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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"100 Year Historical Album of Independence, Wisconsin, 1976":

Donated by Bill Russell

Independence - Bits and Pieces of History...       




Pete played in the professional baseball system for three seasons after graduating from the Independence High School in 1941.  He had been on the school team for four years.

That same year he joined he joined the Fostoria, Ohio, baseball club, managed by Len Ellison, Whitehall.  The club was in the Ohio State League and was affiliated with, but was not part of the St. Louis Browns.

The chief scout of the Cleveland Indians spotted Pete and signed him up for that club.  He was assigned to the Wisconsin League, Appleton Paper Makers, where he finished the 1941 season.  The next three years were spent in the army.

In 1947 the Cleveland Indians sent Pete to the Central Association,, Burlington, Iowa and in 1948 to the Tri-State League, Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Pete did not return to professional baseball in 1949, but played on the Independence city team.  That year the team won the Trempealeau County championship.  Pete was a left fielder throughout his baseball career.


Al Kulig, a native of Independence, was one of two baseball players from this city who actually signed a contract and played in Organized Professional Baseball.  He spent four years in professional baseball as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinal organization.

He started his career as a pitcher for Independence High School his junior year.  He was scouted by a major league scout while serving in the Navy during World War II and playing on a service team in Hawaii.

He pitched four years of baseball while attending Winona State College.  Later he played two seasons in the Southern Minny Semi-Pro League and three more seasons in the South Dakota Basin Semi-Pro League.

Highlights of his career:

Four "no-hit, no-run" games (career)
    One in high school
    One in college
    One in South Dakota Basin League
    One for Independence City Team (in exhibition game)

Four years undefeated in College Conference play

Chosen to pitch in All-Star game in Georgia-Alabama League Professional Ball, and getting the win.  Season record that year 20 wins, 9 losses.

Playing on college team that won Conference Championships all 4 years

Playing for Huron, South Dakota, Basin Semi-Pro team that won State Championships three consecutive years.



From the Weekly News
(Predecessor of Independence News Wave)

Weekly News - March 30, 1882
(an advertisement)
This space belongs to Thomas Thompson at Independence, Wisconsin.
But as his trade is already sufficiently large he has no need of advertising.

Weekly News - May 11, 1882
(an advertisement)
Just received at Thomas Thompson's, a fine assortment of mens combined rubber and lines circulars, and womens waterproof circulars.  Also a full assortment of mens and boys hats, which he offers at prices that cannot be beaten by any store in the county for cheapness.

Weekly News - June 15, 1882
B. S. Taylor and one of his mules had quite a turn through town one day last week.  The mule would keep just so far ahead of Bert who was keeping his coat tails in a horizontal line expecting to keep up the race all day when the mule quietly halted and was easily led to the barn.

Beauty Advice
A sensible woman says she finds cold water the best rouge, fresh air the best peach powder and plain food the best cosmetic.  Ladies try these beautifiers.

Journalistic Reporting of Long Ago
Independence News Wave - April 29, 1911
Public Wrestling Match
At about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday a wrestling match took place which caused considerable excitement on main street.  When Marshal Wiemer undertook to jail a man who was trying to carry an overdose of booze.  Hammer locks, toe holds, and flying falls were fast and furious and finally the husky Swede Olson was called on to assist in the excitement.  Before the end of the first round which lasted for about 15 minutes, and for which the stage, not sawdust padded, extended from Kribic's harness shop to the city lock up, three other men of generous proportion and acknowledged strength came to the rescue and finally succeeded in caging the "Bird of Broken Pinion."  There was no referee to call time, and no rule as to whether shoulder blade or shoulder should touch the mat.  How's that for a wrestling match with a one armed opponent?

Another Gem from the Files
Independence News Wave - March 18, 1948
Frogtown's New Name is Southside

Citizens of Frogtown, change your street address - it is now Southside.  This name was chosen by residents of that section of the city in votes given the News-Wave.  There was a long list of names suggested, Southside getting a majority.  Bakersville ran second, and Brookside third.

After several weeks of campaigning the News-Wave is pleased that a name has been chosen.  We feel sure that the new name will meet with the approval of all citizens of this section of the city, and thank those who took such an interest in finding a new name.

As in all elections, there was a humorous side to the campaign, one of which we deem worthy of publication.  It is a letter from Mister Bull Frog, and while some readers may think it is written by Charles R. Lowe Cloud, it definitely was not.  Here it is:

Frog Town
March 15, 1948

Independence News-Wave
Frog Town, Wis.

Dear Editor:

Say, what you fellers trying to pull while we are sleeping?  I wake up yesterday and understand you making big fuss over Frog Town name.  Want to change it funny names like Baker.  Now he may be biggest Frog here, but not most.

We frogs think it dirty deal to slip one over while we sleep.  I want you understand thousands my ancestors croaked naming this town and thousands more will croak keeping it named.  Please publish this so my fellow citizens may read this may be serious.

Hoping us fellows no have taken more serious measures.

Your Croaking Friend,
Mr. Bull Frog

Editorial Note:
The Charles R. Lowe Cloud mentioned above was a Winnebago Indian who lived near Black River Falls.  His frequent news items appeared in the Banner-Journal of that city and were reprinted in several weekly papers.  His unique and forthright way of writing earned him a wide readership and his untimely death saddened many.

Independence News Wave - June 11, 1953
by Eva John Kuhn

June is the month of brides, and according to the records, the first bride in Independence was Miss Susan Jenny who married Lewis Benjamin in 1876, the year our city was platted.

In those days even getting married was a troublesome chore because there was no one to perform the ceremony.  It seems that Miss Jenny and Mr. Benjamin had troubles most trying to two people in love. They approached George Parsons, Justice of the Peace, and asked him to officiate.  At first Mr. Parsons hesitated, then finally refused.  He wasn't sure he had the authority to perform a marriage ceremony and wanted no part of the contract under those conditions.  This was most disappointing to the amarous young couple, as you may well imagine, and according to an eye witness, "they were disconsolate and melancholy to behold."  But cupid has a way, J. C. Taylor, who was a justice breezed into town and one day after arrival united Susan and Lewis in wedlock.

An Editor's Fulmination
No newspaper editor ever yet had the temerity to deny the existence of the orthodox hell.  It is a place especially provided for unconscionable sinners who got out of the world without paying their subscriptions.

Weekly News - Nov. 8, 1883
Independence News Wave)

Steam Boat Makes Trip On Trempealeau River Back In The Year 1866

There was a time nearly 100 years ago when someone got the idea that the modest little Trempealeau River which meanders past Independence was navigable.

The story was told some years afterward by Dr. Eben D. Pierce of Trempealeau.

One day in April of 1866, the little steamboat Spray, about 30' long by 10' wide, swung up to the river front landing at Trempealeau.  After a one-hour stay at the village, the crew pulled out for its journey up the Trempealeau River.

Thus, the steamboat struggled slowly up the river meeting such difficulties as snags and leaning trees with saws and axes.  The wooden bridges were the most forbidable difficulty, with settlers along the river on hand to protest against the damaging of their bridges.

Some of the settlers hailed the coming of the boat with joy, taking it as a messenger of progress come to open an easy way to the world's markets, while others cursed it as another freak endeavor to establish an impossibility.  Still others took the venture as a joke and laughed at the idea of navigating a stream that a boy could wade when the water was at its normal stage.

On the second day of May, 1866, George H. Markham of Independence made record in his diary of the passage of the Trempealeau River of the Spray.

The Spray continued on its course until it reached the wagon bridge located three miles below Whitehall, when David Wood, representing the Town of Lincoln, refused it further passage.  And so the adventurous rivermen turned back.

The reason for the trip remained somewhat of a mystery.  But, whatever the motive, it established beyond doubt that the river was not suitable for practical navigation.

Visited in 1937 by Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wiemer

Living in Independence, this travelogue would not be complete without telling something about our trip to Poppelau.  When we left Independence we were not certain if our itinerary could be arranged to include Poppelau and not until we arrived at Paris did we learn that it would be possible.

Poppeleau, for the uninformed, is a little village in Germany, from which so many of our Polish people in and around Independence emigrated when coming to this country.  It lies in Eastern Germany only a few miles from the border of Poland, which before the World War, belonged to Prussia.  It is only a small village, about 1500 population, mostly farmers living in the village and farming the land on the outskirts.

We came to Oppeln and from there took a local train, about an hour's ride to Poppelau.  It had become dark, about 6:30 P.M., when we arrived.  The railroad served two villages, Shalkowicz and Poppelau and being placed about half way between each, we found that it would be quite a walk to the village, so we tried to get an automobile to drive us there.  The station master was very kind and tried to get a car for us, but not being as numerous as they are in this country he was not successful.  We finally checked our heavy baggage at the station, took a small bag in which we had our toilet articles and set out on foot in the dark (there are no street lights) for Poppelau about one and one-half miles away.

We had been directed to a Gasthaus (a place to eat and sleep) and arriving there inquired about lodging for the night, but were told that the room was taken.  It seems that a Gasthaus usually has been one room to rent and if it should be taken the traveler must go on to find another.  This we did, and coming to another, got the same answer.  The proprietor here however, directed us to still another lodging place not far away and as it was now after 7:30 P.M. pitch dark, and having had no supper, we began to wonder just where we would spend the night if the next place could not accomodate us.  As we approached, it appeared well lighted, and we opened the door into the tavern which usually suffices for office, lobby , and dining room.  Fortunately the one room available was empty and we moved in for the night.

The proprietor was Paul Gromatka.  Not having had supper, we inquired if it would be possible to get something to eat and after about an hour's wait we finally were given some rye bread, butter, cold bologna and tea.  While waiting for our meal, I several times tried to engage Mr. Gromatka in conversation and even when I told him that I was looking for relatives of some of the old Polish people who had emigrated to America many years ago, he was not congenial and answered my questions in monosyllables.  I soon realized that it would be fruitless to go on in this vein without some concrete evidence of my mission, so while waiting for the food to come, began listing in my notebook, the names of all the Polish families I could think of now living in and around Independence.  I did not know which of these people came from Poppelau, but I was certain that with the list I had some of the names would be of people still living in Poppelau and familiar to this man.  This I hoped would give me a basis on which to talk to him.

As we finished our meal, he sat down to our table and asked me to fill out the register which every traveler in Europe must fill out when sleeping outside of his own home.  This I did, but he was not quite satisfied with the information given him and began asking questions as to my business in Germany; what office, if any, I held and many other pertinent questions not relating to the register.  I could see that he mistrusted our being there.  I then began reading off some of the Polish names I had written in my notebook and with each name asked if he knew anyone by that name.  The first name on the list happened to be Klink and he answered "Ya".  In writing down the name of Klink I was thinking of Blazius Klink who left Independence  many years ago and went back to Poppelau to live, but died a short time after arriving there.  Again back to my list I asked if he knew anyone by the name of Wiersgalla.  The answer was "Ya".  As I had written them, Lyga, Gabriel, Motzko, Bautch, Skroch, Marsolek, Jelen and many others and to each one he answered the same "Ya".  The only two names on my whole list which were not familiar to him were Morchinek and Parazinski.

By this time he really began to believe what I had been telling him, began to talk and called over a few of his customers who had been coming into the tavern during the time we were eating.  He introduced one of them to us as Suza, another a Jonietz who stated that his father, Joseph Jonietz, until recently, had been corresponding with Frank Pientok in Independence.  By this time Mr. Gromatka became proud of the discovery he had made and called out to everyone in the room that I had come from America.

From then on it was like a deluge as each fellow, and there were 15 or 20 of them in the tavern, came up and asked about relatives who had left for "Viskonsin" many years ago.  These people all speak German and it was in this tongue that I conversed with them.  They also speak Polish and they would frequently lapse into their mother tongue when speaking to one another.

The next morning Herr Gromatka arranged to have his daughter take us to the different homes we wished to visit.  We went out to the section known as Kebahan and visited the old homes of Mike Lyga, Albert Wiersgalla, Klimeks and Slabiks.  There were many others, of course, but time would not permit a visit to all of them.  In the village of Poppelau we went to the home of Paul Killian, who lives in the home that once belonged to Frank Skroch, who with his three sons, Franz, Peter and Andreas emigrated to America.  This information I obtained from an old man by the name of Andreas Barcik, who still lives in a straw thatched house directly across the street from the Skroch home.  Our only regret is that we did not have longer to stay in Poppelau as I am sure that I could have met many people who would have been glad to know of their relatives in this country.  We did make some friends there in that short time and have since heard from them thanking us for our visit.

Editor's Note:  The villages of Poppealau and Shalkowicz in Upper Silesia were restored to Oland after World War II (1939 - 45).  After a lapse of six centuries, Bohemia took over in the 14th century, Austria in the 16th century and Prussia (Germany in the 18th century).  Many Polish people came from Shalkowicz and settled in the Independence area.

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