Recollections of Columbia, Wisconsin
by Mabel Schlender Jonkel
Contributed by Sarah Poertner
transcribed by Crystal Wendt & Michelle Harder.
*Andrew Schaer was born in Switzerland. After living in Monroe a few years, he came to Columbia in 1895. His bachelor home was a block type with living quarters above the animals below as was the custom in Switzerland. Later he built a Swiss cottage on a knoll away from the main road. The farm was fully cleared and he raised cows and chickens. It was very neat and immaculate place. He never missed a Sunday morning, to come early to the store with his pail of eggs for his groceries. He lived quietly except for attending the Swiss parties. After his passing Mr. Zeliff took over the farm.
*Mr. And Mrs. John Immorstag and family came to Columbia in 1894 to a farm three miles north. There were several children. In 1895 Mrs. Immorstag was among the first to be buried in Columbia's first cemetery. He remarried and lived on the farm a few years before returning to Green County.
* Jack Lager was born in Switzerland. In the early 90's he came to Columbia from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to his farm four miles north. In 1902 he married Arvella Metcalf of Neillsville. To this union eight children were born. He had a trained tenor voice and sang in quartets and choruses in Columbia. In early days he was active in community affairs. He passed on in 1948.
*Mr. And Mrs. John Grueb, Sr., Mr. Grueb came from Switzerland and she from Germany. They were married in 1871 and located in Monroe where he was a cheese maker. In 1895 they moved two and a half miles west of Columbia. Several acres of land were cleared and a log cabin built. Of their seven children: Barbara, John Jr., Fred, Mary, Carl and Bertha; one more, William was born in Columbia in 1901. In the early 1900's they had sold the farm and moved to another near Humbird. The son John Jr., made Humbird his home, marrying a girl from Iowa. They have one son, Louis. Carl farmed near Neillsville. The other children returned to Monroe. Both Mr. And Mrs. Grueb passed on in Humbird.
*Joe and Ella Winters opened up a farm four miles east of Columbia in 1882 where a home was built. The farm was cleared and well cared for. Mrs. Winters was very active in church and Sunday School work, being Sunday School superintendent for several years.
Their five sons joined in with the Columbia people socially. Arthur, the youngest, married Hazel Christmas of Columbia and moved to Fennimore. Eli helped on the farm and in harvest time worked on South Dakota ranches for seventeen years. At the passing of his parents he took over the home farm until his passing in 1955. Julius married Jenny Winton of Columbia and lived on the adjoining farm two miles west of Columbia. They had eight children.
Upon retirement Mr. And Mrs. Joe Winters lived in the town of Columbia for two years before moving to a home in Neillsville where she passed on. He passed in 1941 in a nursing home in Neillsville at the age of 89 years.
*August Schlender was born in Prelvitz, Pomerania, Germany and came to Baraboo with his parents in 1875. He learned the miller trade in Greenfield township and in his youth he was the manager of a flour mill in Baraboo. Because of ill health he had to give it up and came to Neillsville in 1887. In 1888 he married Susan Cramer Simonds of Baraboo. She was born in Waukesha and came to Baraboo in 1874. Dad Schlender worked at various jobs and finally became owner of a saloon in Niellsville. The family came to Columbia in 1896 where Dad operated a saloon for one year and then went into the general store business for twenty-three years.
Mother and Dad Schlender with Mabel and her half-brother, Erwin Simonds.
While the saloon was operating, the upstairs was used as a dance hall. When the hall was discontinued beds were put in and men roomed here while logging; when the telephone line went through; and when the gravel pit spur was laid. Sometimes there forty men sleeping there. For extra beds, they had straw mattresses on the floor. Mother Schlender fed most of these people too, having "hired girls" to help. Dad Schlender was a leader and promoter of all progressive steps for the town. He held many town offices being town chairman for a time and later town clerk. For twenty years he was school treasurer and ten years was postmaster. He also held office in the Modern Woodman Lodge. In addition to his store he bought the first general store
building which with a new front became a feed and hardware store as detailed in another part.
The family included a daughter, Mabel, and a step son, Erwin Simonds, from Mrs. Schlender's first marriage. At time Erwin worked in the store and for two years managed his father's store at Dells Dam when the dam was being built. Erwin was a carpenter and worked on several government projects throughout the states. He owned an 80 acre form five miles west of Columbia where he farmed for several years until his home burned. He had never married. In the early 1930'2 he retired to Baraboo where his parents lived. He passed on in 1942.
The daughter, Mabel was born in Neillsville in 1893. She helped in her father's store and post office, later being Columbia's postmaster for six years. As a musician she played organ and piano in school and was tutored in high school studies. Later she attended business college in Chicago. She resigned from the post office in 1920, at which time the post office was discontinued. Mabel was married to Frank Jonkel, a Columbia boy, in 1921. They moved to Chicago where he was a tool and die maker for twenty-three years and an industrial engineer for eight years. During this time they did considerable traveling throughout the United States and Canada. One of Mr. Jonkel's hobbies was photography and he took many fine pictures and slides. They retired to Baraboo in 1954.
While in Columbia the family was very active in community affairs, socially and otherwise. Mr. and Mrs. Schlender retired in 1920 to Baraboo. Here she passed on in 1933 and he in 1938. There were buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery, Baraboo.
Many humorous incidents at the Columbia store are recalled. There were two individuals came to the store, one a German, the other a Bohemian. Both spoke broken English. When they came all action stopped. Everyone listened and laughed! Neither could understand the other and both tried hard to explain. Finally the German would say, "Nobody can understand you. You live in America now, why don't you learn to talk English." They both were equally non-understandable and surely muddled the English language. One day the German came in all excited and said "Guso give mone Tador (Ted) a commendation book and puncil" for school. He drove a horse drawn school bus. One day when the snow was deep Dad asked how going was. He replied, "Oh, pretty goot, except by Tecothchesn (Tykac) pickle fence. (picket fence)." The Bohemian was employed at the pickle factory. When the pickles were sufficiently brined in the immense vats, they were withdrawn with long handled nets, similar to a fish net, then packed in barrels for shipment. He stated he used to work for Mongo Merry Ward in Chicago but he liked his job "catching" pickles for Libbey better!
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