Velkommen til Westby

Velkommen til Westby

Monday, June 29, 2015

Michelet, a familiar name in early Westby

Blue Front Store ad from the Westby Times
Jacob Post Michelet was born in Moland district, Nedeness Balliwick July 20, 1796. He attended the military academy in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1809-1815. He also attended the military academy in Oslo, Norway. Jacob Michelet Married Gregine Olsen July 6, 1829, and they emigrated to America in 1851 and came to Coon Prairie the same year. Three of their seven children were William E.J., Johan and Charles.

Jacob Post Michelet settled in Section 35, town of Christiana and was one of the first to be buried in Coon Prairie Cemetery November 19. 1866. 

Dr. William E.J. was born in Lillehammer, Norway, January 9, 1846 and came with his parents to Coon Prairie. After his preparatory education in Sparta, he studied at Northwestern University and Rush Medical College, Chicago, and became a doctor in medicine in 1879. He worked in his profession in Chicago until his death in 1921.

Lawyer Charles J. Michelet was born in Lillehammer, Norway, March 24, 1849 and came to Coon Prairie with his parents. After preparatory schooling in Sparta, he became a student at Northwestern University, Chicago. After a full course in law he became a lawyer in 1879 and joined his brother William, in Chicago.

Johan Michelet was born in Lillehammer, Norway, December 12, 1830 and along with his brothers came with his parents to Coon Prairie. Johan was married to Johanne Kvaernstuen on June 4, 1861. Two of his six children were Josephine and Charles.

Johan Michelet held the following Christiana township offices: Chairman, Assessor and Treasurer. He also served as member of the Vernon County Board.

Sometime in the 1860s Johan built a warehouse in Westby and was the first local grain buyer. From 1884 until 1888 he was the Postmaster of Westby and from 1891 until 1905 operated the Blue Front store selling general merchandise.

Josephine Michelet in the 1880s and ‘90s had a millinery shop in Westby, location unknown.

Lawyer Charles Jacob Michelet was born in Westby June 18, 1881 and graduated from Viroqua High School in 1900 and from Michigan University, Ann Arbor in 1905 with B.A. degree and from the same university’s law school in 1908. Portland, Oregon is where he went to Practice law.

In 1905 Johan Michelet sold the Blue Front Store.  Hagen Dry Goods

While Johan Michelet owned and operated the Blue Front Store, Mrs. A. Rice operated the Red Front Store specializing in women’s clothing. The location of the Red Front Store is unknown. Both the Red and Blue Front stores were part of a nationwide chain.

Besides the Michelet offspring who became lawyers and a doctor, many other Westby descendants and others who lived here for only a short time have gone on to greatness. Two examples are: The student center of Oklahoma University is named after a Westby descendant and in Chicago there is a skyscraper named after a former Westby resident. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Leif Erikson Day — October 9 & 10, 2015 schedule

Nordic Fest
Decorah, Iowa
July 25

Jim Aniol and his daughter Betsy, carrying Leif Erikson Day banner in the Syttende Mai parade 

October 10, Jay Vosseteig leading Leif Erikson in his Viking Ship to a Viking Breakfast


Kathy Anderson and Blaine Hedberg
Carrying Leif Erikson banner
Decorah, Iowa
Nordic Fest, July 25


Events planned for 

Leif Erikson Day 2015


Leif Erikson display
Bekkum Memorial Library

Friday, October 9

At the VFW Hall

205 North Main

Scandinavian salg (sales)

noon-8 p.m.

❖ Books, Jewelry, hats and Nordic gifts

Evening Fish Dinners

❖ Bleachers, Borgen’s, Central Express, Nordic Lanes, Old Town, and Rod & Gun Club

At the Library, free Movies & popcorn

6-9 p.m.

Westby Community Center

206 North Main

Sponsored by Bekkum Memorial Library

Viking Double Feature

❖ Vikings Journey To New Worlds - Documentary

❖ The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Ernest Borgnine

Saturday, October 10

At Central Express

411 North Main

❖ Viking Ship with Leif Erikson Arrives

7:30 a.m.

Scandinavian Plate Specials

7-11 a.m.

❖ Viking Breakfast

Swedish Pancakes

7 a.m.-4 p.m.

❖ Open-faced breakfast Sandwich

11 a.m.-4 p.m.

❖ Scandinavian Meatball Meal

At the VFW Hall
205 North Main
Scandinavian salg (sales)
8 a.m.-4 p.m.
❖ Books, Jewelry, Hats and Nordic Gifts
10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sons of Norway
❖ Kaffe Stua, Including Rømmegrøt

At Westby Area Historical Society
Thoreson House Museum
101 Black River Avenue
❖ Lefse/Pølse  House
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
❖ Kubb Clinic
10 a.m. noon, 2 p.m.
❖ Kubb practice and play
10 a.m.-4 p.m.

At the Stabbur 

Black River Avenue

❖ Tourist Center open with attendant

❖ Viking Ship on display

At United Methodist Church
202 East State Street
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
❖ Lion’s Chili Cook-off

At the Westby Community Center
206 North Main
2 p.m.
❖ Speaker: Owen Christianson
Leif Erikson and his Expedition to Vinland
Sponsored by Bekkum Memorial Library

Leif Erikson Tee Shirts and Limited Edition Buttons are being sold at Leif Erikson locations:

Alex Aakre and Christian Strauss carry the Leif Erikson Banner
in the La Crosse Oktoberfest Parade

Westby Mayor, Dan Helgerson, meets world explorer and discoverer of
North America, Leif Erikson, during Leif Erikson Days celebration.

Next meeting is 5:30 p.m.
October 27, 2015
Logan Mill Lodge
Everyone is welcome

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Westby in 1972

Downtown Westby in 1972 
In little more than one generation, many changes have taken place in downtown Westby but at the same time many buildings have had very little change and look about the same as they did when this 1972 photo was taken.

Starting top center and proceeding clockwise, the buildings that have been torn down or drastically changed are the following:

The cupola topped building was built as the carriage house for the Martin Bekkedal residence. Torn down to make parking space for Community Action Program (Couleecap). To the right of the carriage house is another building CAP had taken down, also for parking space.

Hardly visible to the left of the white building with three upstairs windows is Goettels Meat Market. Torn down to make green space for Weber’s Jewelry.

Right of center is the entrance to Vosseteig Funeral Chapel. The Norwegian-styled entrance was converted to a garage door when the Funeral Chapel was moved to the Main Street side of the building.

In the bottom right-hand corner is the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroad. For more than 100 years the Milwaukee Road made stops in Westby. First, four stops a day, two going north and two going south, then one trip a day each way. By the 60s, the train went south one day and north the next day after spending the night in Viroqua. Finally it was one trip a week and some weeks none at all.

The elevator, bottom left, was first seen in photos in 1907 and was torn down in the early 70s for safety reasons.

Immediately to the right of the elevator is what remains of the barn, later garage, for the Hotel Vernon. Time Hotel in 1972. Torn down for the expansion of Old Times - Assisted Living.

Directly above the garage and behind the tree is Westby DX service station. Closed in 1970, it first became part of Erickson’s Department Store and now is the Connelly Law Office.

Center left are three buildings that are also not with us anymore. Walt’s Grocery, Westby Theater and when this photo was taken, Roehl’s Clothing. Today in their place is the building and parking lot rented by the Westby Co-op Creamery for the production of their bottled coffee syrup.

The final part of this photo to discuss is all the semitrailers parked to the left of top center. Sloane Brothers Trucking and later Sloane Foods was headquartered in Westby and distributed dairy products nationwide. Shortly after this photo was taken, Sloane Brothers moved to Viroqua and today, Couleecap is located where Sloane Foods once was.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Destructive Tornado hits Westby

M.E. Neprud Warehouse

The following was printed in the Westby Times May 7, 1930. In parentheses are today’s locations of places listed in 1930.

The city of Westby went through an experience last Thursday evening (May 1) at about 8:05 o’clock that will long be remembered and it is to be hoped that it will not be repeated at least for generations to come. This community has, indeed, been fortunate in the past to escape ravages of destructive storms, and the tornado that hit us last week only proves that we are not immune to the weather elements that leave only destruction in their path.

The heaviest loss, of course was suffered by Mr. And Mrs. James Funk, whose 12-year-old son, Arthur, lost his life in the storm while on his way home from play.

Thursday was sultry, marked by light showers with threatening electrical disturbances throughout the day. At supper time it was generally predicted that a good rain was in store. At 7:30, however, signs of a heavy storm began to loom up, but on one entertained fear that it would be one out of the ordinary.

At eight o’clock the lights were all off and the entire city was in darkness. Those who watched the skies state that two funnel-shaped clouds came, one from the northwest and the other from the southwest, both coming up at a terrific speed toward the city. The two clouds came together when over Westby, dipped down upon the business section on the west side of Main Street, coming low enough to take roofs and top parts of buildings, hurling bricks, lumber and whatever debris happened in its path, across the street through the windows and wall of the buildings on the opposite side of the street.

Had it not been for the fact that the city was in darkness and people were off the street, we believe that the storm’s toll of human life would have been far greater than it was. And had the storm come in the day time we shudder to think what the results might have been.

Aurthur Funk, was killed in front of the Borgen restaurant (Connelly Law Office front yard) by the top front of the restaurant building falling into the street and  upon the boy.

The total damage done  to building is conservatively estimated at about $20,000, the heaviest losers being the Oium Garage (203 A-Z Antiques), Neprud warehouse (vacant area east of First Street and Polly Rude Way), Holman Store (parking lot north of Subway), the Commercial Hotel (CBC Building), Borgen Restaurant, the Westby Telephone Company building (Borgen’s Dining Room). Anderson Furniture Store (Treasures on Main), the Villand building (Uff Da Mart), Hagen Store (Adam’s Eye Clinic), the Jernander Harness Shop (building east of VMH Pharmacy).

Aside from these damages numerous chimneys on residences were destroyed and the roof of Mrs. Hilda Bergum’s barn was torn off and placed in C.W. Jaeger’s back yard.

From here the storm seems to have cut across the street, landing on the southwest corner of the Jernander Harness Shop, where it took the brick off from a space about eight feet square. From here the storm must have taken a higher altitude, as several lower old buildings were intact , and it must have taken another dip by the time it reached the Commercial Hotel, as here it swept the roof and brick off two to three feet from the top.

The Thorson Building (parking lot north of Subway), was damaged considerably on the roof. The upper story is occupied by the Davidson Photograph Studio and Mr. Davidson sustained considerable damage to his paraphernalia, the skylight having been broken.

The Holmen store, however, suffered heavy damage, the south front window being smashed and the entire upper front being torn off and in a heap in the street.

A heavy downpour of rain set in following the tornado and it was with the greatest of difficulty that carpenters and workmen were able to make temporary reparations of the open fronts throughout the business section for the night.

By far the heaviest loser was Martin Oium, whose Ford garage building was so badly wrecked that for a time it seemed as if it were beyond reparation. The entire roof and the top half of the front wall were a heap of ruins, tons of brick, the ceiling and other material landing on top of cars stored on the ground floor. Victor Olson, bookkeeper, was standing in the front window of the show room when the crash came. Two brand new Fords must be given credit for saving his life. The cars held the terrific weight up, giving him space enough to crawl from under neath to safety. Norvin Dahl, mechanic, was in the adjoining room and when brick and debris came hurling through the front barely missing him, he crawled under a big truck. Mr. Oium was at the Kiwanis luncheon which was on at the time the storm came and played its havoc, the Kiwanians remaining in the hotel until after the storm had abated. The wrecking storm did not tarry long, however, —only about half a minute and it was all done.

Mrs. Palmer Jefson (Una), telephone operator, was hit on the leg by a brick that came through the window of Central, making a deep cut and which incapacitated her for a few days. Another brick barely missed hitting Mrs. George Byer as it came through the window past her head while she, too was, was at the switch

The roof on the Ender Hotel was badly damaged and nearly all the windows on the west side from the ground up were broken by the debris hurled through the air by the storm.

The old tobacco warehouse building owned by Mrs. M.E. Neprud and in which over 600 cases of leaf tobacco belonging to M.H. Bekkedal & Sons were stored was toppled over sideways toward the Milwaukee station, blockading the railroad track and part of the depot platform. A large crew of men was at work all day Friday clearing the wreckage and removing the tobacco. Three hundred cases of the tobacco were damaged, many being soaked by the rain and others having been broken in the destruction of the building. The tobacco was covered by insurance, but no tornado insurance was carried on the building, a total wreck, by Mrs. Neprud.

The Taylor Lumber Company did not escape the fury of the storm, either. Several window lights on the west side of the big lumber shed were broken and debris including heavy joists from the Commercial Hotel roof made its way through the wall of the shed. An opening about four feet square was made through the west wall.

The final capers of the storm before leaving our city appear to have been the taking down of the tobacco sheds on the Galstad and Martinson places, no damage having been done beyond their places that we have any knowledge of.

There were a few trees uprooted here and there around town, but we have attempted in the writeup to cover the major part of the damage wrought by the storm.

Heroic work is being done by carpenters and other workmen in getting the storm’s results righted and cleared up again and great progress is being made. The buildings are fast being repaired and everything will be back to normalcy before many days.