May 2011 Odd Wisconsin
Perhaps the most successful Utopian community in Wisconsin was born in the wake of a failed doomsday prediction. This was "The Community," a religious colony in Germania, Marquette Co., which lasted more than 50 years and spanned three generations. It began in Groton, Massachusetts, during the 1840s when its leader, Benjamin Hall (1796-1879), was inspired by the teachings of William...
Posted in Curiosities on May 20, 2011
In the mid-19th century, it was common for the first lumber mill owners to stock "a gill of rum" as part of their workers' rations. Supplying liquor was necessary to entice lumber crews to leave the towns downriver, where they could easily get a drink anytime, for remote sawmills built at falls or rapids far upstream. John Knapp and...
Posted in Curiosities on May 18, 2011
Medicine was far from an exact science on the Wisconsin frontier. Pioneer druggists, in particular, often invented their own concoctions to treat the ailments that settlers brought to them. George Howard (1832-1892) may have been a typical example. He briefly attended a pharmacy school in his native England before immigrating to Wisconsin. After arriving in 1850 as a teenager,...
Posted in Odd Lives on May 12, 2011
Back in 1886, an anonymous journalist at the Madison Democrat recalled a talented charlatan who had fleeced many of the state's residents when Wisconsin was still young. Among them was attorney Edward G. Ryan, who went on to become Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. At the time, the con man was considered just a guy who had...
Posted in Bizarre Events on May 5, 2011