The City that Almost Was

Harold, Howard and Halbert (Bud) Hardrath Remember:


“Atwood, Wisconsin”


Atwood came into being when the Wisconsin Central Railroad built the “Cut Off” between Spencer and Owen. The Cut Off enabled trains to travel directly from Spencer to Owen without having to go to Abbotsford and Curtiss to get to Owen and continue on north and vise versa if traveling south. In 1911-12 the right of way was cleared and the tracks laid for the Cut Off. The Molle brothers, Henry and Fred, contracted with the railroad to clear some of the right of way, which passed across their farms. The Wisconsin Central Railroad Company went into bankruptcy and was taken over by the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault St. Marie Railroad Company.


Probably about*1912, Joe Kraut built in Atwood a saloon with living quarters. It was built on the north side of the road and east of the tracks. Joe and Mary Kraut also built a general merchandise store north of the road and east of the saloon. It was a two story structure on a basement with an open wood porch (no roof) across the front of the store. The porch was attached to the store and was supported on the front side by a 3 foot high concrete wall. The concrete wall had iron rings attached to it so that customers could use the rings to tie up their horses when in the store. There was a concrete steps going up to the deck. The second floor of the store was used as a dance hall. The front of the store was the typical square false front with a door in the center and a large glass window on either side. The store and the saloon were connected by a wooden walk way. In the area of the walkway a wooden frame work was built with net wire stretched over the framing. Grape vines were planted that grew up and over the framing and wire. Harold Hardrath remembered, “It was like walking in a tunnel.” An ice house was behind and to the east of the saloon.


* Herman and Elsa Hardrath celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1963. Herman said, “That in 1913 when he and Elsa were married, he went to the Kraut Saloon in Atwood and bought the beer for the wedding reception. For their 50th Anniversary reception, he brought the beer for the reception as the same saloon in Atwood.


Other proprietors in the saloon after Joe Kraut were Art Schuette (during prohibition-On the 1930 US Census taken in April, Art Schuette is listed as renting the saloon), Eno Havisto, Fred Becker (1939 -?) and John Kadingo.


Ida Lange, daughter of August and Emma Lange, was born and reared on the family farm ¼ mile east of Atwood on the north side of the road. Ida, when reminiscing about her teen age years in Green Grove recalled, “I worked for Mrs. Kraut as a house maid. I washed clothes and dishes, baked bread and such. I earned $1.75 a week. My mother saved my money for me until I had enough to buy a dresser”.


The Kraut store closed after a second store was built across the road by Harold Jornby. Harold and Howard Hardrath remember attending the last dance in the hall above the store, the wedding dance 18 April 1929 for their Uncle Art Lange and bride Leora Alexander. When remembering her wedding dance, Aunt Leora said, “That during the night of her wedding dance, Otto Becker, and a couple of other people went outside and while out there notice the building was leaning and appeared to be moving back and forth”. It was after this that it was determined that the structure was no longer safe for dances and the dance hall was closed. After the store closed, Howard remembers going to a dance on the fist floor where the store had been. The building was torn down in 1932. The basement walls, front wall and steps were later torn down and the hole filled. For a few years free movies where shown once a week on the place where the store stood. Following the weekly free movie was a free dance in the New Atwood Dance Hall.


A second store in competition with the Kraut store was built by Harold and Jennie Jornby across the road from the original Kraut store. Harold is listed on the 1930 US Census as a grocery merchant in Atwood. He is listed with his wife Jennie, daughter Vivian and son Harold Jr. Subsequent proprietors were Durwood (D.R.) and Mrs. McDonald, Carl and Helen Wachsmouth, Edward and Ida Meyer and Calvin and Arlene Schulz. Due to the declining number of farms and farm population, Calvin and Arlene closed the store and tore it down. If you draw a circle with a 3 mile radius around Atwood, the circle will include these farms years that are now vacant or completely gone: Elmer Edwards, Elmer Elstrom, Alice Knowlton, Matilda Kaiser, Albert Ratz, Albert Molle, Fred Raeck, Fred Price, August Price, Frank Brecker, Bill Hardrath, Harry Bushnell, Herman Raeck, Engledinger, Ed Awe, Gus Brocker, Coleman Farm and Anton Woik. Also gone is the Mandel Cheese Factory, The South Green Grove Co-op Cheese Factory and the Atwood Garage.


Friedrich “Bill” Lange with financing from Emma and August Lange in about 1918 built the first garage in Atwood. He built it north of the road and between the railroad and saloon. Bill’s garage was an agency for the Chevrolet automobile and he had a 1918 model demonstrator. Bill Lange operated the garage-automobile agency for a store time until when William and Adela Draheim became the owner-operator. Although neither Emma nor August Lange could drive a car, they took the 1918 Chevrolet and parked it in their shed until their son Art was old enough to drive. While William and Adela Draheim were the owners the garage burned down. William replaced it with a tile building that is still there. From the obituary of Adela, “The couple made their home in the Atwood Community until 1922. Mr. Draheim operated a garage there.” The 1930 US Census taken in April lists Clarence Fenner as renting the garage and doing repair work. Justin Staples was probably the next owner of the garage. He repaired cars, ground grain and sold used cars. Justin brought a hammer mill and powered it with the motor from a car that was wrecked when it ran into a train at the Atwood crossing. An older man who lived with Walter Hake traveled through the area buying rags, wool and copper and aluminum pans. He was driving east toward Atwood and ran into the side of a train. His car was wrecked but he was not hurt. Justin took the motor from that wrecked car to power his hammer mill used to grind grain for the farmers. The radiator was not useable so Justin hooked the water hoses from the motor to a large barrel filled with water. These were the depression years and one had to be creative. Justin the used car salesman. Harold had a 1927 Model T Ford that bought from Uno Kalponen for $30 in about 1932. 1935 Harold traded the Model T and $90 to Justin for a 29 Model A Ford that had a leaking vinyl roof.


Hauling Hay to Atwood

First wagon – Fred Price; Second wagon – Herman Hardrath Jr.; Third wagon – Driver Unknown


Harold installed a new vinyl roof that he got through one of the mail order catalogues. After Justin Staples the building was unoccupied for a while. In the late 30’s or early 40’s, Donald Sommers converted the garage into a tavern. Subsequently Green Grove Township bought it for use as its town hall. It was the town hall for the township until 1988 when Weis bought the property and added it to the saloon property that he had acquired at an earlier date. The old Kraut Saloon building that Weis used to repair farm machinery burned.


When the railroad track was built, the Atwood depot was built west of the track and south of the road. For a short time Arnold Mandel was the depot agent. Two sidings were built at Atwood on the east side of the main line and south of the road. The longer siding was constructed so that trains could pass or meet. The other shorter one was used for receiving and shipping car loads of freight. A road was built from the sidings to the main road. Farmers hauled baled hay to Atwood and loaded it in box cars to be shipped. The South Green Grove Cooperative Dairy Association, a cheese factory, ordered the coal by the box car load. Summer 1938 the co-op ordered a 32 ton car load of coal to be dropped at the Atwood siding. Harold and Howard Hardrath contracted with the co-op to unload the coal from the box car and haul it to the coal shed at factory for a sum of $32, a dollar a ton. Alfred Mandel said, “That when his father ordered the rennet he used in making cheese, it came in a wooden keg that was shipped by rail to the depot in Atwood where they had to go pick it up.” Herman and Elsa Hardrath bought a kitchen range from the Kalamazoo Stove Co., Kalamazoo, Michigan. The stove was shipped by rail to Atwood where Herman had to go with the horses and wagon to pick it up. Each week by the “local train” came through Atwood. The local was a train that stopped at all the depots as necessary to deliver and pick up freight at the depot or drop and pickup railroad cars on the siding. Atwood had excellent passenger train service with two trains in each direction each day. South to Chicago and connections to the eastern and southern and southwestern US. Northwest to Minneapolis to connections to the west. Those who lived in the vicinity of Atwood depended on the 11:45 AM passenger train to blow the Atwood crossing whistle and tell you it was time to head to the house for dinner. A passenger train went north at about 1:00 PM. The other south bound passenger went through in late evening and the other north bound passenger went through in the early morning. Alfred Mandel told the following about when he was courting Lena Thomas, who he married 30 June 1926. “To go see Lena, I walked 2 ½ miles to Atwood to board the south bound passenger train, rode 35 miles to Blenker. From Blenker I walked 3 miles to Sherry where Lena lived with her parents.”


 A cooperative farmer owned stock yard was built on the Atwood siding. Once a week farmers brought livestock to the yard where the animals were marked and weighed. A railroad cattle car was parked at the chute coming from the yard and the livestock was loaded into the car and shipped to Chicago to the stock yards. The shipments were done by rail out of Atwood until the volume of stock got down to the point where shipping by rail from Atwood was no longer economical. From then on the livestock collected at the Atwood stock yard was hauled by truck to the Colby Co-op until the Atwood yard was closed and torn down. Early officers of the cooperative were John Miller, John Augustine and William “Bill” Cammers. Bill Cammers was probably the treasurer because he wrote the checks to the farmers who shipped their livestock with the co-op.


On the road leading to the railroad siding a lumber yard was built by O & N, a lumber company with many lumber yards and sales offices in central Wisconsin. Hershel Edwards and Arnold Mandel managed and ran the O & N lumber yard in Atwood. Arnold owned and drove a pick up truck. In the same vicinity as the stock yard and lumber yard was a feed store operated by Charley Witt and Eph Ohman. They ground grain for farmers with a burr mill powered by a single cylinder gasoline engine. In the late 30’s the owner of the saloon moved the building that housed the former feed store to a location behind where the Kraut Store stood and converted in into a dance hall. From the obituary for Fred Becker: “Up until 1939 he farmed, and then became owner and proprietor of the Atwood Dance Hall and Tavern”. From the obituary it appears the feed store was moved and converted to a dance hall prior to 1939.



The Bowery 1912

L-R-- _______ Raeck; Robert Lange; Ida Molle; Adolph Molle; Martha Hardarth; Esther Hardrath



On the back of each of the two pictures from Louise Hardrath’s album is written “The Old Bowery” Atwood, Wis. 1912. (The Bowery was actually built before Atwood existed.) The Bowery was located on the west side of the road now known as Sparrow Avenue, a short distance from what is now County Hwy N, about where the current Green Grove Town Hall is. The Bowery was an open air dance floor, no roof. Wad and Ed Meyer played the music for some of the dances. The road going south where the Bowery was on went south about ¾ miles and stopped at the C. L. Colman farm, a Colman Logging Company farm. Old Timers said, “That C. L. C., the initials for Mr. Colman stood for Colman’s Lousy Crew. Logging camps and crews were usually infested with lice. The farm Harold Hardrath currently lives on was a part of the Colman Farm. The house, barn and outbuildings for the Colman Farm were across the road from where Harold H. lives.


According to Herman Hardrath, he helped built the last log house built in the Atwood Community. Ed Awe built a log house on a location just west of the Bowery. Herman and his father-in-law, August Lange worked as a team notching and fitting one the corners of the house as it was being built. Herman was a master with a double bit axe. He could sink the cutting edge of a double bit axe where he wanted it to strike. Later a farmer co-op cheese factory was built on the corner of what is now Sparrow Avenue and County Hwy N. After the factory closed it was remodeled into a tavern. The tavern burned and the building was replaced with the one currently there.


Place, events, dates and people as we remember them. Oral History – Halbert “Bud” Hardrath May 2005




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