Journeys through Crawford County
My wife, Ann, and I, live in Tomah, Wisconsin, in Monroe County, which is named after James Monroe, fifth President of the United States. But I grew up in the heart of Crawford county, 2 counties south, on a farm 2 miles northwest of Seneca, named after William H. Crawford, who was a judge, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Treasury, and candidate for President in the early part of the 1800s.
We drive down through Crawford County several times a year, usually taking Highway 27, which runs down the spine of the County, from Sparta, to Viroqua, and down to Prairie du Chien. In the mid 1800s, Seneca was an overnight stagecoach stop between Prairie du Chien and Black River Falls.
The heart quickens when we get to Rising Sun, just inside Crawford County, when a flood many fond memories come gushing forth. Our Dad would take brothers Phillip, Bob, and me to Rising Sun to get our hair cuts when I was little tyke. Hanson’s Barber Shop was a one chair, first come-first cut facility. Twas actually a shack, half the size of a one-car garage. Bernie Hanson cut Dad’s hair, he would pay for all four of us, then he would go next door to Bill Crowley’s Tavern and have a beer or two. Hair cuts were 50 cents, and when Bernie Hanson raised the price to 75 cents, it was my Dad that was “incensed”.
Phillip was next in the barber chair, then me, than Bob. When we each had a fresh cut, we would go over to Bill’s tavern and sit on a stool. Dad would buy us a soft drink and the three of us were served a small glass and divided up the 12 oz bottle of pop. Bill Crowley had a black and white television mounted up in the corner. That was quite a novelty, because was no television in the Scheckel farmhouse.
I loved seeing the Hamm’s Beer commercials, with the Hamm’s bear “in the land of the sky blue waters”. Dad talked farming and politics with Bill and other patrons.
Motoring south from Rising Sun was the St. James Church and graveyard. A few miles south of Rising Sun was the “place where they found that Olson girl” as Dad pointed into the woods. Dad said when he bought the farm on Oak Grove Ridge in 1945, our neighbor Joe Bernier showed Dad the burial site of Clara Olson on Battle Ridge near Rising Sun, a few hundred feet in the woods, off Highway 27.
In the next blog, more about this gruesome murder that grabbed worldwide attention.