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Christ H. Ostrem store

Christ H. Ostrem is seen on the far right in his dry goods and grocery store establishment, the Daylight Store, built in 1914 and located on the corner of East Jefferson and South Main, Viroqua. Many different people operated a mercantile store on this site, the first being Henry Nichols and his son Luther who established a store there in 1852. A two story wood frame building was erected in 1873 but was burned beyond repair in 1911. Ostrem's name and the date 1914 are still visible on the front of the current building. Ostrem, who came to Viroqua in 1903, first managed the grocery department of the Lindemann Store. In 1907, he formed a partnership with Hans Davidson and purchased the business at this location from Carl J. Severson. Davidson and Ostrem dissolved their partnership in January, 1912. Ostrem became sole owner of the store and after his retirement in 1937, he rented a portion of the building to Colonel Simonson for a Coast-to-Coast store. After being located here for 52 years, Coast -to-Coast closed in 1989. Roger and Doris Dagget were the last owners. In 1990, Rita and John Burkhardt, Betty and Jerry Fredrickson and Deb and Blayne Nedland moved their City Limits ladies apparel store from south Highway 14 to this location. Lila Morrison's antique and craft shop, Lam's Ear, was located in the rear of the store and moved to the front portion in 1995 when City Limits closed. In 1998, Hoffland sisters Pam Skrede and Paula Skrede opened Simply Country, a home furnishings store. Blue Dog Cycles moved to this location after the closure of Simply Country in 2016. For more information about this building or any of these businesses, visit the Vernon County Museum.

Skating Rink

People pause from their skating to pose for a photograph in the early 1900's. The large home behind them was built in 1885 by Dr. H.A. Chase. It sat where Vernon Memorial Hospital now stands. After Chase's death, the home was purchased by John Dawson. The family consisted of Dawson, wife Martha Ady Dawson and children John Jeremiah Mc Lain - "Jerre", Miles and Lucy. After World War I, Jerre and Lucy felt the home could be used as a hospital but city elders believed the home would be too much to maintain at that time. Jerre Dawson was interested in the preservation of our county's history and established the Vernon County Historical Society with a small group of interested persons on January 29, 1941. On February 16, 1942, Dawson passed away at age 71. His will stipulated that his home be used as a meeting place for the Historical Society as long as it was in existence. After several years the home had fallen into disrepair and it was evident that it was too much to maintain. The home was razed in 1949 and the site was given to the county for the erection of a hospital with a provision that space be provided to house the society's museum. Dawson got his hospital and the VCHS remains in existence, housed in the former Vernon County Normal School located next to the hospital.

Hillsboro Library

In July 1897, the Hillsboro Village Board voted to establish a free public library and reading room. The Hillsboro Public Library opened July 16, 1898, at 845 Water Ave. in the rear of Jesse Tilton's Jewelry Store. The photo depicts the interior of the same building about 1906, then the Mrs. Robert Lind's Millinery Shop, showing the library in the back. Initially, teachers were allowed to take two books for four weeks, while other patrons were only allowed one book for two weeks. Pictured are (from left) Miss Nora Baker, Mrs. Nell (Wagner) Butt and Mrs. Robert (Addie) Lind with her daughter, Ora.

Campbell Cabin

Two town of Webster natives, Minnie Maud Roberts, 10th child of Willis J. and Caroline (Brickles) Roberts, and Joseph Hardin Campbell, second of 11 children of Charles Henry and Rebecca Jane (Waddell) Campbell, married May 19, 1898. They are pictured with four of their children; Irene, Mona, Ether and Tressie, at their Otter Creek area homestead about 1909. A second son, Paul, was born to their family in May 1915. Seven months later, son Ether died from complications of grippe (influenza) at age 16. For more information on the Roberts and Campbell families, visit the Vernon County'Museum

Bee Keepers

Pictured are two men from the town of Webster who engaged in beekeeping about 1915. Beeyard owner Blaine Allen (1882-1963) (left), son of Harvey and Emmaline(Hawkins) Allen - 1855 settlers of Vernon County - lived his entire life atop Salem Rldge Franklin Roberts (1865-1928) (right), born at Ottervale and one of 12 children of Willis J. and Caroline (Brlckles) Roberts, lived in the Husker Hollow Road vicinity. Franklin and his wife Louisa (Gudgeon) Roberts are buried at the Star Cemetery in the town of Stark. Blaine and his parents are buried at the Salem Ridge Cemetery. Visit the Vernon County Museum's summer room to view local beekeeping artifacts.

Five Column Rock

Five-Column Rock is one of several impressive Vernon County fragile rock formations. Five-column Rock, also known locally as Table Rock, is located west of Readstown in the valley of Sherry Creek. Recognized researchers believe it to be a remnant portion of a cave, as it is similar in appearance to regional caves. More information on local caves and rock formations is on file at the Vernon County Museum.

La Farge Creamery

This photo is of the first creamery in La Farge, which burned down in 1916. It was replaced with a cheese factory, which now houses Organic Valley's retail store.

Rogers Wedding

This is a scene from May 9, 1909, the day of Henry Rogers and Amelia Larson's wedding. Their friends and family were waiting at the train depot in Viroqua to send them off on their wedding trip with a sign on the train saying "This car contains Henry Rogers and Bride. Congratulations are in order. Married today." Henry and Amelia pulled a trick on their friends, however, and left from the De Soto depot instead. The building pictured, on Railroad Avenue, is still standing.

Sugar Grove Ladies

These Sugar Grove Church of Christ Ladies Aid Society members were photographed about 1902 at the home of May (Hinkst) and Rudson H. Drake (seated in rear on porch). The Ladies Aid was organized April 3, 1902 for the purpose of raising money to furnish items for the new church building after an addition was built about 1900. They purchased lamps, window shades, carpet, fabric for seats and 18 chairs. After the church was dedicated in 1905, they purchased a bell. When the photo was donated to the Vernon County Museum, some of the women were identified and some had partial names. After reviewing cemetery, genealogy, census, and local history files, we are providing these names as best as we can determine from the early 1900s. Please let the Museum know if you have more complete or accurate information. (608) 637-7396. To the best of our knowledge, these are the names of those pictured:

Row 1 [L-R]: Eunice (Marshall) Smith, Alice M. (Spurrier) Williams, Nancy (Aikins) Spurrier, May (Hinkst) Drake, Fanny (Dean) McCumber, Sarah Rebecca "Beck" (Crumrine) Williams.

Row 2 [L-R]: Dr. Ida Randall, Daisy A. Turner, Dora J. Crumrine, Mary C (Daughabaugh) Alexander, Mary Rosalpha "Rose" (Smith) Kellogg, Armilda "Millie" (Smith) Toptine, Sarah A. (Foreman) Coher, Edna Eldora Williams.

Rockton Creamery

When the original creamery at Rockton, built about 1880 by Stanton McVey, burned down in 1925, Buford Wood (1896-1967) and his wife, Golda (Tate) Wood (1899-1976), constructed this temporary replacement. They are shown standing in the doorway. Golda, then a mother of four young children, assisted in the construction by hauling lumber for the building from La Farge in their Oldsmobile. A detailed family history and a later photo of Buford and Golda can be found in the 1994 book: Vernon County Heritage. Buford and Golda are buried at the Star Cemetery in the town of Stark.

Dance Band

Do you know where this Viroqua-area dance band was playing in 1926/27? The musicians are from left to right; Kenneth "Buck" Burkhardt (1910-1987) on trombone; Fred "Cy" Longworth (1891-1951) on percussion; George Elton (1905-1931) on trumpet and cornet; Archie B. Thompson (1905-1990) on sousaphone and French horn; Alice Johnson (1906-1986) on piano; Harold Clancy (1905-1988) on banjo and mandolin and Ralph Thompson (1898-1953) on saxophone. Buck retired as a Viroqua city mail carrier after 31 years. Cy, a painter and interior decorator, died from a cerebral hemorrhage in Tomah. George was twenty-six and working for the Hennepin Orpheum Theatre orchestra when he died from a fall. Archie retired as office manager for Tri-State Breeders. Alice, buried at Coon Prairie Cemetery, spent most of her adult life engaged as a concert pianist in the Oak Park, Illinois area. Harold lived in several U.S. states before locating to Detroit where he worked for the Ford Motor Company, then retired to Viroqua. Ralph died of a heart attack at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona at the age of 56. Many of these musicians were at one time members of the Viroqua City Band and other area dance bands. All were born in Vernon or Crawford County. If you have more information about this photo or are interested in learning more about these musicians, stop into the Vernon County Museum or call 608-637-7396.


Nerison School 8th grade graduation photo
Front Row: Esther Lund, Inez Johnson, Jeanette Sagmoen
Back Row: Milton Anderson, Borghild Lindevig, Ernest Everson (teacher), Eunice Rudie, Claude Sebion


Lloyd Marion Ray, photographed in December 1988, about a year before his well-deserved retirement as Viroqua's revered Fire Chief (1962-1989), died on his 64th birthday, June 10, 1993. Ray was considered a living legend at the time. He received numerous awards and honors based on the depth and breadth of County activities in which he engaged. Over the years he worked as a cheese maker at the Brush Hollow and Dell cheese factories; at the Viroqua Dairy; as Viroqua Police Department Chief following Morris Moon's retirement; at the Viroqua Eagles Club; as a dispatcher for the Viroqua Police and Fire Departments and as Vernon County deputy sheriff for 34 years. He worked tirelessly for Toys for Tots, as a DNR hunter safety instructor for 25 years and was active in many state and national associations. He married Brush Hollow native, Darlene Adams (1931-2006), in 1950. Lloyd, born in Eagle, was the older son of Benjamin G. (1908-1974) and Emily (Kelly) Ray (1909-1993). His brother, Pfc. Gerard LaVerne, died July 9, 1953, four days before his 21st birthday and less than three weeks before the Korean War armistice. VFW Post No. 3032 included his name in their post after his death. All are interred at the Viroqua Cemetery. You are invited to consult the entire Ray family file at the Vernon County Museum.


LaFarge rural mail carrier, George Burnard (1871-1938), is depicted along his Otter Creek route, early in the 20th Century. George, son of John and Margaret (Downey) Burnard, married Webster township neighbor, Anna Leonard Smith (1877-1953), daughter of Alexander B. and Ellen (Peavy) Smith, in late November 1895. The Burnards and their three infant children are buried, as are their parents, at the Brush Hollow Cemetery. Many early photos of Vernon County residents and communities can be found at the Vernon County Museum.


Pictured are early 20th century area deer hunters, Torkel Ofte and William Thrune. Torkel (1858-1932), son of Gunlik (1816-1900) and Margit (Raumdal) Ofte (1817-1882), farmed in the Town of Coon. William (1876-1921), son of Gottlieb (1841-1922) and Johanne (Gurn) Thrune (1845-1923), farmed in the Town of Hamburg. William married his neighbor, Alma Ronken (1894-1915), daughter of Ole Andreas (1855-1936) and Anne (Gilbertson) Ronken (1858-1919). Torkel moved to Montana prior to 1920 and died there in Daniels County. Torkel, William and Alma are buried at the Coon Valley Cemetery. Visit the Vernon County Museum for extensive cemetery and family files available for your consultation.

In this photo taken about 1900 at their Maple Ridge farmhouse in Stark Township are Laura Melvina (Lawrence) Slagle (1869-1912) and John Franklin (Frank) Slagle (1866-1940), their daughter, Ida McKinley Slagle (1896-1986) and their dog, Dewey. Laura, the daughter of Isaac (1837-1910) and Hannah (Coleman) (1840-1914) Lawrence, was Frank's neighbor when they married October 28, 1894. Frank's parents were Lewis (1841-1921) and Elizabeth (Gillian) (1841-1928) Slagle. The Lawrence and Slagle families settled in Stark Township from Ohio. Ida had two siblings, Fernie Francis Slagle (1902-1997) and George Edison Slagle (1908-1986). All the Slagle children married and lived in the local area. The Slagle and Lawrence family members are buried at Bear Creek Cemetery near La Farge. The Vernon County Museum has many family and cemetery records available to assist with investigating your family history.


Pictured is a 1880's photograph of the original Retreat Store which operated from 1868-1908. The owner, Jesse Lee Davis (1809-1888) is shown standing in the doorway. Originally from Cumberland County Pennsylvania, Davis moved to Indiana and on November 22, 1832 he married 16-year-old Vienna Terry Purdy (1816-1904). They were parents to five children: John W., Warren G., Martha, Jeanette (Nettie) and Laura. According to Family Maps of Vernon County, Wisconsin, in 1857 he bought seven parcels of land in Sections 10 and 15, in the current Town of Sterling. In 1862, he resigned his position in the District of Columbia and settled this land. He was the Retreat postmaster from 1866 until his death, when mail was received from Viroqua and DeSoto four times per week. The account of their golden wedding anniversary was reported in the November 29, 1882 Vernon County Censor where among the gifts they received was a large velvet-lined rocker and a pair of gold bowed spectacles. The Retreat Community Center presently occupies the store site. Jesse, Vienna, and three children, Warren, Jeanette and Laura (McKay), are buried at Walnut Mound Cemetery.