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Black River Falls, Wisconsin, 1893: News Reports and Photos from Wisconsin Death Trip

Posted By Paul Comstock On January 5, 2009 @ 11:24 am In History,Non-Fiction Reviews,Photography | 1 Comment

[Photo by Charles Van Schaick, courtesy of University of New Mexico Press]

“Within 5 miles of Milton Junction and in a thickly settled part of Rock County, Mrs. Ira Ames starved and froze to death. The case was reported to the authorities at Janesville and it was found that the father had spent most of his time fishing while his wife and 7 children were in a rickety shanty without fuel or food. The youngest child died a week ago and was buried under the snow by the father in a soap box.”
[3/16, State News]

“Mrs. A.J. Cowles, aged 87 years, died at Beloit. She had been married to Deacon Cowles, who survives her, for nearly 68 years. On the occasion of her last birthday her eccentric husband presented her with a coffin which he had made with his own hands and in which she was buried.”
[3/16, State]

“A woman who gave her name as Wilson died at Chippewa Falls from a criminal operation performed on herself. Her parents live near Eau Claire . . . her brother took charge of her remains. The woman was young and pretty and visited every physician in Chippewa Falls to accomplish her object, but without success.”
[4/6, State]

“On Wednesday evening of last week, Mrs. Thea Gilbertson from the town of Franklin was adjudged insane by Judge J. D. Perry and was taken to Mendota on the Thursday afternoon train by Sherriff Buckley. . . .”
[4/13, Town]

“Seventeen business buildings and residences were burned at Montford, Grant County, the other morning. The business part of the village was practically wiped out. . . .It was Montford’s second fire in 8 weeks and it was believed incendiaries were at work.”
[6/1, State]

“Waunakee was raided by tramps the other evening and nearly every business house and many residences were burglarized. The occupants of dwelling houses in many instances were driven into the street at points of revolvers while other members of the gang ransacked the buildings.”
[6/22, State]

“Tramps were never so numerous here as for the past week or two. Sometimes they come in large droves. Station agent Moran says that he one day counted 24 about the depot at once. Some of them are quite persistent and somewhat insolent in their methods of obtaining sustenance.”
[7/27, Town]

[Photo by Charles Van Schaick, courtesy of University of New Mexico Press]

“Mary Sweeny, of window breaking fame, attempted to throw a satchel through one of R. Katz’s Clothing Store windows at Fond du Lac. . . .She was arrested [and] . . . given 5 days in the county jail.”
[8/31, State]

“The Ashland health officers have become alarmed about black diphtheria which has made its appearance at that place in its worst form. . . . It has been confined to a single tenement house up to the present time. . . . Policemen have been stationed to guard the house.”
[8/3, State]

“General Grant Olson of Pleasant View, was placed under arrest Friday afternoon last on the charge of adultery. . . . The victims of the villain are his own step-daughters, one of them being but 11 years old and the other not much older. . . . one having become a mother nearly 3 months ago.”
[8/3, Town]

“The labor situation in Northern Wisconsin, especially in the lumber district, is not encouraging. The refusal of the employees to accept a reduction in wages has caused the shutting down of numerous mills.”
[8/10, State]

“Admitted May 6, 1891. Town of Brockway. Age 39. Anglo-Saxon. Widower. No children. In lumber and shipping business. Poor. First symptoms began about 2 years ago. Melancholy and desires to avoid people. . . . lost wife about 2 years ago.”
[Mendota State, 1887 Record Book (Male, F), p. 576, patient #5560]

“With many banks and other business houses falling in every direction and in all parts of the country almost daily during the last few weeks, it speaks well for the careful and conservative business houses in Jackson County to be able to say that there has not been a single business failure in the county; and there has not been what could be properly called a run on either bank. . . . What scare there was has now practically blown over. The money is returning and the banks will soon have more than they know what to do with. . . . Whatever comes we will not be affected as are the great industrial centers.”
[8/17, Town]

“The W. W. Cargill Company, the large grain buyers of La Crosse, have sent out a circular advising farmers not to rush their grain upon the market as soon as threshed, but to hold every bushel above what has to be sold to meet forced obligations. Above this, which exhaust all the money held by country merchants, there does not seem to be any way to handle the crop until times improve. The banks are all unwilling to cash drafts on bills of lading, or advance money on warehouse receipts for grain in the safest public elevators. They state that if any large volume of grain or seed should now go on the market, it would force prices still lower. . . . “
[8/24, Town]

“The employees of the John R. Davis Lumber Company at Phillips refused to accept a reduction of 10% in wages, and as a result, the mill has been shut down.”
[8/24, State]

“The general merchandise store of R. M. Goodwin of Antigo was closed on a judgment of over $7,000 by the First National Bank of Aurora, Illinois.”
[8/24, State]

[Photo by Charles Van Schaick, courtesy of University of New Mexico Press]

“The examination of the affairs of the First National Bank of Ashland by U. S. Bank Examiner Bates is finished and he declares the bank perfectly solvent.”
[8/24, State]

“The Baun Wagon Co. and the Chicago Brass Co. in Kenosha have closed down for an indefinite period of time. The shut down throws 500 men out of employment.”
[8/24, State]

“Executions on judgments aggregating $117,000 were served on the Hudson Furniture Company. The company has been supported by local loans for several years and has no large outside creditors.”
[8/24, State]

“At Rice Lake the Barron County Bank closed its doors. The liabilities are $20,000; assets, 5 times that sum. Every cent of the indebtedness will be paid in full and the bank will resume business in the course of a few weeks.”
[8/24, State]

“The bank of Black River Falls, capital $10,000, and the Bank of Ellsworth, capital $35,000, have closed.”
[8/24, State]

“An attempt was made to assassinate W. L. Seymour, cashier [treasurer] of the defunct Seymour Bank of Chippewa Falls. One shot passed between his arm and body, and the other went wide of the mark.”
[8/31, State]

[Photo by Charles Van Schaick, courtesy of University of New Mexico Press]

“At Greenwood, E. Peterson and Son, small dealers in general merchandise, made an assignment to L. W. Larson for the benefit of their creditors. Inability to collect so as to meet their bills as they became due was the cause.”
[8/31, State]

“The Commercial Bank of Eau Claire which closed recently will be reorganized and reopened.”
[8/31, State]

“Four attempts have been made by incendiaries to burn the Venner House, Superior.”
[9/21, State]

“Tramps who were refused food at the home of John Ovenbeck in the town of Friendship, Winnebego County, entered the barn at night and cut the throats of 3 cows, which bled to death. A card attached to the horns of one bore the following message: ‘Remember us when we call for something to eat again'”
[9/21, State]

“Nels Stadig of Northfield was adjudged insane . . . Monday afternoon last and was taken to the asylum at Mendota . . . by Sheriff Buckley.”
[9/28, Town]

“Admitted Jan. 4th, 1907. Tow of Cleveland. Age 65. German. Widowed. Youngest child, 25 years old. Farmer. Fair circumstances. First symptoms began several years ago. Acted queer, starved cattle. . . . Believes witches and bad people are around and keep things going wrong. Sees them every day. . . . was so mean that family couldn’t live with him. . . Has destroyed or starved several hundred dollars worth of cattle, claiming that witches were the cause. . . . “
[Mendota State, 1907 Record Book (L, Male), p 226, patient #10758]

[Photo by Charles Van Schaick, courtesy of University of New Mexico Press]

“There has been an unusual mortality among the children at Grantsburg and vicinity lately. The many deaths have caused a feeling of great uneasiness and alarm, and it was decide to close the schools. . . . The deaths have been so frequent that in many cases 2 members of the same family have been buried on the same day. The doctors differ in opinion as to the nature of what seems to be an epidemic.”
[10/12, State]

“Diphtheria is reported to be epidemic in Chippewa County. Stanley is in a state of quarantine. The schools of Cardott, Boyd and Thorp have been closed.”
[10/19, State]

“The double funeral of 2 children of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hopke of Racine was held Thursday, this making 3 out of the family that have died of diphtheria in 2 weeks, and there are 2 more lying at the point of death.”
[11/16, State]

“Regarding the condition of the unemployed in the new county of Iron, Governor Peck states that nothing further has been done. He has however been informed that the town authorities are doing all they can to relieve the sufferers though their resources are inadequate to the demand.”
[11/16, State]

“Clifford Bell, a colored attaché of a traveling show, was arrested at Plainfield and taken to Mauston. He is charged with the abduction of a pretty Mauston girl.”
[11/16, State]

“Thomas Galt died at his home in this city Friday night last. . . . from the effects of the Ackerman anti-dipsomania gold cure which he was taking. He was 37. . . . he contracted the drink habit and it so obtained the mastery of him that he was much of the time incapacitated for labor. He was so anxious to break the fetters that enslaved him. . . . that he risked and lost his life. . . . He was a great sufferer through the treatment.”
[11/16, Town]

[Photo by Charles Van Schaick, courtesy of University of New Mexico Press]

“The epidemic said by some to be diphtheria that prevails at Grantsburg among the young people, goes on without abatement. A large number of deaths have occurred. . . . The schools have been closed. . . . It has taken hold of the Chippewa Indian papooses and a large number of deaths are reported. The epidemic has given much alarm that it is hard to induce the living to bury the dead.”
[11/30, State]

“There were 2 feet of snow on the ground [in Iron County] and the mercury [hovered] below the zero mark most of the time. . . . The mines began shutting down last June, and at the present there is not a single mine in operation on the entire [Gogebic] range – a region that mined something like 10,000,000 tons of ore last year. There are altogether about 15,000 people in a helpless condition. . . . strong men were found weeping because their sick wives and helpless children had nothing to eat and next to nothing to wear. . . . Many of the single men are leaving the country, seeking a means of livelihood elsewhere, the railroads furnishing free transportation.”
[12/30, State]

“The family of Andrew Hoffman of Oshkosh is an unfortunate one. Diphtheria made its appearance in the family 5 weeks ago and since that time 4 children have passed away. The children are now all dead with the exception of a boy who ran away from home some time ago. The parents are heartbroken and Mrs. Hoffman, whose health has been poor, is in a precarious condition.”
[12/4, State]

“Searchers from Glidden, Ashland County, have thoroughly gone over the premises of James Beckey, the hermit, who was found dead in his hut. . . . but no money has been found excepting 15 cents. It is generally understood that Beckey had hidden about $50,000 in government bonds. . . . He was a formerly wealthy man, living near Eau Claire. His wife left him 10 years ago and after that time Beckey became morose ad solitary. He built a hut near Glidden and had lived the life of a hermit up to the time of his death.”
[12/21, State]

“Albert Proch has been adjudged insane by the La Crosse physicians. For some years he has been working over a perpetual motion machine. . . . a short time ago he applied to the Common Council for financial assistance that he might perfect and patent his machine.”
[12/21, State]

From “Wisconsin Death Trip” with permission of University of New Mexico Press.

Wisconsin Death Trip
by Michael Lesy
University of New Mexico Press, 261 pp.


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