Velkommen til Westby

Velkommen til Westby

Friday, October 31, 2014

Westby — 1921

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.  

Vernon Street, nothing more than a dirt path is visible at the extreme left. East State Street, also a dirt road, but more traveled as it was then the road to Bloomingdale, has concrete sidewalks on both sides of the street. By 1920, Westby had a citywide sewer system but many still used the trusty outhouse out back. Many of these are visible in these photos. Right of center is the backside of the Methodist Church. In only a few months the old Our Savior’s Lutheran Church will be moved to the vacant lot southwest of the Methodist Church on the south side of State Street.
On the right are the numerous building owned by the Thoreson Lumber Company. 

The Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul & Pacific railroad (Milwaukee Road) is located directly east of the current VFW and at the time the photo was taken is probably backing up to pick up the row of freight cars located at the Milwaukee Depot a few blocks south. Soon the fully loaded train will head towards Sparta. Located directly south of the train is the backside of Dahl Ford’s new showroom (white building with three windows).
Across the street is the Coleman Lumber Company that became
Taylor Lumber Company and more recently Nuzum’s Building Supply. The buildings at the left of the photo and alongside of the railroad tracks and continuing south are nine of Bekkedal tobacco warehouses. The newer Coon Prairie Lutheran church, top, and the soon to be moved Our Savior’s Lutheran church with the Temperance Hall located between them are located on South Main in the photo. 

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. 

Alma Skundberg the woman standing on the sidewalk at the bottom of the photo
is in front of her house. When this photo was taken Ramsland was the main street coming into town from the north and would be for many more years.
Ramsland Street is the street going north and south one block west of where
Main Street is today. On the far left going up the hill is Melby Street, one of the first streets to have sidewalks on both sides of the street. Notice the row of privies located where Central Court would be located 40 years later.

Looking almost directly west you can see where
Davidson Park and woods is located today.

Behind the pickets on top of the water tower is the Milwaukee Road railroad tracks on the east side of the future Main Street that linked Viroqua with Sparta. On the west side of the street are the tracks for the La Crosse and Southeaster Railway that ran from Viroqua to La Crosse. The dark house with the light trim is the current house of Elaine Lund. There are many interesting bits of interest that can be found as you search the old streets of Westby.
With a magnifying glass there are even more surprises to be found.

The Stabbur

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.

No Wonder I’ve Always Lefset Alone

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
In my case, having a Bakke from Westby for a mother and then changing my name from Nelson to McIntosh, I thought I’d start out easy by putting lefse on the table that first Thanksgiving. I felt safe in doing this because, although it had been referred to earlier as ‘napkins’ by a certain Italian member of our fold, Lefse had generally been well-tolerated.

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

Nisse's Story

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 T. Westby

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.

Stories by Esther Bakke

How I Got My Driver’s Licenseedited 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

Øiumsdalen, Timber Coulee

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.

Oiumsdalen sawmill and pond.
The mill shown in this photo was built by Iver Oium in 1891. An earlier mill on the
same site was built by another Mr. Oium in 1855, but was torn down later.
At the busiest times the mill was going constantly day and night.

Here is what I now know about the Oium family.
By Sheri Neprud Ballard 

Tjostel Oium was one of the three recorded children of Amund and Marit Oium. He emigrated to America in 1849. He was one of the first settlers at Coon Prairie. A story is told of Tjostel. He got a piece of land a couple of miles northwest of where the city of Westby was built. Here he dug a hole into the hillside, put a door at the front and a chimney on top and this is where he lived. Back home in North Fron, Norway, relatives waited for word from America from Tjostel. Unfortunately, writing tools were scarce and there didn’t seem to be much to write about. A couple years went by with no word, so younger brother Iver decided to go to America on his own, thinking poor Tjostel had probably perished on the trip to America. Iver made it to America, then found his way to what is now Coon Prairie. He didn’t really like it there, so went northward a few miles and came upon a deep and sheltered valley which he called Timber Coulee, and here he settled, the first white settler in that valley. 

A while later, being nearly out of food, Iver was out hunting along the streams and valleys. He saw smoke in the distance, and thought that surely he must have a neighbor, possibly even a white person. Next day, he decided to meet this neighbor and when he did, he found it was his long lost brother Tjostel.

Iver was a better correspondent than brother Tjostel, and encouraged people back home in Norway to come to America. Soon there was a large immigration from Gudbrandsdal to Timber Coulee as well as Coon Prairie.

Iver had married Marit Jonsdatter Shinne in Norway in 1850. He emigrated to America in 1852. Iver and Marit had eleven children. Soon after settling in Timber Coulee, Iver Oium decided to build one of the first sawmills in the county, as there was a stream on his property. Iver had great ingenuity and managed to dam up the creek, thereby making a waterfall. He had no money to buy machinery to build the sawmill that he wanted, so with ax and knife he carved the whole contrivance out of oak, except for the saw blade, which had to be made of steel.

What an interesting family and yes, their descendants are all my cousins!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leif Erikson Day — Westby

October 9 and 10, 2015 Westby will celebrate Leif Erikson Day with special mention to Ludvig Hektoen who along with a friend started Leif Erikson Day in 1925. President Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Leif Erikson Day and Ludvig Hektoen

‘America Not Discovered by Columbus’ by Rasmus B. Anderson was published in 1874. This book helped popularize the idea that Vikings were the first Europeans in the New World. During his appearance at the Norse-American Centennial in 1925, President Calvin Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erikson as the Discoverer of America due to research by Norwegian-American scholars such as Knut Gjerset and Ludvig Hektoen, a native of Westby. In 1930, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to officially adopt Leif Erikson Day as a state holiday, thanks in large part to efforts by Rasmus Anderson. A year later, the state of Minnesota followed suit. By 1956, Leif Erikson Day had been made an official observance in seven states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and California) and one Canadian province (Saskatchewan). In 2012 the day was also made official in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

In 1963, the U.S. Representative from Duluth, John Blatnik, introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. The following year Congress adopted this unanimously. In 1964, the United States Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson did so, as has each President since. Presidents have used the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery. In addition to the federal observance, some states officially commemorate Leif Erikson Day, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where large numbers of people from the Nordic countries settled.

October 9 is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life. The date was chosen because the ship Restauration coming from Stavanger, Norway, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825, at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

Ludvig Hektoen

Ludvig Hektoen (July 2, 1863 - July 5, 1951) was a noted American pathologist. Hektoen published widely and served as editor of a number of medical journals. In 1942, Hektoen received the American Medical Association's Distinguished Service Medal for his life's work.

Hektoen was born into a Norwegian immigrant community in Westby, Vernon County, Wisconsin. He was the son of Peter P. and Olave Thorsgaard Hektoen. His father was a Lutheran parochial school teacher. He attended the Monona Academy in Madison, Wisconsin and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1883 from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, receiving his M.D. degree in 1888. Between 1890 and 1895, he studied abroad in Uppsala, Prague and Berlin. 

In 1889, Hektoen was appointed as pathologist in the Cook County Hospital, where he served until 1903. In 1889, he was additionally made curator of the museum of Rush Medical College and in 1890 physician to the Coroner's Office of Cook County and lecturer in Pathology at Rush Medical College. In 1898, Hektoen became professor of Pathology at Rush Medical College and in 1901, professor and head of the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago. He served in these dual capacities until 1932-1933, when he became professor emeritus.

In 1901, Hektoen was president of the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists and in 1929 of the Society of American Bacteriologists. He served as chairman of the Division of the Medical Sciences of the National Research Council in 1924, 1926, and 1929. From 1936 to 1938 he was also chairman of the National Research Council. He also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 1935-1938. He was chairman of the Section on Pathology and Bacteriology in 1900 and 1901 and was a member of the House of Delegates in 1918 and in 1920 with the American Medical Association. He served the United States Public Health Service from 1934 to 1938 as a member of the National Health Council and from 1937 to 1944 as executive director of the National Advisory Cancer Council.

Former Hektoen house, now the location of the
Bekkum Memorial Library
From 1904 until 1941, he was editor of The Journal of Infectious Diseases. In 1926 he became editor of the Archives of Pathology, serving until 1950. For many years he edited both the Transactions of the Chicago Pathological Society and the Proceedings of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago and served as editorial writer for the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1894 he wrote a book on post-mortem examination and in 1901 he was co-editor of a textbook of pathology.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia