middle with the bank
on the corner with the Opera Restaurant in the basement
The early history of the Westby Pharmacy began before 1900 with the druggist and owner being Mr. Ramsland who also built a home that today is the Westby House. Mr. Ramsland had his drug store just east of the Westby House separated by Ramsland Street that carries his name. The store was located in today's green space next to the Midwest Gas building. Mr. Ramsland never lived in his new house as he passed away suddenly in 1899 before the house was finished.

This Rexall drug store was then bought by O. A. Unseth who partnered with Martin Bekkedal to build what is now the Ole and Lena Kaffe Hus and Organic Valley building. The name Unseth-Bekkedal is visible below the roof line.    

In the thirties, O. A. Unseth turned his drug store over to his son Earl who operated it until 1953 when it was sold. The new owner kept the name Unseth as well as the Rexall brand. The last owner of the Rexall/Unseth Drug store was Larry Day who in 1961 sold the business.

Rudies Drug Store, also known for a time as Nyal Quality Drugs which until this time was located on South Main Street moved their business to the vacated Unseth Store.

Rudies Drugs began in 1927 when Grant Rudie Sr. took over the G.F. Myhre Drug store that had began in 1905. For sometime, H.R. Jackson was the druggist at the Myhre store. It is unknown if the Spellum Pharmacy, another early drug store located in Westby at the end of the 1800s, is a predecessor of the Myhre Drug store.

Westby Pharmacy before 2007
In April of 2005, Gary Miller celebrated his 30th anniversary of owning the Westby Pharmacy. He had purchased the Rudie Drug Store from Grant Rudie, Jr. who continued as the manager of the store because Gary also owned the Miller Pharmacy in West Salem at that time and continued to operate both stores for another seven years. In 1987 Rudie Drug Store became the Westby Pharmacy since Grant Rudie Jr. had by then retired and many Drug Stores were using “Pharmacy” in their name. 

The best part of Gary Miller’s thirty years here was truly getting to know the Norwegian heritage, of which he was a part, and to understand the friendly caring spirit of Westby and area. It truly is the Norwegian capital of the United States of America.

Westby Schools

In 1880, our first school was established when Miss. Emile Westby opened a private school in a room above her father’s, general store. A year later another private school was opened by Miss. Matilda Gilbertson.

Second grade school replacing
a smaller building at the same location
In 1883 the Westby School district was formed and bought a school site on South Main Street and built a two-story frame building at the location of where the creamery is located today. In the fall of 1893, because of further increase in attendance, the upper grades were moved into the Temperance Hall across the street.  A year later a two-story frame four room building was built on the old site.

Built to hold high school upstairs
and lower grades on first floor
A new building location was acquired in 1908 and the new school was opened in 1910. Though this building no longer exists, the building site is the same one that is used today for our school buildings. Many thought the proposed building would be too large and that it would not be fully occupied for a long time, but in less than three years some of the lower grades had to be moved to the old building on Main Street and again used the Temperance Hall to help with the overflow.

Public high school
The class of 1910 was the last to graduate from the old graded school house, and the first to graduate from the new four year high school in 1914. Mr. A.P. Euler served as principal from 1922 to 1927 and during this time completion of the new high school was completed eliminating the need for students to use the old grade school on Main Street by moving all of those students into the former rooms vacated by the high school students.

The Citizens of Westby voted in 1938 to fill in the area between the High School and Grade School with a gymnasium. The former gym being located in the basement of the grade school.

A sight remembered by many. Today the area taken up by these three buildings
is a parking lot surrounded on three side by the current school buildings.

The last of these three building was razed a few years ago and in their places are numerous buildings and additions. The Earl C. Knutson Auditorium in 1960 followed by the High School in the fall of 1965. A primary building was built to the south of former school buildings a few years ago and the last building to be built was the Middle School including a fieldhouse.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Andrew H. Dahl

Artists rendering of the
Dahl Store on East State Street
Honorable Andrew H. Dahl, son of Mikal Henrik Dahl and wife Guri Elisbeth, was born in Lewistown, Columbia County, Wisconsin, 13 April 1859, and came with his parents to Coon Prairie in 1864.

He received his education at Viroqua High School and Northwestern Business College, Madison.

For 30 years he conducted a general merchandise store and later a Ford Agency in Westby. In 1898 he built his new store, his third, on the corner of State and Main Streets that today is the Uff-Da Mart. Before selling his local interests he also owned Ford Dealerships in numerous neighboring communities.
A.H. Dahl & Company in 1888.
Pictured are Jens Davidson, J. Gilberg, Ole M. Lien, Dr. S.B. Reque,
C.M. Ballsrud and Knut Villand. A sign on the store says
"Don't go home till you see the wonderful bargains on our 5¢ Counter
Dahl took an active part in public and political life. Thus we find him Supervisor and the first President of the Village of Westby in 1896. Next County Asylum Trustee, and four terms in the state assembly, namely from 1898 to 1906. In 1906 he was elected state treasurer. He reelected in 1908 and in 1910. And in 1914 he was candidate for governor.

In church life he has had the following positions: Congregational trustee, Gale College trustee, treasurer for the Synod’s Eastern District and Luther College trustee.
Photo taken shortly after the turn of the century before
the final addition to the east was added, replacing the Dahl store
pictured above to the left of the new building

Westby Cooperative Creamery

First creamery located at the corner
of Washington Street at Davidson
The Westby Cooperative Creamery is one of the oldest cheese factories in the state. On October 31, 1903, Articles of Incorporation were drawn and 300 Vernon County farmers each bought a $10 capital stock certificate to form the Westby Cooperative Creamery. By pooling their money, resources and product, they hoped to build a future for themselves and their families.
First creamery with additions
and window flower boxes
They did not know they would be forming a business entity that would become the anchor of their community, and continue to be a part of their great great great great great grandchildren's lives. They just thought they would make butter.  And they have ever since. In a small building built for $1,225 on a $400 piece of land, the Creamery produced 67,524 pounds of butter during its first year.

Today the creamery is known nationwide for its quality dairy products that are all made from milk that is farmer-certified free of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST, also known as rBGH, or bovine growth hormone). 

 Westby Cooperative Creamery built in the twenties
The cooperative is owned by the 120 dairy farmers who supply the milk for its products. They produce a variety of natural cheeses, cottage cheese, dry curd, sour cream, butter, and, of course, the famous cheese curds.
Present Westby Cooperative Creamery on South Main Street

First Place Awards to Westby Cooperative Creamery
at 2015 United States Championship Cheese Contest.

Westby Cooperative Creamery products have won 1st Place Awards at the 2015 United States Championship Cheese Contest, sponsored by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

In the product category of Cottage Cheeses, Westby brand 4% Small Curd Cottage Cheese took 1st Place with a score of 98.25%, besting other finalist by nearly 1.5 percentage points.  In the debut new product category of Yogurts, as a cultured dairy food, Westby brand Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt received the 1st place award with a Best-of-Class score of 99.5% in the Cow’s-Milk Flavored Yogurt category.

According to John Umhoefer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association; “The United States Championship Cheese Contest is the largest technical evaluation of cheese, butter and yogurt products in the United States; with the first place winner in many product categories determined by just tenths of a percentage point.  This contest is rooted in more than 120 years of our association history, beginning with our first cheese judging contest in 1891.  In recent years, this event has more than doubled in size, with nearly 2000 entries from 28 states, totaling more than 30,000 pounds of dairy products, in ninety product categories.  A panel of expert judges was assembled from across the country for this 2015 national awards competition.”

Westby Cooperative Creamery Distribution Center on North Main Street

Friday, April 25, 2014

Westby Feed & Seed

Westby Feed & Seed now Logan Mill Lodge
The beginnings of the Westby Feed & Seed, the Ben Logan Feed Mill, began in 1904 when William Cargill, owner of Cargill Grain Company, bought land for his La Crosse and Southeastern Railway that would be operational in January of 1905. Sometime before the fall of 1905, a 75 foot elevator was built in preparation for the grain harvest. Cargill also had elevators built in Viroqua, Coon Valley and Chaseburg. The Westby elevator was torn down in 1977. In 1933 the Cargill family sold (bankruptcy) their La Crosse & Southeastern Railway (tracks located on the west side of the mill) to the Milwaukee Road whose trains had used what is now Bekkedal Avenue since 1879.

The H.E. McEachron Company, with P.J. Hagen as manager, became the owner of the grain elevator after the Cargill family sold it in 1910. Soon the McEachron Company improved the property by building the first part of the mill that exists today, a two story 28 foot by 50 foot seed storage building that fronted on Second Street. The 1910 vintage freight elevator and in-floor freight scales have been preserved.

In 1917 the Farmers Cooperative Seed Exchange took over ownership of the mill. During their ownership, Westby as well as the rest of the country enjoyed the roaring twenties and endured the depression. Cancelled checks that show the prosperity of this agricultural business during the 1920s have been preserved. The Farmers Co-op sold the mill to Ben and Olga Logan in the fall of 1940 and Ben’s generous credit terms helped many Westby area farmers recover from the depression years. 
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific caboose located at Logan Mill Lodge

Of all the owners of the feed mill property, the Logan’s are the most remembered and loved. The Logans renamed the feed mill Westby Feed & Seed and turned the business into a full service “Feed Mill” by putting a 28 foot by 50 foot addition on the north end of the seed storage building and installing feed grinding equipment. The canopy on the west side connecting the grain elevator to the mill & the lean-to on the north end were also added during the Logan era. 

In 1962, Ben Logan retired at age 72, selling his mill to John Hundt of Cashton who operated the mill until 1969 when FS Cooperative bought the property. All milling operations ceased in 1992.

Jane Meyer and Carol Brye purchased the mill buildings in 1993 and began saving the building from destruction. They replaced or rebuilt everything from the foundation up to and including a new roof. After renting the building to others for a few years, the women sold the mill property to Ken Rupp and Ruth Gerber Rupp in May 1999.
Ken and Ruth Rupp on the porch of their caboose

Ken and Ruth doing business as Ocooch Mountain Acres bought this large property as they needed room to expand their agricultural business (Maple Syrup). They bought the historic 7,000 square foot property which included the Ben Logan Feed Mill the adjacent Lime Shed. The maple syrup processing plant and distribution center used the entire property for the years 1999-2004. The volume of Maple syrup processed declined after 2004 from 300 barrels a year to 10 barrels a year due to Canadian competition and thus the amount of space needed for the maple syrup business decreased. The smaller 1,000 square foot Lime Shed located on the southwest corner of the mill property is now used for the Rupp’s Historic depot south of a former Milwaukee caboose that in the 50 had Westby as one of its stops. The maple syrup business has been moved to the north end of the Logan Mill Lodge. 

The entire 6,000 square foot feed mill structure has now been renovated into what is know as “Logan Mill Lodge” and commemorates the agricultural and railroad history of this property. The lodge consists of three unique residential units used as vacation rental condominiums plus a commercial kitchen and a conference room. A life sized picture of Ben Logan greets guests as they arrive at the main entrance to the conference room. The property has been fondly named “Logan Mill Lodge” and the conference room, “Ben’s private party and meeting room” in memory of the much loved and respected former feed mill owner, Ben Logan.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Westby Telephone Company

The Westby Telephone Company was organized in 1902 and sold to Vernon Telephone Cooperative December 1961 making the new enterprise the largest telephone cooperative in Wisconsin.

1936 Westby Phone Book
The Westby Telephone Company was organized with George Byer as its first manager and Mrs. Byer the first operator. The firm began operations serving about 50 telephones, but this figure climbed to nearly 1,200 at the time of its sale.  Gerald Rusdal became the manager in 1948, and continued with the new owners as commercial supervisor.

C.O. Veldey, president of Westby Telephone company was named to the board of directors of Vernon Telephone Cooperative along with Hjalmer Theige of rural Westby

Vernon Telephone Cooperative, formerly headquartered at Viroqua, returned to Westby, where it was originally housed, and occupied the lower floor of where it had been located upstairs as the Westby Telephone Company. It was organized in 1951, largely through the efforts of the late N.F. Leifer, former manager of the Vernon Electric Cooperative. Construction of the current building was started in the fall of 1962.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Westby Times

Westby Time
East State Street
100 years ago
The only newspaper in the world that cares a whoop for Westby, Coon Valley & Chaseburg, The Westby Times was established in 1900 by Frank Burns, who was editor and publisher for six years. The first paper was located under what is today the Uff-Da Mart and shortly moved to the front of the building today occupied by Treasures on Main. Type was set by Linotype, powered by a gas engine.

Harvey Owens, with  assistance from his brother Ed, succeeded Burns. In 1911, J.T. Hage took over and Owens remained as printer.  Later Joseph Houghton became printer.  At that time, type was hand set and the paper was folded by hand.

When electricity came to Westby in 1902, the lights operated from dusk until 11 p.m. However, if the Times was not put to bed by 11 p.m., the city manager would leave the lights on until the paper was finished.
Since its founding, the paper moved from the under the Uff-Da Mart to the corner of First and Main, to the top of the hill where the old City Hall was. The next move was to State Street, between Dahl Ford and Thoreson Lumber Company and then to the rear of where Treasures on Main is located.  It is possible that the last two location are in reverse order.  What is known is that about 1916 the Times had a fire and lost all of its records.

Julius T. Hage
Times Editor — 1911-1964
The next move was to the Ender Hotel, renamed the Times Hotel that is located at the corner of First and Polly Rude Way. The next move was to Second Street where it remained for almost 50 years before moving to the location on First Street one building west of where it was located at the Time Hotel.   

Two valued employees at the Second Street location were Howard Durst, who was printer for 35 years until he died in 1953, and Paul MacFarland, Linotype operator and printer from 1951 until his retirement in 1993. When Hage died and Durst was hospitalized, MacFarland put out the paper alone for several weeks.

From 1964 until 1984, The Times was published and edited by Virginia and Ray Way. During their years, the paper went to tabloid size and offset printing, ending the clackety clack of the Linotype. 

Dorothy Robson
Current Editor

of the Times
In 1984, Ray Way, after Virginia’s death, sold the paper to James Turner and Jeff Davis. Davis sold out and Turner turned the Times into a free-distribution paper and returned the paper to the broadsheet size.
In 1987, Hale and Janet Evans became the next owners and published the paper until January 1992 When Pete and Mary Hollister, owners of the Vernon County Broadcaster bought the Times.

Today, The Westby Times, Broadcaster, Foxxy Shopper as well as the La Crosse Tribune and many other local papers and others around the country are owned by Lee Enterprises.

September 2004, saw a big change at The Times when pagination was introduced. For the first time each paper is completely done on computers.

Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts

The new Stevlingson and Call's Daylight Store about 1918
Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts has a double pedigree in the history of our downtown. Combined from two family businesses, the Stevlingson’s and the Flugstad’s. The Stevlingson & Call General Store began in 1898 and built the corner store that houses Dregne’s, in 1912. Flugstad Hardware, that started its business in 1890, bought the Stevlingson business in 1942, and in 1975, Dregne & partner bought Flugstad’s. Stevlingson began as a general store in
Stevlingson & Call General Store
before being replaced
by new building about 1912
Stevlingson & Call General Store1898 adding partner Call in 1901, Sometime prior to this, Stevlingson was in partnership with Fredrickson. Almost 20 years later Call was no longer involved and Harold J. and Harold O. Stevlingson were sole owners. The Flugstad Hardware Company began in 1890 in the building that today houses Westby Bakery & Coffee Shop, and in 1908 became Nerison & Flugstad Hardware, with Henry Nerison & Albert Flugstad as owners. In 1930 it was know as the A.F. Flugstad Hardware Company and continued until 1941 when sons Hubert and Burton and Kermit took over until 1962. Kermit’s wife Violetta along with Ed Foss keep the business until selling it to Dregne & partner in 1975. In 1976, Jana and David Dregne become sole owner. The hardware business came to a close in 2000 to make room for a full line of Scandinavian gifts, year-round Christmas room and domestic giftware.  Tourism is a “behind the scenes” valuable industry for all of Westby.
Dregne’s Scandinavian Gifts

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Westby’s Pioneer Cemetery

Westby’s Pioneer Cemetery
Located one mile west of the city of Westby and south of the intersection of Hegge Road and Unseth Road, is the burial ground for the first settlers on Coon Prairie. Pictured is the tombstone for Torsten Unseth who died in 1852. Also buried in this cemetery is Ole T. Gullord who died in 1855 and was the father of Evan Gullord, the first settler on Coon Prairie.