Preserving and promoting the history of Holmen, Wisconsin
Granny basketball team plays Boys & Girls Club eighth-graders in fundraiser
The Holmen Area Historical Society partnered with the La Crosse Does Granny Basketball and the Dave and Barb Skogen Boys & Girls Club to hold a fundraiser game. The B&GC eighth-grade basketball team took on the Does playing before a crowd from the Holmen area.
"Human Books" shared their stories with "borrowers" at annual event
HAHS held its second annual Human Library at the Holmen Area Community Center Oct. 2. Eleven speakers became “human books,” relating information and stories about their lives and work. Among the speakers was Darryle Clott who talked about the book, Squirrel is Alive, by Mary Rostad. The book told the story of a teenager in the resistance during World War II. Other “Human Books” were Denise Christy-Moss, Enduring Families Project and local Black history; Dr. Cheng Her, Hmong immigration; Mark Mulder, local agriculture; Gretchen Pfeiffer, Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s land preservation work; Dave and Gretchen Skoloda, former owners of The Holmen Courier; Sue Stranc, changes at the La Crosse County Public Library through the years; Robert Taunt, steamboats on the Mississippi; Alyssa Young, the bicycle as a turning point for women; Mike Wall, early Holmen businesses; and Judy Wolff, the Red Cross’ response to 9/11.
Second annual ice cream social considered a success
Holmen Area Historical Society held its second annual ice cream social August 6 at Yahnke’s Antiques Green tractor museum located on County Highway D East in Holmen. A silent auction and a bucket raffle were held. Some collectibles from the archive were available for purchase. Music was provided by Doug Mahlum. Antique tractor, car and pickup owners brought their restored vehicles for display. Ice cream was served until it ran out at the end of the day.
Documentary shared stories of how war affects veterans’ families
The stories of how war affects veterans’ families was shown at the June 5, 2023, Holmen Area Historical Society meeting. Held at the Holmen branch of the La Crosse County Library, the meeting’s program featured the documentary film, I Married the War:Wives of Combat Veterans Tell Their Story. The documentary, a production of Syringa Cinema LLC, 2021, was created by Betty and Ken Rodgers. It explored how families at home have been forever impacted and changed by the trauma of war. Francine and Bruce Jones of Mindoro (pictured at right) were featured in the movie and were on hand to introduce the film. The showing was the Wisconsin premier showing of the documentary.
Holmen Middle School students present National History Day projects
Students Apollo de la Rosa and Lauren Weissenberger presented their National History Day projects at the April 3 meeting. De la Rosa’s project was The New Deal. He covered the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and presented a documentary covering the numerous programs the Roosevelt administration enacted to address and attempt to remedy the economic situation of the Great Depression. Wiessenberger gave a performance enacting the Nixon – Kennedy debates. She acted the parts of the news reporter, moderator and other personalities involved with the debate. She also took on the roles of two voters who supported one of the candidates over the other. Both students’ projects are moving on to state competition.
Holmen Middle School eighth-graders Apollo de la Rosa and Lauren Weissenberger
Military nurse presented program about her war journal
Army reserve lieutenant colonel Deenie Laskey was the speaker at the March 6, 2023 program. She talked about her service as an army nurse while deployed in Iraq. From the entries in her war-time journal, she was able to write and have her memoir, Journal from Iraq: A Nurse’s Story published. An emergency nurse, Laskey trained at Fort McCoy and then headed a medical team as part of Iraqi Freedom. She served 521 days with a year spent in Iraq. She and her team had to set up the medical unit from scratch and had only a month to get it ready for inspection. In addition to her medical training, she and all under her command had to undergo military training. She reported the hospital received two direct hits. She told those attending her presentation she couldn’t find other books written by nurses who served in war zones. James Patterson included Laskey’s story in his book, Unsung Heroes.
Army reserve lieutenant colonel Deenie Laskey (left) shares entries from E.R. Nurses following Laskey’s program about her book Journal from Iraq: A Nurse’s Story. Laskey was the speaker at the March 6, 2023 meeting.
HAHS archivists present program about donating artifacts
HAHS archivists Barb Johnson and Pam Hanson gave a PowerPoint presentation at the January 2, 2023 meeting about the memorabilia they accept for HAHS’s collection. They showed a number of photos they’ve scanned and entered into our archive. They informed possible photo donors it’s preferable to have at least one person in the photo identified. The date the photo was taken and a bit of history also makes the donation more meaningful. Folks with historic photos who don’t want to donate them can bring them to the archive where they can be scanned and then returned to the owners. The photos will be on file with HAHS, and the owners can retain possession of the historic item. In those situations, it’s again preferred to have historic information about the photo. Barb Johnson and Pam Hanson displayed some of the artifacts in the HAHS collection.
Historic military on display at the Holmen American Legion
HAHS archivists Barb Johnson and Pam Hanson have set up a military memorabilia display at the Holmen American Legion. The display includes uniforms and posters from the Spanish American War through World War II. The display can be viewed any time the Holmen American Legion is open. The legion is located at 419 First Avenue East in Holmen.
Holmen second-graders learn about Holmen history
Barb Anderson and Lynne Valiquette spent Tuesday, Nov. 29, teaching around 80 Prairie View Elementary second-graders about Holmen history. The session included stories of how the Holmen area was discovered by European explorers and then settled by immigrants from those countries. Using a slide presentation created with the help of archivists Barb Johnson and Pam Hanson, Barb showed photos of pioneer life including log homes, barn building and ice harvesting. She also brought actual artifacts from the HAHS collection. Among the items were a bread riser pan, an ice tongs, bottles from the creamery, a school dress and other artifacts. Students were provided a work book with photos and activities for future study of Holmen’s history.
Video of Holmen soldier's WWII experience presented a November meeting
A video recording of an interview with Glen Jostad relating his WWII service was presented Monday, November 7, 2022 at the Holmen Area Community Center with permission from the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Glen was a 1941 Holmen High School graduate. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He ended up in a POW camp in Germany. Segments of the interview were streamed via the WWII Museum website. His daughter, Cherryl Jostad, introduced the program and shared family memorabilia from those difficult times. Photo: Cherryl Jostad with the Jostad family's collection of memorabilia from her father's WWII service in Europe.
October meeting presented first Human Library program
A Human Library was set up October 3 at the Holmen Area Community Center. Local professionals/residents became living books, telling their stories to “readers” who were able to “borrow books” by moving from one author to another. Authors sharing biographies and local information with program attendees were Keith Valiquette, Marilyn Pedretti, Ed Hill, Nancy Hill, Chris Hardie, Mike Wall, Karen Rooney, Glenn Borreson, Vivian Sacia, Hannah Scholze and Carol Abrahamzon. The program was open to the public and a large group of Holmen Middle School eighth graders attended to meet the “authors.” The students were introduced to primary sources as they learned how to do historical research for their National History Day projects. Photos: Nancy Hill (above), Mike Wall (above right), Ed Hill (lower right)
History of Boy Scout Council presented at September meeting
Glenn Walinsky, representative from the Gateway Area Boy Scout Council talked about the history of scouting in the nine-county area to mark the council's centennial. The Council, started in 1921, acquired land north of Holmen to create Camp Decorah. Walinsky talked about the various improvements made to the property as well as a number of the special programs conducted there. Walinsky also noted the changes in the philosophy and methodologies the organization underwent through over the decades. His presentation also discussed the controversies and scandals the organization has had to deal with in recent years as well as its current status. In the photo: Glenn Walinsky hold a red arrow sash that was one of the emblems of the Red Arrow a sub-program within the Boy Scout program.
Ice Cream Social fundraiser considered a success
The Holmen Area Historical Society held an ice cream social Sunday, August 7 at the Holmen Area Community Center. In addition to dishes of ice cream guests could top with such delights as strawberries, chocolate and caramel syrups as well as sprinkles, attendees could take part in silent auction and raffles. Entertainment included piano selections played by HAHS President Barb Anderson and Coulee Chordsmen. Adding to the vintage atmosphere, several HAHS members wore vintage-style clothing. Several antique and classic vehicle owners brought their cars for folks to appreciate. The ice cream social was held to raise funds to cover the costs of the storage unit that houses HAHS's archive collection. Photos (clockwise starting a top left) some of the members of the Coulee Chordsmen who performed; Margo Weindorfer serving ice cream; Barb Anderson playing some selections on the piano; and Shirley and Doyle Gates enjoying the treat.
Wedding stories shared at annual story circle
The Holmen Area Historical Society held its annual Story Circle during its July 2022 meeting. Members and guests met at the Holmen Area Community Center Monday, July 11 with 18 people attending. The topic of the Story Circle’s was “Wedding Bells.” Those sharing a story or two told of their own wedding or that of friends, family or other relatives. The stories related some of the trials of holding wedding ceremonies during severe winter conditions, pranks and shiveries, as well as quickly done war time nuptuals. The evening included vintage wedding attire displays contributed by members and refreshments of traditional wedding bars.
HAHS participates in Boy Scout Centennial
The Boy Scouts of America, Gateway Area Council invited the Holmen Area Historical Society to have a display at Camp Decorah as part of the troop’s 100th anniversary. The observance was held May 6 at the camp located north of Holmen. Members helping set up the display were Rich Anderson, Pam Hanson and Pat McKnight. Lynne and Keith Valiquette manned the display during the afternoon as scouts visited and viewed the photos and other items from HAHS’s collection. Pictured are Pam Hanson and Pat McKnight
Presenters talk about past, present and future of HAHS
May 2 program presenters were (back, left to right) Pam Hanson, Barb Johnson, (front, left to right) Gretchen Skoloda and Peggy Derrick.
The HAHS’s May 2 meeting took a look at the organization’s past, present and future. The presentation was held in-person and virtually at the Holmen Area Community Center. For the “past” portion of the program, Gretchen Skoloda, a founding member of HAHS, talked about how the society began. She related how she discovered the marker located east of Holmen on County Highway D denoting the first site of Luther College. The overgrowth at the historical marker, lead Skoloda to form a volunteer group to clean up the site. That effort gave rise to the idea of forming an area historical society. The following six months saw community conversations which led 25 residents to start the process to organize a society. Early projects included having buttons made that read, “Ask me about the Holmen Area Historical Society” and the setup of archive displays in the village hall. For the “present” part of the evening’s program, HAHS archivists Barb Johnson and Pam Hanson gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the society’s collection. They also informed attendees about what items could be accepted for the collection and how to donate them for acceptance. In the “future” portion of the program, executive director of the La Crosse County Historical Society Peggy Derrick presented information about the county organization’s current archive and Heritage Center sites. She then talked about the status of the society’s work to create a museum to house and display its collection. The project is in its design stage and could take several years to accomplish.
Former county sheriff talks about her life in law enforcement
Former La Crosse County sheriff Sylvia Boma was the guest speaker for the March 7, 2022 program. HAHS program coordinator Lynne Valiquette interviewed the speaker asking her share her experiences as the first female sheriff for the county. Before being elected sheriff, Sylvia was employed as a matron in the county jail. During that time, she sued the county to have female jailers get the same pay as male jailers. Sylvia was elected sheriff in 1982 and was then elected to a second term. During her tenure, Sylvia merged the county traffic department with the sheriff’s department, removed juveniles from the adult county jail, started a water patrol, a dive and rescue team, a jail ministry and a horse search and rescue posse. She talked about how women bring a different dimension to law enforcement than men. She also discussed how mental health remains an issue and that jails are not equipped to provide the services those suffering mental health crisis. She urged citizens to support law enforcement and to speak up when they see something that should be addressed.
Lynne Valiquette (left) interviewing former La Crosse County sheriff Sylvia Boma.
The program was recorded and can be viewed on Facebook and on the HACC Facebook Page. The You Tube link for the March 7 Program is https://youtu.be/tHUcDSsbLnY.
Stories of early Holmen settlers told at February meeting
Early Holmen settlers from the Gordon, Bonnema and Oleson/Black were featured at the Holmen Area Historical Society’s February 7, 2022 meeting. Holmen Area Historical Society archivists Barb Johnson and Pam Hanson presented the program with information found in a search through the HAHS archives and other sources. The pioneers of the three families settled in the New Amsterdam Prairie, town of Holland and Council Bay areas. The European settlers emigrated because of the economic situations in their home countries. They became business and farm owners where they settled. Ole Oleson changed the family’s name to Black because there were “too many Olesons in the area.” The presentation included a display of a model farmstead created by Fred Black, which included a variety of buildings and other structures. The program can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/holmenareacommunitycenter/videos/3269652076596361 or on You Tube at February 7 Program: https://youtu.be/62vk0avEH50.
December program featured singing and holiday decorations
The Good News Singers performed seasonal songs and led a holiday sing-along at the December 6, 2021 Holmen Area Historical Society meeting held at the Holmen Area Community Center. Led by Ruth Granum and accompanied by Steve Cook on piano, the choral group performed. The performance included a solo by “Elvis” and a couple other well-known performers of years gone by.
Richard Granum shared his chicken feather Christmas tree and Norwegian figure during the holiday decoration portion of the December program. Other HAHS members brought tree ornaments that held special significance for them and their families. Before the evening’s activities got underway, HACC Director Jacob Hart presented HAHS with a special award recognizing the organization as the community center’s Partner of the Year. During the business portion of the evening, members approved the updated constitution along with the treasurer’s report and minutes of the November meeting.
World War I sailor's diary shared at November meeting
The diary of William Niles was the topic of the November 1, 2021 Holmen Area Historical Society meeting. Board member Nancy Proctor shared journal entries from her father’s diary kept while he was in the US Navy following World War I. The program was held at Holmen Area Community Center honoring those who served in the country’s military. William Niles served in the Navy from 1918 to1920 on a guardian ship named the USS Lee. During his deployment, Niles spent quite a bit of time in the Far East and was able to explore various Chinese cities when his ship docked in the various ports. Since the ship wasn’t actively engaged in battles, Niles generally journaled how he and his fellow crew members tried to entertain themselves when not on duty. After his deployment, Niles attended electrical school and learned to fly. Upon returning home, he flew a mail plane and was employed at the Allis Chalmers plant in La Crosse. He died of a heart attack in 1958. Nancy has tried to get a flag placed at her father’s grave on Memorial Day, but the Navy says it can’t verify Niles served in the Navy because his records were destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.
Former Courier owners talked about the history of Holmen's newspapers
Fiormer staff of the Holmen Courier on hand for the October meeting were (back, left to right) Mike Geisse, Dave Skoloda, Gretchen Skoloda, Marilyn Pedretti and (front) Kent Sween.
Dave and Gretchen Skoloda, former owners of the Holmen Courier newspaper, gave a presentation about the history of newspapers in Holmen at the October 4, 2021 meeting. Beginning in 1946 with the Holmen Times owned by Ed Lund, the village was served by various newspapers. During a lull in newspaper coverage, a Holmen business group started a shopper in 1975. When Marna Holley added news to the shopper, it became “a real newspaper.” In 1988, John Graff bought the newspaper and renamed it the Holmen Courier. The Skolodas bought the newspaper through their Lodestar Publications business in 1991. They also owned the Onalaska Community Life. The weekly’s news included human interest stories, resident profiles, community activities and events, sports, legal notices and opinion and a recipe columns. The newspaper was sold to Lee Enterprises in 2003. Lee later combined the Community Life and the Courier into one newspaper. The weekly covering Holmen and Onalaska is now named The Courier.
Early 20th century milk hauling business topic of September program
The Holmen Area Historical Society and the Holmen Area Community Center hosted Roger and Dan McHugh September 13, 2021, who shared adventures they experienced with their father’s milk hauling service. The brothers’ father, Francis, hauled milk for the Holmen Creamery in the 1930s and 1940s. The presentation included photographs, artifacts and stories about this early Holmen business. One of the memorabilia was a restored replica of the type of truck Francis used in the early days of his milk hauling business. Dan McHugh restored a milk truck similar to one first used by his father. He sold it to Tom “Fuzzy” Krajewski. Tom generously parked the truck outside the HACC for attendees to view. Former Holmen Creamery employee Chuck Olson brought and displayed creamery memorabilia and shared stories about the business.
The gentlemen involved in restoring a vintage milk hauling truck similar to that used by Francis McHugh were (left to right) Tom “Fuzzy” Krajewski, Roger McHugh and Dan McHugh.
HAHS hosted author during historical books fair
The Holmen Area Historical Society and Holmen Area Community Center hosted a local author and held a book fair Monday, August 2, at the center. The guest author was Holmen native Scott Lee. Lee shared bits from his book, Spiders & Snakes & Rats - Oh My! The stories drew from his experience as a teacher in the Trempealeau School District. The book included stories from his Holmen history, his teaching experiences and the ways he tried to connect his students with nature. HAHS also had on display and for sale other history books by local authors, including the newly published Living History: Holmen Eighth Graders Respond to 2020. HAHS President Barb Anderson had her recently published cookbook, The Keepsake Cookbook for sale. The cookbook is filled with favorite recipes of family and friends as well as notes of wisdom and anecdotes. Holmen author, Amanda Zieba, also attended and offered copies of her Close Quarters: A Pivotal Pause for purchase. The novel is the story four cousins whose lives are upended by the historic pandemic. Set in the Coulee Region, it's filled with familiar locations and businesses. For a donation to HAHS, Lynne Burgess gave away copies of her short story collection, For Truly to See Your Face. The stories are set in rural Holmen. Published by Black Hat Press in 1996, it was awarded Outstanding Achievement by the Wisconsin Library Association.
HAHS hosts cookbook/memories author via ZOOM
The June 7, 2021 Holmen Area Historical Society meeting began at 6 p.m. in the Holmen Area Community Center. The meeting began with a virtual conversation with cookbook author Cynthia Bertelsen. An award winning author, Bertelson wrote a cookbook titled, “Meatballs and Lefse, Memories and Recipes from a Scandinavian American Farming Life.” Her book includes recipes, anecdotes, photographs, and historical musings related to the family of Knute and Ethel Bertelsen. Bertelsen’s book was a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards competition. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband Mike Bertelsen. Lynne Valiquette introduced Bertelsen and was assisted in the ZOOM conversation by HACC Director Jacob Hart. The video was recorded and can be viewed on Facebook Live. Bertelsen spoke about the elder Bertelsens who lived and farmed in the Holmen area.
Sue Heuer and Kay Taylor check out a copy of Meatballs and Lefse, Memories and Recipes from a Scandinavian-American Farming Life written by Cynthia Bertelsen. Taylor is the eldest daughter of Knute and Ethel Bertelsen.
HAHS celebrates book release with Holmen Middle School eighth graders
The Holmen Area Historical Society joined Holmen Middle School eighth graders in celebrating the book release of “Living History: Holmen Eighth Graders Respond to 2020” during a book signing held June 1 at the middle school. Published with support from the HAHS, the book is a compilation of 125 essays written by the students. In their essays, the students wrote a personal historical narrative about how they were affected by events they experienced during 2020. The young historians wrote their essays about attending classes virtually, struggling with family members being infected with the virus, undergoing testing for the virus, being social distanced from friends, taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest and being shocked at the January 6 insurrection at the nation’s capital. At the book release, HAHS program coordinator Lynne Valiquette told the students, “This book is a real treasure.” The idea of having students chronicle their experiences began last summer when HMS language arts teacher and National History Day coordinator at HMS Dayce McAndrews informed Valiquette the school’s eighth-graders wouldn’t be able to present research projects at the historical society’s April 2021 meeting as they have done for many years. Because of the virtual learning situation, students wouldn’t be creating the projects during the 2020 school year. Lynne and President Barb Anderson urged the school to encourage the students to keep journals so they can share them with their children and grandchildren. Students submitting an essay for the book were presented with their own copy of the book. The book release/book signing event received media coverage by WKBT TV and the La Crosse Tribune/The Courier. The book release was preceded by the May 3 essay readings held at the Holmen Area Community Center. Friends and family members attended the presentation at the center’s first intergenerational event. The book is available for purchase by the public through HAHS.
HMS eighth-graders present personal history essays
Holmen Middle School student Carter Lawrence read his personal history essay at the May 3 meeting about his experiences during the time of the pandemic.
Holmen Middle School eighth-graders shared recent history during a May 3, 2021 program held at the Holmen Area Community Center. About 50 people attended the newly opened center’s first intergenerational event. At the “Living History: Holmen Eighth Graders Respond to 2020” program, panels of students read their reflections of current events. Fifteen students presented essays that talked about such historic precedents as receiving an education remotely during a pandemic, coping with family members becoming infected and undergoing testing for the virus, taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest and the January 6 insurrection. HAHS President Barb Anderson and Dayce McAndrews, Holmen Middle School teacher and NHD coordinator, collaborated on an activity to showcase student writing in response to the events of this historic year. In history classes, the students researched historic precedents of current events such as the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. In language arts classes, they shaped their findings into short personal essays. The program allowed HMS eighth-graders the opportunity to contribute to HAHS programming while the National History Day program was on hiatus during the pandemic. In the past, HAHS has hosted several eighth-graders willing to present their NHD projects at HAHS’s April meeting
Maria the Midwife: Stories of Norwegian Midwives in the Midwest
The Holmen Area Historical Society is again presenting programs with live presenters following nearly a year’s pause due to social distancing. In partnership with the Holmen Area Community Center, the presentations are available virtually. The first program for 2021 was presented April 5, 2021. Rev. Glenn Borreson was the guest speaker. Now retired, Pastor Borreson began his ministry at Beaver Creek Lutheran and went on to serve in Holmen. Borreson’s talk was about his Norwegian immigrant midwife great grandmother, Maria Thorsen Estenson and other midwives of the Midwest. Midwives were highly valued during the state’s pioneer era. Borreson researched his ancestors and found his great grandmother had been a midwife in the Pigeon Falls area, attending about 200 to 300 births. He reported finding documents that stated not one mother attended by Estenson died during her confinement. One of the slides Borreson showed revealed the contents of a midwife’s satchel from the archives at Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American museum in Decorah, Iowa. The video is posted and available for viewing at https://www.facebook.com/holmenareacommunitycenter/videos/1220427831693759.
Program observes anniversary of women’s vote
Holmen Area Historical Society program coordinator Lynne Valiquette reprised her portrayal of Alice Green Hixon at the March 4, 2020 meeting. Alice Green champioined women’s right to vote in the early years of the 20th century. She came to La Crosse in 1916 to teach and gave up her career as a high school English teacher when she married Frank Hixon, the son of Gideon Hixon, a wealthy area lumber baron. After passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, Alice helped found the La Crosse League of Women Voters. In her later years, Alice ensured the Hixon home would be preserved by donating it to the La Crosse Area Historical Society. Alice lived to be 99 years old.
Enduring Families Theater Project program
At its February 5, 2020 meeting, the Holmen Area Historical Society hosted the “Enduring Families Theater Project.” The performers related the stories of African-Americans who settled in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The performers were Denise Christy Moss, Walfsty Pierre, Darrell Ferguson, Richelle Brunn and Torrence Chester. The program featured the Nathan and Sarah Smith family who farmed and raised foster children in the Nathan Hill area; George Edwin Taylor, Populist presidential candidate in 1904; Lydia and Henderson Moss, business owners in La Crosse and Michigan; John Birney, a successful barber in La Crosse; and George Coleman Poage, first black athlete to medal in Olympic competition.
Judy Hoffman gives program about her honey pot collection
At the January 2020 meeting, Holmen Area Historical Society member Judy Hoffman presented a program on her honey pot collection. Judy says she’s been collecting the keepsakes since the 1970s and now has between 300 and 400 pieces. The collection included pots for holding honey, cookie jars and other items, both antique and more recent creations. Following her program, Judy placed the pots she brought to the meeting into the village hall display case for viewing by the public.
A Holmen area's family's military service topic of November program
Fred and Sue Heuer shared the history of Fred's family members who served in the country’s military during WWI, Korean War and Vietnam War.
Society members tour Holmen Locker and Meat Market
Holmen Area Historical Society members toured the Holmen Locker and Meat Market for its October meeting. The Holmen business is observing its 75th anniversary this year and is the second oldest surviving Holmen business in Holmen. During the tour, society members learned about the business’ history and the other businesses that operated out of the location in the past. Now owned by Lauri and Scott Stettler, the couple shared information during the tour about the modifications made to the building in the past and the updates they’ve made to expand their business.
Program about commune with midwife serve presented in September
A program about the history of an Ettrick-area farm commune was presented at the September 4, 2019 meeting. Simple called, The Farm, the commune was settled by “back-to-the-landers” during the 1970s. Because of her interest in midwifery, HAHS President Barb Anderson interview people connected with The Farm, which offered the birthing service for a number of years to area birthing mothers. Barb was assisted in researching the history of the commune by Roger Kanies, a former resident of the commune from 1974 to 1979; Wade Britzius, retired director of the Trempealeau County Television Studio; Andrew Dannehy, editor of the Trempealeau County Times; Olin Fimreite, a retired Soil Conservation Service agent who worked with the residents and Rob Grover, who has one of the orchard ladders made by residents of The Farm. At one time, 75 people lived on The Farm, partially resulting from the midwifery service. It’s estimated more than 100 babies were born at The Farm to residents and surrounding area. The Farm was sold in 1980 and the residents moved the “mother farm” in Tennessee.
Apple Jacks bring vintage baseball game to Holmen
Baseball as it was played in the mid and late 19th century was on display in Holmen August 7. The Holmen Area Historical Society sponsored a match-up between the La Crescent Apple Jacks vintage base ball team and Holmen FFA team. The game, held on the diamond at Viking Field, was played according to 1860 rule book, which didn’t allow any cussing, spitting or betting by players or those in the audience. Anyone violating the rules could be fined 25 cents. Pitching the ball was done underhand and no balls or strikes were called unless the umpire determined the batter – known as the striker – was deliberately prolonging play. The umpire stood off to one side and called outs made at the bases as well as when an infielder or outfielder caught a fly ball after it had bounced once. While the host team wore the common dress of today’s informal pickup games of T-shirts and jeans, the visitors dressed in white shirts of flouncy sleeves and a bib. The Apple Jacks showed they knew how to play the game and came away with a 24 to 9 win. The game was limited to one hour of play. HAHS has a tradition of holding special events for its August meeting. Past events included a cemetery walk and a style show.
Annual story circle featured personal historic photos
Holmen Area Historical Society held its annual story circle July 3 with members and visitors bringing an iconic family photo and sharing its backstory. HAHS program coordinator Lynne Valiquette called this year’s theme, “Picture Perfect,” and gave those attending a look into to local history revealed through family photographs. Valiquette brought a photo of Ansel Amundson, a man who helped her family get settled in the countryside when they first moved to Amundson Coulee in 1975. Other photos were portraits of ancestors, life and activities experienced by the presenter during younger days as well as a program about a basketball tournament in which Holmen High School competed. The evening also included the summer treat of root beer floats.
Award-winning independent film shown at June 2019 meeting
“The Last Bridge Home,” an independent film written, directed and produced by Scott Thompson of My Town Pictures was shown at the June 5 meeting. The film received a Telly Award in its category. The 2003 production was created for Trempealeau County Community Television to serve as a reminder of the sacrifices of POW MIA service members and their families. Steve Kiedrowski, one of film’s actors, served as moderator for the evening. Along with having one of the major parts in the movie, Kiedrowski had a significant role in the production of the film by recommending locations for filming. The locations included McGilvray Bridges and a cabin on the Mississippi River at Trempealeau. The fictional story is about Katie, played by Amber Vance of Trempealeau, who accepts responsibility of finding the rightful recipient of a letter delivered to her mailbox. The letter was reached Katie’s mailbox more than 30 years after it was written. It was the first of a number of letters without addresses or stamps ending up in Katie’s mailbox. The story about the letters spreads and neighbors longing to receive similar letters from lost loved ones gather at the teen’s family’s mailbox daily. One of those wanting to connect with a brother reported missing in action in the war is William, played by Billy Krause of Eau Claire. William is haunted by apparitions of his younger brother standing on a bridge or on the grounds of a veterans’ memorial park. How the letters found their way to Katie’s mailbox remained a mystery, but their effect on her and her community was transforming.
History of McGilvray Bridges topic of May 1, 2019 program
Friends of McGilvray Road members Linda McMullin and Nancy Hill presented a history about the road and bridges located in the Van Loon Wildlife Area at the May 1 meeting. The two long-time members and supporters of the recreation trail and bridges talked about the group’s efforts undertaken since the early 1990s to preserve and restore the bridges and hiking trail. The campaign to have the funds designated to remove the bridges changed to restoring the bridges begun in 1989 when tearing down the bridges was first proposed. While a couple of the bridges couldn’t be saved, the Friends group continues to maintain the trail and the remaining bridges with volunteer help and donated funds. The roadway was initially created and the bridges put up in the early 1900s to span the Black River and serve as a connector between La Crosse and Trempealeau counties.
Friends of McGilvray Road members Nancy Hill (left) and Linda McMullin presented a history about the efforts to raise funds to protect historic bridges on the former McGilvray roadway. The road was named after Alexander McGilvray, who operated the ferry service until the service was replaced by the road.
Students presented website about spearfishing controversy
Accompanied by their teacher, Dayce McAndrews, Holmen Middle School students (left to right) Drew Tengblad, Tyrus McCoy and Reid Tengblad presented their National History Day project at Holmen Area Historical Society’s April 3, 2019 meeting. The three created a website detailing the struggles of Native American’s practicing their tradition of spearfishing that was secured by treaties. The eighth-graders’ research fit the NHD theme of “Tragedy and Triumph in History” because of the conflict between the Native American fishermen and non-natives in Northern Wisconsin during the 20th century and the eventual court judgement that upheld that the treaties between the Ojibwe and the US government were still in effect. The young researchers were able to collect information from primary sources such as interviews with relatives involved in the situation as well as secondary sources published during the conflict.
Anna McCabe Brown’s scrapbooks featured at March 2019 meeting
Holmen native Marie Dummer presented a program about her mother Anna’s scrapbooks. The five books selected from the 26 book collection included local events and news as well as significant national events since the 1930s. The newspaper clippings included articles and photographs about good, bad and changing times. Marie shared a number of interest-catching stories, one of which was the incident of the first speeding ticket issued in the county. The motorist was exceeding the 12 mph speed limit and was apprehended by an officer on a bicycle. Other notable stories were the passage of the bill allowing women to vote and Anna casting a ballot for the first time. Another story was about a bank robbery that took place in the area. At right, HAHS guest Artis Aasen (right), long-time friend of Marie Dummer (left) reminisce while looking through one of the scrapbooks Marie presented at the March meeting.
Installation of officers and board members, 2019
Installation of new officers and board members was held at the Feb. 6, 2019 meeting. Pictured are (l-r) out-going president Hannah Scholze, new President Barb Anderson, Vice President Carol Miller, Secretary Mary Sween, Board Member Sue Stanc, Treasurer Ruth Scholze and Board Member Nancy Proctor. Officers serve two-year terms and board members’ terms are for three years.
Student gives talk about campaign to build a war memorial
Holmen High School junior Jordan Briskey spoke about his fundraising campaign to create a Vietnam memorial at the Veterans Freedom Park on Clinton Street on La Crosse’s north side at the February 6, 2019 meeting. He has a goal of raising $400,000 to cover the costs of erecting the memorial with the Holmen Area Foundation serving as the organization accepting donations and sponsorships. Along with three bronze sculptures of soldiers and a statue of a rifle, boots and helmet, the memorial design created by Mike Martino has a center island containing a plaque showing the dates of the war and an outline of Vietnam and. A semicircle wall bordering the monument will display the names of the Wisconsinites who died serving in the war. While campaigning for the memorial, Briskey researched the Vietnam War and other war memorial sites in the area. His research led Briskey to talk with local veterans and meet with the developer of the Highground Veterans Memorial in Neillsville, even traveling to Clark County to view the site first-hand.
Sing-along held at annual holiday potluck
Holmen Area Historical Society members gathered Dec. 5 at the Holmen Village Hall for its annual holiday potluck. Along with the various dishes enjoyed, the evening included a sing-along with Barb Anderson accompanying the group on the piano. Each attendee was asked to name a favorite Christmas song and tell a story about why they chose it. This year, was the first time Grand Picnic did not play at the gathering. So to add to the evening’s entertainment, program coordinator Lynne Valiquette handed out Kazoos and led the group in performing a holiday melody.
Story about area Medal of Honor recipients told
A program about the military service of Holmen area resident Stanley Christianson and Black River Falls native Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. was presented at the November 7, 2018 meeting. The program’s presenter, former US Marine and La Crosse Tribune reporter Terry Burt (right in photo), talked about the two Medal of Honor recipients and the Korean War. Burt’s research showed Red Cloud and Christianson were in the same Marine division during the biggest land battle of the war as United Nations troops forces battled to recapture South Korea from the North Korean army. Christianson was buried in the Wet Coulee Cemetery and Red Cloud lies at rest in a Ho-Chunk cemetery near Black River Falls. Burt enlisted in 1960 and served with the Fleet Marine Force-Pacific in Japan or Okinawa. He started as reporter with the Tribune after the newspaper lost three reporters when they were drafted during the Vietnam War era. Christianson’s great-nephew, Ethan, has been researching his great-uncle’s service and brought a display of the information he collected. Burt’s presentation continues HAHS’s tradition of honoring veterans at its November meeting.
Printers share history of letterpress craft
Printers Bob and Carol Mullen presented a program about the centuries’ old technique of hand-setting type for printing on manual presses at the October 3 HAHS meeting. The Mullens operate their private printing operation, Xanadu Press, to create cards, historical pieces, broadsides and small booklets using the letterpress technique for over 40 years. However, the letterpress technique has been used since the invention of the printing press. Despite it ancient history, the technique is undergoing an artistic revival with more recent printers using bold techniques in their artistic creations. Carole grew up with the craft watching and helping her father in his hobby print shop. Bob became fascinated with the craft after he and Carole were married. They enjoy learning and researching the heritage of the type and tools they use and have written and published several books on the topics. The Mullens have several presses with one weighing over a ton. Those attending the program were able to use one of the Mullen’s smaller presses to print their own HAHS bookmark after the program.
Jean Latham (left) operates a letterpress under the direction of printer Bob Mullen at the October 3 HAHS meeting, printing the name of the historical society on a bookmark. Bob and his wife, Carol, presented a program about the history of letterpress printing.
Collecting memorabilia topic of September program
Movie memorabilia and the reasons people collect were the topics of the September 5 program. Jarrod Roll, Monroe County Local History Room and Museum’s Director, shared information about his Star Wars collection and discussed the psychology of collecting. Roll’s collection contains the action figures, space ships and playsets from the Star Wars series created by Kenner Toys since the first Start Wars movie was released in 1977. Every piece in Roll’s collection is complete with all accessories intact. Dedicated collectors such as Roll have made the Star Wars phenomenon the Guinness World Record holder for the most successful movie toy merchandising franchise. Roll talked about the reasons an estimated one in three people in North have collections. Those reasons include being part of a group and creating an identity for themselves. Some collectors expend great amounts of energy, money and passion on their hobby, while others become “accidental” collectors through gifts from friends and family. When the friends and family members learn of the person’s interest in a type of collectables, they will often help the person add to their collection through gifts. Several of those attending the program shared information about their collections including Mary Sween who has a souvenir spoon collection.
World War I: Buried History Cemetery Walk
Tyler Cook (left) and Joshua Heerts took on the roles of the Snuggerud brothers Morris and Eaner during the World War I cemetery walk at the Halfway Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery. Standing at the Snuggerud grave marker, the pair of re-enactors related the story of Morris's service in WWI. The Holmen American Legion Post 284 is named after Morris to honor him for his service to the country.
The Holmen Area Historical Society held a cemetery walk Aug. 1, 2018, to commemorate soldiers from the Holmen area who served in World War I. The walk started out at the Halfway Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery on Knudson Road and then moved to Halfway Creek Lutheran Church when a storm blew in. Re-enactors posing as the deceased veterans read scripts about the soldiers’ time in service to the country. Others took on the roles of family members who waited for the soldiers’ return from the war. Holmen FFA members who volunteered to be re-enactors were Daniel Best-Kranski portraying Clarence Moe; Jasmine Gabbard portraying Birdie (Moe) Peterson, sister of Elmer and Clarence Moe; Tyler Cook portraying Morris Snuggerud and Joshua Heerts portraying Eaner Snuggerud; Dustin Goins portraying Oscar Granum; Avery Baily portraying Gladys (Granum) Gullickson, sister of Oscar and Henry Granum, wife of Rudolph Gullickson, and sister-in-law of Ouner Lund; Madeline Kamrowski portraying Selma (Berg) Halverson, wife of Alvin Halverson; and Elijah Heerts modeling Alvin Halverson’s Naval Reserve uniform. HAHS member and program coordinator Lynne Valiquette portrayed Gold Star mother Mary (Engstad) Wallum, Rudolph Wallum’s mother. Family members attending the event included descendants as well as nieces and nephews of Clarence and Elmer Moe, Morris and Eaner Snuggerud, Oscar and Henry Granum, Rudolph Gullickson, Ouner Lund and Alvin Halverson were in attendance. Event organizer and HAHS President Hannah Scholze believes every soldier’s portrayed in the walk was represented by living family members except Rudolph Wallum. In addition to the re-enactors, HAHS would like to thank the Holmen American Legion Post No. 284’s Color Guard and Honor Guard for honoring the veterans with a 21-gun salute and Seth Heerts for played Taps. The historical society also appreciates the work the Halfway Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery Association, Miranda Alexander and Hannah Scholze did to prepare the cemetery grounds and gravestones for the event.
2018 Story Circle
Tales about Norwegian food was a common theme at the Holmen Area History Society’s 2018 story circle. “Lutefisk, Eggrolls, Fried Bread and Tacos” storytelling time was held at the July 11 meeting to explore how food can connect the past with the present. The meeting date was moved to the second Wednesday of the July because Independence Day fell on the first Wednesday of the month. Many of those recalling their experiences talked about the preparation and taste-testing of lutefisk as well as recollections of helping to make lefse and holiday treats. Food was an important element in the special and everyday events of the storytellers’ lives with certain foods becoming a tradition for some families. The evening included the tradition of serving root beer floats to the storytellers.
Lyle Ostrander (back) discusses his memories of a special meal while stationed in Greenland as well as some of the recipes Gretchen Skoloda treasured over the years.
June 2018 movie showing
At the HAHS’s June 5, 2018 meeting, Steve Kiedrowski of Trempealeau displayed his Telly award and other memorabilia he received as a member of the cast of Fort McCoy. Kiedrowski of Trempealeau played a POW and a friend of the family in the award winning film. The movie was written and directed by actor Kate Conner, the granddaughter of two of the main characters in the film. The 2010 movie was shot on location at Fort McCoy and at Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center near Coon Valley. Set during the time of WWII, the film gives an intimate portrayal of how the war affected those on the American home front as well as insights into that period in modern history. In the film, Connors grandparents up residence near the military base, then known as Camp McCoy, where Connors’ grandfather is the barber for the base. There, the family encounters POWs and Jewish refugees. The film viewing was timely as June 5 was the 74 anniversary of D-Day, the landing of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy.
May 2018 program
Holmen Area Historical Society President and Archivist Hannah Scholze visited with La Crosse Public Library Senior Archivist and Archives Manager Anita Taylor Doering following the program Doering presented May 2, 2018. Doering’s program covered the methods for document and photo preservation including steps taken by archivists to help ensure the viability of original photos and documents long into the future. The archivist’s job allows Doering to discover the history of the community as well as preserving it. The La Crosse Public Library’s archive documents assist students researching area history and those researching their genealogy.
April 2018 program
Several Holmen Middle School eighth-graders presented their state-qualifying National History Day research projects at the Holmen Area Historical Society’s Wednesday 4, April 2018 meeting held at the Holmen Village Hall. Kenton Newman performed a skit titled, “Martin Luther and the Reformation: The Refusal to Compromise of a Conflicted Man.” The team of Elizabeth Anderson, Kristen Anderson and Marissa Pederson presented their website titled, “Japanese American Internment: A Constitutional Conflict.” All HMS eighth-graders create NHD projects. In addition to doing an individual performance or creating a website, NHD projects can be presented as a paper, exhibit or documentary based on this year’s theme “Conflict and Compromise in History.”
March 2018 program
Richard Frost and Teri Wachuta took on the roles of Lucian and Mary Losey Easton, the La Crosse couple who hired Poage’s parents as domestics and had a positive influence on Poage, the first African-American to medal in the Olympic Games.
With the Eastons’ encouragement, Poage was the first African-American to graduate from Central High School in La Crosse. He went on to attend and graduate from the UW-Madison. In June 1904, he was the first black Big Ten track champion in the conference’s history, taking first place in the 440-yard dash and the 220-yard hurdles. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic hall of Fame in 1988.
In 1904, he was sponsored by the Milwaukee Athletic Club to compete in the St. Louis, Missouri Summer Olympics where he received bronze medals in two hurdle events.
Petersen was a guest at the March meeting and shared the process of creating the sculpture of Poage that now stands in Poage Park in La Crosse.
Historians Teri Wachuta (seated left) and Richard Frost (standing) discuss the making of the George Poage sculpture with Elmer Petersen (seated right) at the March 7, 2018 Holmen Area Historical Society meeting.
February 2018 program
Holmen Area Historical Society program coordinator Lynne Valiquette (right) talks with Willie Avery, the former owner of A&W root beer stand in Holmen. Avery presented a program about the drive-in at the Holmen Area Historical Society’s February 7, 2018 meeting.
Avery bought the business in 1964, and he and his wife, Arnita, operated it for about 10 years. Over the years, Avery collected memorabilia from the business including the iconic glass mugs in which the world renown root beer was served. The retired business owner brought some of his collection to show to those attending his presentation.
The new Holmen Public Library has two display cases dedicated to Holmen history. A milestone in Holmen history, the new library opened September 2017.
The new spaces for displaying artifacts of Holmen’s past, in addition to the displays at the Holmen Village Hall, give HAHS the ability to share the village’s history with more residents and visitors. The two display cases are located on the wall outside of the community meeting room on the east side of the library.
Karan Mathison (left) and HAHS president and archivist Hannah Scholze check out one of the display cases at the new Holmen Public Library.