Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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HISTORIC OCONTO COUNTY SCHOOLS
  St. Joseph Catholic School
city of Oconto
Oconto County, Wisconsin


St Joseph School is pictured in the right rear. This photo is believed to have been taken shortly after the school was enlarged in 1892.
photo from
The History of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin
published 1895 - 1898

Help with identifying any of the students pictured below is appreciated.


contributed by : AnnEllen Barr
c: 1892

St. Joseph’s School - Oconto, photo. 

Names are: (back) Marquart, Benedict, Ingram, Russell McChesney (sitting front) O’Chinsky, Aiden. 

I am not certain whether RUSSELL is Mary Agnes, b. May 1878 who went on to become Sr. Inez, a Dominican nun, or her sister Margaret Edna, b. 1869. Only last names were on reverse side of photo and the sisters were similar in appearance.

Research notes:

Athletic competitions were well attended by both competitors and fans in the late 1800's. Volunteer fire departments, schools of higher education, and private gymnasiums such as Oconto's Turners Hall,  were a few of the groups holding such state and regional competitions. 

Young women athletes are posed for this photo in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where they probably competed in popular inter school gymnastics competitions. This group is most likely a team from Oshkosh Normal School (now University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Campus) where many Oconto County high school graduates attended the teacher's college. during that time period. Their ages would have been about 17 to 21 years old.

Note the "Middie" athletic dresses.
These required outfits were named after the design of the navy blue U.S. midshipman's uniform, and the "wooden Indian exercise clubs" were used in balance, strength, juggling and team coordination events.

Feminine  athletic attire was often augmented by white,  detachable collars and ties. Two styles are shown here; one with ankle length skirt and one with the skirt just below the knee. There were bloomers/pantaloons beneath the skirt so the "upper limb would not be exposed to view” during practice and competition, yet left the young women able to move freely. The lower limb was covered by long, dark hosery and low cut shoes were specially made to augment agility.

The uniforms were quite “modern” and even considered revealing in some circles during the late 1800's and early 1900's; but at the time, young, single women were being encouraged to do formal athletics and be educated, as families were not always all-involved in farm work (industrial revolution). These gymnastic uniforms also closely resembled ladies swim wear of this high Victorian period
.












Please click on the photo below for a larger view.



contributed by: AnnEllen Barr

1910 - 1911

St. Joseph School - Oconto
Mozart Music Class

I came into an Album owned by Peter Paul RUSSELL and passed down to his daughter, Edna Russell Bergman. This photo shows Donald Bergman, b. 1895 in Oconto. He is the young man in the center with the cello and bow tie. I am guessing that the photo was taken about 1910 because Donald was born 1895 and looks to be about 14-15.

Research notes on early Oconto County Education and Fine Arts:

The late 1800's and the early 1900's were a time for the blossoming of  fine arts and eduaction. Oconto County residents from all walks of life fully supported the introduction of these arts and education to their children, often recognizing that this was an important step for their future, economically, socially and for the enhancement of joy in life. Many of the "older generation" had grow up with self taught music in their churches and their own homes played on small pump organs, fiddles, guitars, mandolines from the "old country" and of course there was singing of songs passed down through generations.

 School age boys and girls developed anywhere from an appreciation for education and the arts to being very accomplished practioners of the arts and talented educators recognized in the US and in the world. Some examples:

Educators: Mary McFadden, professor of psychology at early University of Wisconsin Teacher's College; Asa Royce - Teacher and Principal and County Superintendant of Schools in Oconto County, Institute Conductor at University of Wisconsin; Benjamin Rohan, teacher, Superinendant of Schools in Wisconsin; Herbert Noonan, Cathoic Priest, President of Marquette University in Milwaukee; Florence barber, also Sister Mary Nora Barber, President of Mount Mary College in Milwaukee; Anselm (Maynard) Keefe, Priest, Dean of St. Norberts College at DePere; (Robert) Laird Duncan, Athletic Coach Westfield , New Jersey, President of New Jersey Athletic Association;  Nora O'Kelliher, long time teacher Lincoln School, in Oconto; Ellen B. McDonald, teacher, School Principal and Superintendant of Oconto Schools;


Painting, Sculpting and Drawing: Eda Nemoede Casterson; Agnes C. Hoeffel Cole, accomplished artist and musician; 

Opera: Harry Carl Becker; Maude Perry (soprano); Ralph Flanders (bass);
Hattie Porter Orendorff (Metropolitan Opera House in NY, Italy, England, Germany, Spain)
International Opera - Please click:
KATHRYN HARVEY ;

Theater: Delina DesJarlais Gifford

Professional Musicians: : Leslie Becker - Orchestra Musician;  Henry Becker - Orchestra Musician; Robert Hall, concert violinist,  orchestra and choral leader in Michigan, South Dakota and Wisconsin; O. W. Stoelting - Orchestra Musician;
Theater: Frederick C. Becker, Edythe Gagnon and Guy Pollack, owners of the Gagnon-Pollack Tent Show with acting; E. Ward Caldwell; Claudine Jarvis, orchestral musician;

Local Bands and Musicians and Music Teachers: Jack and Buss Meyer; Gordon Hall Bands,; Marcella Johnson (accordian); Bill and Bootsy Schlader; French Barribeau; Raymond Cyr; Claude Menke (muscician and proprietor of popular Menkee Music House);  Marvin Wilkins (public school music instructor and orchestra musician); Arnold Eggebrecht (of Gillett); Sophia Messenger, Music Teacher; Edwardina Blutea, Music Teacher; Elmer Anderson, musician Suring; Marvin Wilkins, Oconto High School Band Instructor; Dr. Herman Ohswaldt, MD, musician, poet; George Runkel, musician Company M, Oconto County from 1889 to 1895; Edythe Gagnon and Guy Pollack, owners of the Gagnon-Pollack Tent Show with music; Sister Mary Paul (Louise Vollmer), musician and instructor; John D. Johnson, musician and director of Oconto Falls City Band; Genevieve Wach Peterson, pianist and Peterson Orchestra member; Peter Nygard, Company M, Oconto County, Spanish American War 1898; D.W. Butler, Company M, Oconto County, Spanish American War 1898;  Gerhadt Nygaard, musician and director of Gillett Band;



The 5th grade class in May of 1947 from St. Josephs Catholic School, Oconto, Wisconsin.
 Darlene Herald is in the front row with dark hair and sweater with glasses.


Photos contributed by:

Kathleen Barlament


"In 1875 there were 32 schools in the county (Oconto), with a total of 892 pupils enrolled, including six in Oconto – five public and the new parochial school of St. Joseph’s parish.  The others in town were the Washington school on Michigan and School streets, the Lincoln school on Jones and Adams; Jefferson school on Second street; Pecor school on Center street, and the Douglas school on the southwest corner of Messenger and Gale."  
Oconto County Reporter November 11, 1971
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
below from
The History of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin
published 1895 - 1898


 " The school was dedicated in July of that year (1874), and it was then placed in charge of Sisters of Notre Dame, who opened it for regular attendance during the following October. This school has proved a blessing in many ways to the Church at Oconto, where previously Catholic educational interests had been sadly neglected. The Sisters of Notre Dame, however, enthused new life into the community, and as a result since their establishment there the parochial school and its interests here became a factor of paramount importance to the community. Two years prior to the completion of the school a bell weighing seventeen hundred pounds was purchased and placed in the church tower. This of course was duly blessed, its sponsors being Mrs. A. Dillon, Mrs. P. Guck, Mrs. George Lynes, Mrs. Norton and Messrs. George Davis and William Luby.

" (1892 saw) e
nlargement and general improvement of the school building, which had come into rather dilapidated condition.  A basement was built under the school and divided into compartments which were used as kitchen, dining room and store rooms by the Sisters. Besides these there was a furnace room and hall which is used for church meetings as well as by lie different societies belonging  to the congregation. This created an additional expense; however, the entire church debt had been paid off before the end of 1894."

" (1898)
The present congregation of St. Joseph's numbers about four hundred families, and the parochial school, which is in charge of Sisters of Notre Dame, has a regular attendance of three hundred and fifty pupils."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In 1966 Sister Mary Rosaline Berens celebrated her 103 birthday at the mother house in Mequan. She had joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame 80 years earlier. That same year she celebrated her diamond-pearl anniversary, having taken her final vows August 17, 1886. She started her biography for her Golden Julbilee 1936, feeling that her strength was waning and she would soon be writing "finis" to life. Her memory still sharp, she listed St. Joseph School in Oconto as her home and teaching position from 1912 to 1916. Milwaukee Sentinel.




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