ElkFarm Stories

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Category: Amery (page 2 of 2)

Finding General Grants

Steve jammed on his brakes when he saw the bag on the ground, we didn’t. Paul and I kept biking down Keller. It looked like a bag holding garbage. Waiting for him at the Amery Depot Park, he yelled but we couldn’t hear him down past Dalley Dale’s Standard Station.
“It’s a thousand dollars,” he yelled as he biked closer. “A thousand dollars!”
Paul and I laughed because we thought he was joking, but he biked up to us and pulled out a handful of cash. All the bills were $50 dollar bills.
“Twenty of these bills,” he said as he showed us the face of U.S. Grant.
Never had we seen so much money at one time. That General Grant, such a wonderful, beautiful man.
We all stopped making any sounds, any comments, anything at all for a minute. Each in our own way imagined having that much cash.
“Shall we advertise?”
“Do we bring it to the police station?”
“Could our families use it?”
“Vacation, anyone?”
More silence. Without a word we figured we’d make good use of it, we’d take care of it better than anyone. Anyway it was probably some rich guy who lost it.
Since we each had good math skills, we knew without discussion how much we’d each receive. No talk necessary here. Evenly divided we knew, all for one and money for all, or however that saying went.
“Who gets the extra dollar?”
“Steve. He found it.”
The jury has decided. Case closed, settled.
We each got six President Grants. After riding uptown, Steve walked into Union State Bank across from the Amery Theatre to get change for the rest of our payout.
Dividing it further on that hot August afternoon felt great, like nothing we’d ever done. Steve handed each of us a rubber band that he found in the bank. We each rubber banded our money.
Now for a treat. To the soda fountain at Danielson’s Drug Store to get the biggest malt they had, maybe two. And, not just a nickel candy bar, the dime size. Maybe a pound of cashews or deluxe mixed nuts to take with us.
After our brief celebration, we went our separate ways and never mentioned the money again.
A simple plan. I wonder what Steve and Paul did with theirs.


To High School in a Sleigh

Sunday afternoon, time for me to head back to college in the late 60s. The weekend was over, back at it. For me at 20 years old I felt that “back to work” anxiety that many of you might feel on Sunday night.
My mom probably felt that same way when she attended Amery High School, but in her case she was 15 years old. During the weekdays of the school year she’d stay with a family in a house on Harriman, across from the current telephone company office. The walk for Mom from this boarding house to the high school would be less than 5 minutes.
Emma Larson, one of 8 siblings living on the Larson farm north of Apple River Park School on E, decided that after 8th grade graduation she’d attend high school. Emma alone in her family did this, spurred on by a love of reading and learning, and anxious to become a teacher. She attended for 4 school years, graduating in 1927 with a class of about 30 students.
When I picture her riding back and forth to her home by sleigh or wagon, I tried to imagine what it was like. On Friday afternoon I could see Grandpa Ole Larson, during the winter months, hitching his workhorses to a sleigh. After noon he’d head south with piles of blankets and a few other necessities to drive to Amery and pick up his daughter.

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Accidents on Record 100 Years Ago

Barn raising in Polk County in the early 1900s.

Gunshots, dynamite, fingers and arms cut off, big toe shot, and horse/ railroad mishaps. Polk County accidents from 1910 is a short but painful list to read.

While researching deaths in the 1880s in Polk County, I found a record of unfortunate events that happened after 1900. State mandate, county board requirement, intern? For some reason, a short list, a baker’s dozen, of these became permanent county statistics.
No discernible pattern. Two fatal, 3 dynamite related, gunshot to foot, pulleys, horses, and shingle saw sliced off a finger. At a hoop mill a pulley injured a worker’s arm, and in another case a mortar box slid from a wagon and landed on a kid. The most gruesome would be the railroad wheels running over the upper legs of a railroad worker: fatal. The other death-causing event happened when a team of horses ran over a man who then died from internal injuries.
Why these injuries were recorded probably will never be known, but someone or some government body wanted to keep track. It gives a snapshot of pain and deforming accidents early in our county. Today these types of injury records, and treatments, would be handled in clinics and medical centers.
This was a column for The Amery Free Press in 2016.

Kindergarten Kids–Amery

The Amery Elementary KG class of 1954. All tossed to the wind now–a retired sewer pumper, a lady of leisure in Arkansas, a retired neurologist, a retired teacher, and others. Several have died including death by cancer, alcoholism, heart problems, suicide. If this information is faulty, it’ll be corrected.

This is the early version of the Amery Band. Not being very musical, the teacher only gave me one stick and warned me not to hit anyone. Or did she give me two sponges? Others played tambourines, two sticks, and cowbells.

Our wonderful teacher, described by one classmate as HOT,  was Miss Pehacek.  First name Arlene, just found that out. She may have stayed only one year; maybe dealing with us tuckered her out. She married and moved to the River Falls, WI, area.  One of my current projects is to search for her and see what happened to her after leaving Amery.

And the kid at the lower right was voted least likely to ever become a writer. Looking dazed and confused on this photo, but he was gifted with ears that would rival those of a bat. Now I’m having fun trying to make sense of those early years.


Young WI Teacher, 1904

Modern end but log structure. Probably larger school than she taught in (this is a file photo I found)


This letter was written by a young teacher who taught at a country school northeast of Amery. It’s a bit long, but if you read it through you’ll  get a sense of her loneliness, her frustration, and her adjustment to her environment. I’ve left in the spelling errors. A few local historians have pinpointed and named her school which is no longer standing.

Range, Wisconsin

October 30, 1904

Dear Aunt Hettie,
It is Sunday and a long lonesome day too. I thot I would write to you and that would help pass away the time. This is a terrible lonely country all the families live over two miles apart and most of them are bachelors. My school is very small only three pupils and most of the time only two. I don’t like teaching such a few but I think I would like it if I had more pupils. The school house is very small about as large as our kitchen at home.
All of the school board have been to visit the school. The treasurer can’t speak any English and he tried to talk to me but of course I did not understand him.
I have a fine boarding place with a family by the name of Swanson. They are so kind to me and I like them very much. They came here from St. Paul last spring. I guess they get pretty lonesome at times. They live near enough to the school house so I can go over there for my dinner.
There is wild game in abundance up here and hunters too. Some days it is a steady shoot all day long. We have lots of partridges to eat and they are just fine. Some hunters are camping down near the river their tent is about large enough for a dog to crawl into.
I do not teach at Range but five miles north of Range.

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Scenic Amery Wisconsin

Evening view over South Twin Lake



Elaine Meyer often goes for walks in Amery and sends photos of unique sightings, posting the photos on Facebook. These are two recent pictures.

Soon to come, 10 reasons you might want to travel to Amery. Working on the list, but if any Ameryites have suggestions and ideas, I’d welcome them. No waterparks or major historic sites in the area, but you’ll find a welcoming and lovely city. Amery–the City of Lakes.

Creek by Cross Street before it enters the Apple River.

Making Money in Early Amery

Amery Depot in 1908, viewing west. Soo Line Railroad.

Logs coming down the Apple River passed through Amery, but later it was the two sawmills on the west bank of the river that built the city. These sawmills were roughly in the area of the current dam and northward through to Birch Street.
A disjointed but somewhat complete history of the Amery area came from Smoky Sylvester, who wrote a thorough history in 1977. He penned it on notebook paper, single spaced, 127 pages long. My efforts so far have been to sort out the economics of the Amery region.
Of course farming dominated the economy of the Polk County and Amery area, but the following money-making ventures stood apart from farm work.
The two sawmills above expanded around the time the railroad came to Amery and the population grew. Before this, the settlement west of Amery called Lincoln Center near Bear Trap thrived. This was an economic spot with a hotel, stores, and if you can believe it, a house made just for cats (wink wink).

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Magnificent Hotel–St. Croix Falls

This post from Facebook tells of this great building in St. Croix Falls, Polk County Wisconsin. Being as curious as you are, I’m wondering what exactly was on the 4th floor. (my ideas; below the comments that came with the FB post)


I am often in awe of the buildings that stood in our county in the 1800s. The St. Croix House or Fisk Hotel/House is no exception. Here it is in the late 1800s. It stood on Adams Street between Kentucky and State in St. Croix Falls. Three floors played host to those in the lumber industry, those coming to the land office in St. Croix, and to those just looking to have fun.

Cane Poles and a Hardware Store

Amery sign in the downtown area

Amery Free Press Column

While traveling in western North Carolina, twice we came upon the strange sight of patches of bamboo growing next to the road. The intense yellow of the stalk and the green green of the leaves were unmistakable, and there they were—bamboo growing in March along a Carolina highway.
Just a couple weeks earlier I had been thinking of the Coast to Coast store on the main intersection of Amery, across from Chet’s Drug Store. Just to the left of the door were cane poles, bamboo poles reaching 12 feet into the air and held in by two metal bands attached to brick.

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Bud Harris Tribute

In the column that just came out in the Amery Free Press, I included the following tribute to a man who owned one of the two main clothing stores in Amery. The men’s store on main street, B and B Clothing, was in the area of the block above.

The recent death of Bud Harris surprised me, but I was lucky enough to talk with him a couple times at the Cabin Coffee Shop on Highway 8 last fall. The story came out about how he, owner of B and B Clothing Store, was in touch with D.K. Lien or someone from the Amery Schools and would learn about a family or two that needed help. He’d arrange to get them pants and shirts for school, at no cost to them. Little known story that stayed untold at the time, and for me a great Amery act of compassion.

The Mouse

In amongst these piles of sacks
There lives a tiny mouse
And hidden far from human’s view
He has an unseen house.

To him it is a palace
No bricks nor mortar there
But just the softest remnants
He chewed and placed with care.

He has a little family
Cuddled deep amongst the down
And when they get enough to eat
He’s the happiest mouse in town.

His wants are very simple
His needs are being met
By the God all powerful
Who never does forget.

May I, in all my splendor
Living in a human’s house
Remember that God cares for me
Just as He does that mouse.

Lucy M. Peterson of Amery
July 18, 1977

Written while sitting in a pickup at the feed mill in Amery, waiting for her husband to buy feed.

Jimmy and the Wedding Gift

Dear Iola and Jubal,
What a lovely wedding, what a beautiful day, what a wonderful meal we all got to enjoy on your wedding day. The Port of Call looked wonderful that evening.
Charmaine and I had a great time, and we hope all is well with you both. But, I have a simple request. I hope you and Iola don’t mind.

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The Hog Slaughter

The screaming and squealing was like nothing I’d heard before. The frightened sounds of terror on B-grade horror movies couldn’t match the noise from that hog. The reluctant pig had to be moved across the barnyard to its final destiny, several men pulling a rope tied to its front leg. For an 8-year-old, it became a once in a lifetime experience.
We lived 3 miles west of Amery at this time. Our Holz neighbor to the north, basic farmers, invited Dad to this Saturday afternoon ritual, and he brought me along. Lots of men, a few kids, and lots of commotion.
The scalding barrel ready, all it needed was a dead pig. At first the scene was confusing, but the screaming, reluctant pig focused me in the direction of the men pulling the rope. I asked Dad what was going on.

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