We continue our drive from Tomah, Wisconsin, in Monroe County, where Ann and I live, down through Vernon County, and into Crawford County where I grew up on a farm 2 miles northwest of Seneca.
We’re taking Highway 27, which runs through the heart of the Crawford County, from Sparta, to Viroqua, and down to Prairie du Chien. These people, descendants of northern Europeans, are close to my heart. I know these people, these roads, hills, and valleys.
We drive as slow as possible. On the right hand side of main street, which is really Highway 27, we note the Wilkinson house. Peter Wilkinson was a year behind me at Seneca High School, an excellent athlete, with an outgoing personality. Pete died of a massive heart attack in mid life.
We come to the Mike Linehan house. At various times, Varo, Grimsled, and Nederloe families lived in some of these houses.
Clarence Baker’s house is next, a banker I believe. Then the Clyde Johnson house-he was the local cheesemaker. Next is the Finley house, built in 1898-1899, an elegant structure. The Finleys had four acres behind the house and kept a cow or two in the years. Most town families had a little plot for a barn, a few cows, chickens, horses, and a large garden. Jack and Rose Finley raised a large family, always sat up front on the Blessed Virgin Mary side of the Church. Jack was the town constable and an insurance broker.
Continuing to drive slowly south through Seneca, we come to the Jake and Agnes Vedvik house. The Vedviks ran the sawmill on the north edge of Seneca and also had a portable mill they took out to farms.
Next is the Brockway and Lynch houses. Memory is fuzzy on which ones. Then the Bailey and Catherine Webster house. They had no children, came to our St. Patrick’s Church. Mr. Webster was the Superintendent and Principal at the Seneca High School, also the athletic director, guidance counselor, transportation director, and taught one section of math. Webster ran a tight ship and was well liked, but had a run-in with a board member in about 1961 and was let go. Most people thought it was very unfair.
A few more houses and we come to the Post Office. Our mail on the farm came out of Lynxville, and later from Eastman. As a high school kid, I was sent over to the Post Office by Mr. Webster to get the school mail. A Trehey man handed me the mail each time.
Once, when I was a sophomore (1957), I was helping run errands from the High School Office. Mr. Webster wrote a phone number on a slip of paper for me to dial. I didn’t know how to do the job. We had no telephone on the farm. It was one of those black ones with the dial, you put your finger in the hole and turn to the right until it stops. Mr. Webster had to show me how to dial a telephone. It was only one in a long string of embarrassments I suffered as a high school student. Somehow, by the grace of God, I survived.
On the corner, just south of the Post Office was McCullick’s Phillips 66 gas station. It was a small place, one bay, with a lift for doing car repairs, changing oil. One gas pump, I believe. It was the local teen hangout place. Hang out for “city kids” that is. No farm boys hung out there. They were out on the farms. Max and Betty McCullick sold soda pop, candy bars, and gum. McCullicks was the starting point in the early evening in mid Oct 1957, in which four boys got in a car, sped down Highway 27 and ten minutes later, three were dead. Two of them were my classmates.
Next blog, we continue our drive through Seneca and look at the houses on the right hand side.