Bio: Volovsek, Frank & Anna
Surnames: Volovsek, Flis, Gemmeke, Vinger, Chermely, Matkovich, Moorehead, Debevec, Olson, Giallardi, Arko, Sladich, Staut, Lucas, Lohrman, Jeras, Fraid, Gingerich, Ortner
----Source: Family Scrapbook
Frank Volovsek was born in Gornji Grad v Savinski dolini na Stajerskem in Jugoslavia on February 10, 1889. He came to America in April of 1912, originally coming to Grafton, Wisconsin where he stayed only a few months. He then went to Milwaukee because of higher wages. He worked for a railroad, cleaning coaches and doing carpentry work, which was his trade.
Here he met Anna Flis who was also from Gornji Grad na Stajerskem where they had gone to the same school. She was born on April 19, 1893 and first came to Sheboygan, Wisconsin in October of 1912 where she worked in a chair factory. She too, soon went to Milwaukee for better wages and worked in a factory making sheepskin linings. They renewed their acquaintance and eventually were married on July 25, 1914 in St. Mary's Church in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Frank started a meat market in partnership with another man, but because of serious illness was advised to go out into the country to look for work. With little hope and very little money, leaving his wife with friends, he took a train to Menominee Falls, Wisconsin where he got employment on a small farm. His wife, Anna, joined him later and together they gradually learned to farm and work with horses. With courage and faith they rented their first farm in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin. Here they also acquired their first Model T Ford Touring car. After several years this farm was sold. They rented another, which also was sold. Twice more the same thing happened. The last place was a large farm just on the outskirts of Hales Corners, Wisconsin in Milwaukee County.
Being tired of moving stock, feed, machinery and a large family from one rented farm to another, Frank saw an ad in the Slovenian newspaper 'Amerikanski Slovene' for a farm for sale in the Slovenian community of Willard, Wisconsin in Clark County. After several trips to inspect the property they decided to buy the 115 acre Henry Gemmeke farm, 4 miles west of Greenwood through the Palmer Vinger Agency. This was in the Holy Family Parish area of Willard. After having an auction, selling the stock and some machinery, the family was anxious to move to their new home.
It was a tedious trip. On October 11, 1928, in an old Hudson car the trip began at 4:00 A.M. with father, mother, seven children (the youngest 10 months old) and a 3 month old puppy. The car gave much trouble by overheating and they had to stop along the way for repairs. This gave the family a chance to get out and walk to get a little exercise, arriving finally at the farmhouse at 11:00 P. M. that night after a distance of about 240 miles. The oldest son Frank Jr. followed a week later with a truck load of machinery.
Three more children were born here, the family now consisting of seven boys and four girls. One daughter died earlier at the age of two months.
For several years all went well until the Big Depression hit hard in 1930-32. Because of the terrific drop in milk and cattle prices the farm payments could no longer be met, the former owner foreclosed and the farm was lost. At the foreclosure proceedings the judge reprimanded the former owner for doing such a thing as this was an honest, hardworking family with sincere intentions and demanded that an amount of money be returned in compensation.
What to do now? Again, with much faith and hope and with help of good neighbors, early in the spring of 1933 another move was made to another rented farm about five miles away, with the intention of buying it as soon as possible. This move was made with horses and wagons with hay racks because of the muddy roads. They were barely settled when the farm was bought by someone else, which meant move again, twice in the same year! At the auction sale of the Ernest Chermely 40-acre farm one-half mile south of Willard, Frank was outbid by $5.00 for this property, but was allowed to rent the buildings from Martin Matkovich. He rented adjoining land for crops, still looking for an available farm to buy.
A very good friend, Anton Debevec Sr., informed him of an abandoned 80-acre farm for sale nearby, owned by two brothers named Moorehead. There were two log cabins and a broken-down log barn with 15 acres of cleared but good land. The price was reasonable, no down payment required and the farm was bought.
The winter of 1933-1934 brought much sickness. At one time only Frank and his nine year old son Alphonse were up and able to do the chores. Some had whooping cough, yellow jaundice, then measles, three had pneumonia and pleurisy (eleven year old Margaret very serious) but all survived. The good Doctor William Olson and old Doctor Giallardi made house calls twice a day for over a week to treat the sick ones. They even performed minor surgery on Anna on the dining room table, to stop a serious hemorrhage. A number of instruments were sterilized in boiling water on the kitchen stove. The children all waited anxiously in the adjoining kitchen.
Throughout the winter of 1934-1935 Frank and his eighteen year old son Joe walked the three mile distance to the newly acquired farm to cut timber for lumber for a new barn. The family moved into the log cabins in the Spring of 1935. The adjoining 80 acres with an unfinished house was also bought. The new barn was built here before winter. On Thanksgiving Day 1935 the cows were in the new barn for the first time.
Winter in the log cabins was very cold. One cabin was used as a kitchen, with one double bed in the loft and only the cook stove for heating. At times it was 10 degrees below zero inside with the fire in the stove burning. The second log cabin was used as a bedroom, holding 5 double beds, with only room enough to walk between. Clothing was stored on shelves and hooks along the walls. This cabin was heated by a small, tin, round wood burner in the center of the room. More than one suffered frozen heels or toes that winter. In the morning everyone would hurry to the barn for chores because it was warmer there.
Before the next winter the unfinished house on the adjoining 80 acres (where the barn stood) was finished enough to be livable, at least better than the two log cabins.
By now the family was growing up and all worked very hard helping to cut the brush and clear the land into larger fields, taking pride in making this into a very productive farm. In 1940 a new house was built with lumber cut from timber from this farm. The motto was 'A house will never build a barn, rather a barn will build a house', so the new house came last. This now was known as the 'home place' where the large family grew up and eventually married and left to start lives of their own.
In 1948 Frank decided to retire from farming and turned the operation of the farm over to his three youngest sons. When they married, their youngest son William and his wife Bernice bought the farm in 1950. Having earlier acquired another 80 acres of land to the north from Frank Arko, Frank and his wife Anna retired to a small house there, always putting his carpentry skills to work remodeling and adding rooms to fit the need.
In the Spring of 1949 he decided to go into business with his son-in-law and daughter Frank and Ann Sladich, and bought a tavern at Curtiss Corners on Highway 29 from John and Joe Petkovsek, along with a few wayside cabins. This they operated for three years until the land was acquired by the State for expanding Highway 29 in 1952. By now Mead Lake in Clark County, Township of Mead, was being developed and lots were being leased. Frank secured a lot adjacent to one taken by his son-in- law and daughter Vitko and Mary Staut. Onto this lot he moved the largest of the cabins that he had built at Curtiss Corners. Here at Mead Lake he and Anna spent many long summers, enjoying their later years in life in nature's surroundings, each with their own hobbies; Frank with woodworking, Anna with rug weaving. Winters were spent on the home farm where they had their own living quarters. The two Mead Lake lots are still in the Volovsek family, the original remodeled cabin being owned and cared for by a grandson, Victor Staut and his wife Mira.
In the Spring of 1963 they retired to a small house in the village of Willard, bought from Margaret Lucas, to be nearer the Church and other conveniences. Here they watched the new Church being built and helped celebrate its opening by attending Midnight Mass on Christmas, December 25, 1967.
Frank died on January 24, 1968 at the age of 78 years, being the first to be buried from the newly built Holy Family Catholic Church. He is buried in the Willard Catholic Cemetery.
His wife Anna still lives in the little house, and at the age of 88 years does her own cooking and housework and tends her flowers. Her needs are taken care of by her children, grandchildren and good neighbors.
Their children are located as follows: Frank Jr., born in Milwaukee, in Willard; Joe, born in Menomonee Falls, in Arizona; Mary (Staut), born in Menominee Falls, recently returned to Willard; Stanley, born in Genesee Depot, retired in Willard; Twins, born in Genesee Depot; Ann (Sladich- Lohrman) now in Marshfield and Margaret (Jeras) now in Lannon, Wisconsin; Alphonse, born in St. Martins, Wisconsin, farming in Willard; Anton, born in Hales Corners, in Alaska; John, born in Greenwood, Superior, Wisconsin; William, born in Greenwood, in rural Willard; Betty (Fraid), born in Greenwood, in West Allis, Wisconsin.
The original Henry Gemmeke farm is now owned by an Amish family, Edward and Anna Gingerich. The 'home place' has also been sold and is now owned by Ron and Lucille Ortner.
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