Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
Collected and posted by RITA
This site is exclusively for the free access of individual researchers.
* No profit may be made by any person, business or organization through publication, reproduction, presentation or links to this site

 
Transcribed and contributed by Cathe Ziereis
Photographs added from the Oconto County WIGenWeb archives.

Early History and Legend of the Village of Suring

written by
Russell M. Wicke
May, 1950


Suring Main Street - the west end looking east toward the railroad tracks. Wagons, horses and buggies traveled the dirt road, people walked on the "boardwalk" in front of the buildings. Crossing the road on foot in full length skirts, while carrying packages and children, was a woman's challenge during the muddy Spring thaws and after rainstorms. The mud was often far more than ankle deep.

Same View:
Suring Main Street looking west in the early 1950's, when this history was written.
That's a new 1952/3 Ford auto parked at front left.

Preface

I first undertook the task of delving into the past and early history of the village of Suring as the result of a request to report on such history and legend at a meeting of the Suring Women’s Club.

As I began to uncover and bring to light the facts and events that are responsible for the founding and settlement of a community and then for its later growth and development I found the task both fascinating and interesting.

It is always a privilege and a pleasure to be able to delve into the historical past of any region, but more particularly so for me to have the opportunity of visiting with our remaining early settlers and listening to their entrancing stories of long ago. It is fitting that we preserve those legends in writing for unless we do, the historical facts may fade and be lost with the passing of or remaining pioneers.

The facts gleaned for the early history of Suring have come from reliable sources for it's  “ground floor information”, so to speak. From folks who lived here in the early times, as my grandmother and mother did, I have first hand experience. Then the early newspapers contained realistic accounts of the exciting experiences. Old neighbors and friends lend their lore to the fascinating tales of the early life in the wilderness, which is known as Suring. This village is a far cry from the thick woods and many waters which attracted or early settlers.

It is with that same spirit of adventure and ever pressing onward that we, who now enjoy the results of the labors, hardships and sacrifices of those early pioneers and settlers who dared to face the hardships of the wilderness, which is now known as Suring. This village is a far cry from the thick woods and many waters which attracted or early settlers.

Russell M. Wicke
May, 1950

Early History and Legend of the Village of Suring


The original Suring family home and storebuilding in Hayes, built in the 1870's. It was owned by Herman Hankwitz at the time of this very early 1880's photograph. 

Grandparents Settle in Hayes

Grandma and grandpa Suring came to this community from Belle Plaine in Shawano County and settled in what is now Hayes in the town of How. There granddad first built a small shanty dwelling, a part of which he also used as a store and trading post. Later on, however, he built a larger building the present Wm. Strehlow house, for his home and store. What is now the village of Suring was at that time but a wilderness of trees, brush and much water. A winding wagon road closely resembling a narrow Indian trail wove itself through this wilderness to Hayes on cut through Maple Valley and on to places father south, the principal town in that direction being Oconto.

Granddad operated his store at Hayes for a number of years and most of his customers were Indians, who paid for their purchases with wild ginseng, hides, furs, skins, feathers and berries. He bought the goods for his store in Shawano, and hauled them from that city with wagon team to Hayes. He also sold the hides, furs, and other products to the merchants in Shawano. Such a trip to and from took approximately five days.

While granddad was gone grandma tended the store and took care of the housework. On one occasion while he was gone to Shawano after supplies, a number of Indians knowing he that he was away came early in the afternoon and continued to linger around the place during the evening. Grandmother becoming frightened went over to Herman Yakel’s place, which is now owned by Harold Dickson and borrowed a large hound for protection which she knew they had.

On return to the place she tied the dog on a long chain just outside the door. Then she entered the house and locked herself knew that the Indians were still there. They did not, however, attempt to enter the house nor harm her but she spent a very uncomfortable and sleepless night.

When granddad returned she told him of her experience and upon seeing the Indians again he scolded them for scaring her the way they did. They said that they wouldn’t have hurt her and were sorry that she had been so frightened. They had merely been waiting for Granddad to return with groceries which they wanted.
 
 


Menominee Summer camp in the 1880's

Indians and their Camping Trips

Every summer during the warm weather a number of Indian families left the reservation, went through Hayes and through what is now Suring. While passing through Hayes they would stop at Granddads store to shop for provisions to take with them on their camping trip.

Somewhere to the east of the village, possibly in the Pottawatomie settlement near Claywood, they camped for several weeks during which time they picked wild berries and dug ginseng roots. They would then return to the reservation.

Mother reports that it was interesting to watch them as they traveled from their homes to the summer camping grounds. Each small Indian pony was heavily laden with all the camp equipment along with the Indian man who rode on the back. The papooses tucked in birch bark cradle-boards, were strapped to the sides of the ponies while the squaws walked behind their husbands. This procession passed along in single file on its annual trek.

The dress of the Indian was interesting. The man clad in buckskin trousers, jacket, leggings and moccasins. He was without head gear.

The squaws were usually dressed in bright colored clothing which consisted of a very full skirt, most times blue in color, and jackets of pink, red, yellow and other bright colors. The jackets were decorated with ornamental braid and metal discs. The squaw’s legs were tightly wrapped with strips of black cloth about an inch thick and two wide. On her feet she wore moccasins. Over her shoulders she always wore a bright colored blanket which dropped almost to the ground. This blanket was worn both during the summer and winter. Her hair was done up in what appeared to be braids, folded up close to the head and wrapped solidly with a covering of beadwork.

On one occasion during the summer camping excursion the Indians were gone but a few days when they came back. They explained this unusual return to granddad by telling him that a papoose had died and they were taking it back to the reservation for burial. The dead papoose was still strapped to the side of the pony.

Mother said that through granddad’s trade and business associations with the Indians they had come to know most of them very well. She said that in later years after the family had left Hayes and after granddad died they would often times meet some of these older Indians whom they know. The Indians still remembered them and would say, “Hello Joe,” in friendly greeting. They used this name from their remembrance of granddad.

Suring has become a trading center for many of the present day Indians of the Menominee Reservation.
 


Suring family home in the villiage (right), 
boarding house at rear left.

Move to Suring

In 1882 Granddad gave up the store business at Hayes. He sold his place there to Herman Hankwitz who continued to operate the business for sometime after. In that same year granddad came to what is now Suring and built a sawmill on what came to be known as the old Suring Mill Island. In 1885 he built the hose in which Manley Hanson now lives. In that same year he moved his family, consisting of four girls and two boys from Hayes and took up permanent residence in his new home. On the premises of this new location he built a men’s shanty where the mill-workers stayed, sleeping in bunks. At one time granddad was the owner of the present site of the village of Suring and it is reported that he purchased all his property for a sum of $215.00.

Granddad also provided room and meals for people traveling through on their way to places farther north.

At this time the nearest railroad station was Underhill, to which place most of the mill products were taken by horse teams.
 


Hayes Graded School was the first one built in town of How.
Photo c:1885

Mother first attended school, Sunday school, and church services in the Hayes schoolhouse which consisted of one room at that time. Later, however, the present little white church was built at Hayes and she went to Sunday school and church there.

Every Sunday grandmother used to get the children ready and they would walk up to Hayes to Sunday school and think nothing of having to do so.

Church services weren’t held regularly as ministers had to come from neighboring towns and churches, from as far north as Marion. However, whenever services were held the whole family attended.

The first white child born in the village of Suring was A.E. Suring, born the year of 1885.

One winter evening while seated around the fire a cry of distress was heard from out-of-doors. Upon investigating it was found that a traveler driving a yoke of oxen had driven his team off the crude wooden bridge that spanned the old slough. The oxen, in falling on the ice, had broken their horns which were bleeding badly. Granddad provided quarters for the traveler and his oxen for the night and they continued their journey in the morning.

On one occasion Grandmother reported that while home alone, a strange man stopped and asked for something to eat. She never refused a stranger a meal and he ate what she prepared for him, thanked her, and went on his way. Afterwards she learned that he was Raymond Holsey, a much wanted and hunted robber at that time. On another occasion a detective ate at the dinner table with the mill hands of Granddad’s crew. At that time it was not uncommon to find men in logging country who had gone to work in the woods to escape the law. Lawmen attempted to run down these violators and this detective was using this opportunity to see if he cold identify any of the hunted among Granddad’s hired help.

While living in what is now the Hansen house Granddad built the home occupied by Mrs. O’Connor. He lived in that home a few years and from there he moved into a new and larger one which he built on the site of the present Peter Ehlinger home. That house has since been moved away, divided into tow parts, the present home of Vernon Olson being one part and Detert’s Café being the other.
 


First wooden bridge over the Oconto River west of present day Suring village.

Highway laid out through Village

In 1880 the present highway which is now 32, passing through the village of Suring was laid out under the direction of Granddad who was then Chairman of the town of How. The Oconto River was spanned at this time by a wooden bridge. The timber and lumber used in its construction were hewn into shape by ax man. The highway being soft and wet made traffic difficult so a long corduroy was laid through the village extending one and a half miles in length. The main street through the village, a part of that highway, lies midway between the equator and the north pole.

Suring Railroad Depot
1948

The Railroad is Built

In 1896 the Chicago and North Western Railroad was built through Suring. At that time very few buildings stood on the present village site. They were the August Krueger shanty which stood on the location of the present Nolessen home, a partially underground barn constructed of cedar logs on the same site, a lumber shed just north of the John Dieck residence, a vacant store building which had been built by George High on the Oscar Wagner dwelling site, the present O’Connor and Hansen dwellings, some sheds and barns, and the Joe Suring saw mill.

Early Suring Main street looking west from just past the new railroad tracks seen running horizontally at the center of the photo. The first white building on the right is the old Groninger Hotel before the 1908 fire, the railroad depot is the dark building at the far center right.

After the laying of the tracks through, the village was completed and trains began to operate on the new line the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company sent Isaac Serier to Suring as its first station agent and telegraph operator. Mr. and Mrs. Serier stayed at the Groninger Hotel until they were able to find suitable living quarters here. The present depot agent is Ray Brick. To keep the tracks in repair and safe for travel Jack Fagen was stationed here by the railroad company as its section foreman and maintenance man. Mr. Fagan took up residence in the new section house built by the company on its property located on west main street across from the Muehl-Ehlinger Lumber Company’s new store and office building. In February 1931 that house was destroyed by fire. Frank Zemko now oversees the repair and maintenance of the tracks through the village.
 


Serier store and behind it on the left is their home.

Serier Grocery and Selz Barbershop

While the railroad was under construction A. C. Averson stocked the long vacant store building on the Oscar Wagner dwelling site and conducted the first store. This building was later moved to its present location and converted into a dwelling house. It is occupied at this time by the John Johnson family. At one time is served as a milliner shop operated by the Jespersons. In the warehouse of the same building Wm. McKinney conducted a restaurant. On the present Max Gruber lot, a man by the name of Cameron conducted a lunch counter, while east of the Methodist Church, on the site of the Bertch home, George High built and operated a saloon. This building was later moved onto the rear of the Joe Suring lot, now the Peter Ehlinger property, and used as a bunkhouse for Granddad’s mill-hands. His sawmill at that time stood adjacent to the railroad tracks on the present Henry Gipp residence site.

The Annual Log Drive

One of the early industries of this section of Wisconsin was lumbering. The logs were cut in the woods during the winter and when spring came and the ice began to thaw and break on the rivers the log drive began. This was an interesting, exciting, and daring experience.

Due to the fact that Suring was located on one of the principal waterways of the log drive in the lumbering area it became an important center, for logs were driven down the North Branch, the South Branch and the Peshtigo Brook on their way to the sawmills in Oconto.

The log drivers had to be quick, daring and rugged men. Armed with peavies, long pike poles, heavy high shoes with calked soles, these woodsmen had to cleverly direct and guide thousands of logs on their slow course from the forest where they were cut to the sawmill where they would be made into lumber. Often times, in spite of the skill of the drivers, the logs would become jammed in the stream, sometimes piling up to the heights of seven and eight feet. To break such a jam was difficult and dangerous. Usually there was a key log in the breaking of the jam. To dislodge this log and jump clear of the breaking force behind it was the test of a driver’s skill. Sometimes the jam would break loose with a sudden rushing, roaring and driving force that left little time to escape from being swept into the whirling mass of water and logs. An expert driver was able to jump from one whirling log to another and ride those logs in spite of their rapid motion in the stream.

The log drivers were followed by large rafts, constructed of logs, on which tents were pitched. One such raft and tent was used as the cook’s shanty while others were sleeping shanties for the log drivers. Sometimes only the cook’s shanty was aboard a raft and the men pitched the tents serving as sleeping quarters on the bank of the stream down which they were driving.

I can remember the log drivers quite well and having visited a floating cook shanty which was moored at the junction of the North Branch and the Peshtigo Brook in the village. I can still taste the delicious piece of pie that the generous cook gave me on my visits to his cook shanty raft.

Grandma Suring, at the time the family lived in the old millhouse on the banks of the slough, used to cook for the river drivers while on their drive through the village. Sometimes the lunches were packed and carried by the men in small canvas bags hung over their shoulders while on their beats both north and south of the village.
 


C: 1900 On the Oconto River at Suring marsh (slough), the floating cooks tent raft for the log drive with Mrs. William Tielke, Tom Hodgins, Henry Netzer, Mabel Stackpole, Mrs S. Donald and several others.

On one of the spring drives down the Peshtigo Brook the cook of the crew became sick. As the drive had reached the course of the Peshtigo where it floes through the large marshy area where the whole country round about was like a large lake due to the spring thaw and rains it would be very difficult to transfer the sick man from the raft to dry land. Some of the men, who had to wade through the marshy waters, were sent ahead to enlist aid. Several others followed, carrying the body above their heads for miles through the deep waters. They changed off carrying from time to time in order to relive themselves from the tiring position. Upon reaching land a team of horses with wagon was waiting to take the body to Oconto.

The First Hotel

It was also at the time of the building of the railroad through the village that Abraham Fredenberg built the present Schmidt tavern, then known as the Wisconsin Hotel. The railroad construction crew boarded at the Wisconsin Hotel while working in the vicinity of the village. Traveling men and other passers-through used the services of this hotel while in town.

In connection with his hotel service and accommodations Mr. Fredenberg also kept a livery stable and rented out teams and drivers to traveling salesmen and others who had to travel into the country round about Suring to transact business. Such trips were made to Hickory, Kadlec, Hayes, Breen and as far north as Mountain where there were stores and other places of business.

In 1899 Mr. Fredenberg sold the Wisconsin Hotel to Mr. Herschel Cooley and in 1900 built the Atheran Hotel, the present Groninger building. He operated the new hotel for a number of years after which he again sold his business and moved out of the community.

Blacksmith Shop

By 1896 Simon Wandel, Suring’s first blacksmith, was busy at his forge and anvil. His shop, of frame construction, was located on main street about where the present R.M. Stengel warehouse now stands.

Hardware Store

The first hardware store in Suring was built in the year 1896 by the Giese brothers, August and Herman, who moved here from Pulcifer and Shawano respectively. Their store building was located on a lot which they bought from August Kreuger. The present Union Hardware store now occupies that location. The Giese store was constructed from lumber hauled here by wagon team from Pulcifer. Freight to stock the store was hauled from Underhill and Gillett.


Groninger Brothers Opera House & Hotel

The Groninger Hotel

The Groninger Hotel and bar room was built in the year 1897 by Mike Groninger and his son Herman who had formerly lived in Cecil. In 1909 they added the east section to their building which housed an opera house on the second floor and store space below.

In 1898 Herman Groninger distinguished himself as being the first village barber when he set up a chair in the bar room of the hotel where he shaved his customers and cut their hair. He continued to practice his trade until sometime later, when a barber by the name of Bill Roderick built a small shop on main street just west of Dieck’s hardware store and went into business. Another early barber of the village was Charles Dunn who had a chair in the Otto Raisler hardware store, which was a frame structure located on the site of the present grocery department of the Farmer’s Mercantile Company.
 


Owner and registered pharmacist, Kate Conrad stands in her drugstore. There was also an ice cream parlor.  C: 1918 

First Drug Store

Shortly before the turn of the century a druggist by the name of Tromsinsky opened the first pharmacy in the village. His store was located in the building which now serves as the village hall. He operated the drug business for quite some time.

The present drug store was established by Dr. Conrad shortly after he completed his building in 1905. It is modern and up to date in every respect and offers the residents of this community expert pharmaceutical service under the direction of a registered pharmacist, Mrs. Clara J. Johnson.

Livestock Buyer

The first carload of livestock was shipped from the village in 1898 by R. F. Zuehlke, Suring’s first livestock buyer. Mr. Zuehlke also built the first cement walk in town.

Post Office

The first settlers of Suring had to travel to Hayes to get their mail which was carried there from Lena by mule team driven by Fred Guehlker. Before, however, this regular mail service was established between Lena and Hayes the residents of that new settlement got their mail from Oconto. They hired a Mr. Weinholt once a month to go to Oconto to get it for them, later it was twice a month.

After the Railroad was built through Suring the mail was brought this far by train and then hauled to the post office at Hayes by team. The men who drove the mail stage at that time were Levi Scott, father of Mrs. R. M. Stengle, and Herman Kolberg, father of Mrs. Otto Hischke.
 


Far right:
John Holl and his daughters stand on the porch of their store in Hayes where the post office for Suring residents was until 1897.

Even after granddad moved his family from Hayes to Suring mother had to walk up there many times to get the mail first, from the post office in the Weinholt home, now the Charles Buth farm, and then from the John Holl store to which place the post office was later moved.

It was not until about a year after the building of the rail road through the village, 1897, that a post office was established here. The first post office was located in the Anton Averson store, now the August Simon tavern. This building was erected by Mr. Averson.

After 1905 the post office was moved into a small building which had previously provided quarters for a doctor’s office and just prior to its use as the post office had served as a dentist office for Dr. Briggs of Hickory who came to town two days a week to provide this community with dental service. This little building stood on the east side of the present Simon property and adjacent to the street that turns off main street and extends down to the Co-Op gas station.

Anton Averson was Suring’s first postmaster. He was appointed to that position on November 27, 1897 and on December 4 of the same year the oath of office. On the eleventh day of December, 1897 his commission was signed by the Postmaster General, James A. Gary.

Mr. Averson operated the post office in connection with store business for quite some time and until he sold his place of business to John Kaufmann who then became postmaster. It was Mr. Kaufmann who moved the post office out of the store building into its new quarters. Miss Cora Raymond was then hired as the first postal clerk to assist the postmaster who also had his store business to tend to. Succeeding Miss Raymond as postal clerk Miss Sarah Donald saw to it that the residents of the Suring area got their mail regularly.

By the turn of the century the farming country surrounding the village had become well settled and the federal government decided to serve this rural area with free delivery of mail. In about the year 1904 the first rural mail route was organized out of the village. It covered a distance of about twenty four miles to the west of town. Steve Donald, Mrs. Mabel Madison’s father, was the first rural carrier on this route and served as such for many years.

With the mail route now passing through Hayes and surrounding country the post office there was discontinued and the people of that community received their mail by rural free delivery.

It was about the year 1905 that the free delivery of mail was extended into Maple Valley east of the village. This route covering about twenty four miles was served by it’s first carrier, N. P. Nelson, a present resident of Suring. Henry Allen was substitute carrier and James Thielke temporary substitute carrier for this second route at that time.

Mr. Nelson served as carrier on rural route two for a period of several years and was followed by Fred Coy as carrier who held the job for about six months. He was replaced by James Thielke as regular carrier in 1911. Mr. Thielke served for eight and a half years. Joseph Trever is the present regular carrier on route two.

The first mail carriers traveled their routes by horse and buggy during the summer months and by sled during the winter time. The sled consists of a cab on runners. A small wood and coal burning stove within kept the men warm and comfortable while making their rounds.

In 1913 Mr. Thielke replaced his horse and buggy during the summer time with his first automobile. However, he had to resort to the horse drawn sleigh again when the winter season arrived. Mr. Donald used an automobile on his mail route for the first time in about the year 1918. Elmer Anderson is serving as regular carrier on route one at the present time.

Suring’s Doctors

The first doctor to serve the settlers of the new, fast growing community in times of sickness and distress was Dr. Pinsch of Gillett who made his calls here traveling by horse and buggy.

It was sometime before the turn of the century that Suring had its first resident doctor. He was Dr. Goggins who established an office in the small building on the west side of town that later served as the village post office. After a year or two of practice here Dr. Goggins moved to Oconto Falls where he has since been practicing medicine.

In about the year 1899 or 1900 Dr. Jule Conard, a young physician, decided to take up residence in the village and practice medicine. He set up his first office in the same building that had been occupied by Dr. Goggins but later moved into larger rooms provided for him above the John Dieck hardware store. The doctor traveled by means of horse conveyance throughout the surrounding communities in attending the sick and visiting his patients.

After few more years practice Dr. Conard’s business had grown and expanded to the extent that he found it necessary to provide larger quarters and more adequate facilities in order to better care for the physical well being of the residents of the Suring area. In 1904 and 1905 he erected the large fire proof brick building which still stands today as a memorial to his faithful and untiring service in this community. The doctor’s intentions at the time of its construction was to provide hospital facilities for the village but his plans never materialized.
 


This unidentified local man had his photograph taken, with two sons, by Suring Photographer A.C. Cato. Their weathered, sunburned faces show the hard outdoor work of farm family life in the area. They almost certainly would also have been treated for illnesses by the local Suring doctor. The forgotten photograph was recently found in an antique shop.

During the flu epidemic of 1918 the services of a doctor were so urgently needed that Dr. Conard worked day and night in ministering to the sick. In so doing he neglected his own health and became stricken with pneumonia. In spite of expert attendance and care the doctor died on October 28, 1918 leaving the village without a physician.

In 1903 a Dr. Boettcher came to Suring, established an office in the small building which had formerly served that purpose for the other two doctors and began to practice medicine. He did not remain long in his first location but moved in to the present Oscar Wagner dwelling which was then the property of Klaus Peterson and which had been built by Jim Allen. After a short stay in the village Dr. Boettcher owned and drove the first buckboard automobile in this part of the country.

Dr. J. S. Daugherty came to Suring from Lena after the death of Dr. Conard. The new doctor set up his first office on the second floor of the former Atheran Hotel, now the Groninger building, but later bought and still occupies his present office quarters and place of residence on east main street. Dr. Dougherty continues to minister to the sick of the village and surrounding communities, having completed thirty one years of practice here last year (1949).

Milliner Shop

Suring’s first millinery and dress making shop was built in 1904. The building, erected by Albert Gerndt, stood on the present August Simon lot just east of what was then the John Kaufmann store. In that same year Miss Clara Gerndt opened the shop for business and sold hats and blouse’s, as well as doing dress making. In 1906 the Gerndt’s purchased a lot across the street, the present site of the milliner shop, and moved their building to its new location. This then became the front part and living quarters were added to the back making the present shop and residence. Miss Gerndt is still selling hats as well as some aprons and dresses.

Grist Mill

One of the old landmarks of Suring is the gristmill that has given nearly a half century of service to the farmers in the vicinity of the village. The main part of the present mill was erected in about 1903 by Christ Daniels who used it only as an elevator in which to store grain to consumers elsewhere. After few years in this business Mr. Daniels ceased to operate the elevator and it was idle for a period of time.

Later the Wagner brothers took over the elevator and were dealers in farm produce such as grain and potatoes. They also installed machinery and did some feed grinding.

In 1919 the farmers living in the area surrounding the village formed a stock company and purchased the elevator building. They remodeled it somewhat and added new machinery to their milling service which included a flour mill. More extensive grinding of grain, mixing of feeds and making of flour was now made available to the farmers of the area. Peter Miller was hired to manage the business at that time and Bill Bratz was one of the later millers.

Leo Elfe bought the mill after a time and continued to grind feed and make flour until he sold it to the present owners, the Suring Farmers Mercantile Company. The new owners completely remodeled and enlarged the mill and installed new and up to date machinery. The now offer a modern and expert milling service as well as being dealers in all kinds of grains, feeds and flour.
 


Paper milk bottle cap

Creamery

Mr. August Giese, being a civic minded man, was intensely interested in the growth and progress of Suring. He had, from time to time erected several homes and places of business in the village. One of these being the creamery which he built in 1905 on its present site. Mr. Giese never operated the creamery himself but rented and later sold the business to L.J. LaCourt and a man by the name of Rasmussen who bought cream from the farmers in the rural communities round about the village and made butter for a number of years. Since that time the business has had a number of owners and the building added to and improvements made until today Suring has a modern dairy and creamery. Mr. T. H. Pasterski is the present owner.

The Suring Fire

1908 was the year of the big Suring fire which wiped out a considerable part of the south side of main street. It was about 8:00 in the evening of January 30, of that year that fire started from an overheated stove, and broke out in the cigar shop operated by Al Schultz.

The cigar shop was an addition on the east side of the building known as Liberty Hall which had been erected in 1901 by Jim Johnson and Nels Nelson. Liberty Hall, which housed a store on the first floor operated by William Wagner and E.F. Buss, stood where the Farmer’s Store now stands and the cigar shop was located on the present Walter Paulson site. Above the store was a large hall from which the building received its name.

Fire spread rapidly from the burning cigar shop and completely destroyed Liberty Hall as well as William Zingler’s furniture store to the east of it and a store located where the bank now stands.  This store was being operated at the time by Valentine Deeringer and William Thielke. In Connection with the store business, Mr. Thielke was also operating a real estate and insurance office.

To the west of Liberty Hall, and on the present grocery store department site of the Farmer’s Mercantile Company, John Dieck had built a fireproof hardware store. That building, in spite of the fact that the fire ruined it badly, stopped the destructive flames from spreading farther westward along the street.

The residents of the village, outside of the organizing of a bucket brigade, were practically helpless in battling the blaze and flames in their attempt to save the village. A volunteer fire department, with John Dieck as its first chief, had been organized that same year and a pumper had been purchased and was on its way from the factory to the village. But that, however, was of no help to the fire fighters on the evening of January 30, 1908.

After the fire had claimed its share of the building and the debris had been cleared away work was begun on rebuilding the grocery department of the Farmers Mercantile Company. The present building housing the dry goods department of the same company replaced the cigar shop with a fire proof structure known as the Klondike, it now being the Walter Paulson tavern. On the corner of the block the present bank building was erected by William Thielke and in the same year, 1908, he organized and incorporated the Suring State Bank of which he was elected cashier.
 


With the railroad tracks in the foreground, Suring builds rapidly along muddy Main Street. The new telephone polls are seen to the left.

Telephone Service

The first known telephone in this community was in the home of a family by the name of Lord that lived on or near the location of the Elmer Anderson place at Frostville. This was in the year 1898. Anton Averson had the first telephone in the village. This phone was installed in his store building, now the Simon Tavern, in the year 1899. It is believed that the exchange serving those telephones was located at either Gillett or Oconto.

It was about the year 1910 that the Linzy Brook Telephone Company, a stock company, was organized with the first exchange office in the H. H. Boehm; Secretary, Henry Dickie; treasurer Edward Holl; Directors, Fred Schuettpelz, Fred Runge and Peter Ankerson. Telephone service was made available to the residents of the area around Hintz as well as providing Suring and adjacent communities with their first organized local service, for a branch exchange was soon established in the village with the switchboard located in the present control office.

By 1912 a change of company officers including William Zingler as president, John Stengel as secretary, Emil Schuettpelz as treasurer, and Fred Schuettpelz as director had taken place. In that year these new officers sold out their property and interest in the southern part of the area served by the Linzy Brook company to the Gillett Telephone Company and organized the northern part of the area, that in the vicinity of Suring, as the Suring Telephone Company. The central office of the company was then located here with the present telephone building serving as the exchange and switchboard center. Zack Stewart was also elected as a director of the new stock company.

Beatrice and Lillian Aldrich were Suring’s first telephone operators and Gene Wilcox was the company’s first lineman.

The Bell long distance service was soon added to the local facilities and made it possible to place and complete calls to almost every part of the country.

Today Suring has a modern central office and provides prompt and efficient local and long distance communication service with over four hundred telephones to serve. The company is no longer locally owned but is the property of the Commonwealth Telephone Company of Madison, Wisconsin. Walter Krueger of the village is the local exchange manager who keeps the phones in repair and working order. Miss Emma Zahn is the chief operator of the exchange.

The Unsolved Poisoning Case

Suring was not without the element of crime operating within its bounds. Tragedy struck the Nels Nelson family in the village on the afternoon of February 3, 1910 when Hilda, three years of age and Fred, five years of age found a small paper sack containing some chocolate drops and snowballs on the doorstep of their home. Eating the candy the children became suddenly ill. A physician was summoned but in spite of antidotes administered by him Hilda dies in great agony within a short space of three quarters of an hour. Fred was saved from death only by the hardest work on the part of the doctor. Fred now resides on the east edge of the village.

The people of Suring believed at the time that they knew who had committed the diabolical crime but not enough evidence was secured to make any arrests and what seems to have been the perfect crime unsolved down to present day.

About a year prior to the Nelson poisoning case a number of prominent Suring residents had received poison threats in letters found near the post office. Some of the envelopes contained what Doctor Conard pronounced to be strychnine.
 


Suring Main Street during a dry stretch.

Hard Surfaced Street

Through an agreement with the State Highway Commission and the Town Board of How in 1912 a hard surfaced pavement was secured for the main street of the business section of the village. This pavement consisted of a sixteen foot road bed of crushed rock. The business men of the village cooperated in the program of street improvement by extending it to its full width at a total cost to themselves of $1,380.24.

The Village Newspaper

Being confident that Suring and surrounding communities offered great possibilities for supporting a newspaper, Annie O’Donnell Wright as Publisher and Robert H. Wright as Editor, published the first issue of the Oconto County Chronicle on Thursday, May 30, 1912. The printing office was then housed in the August Giese Building which was located on the now vacant corner lot north from the T.H. Pasterski residence. This building was later destroyed by fire. After the publication of the Chronicle for a year or two the Wrights sold out to the Oconto County Reporter and Suring was without a newspaper for a time.

In about 1915 or 1916 Chauncey Hickock opened a new newspaper office in the quarters now occupied by Walter Groninger Auto Sales and published the Suring Sun, a weekly newspaper. However, he later sold his business to J.W. Haughton who operated it until 1917 when it was purchased by Joe Thielke. Mr. Thielke also moved the Sun office from the Groninger building into new quarters located in the present R.M. Stengel store building and later into what is now the warehouse of the Stengel grocery.

In 1924 Gilbert Thielke, a nephew of Joe Thielke, purchased the Sun and published the paper until October 1, 1925 when it was sold to the Comstock Publishing Company, publishers of the Oconto County Reporter, who made it part of the county newspaper.

In addition to printing the paper weekly the Sun Office always made a specialty of fine job printing for the business men of the area.

Beginning with October 15, 1925 issue of the Reporter a Suring Department has continued to occupy an important place in the county newspaper with the latest news items, community happenings and features from the village and surrounding area collected by local correspondents. Mrs. Max Gruber is present local representative of the Oconto paper.
 


Smiley Burnett in Hollywood

Smiley Burnett

Smiley Burnett, who became famous as a Hollywood actor, was at one time a resident of the Suring area. His father, the Rev. G. W. Burnett was a former pastor of the Hickory Church of Christ. Rev. Burnett and his wife exerted great moral and Christian influence throughout this community and were instrumental in the organizing and building of several churches in this section of the county, one of them being at Mountain.
Suring Incorporates as a Village

Becoming An Independant Village

In December 1914 the residents of Suring applied to the Circuit Court of Oconto County for an order of incorporation as a village. Up until this time it had been a part of the town of How. On the 22nd day of the same month and year the court granted the order under direction of W. B. Quinlan, Circuit Judge. The electors accepted and approved the incorporation order on January 19, 1915 and on February 16, of the same year the first village election was held and the following officers were elected to direct the affairs and conduct the business of the new village.

W.J. Thielke, president
Harry Serier, Supervisor
L.J. LaCourt, Clerk
W.F.P. Wagner, Treasurer
A.E. Suring, Justice of the Peace
John F. Schuster, Constable
John Dieck, Trustee
George W. Gisch, Trustee
Wm. Zingler, Trustee
Herman Oestreich, Trustee
C.L. Von Haden, Trustee
O.H. Zahn, Trustee
Robert Yakel, Trustee

In choosing a name for the new town one of the engineers in charge of the construction of the railroad advised Granddad to submit a suggested name in a sealed letter to the proper authorities. After some deliberation he submitted the name “Three Rivers”. This name he chose from the presence of the North Branch, South Branch and Peshtigo Brook which combine just north of the village to make the Oconto River that flows through the village.

In answer to his letter granddad was advised that the name “Suring” had been selected for the new town which he had been instrumental in founding. This surprised and pleased granddad very much.

Suring is a prosperous and thriving little village today with paved streets and walks, modern business places, and comfortable homes. It has an up to date theater, lighted athletic field, three churches and a fine public school system. It is located in the center of a rich agricultural region and serves as a market for all kinds of farm produce. Although there is some industry in the village it offers even greater industrial opportunities and advantages.

Original Brick Suring School.

History of the Suring School

It is not until 1903 that it was thought necessary for Suring to have an educational system of its own. The first meeting of the present school district was held April 20, of that year to elect officers and to procure a suitable site for a school building.  At this meeting over which Christ Daniels presided they choose as school board members Harry B. Smith as Clerk, John Dieck as Treasurer and Cornelius Serier as Director. They also voted to raise $392.00 for maintaining the school. Mr. Dieck served continuously as school treasurer from 1903 until July 1928 when he refused to accept the office again.

Almost immediately a purchase of land was made from Louis Rollman, although through some flaw in the title is was necessary later to make a similar purchase from the farmer owner. A one room, brick schoolhouse was soon erected.

Miss Ella Hanson was the first teacher to take charge in this little brick school house at the then high salary of forty dollars a month. Mr. T.P. Rierdon of Kelly Lake followed Miss Hansen as Suring’s second school teacher and was paid an unusually high wage of forty-five dollars a month. Miss Bell Wright succeeded Mr. Rierdon in the position and was paid thirty five dollars a month for her services.

By 1908 the growth of Suring demanded an addition to the building, so a second story was added. The first teachers to occupy the now, two room school were Kate Taylor as principal and upper grade teacher at a salary of forty five dollars per month and Caroline Krause as lower grade teacher who was paid forty dollars a month.

Later in 1913 the eastern section to the building was added. The larger assembly hall with the science laboratory, the lavatories and the furnace room beneath was built in 1938. At the present time (1950) a gymnasium, shower rooms and two classrooms are under construction.

Suring School, 1909, with the newly built second floor, housed two classrooms, one on each floor.  
Suring School, with new additions
in 1913
Suring School
in the winter of 1950

Until 1916 those wishing to secure a secondary education were forced to attend high school in some neighboring city. In that year the progressive citizens decided to extend the course of study to include the ninth grade, seven pupils taking advantage of this opportunity. By 1920 the high school course was complete with the enrollment of 26. Miss Natalie Boucher was the first principal of the high school.

At the end of the 1920 school year the Suring High School held it’s first graduated exercises which were held in Groninger’s Hall. The following graduated at that time: Harold Buchberger, Wilhelmina Schimmel, Irl Waterman and Edward Zingler.

Since that first graduation in 1920 the high school has continued to grow and progress in its offerings and service to the youth of this community until today it serves and area consisting of five townships in addition to the village of Suring. The present enrollment is 170 students and the faculty consists of 8 teachers. The course of study now includes courses in agriculture, homemaking, and music as well as the regular academic courses which prepare the student for college and university entrance.

The grade school has an enrollment of 79 pupils and a faculty of 3 teachers.

History of the Suring Churches


Methodist Evangelical Church in Suring

First Methodist Church

The oldest church denomination of the village of Suring is the Methodist congregation. This congregation was organized in 1895 in the Joe Armstrong farm home which was located across the road from the Charles P. Schimmel farm, now the Harold Trever place. The charter members of this congregation were Mr. and Mrs. Joe Armstrong, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Armstrong, Miss Anna Menalie, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Dieck, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles P. Schimmel, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Raymond, Mr. and Mrs. H. W. Gilkey and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dowen. The first minister to serve the Methodist people was Rev. E.D. Upson who came from Oneida and held services in the Hayes school house.

The ladies Aid of the church was organized in August of the same year at the Joe Armstrong home. The following officers were chosen at that time to direct the activities of the aid; President, Miss Anna Menalie; Secretary, Mrs. Joe Armstrong; Treasurer, Mrs. Henry Johnson.

In 1903 the present Methodist church was erected and was dedicated in 1904. It is the oldest church building in the village. For several years the congregation was served by ministers who resided in Hickory. In 1923, however, a parsonage was built in town and the church had its first resident pastor, the Rev. John W. Horton who moved here from Hickory. The present pastor of the M.E. Church is Rev. Lloyd Foster who lived in Gillett.
 

St Michael Catholic Church

St. Michael’s Catholic Church

At. Michael’s Catholic Church was incorporated on April 12, 1906 with William Duaine and Valentine Dieringer as the first trustees. The new parish, consisting of 45 families and 120 children, served by father John Loerke of Laona, Wisconsin with services being held in Liberty Hall.

After the Suring fire of 1908 destroyed Liberty Hall the congregation purchased the present village hall, formerly used as a drug store, which served as their church until 1912 when the present edifice was erected.

When St. John’s Catholic Church of Gillett became a resident parish in 1907, St. Michael’s at Suring was made a mission charge and was serviced by St. John’s pastor, Fr. Otto Kolbe. Succeeding pastors serving St. Michael’s include Fr. James H. Schmide, Fr. Theodore S. Kolbe, Fr. Roland Ahearn, Fr. George Weix and Fr. Richard Keller.

On September 3, 1946 St. Michael’s became a resident parish with Rev. Abner Laque as its first pastor. Fr. Laque occupied the upper flat of the Melvin Schuster residence until the new parsonage was completed for occupancy in March 1848. Fr. Laque was succeeded by Fr. Alfred Loehr who served the congregation but a short time, being transferred to Omro where he became that cities first resident priest. The present pastor of St. Michael’s congregation is Fr. M.G. Alt.

Shortly after the incorporation of St. Michael’s parish in 1906, St.  Ann’s Alter Society was organized with Mrs. Anna Ederer Yakel as president. The first church organist was Miss Mayme Stengel, now Mrs. Robert Berg. The present Alter Society officers are Mrs. Fred Heimerman, President, Mrs. Joseph Stengel, Vice President; Mrs. Kenneth Manka, Treasurer; Mrs. Lyle Stengel, Secretary. Mrs. Peter Miller is now St. Michael’s organist.

Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
 


Lutheran Church in Suring, Wisconsin

The Mount Olive Lutheran Congregation was organized on April 3, 1923 at the Henry Jansen apartment over the village drug store. At that time there were 6 voting members in the congregation, namely; Herman Oestreich, Herman Giese, Herman Miller, Paul Jansen, Henry Jansen and Victor Johnson. These members elected the following to direct the affairs of their new church; President, Herman Oestreich; Secretary, Henry Jansen; Treasurer Herman Giese.

The first Lutheran services were conducted in the village hall with Rev. J.H. Nua of Townsend as pastor. In 1925 the church building was erected and rev. H.M. Daenzer became the first resident pastor of the congregation. He resided at the Herman Oestreich home.

In 1926 the Mount Olive Lutheran Ladies Aid was organized with Mrs. John Dieck as president, Mrs. Matt Wagner as secretary, Mrs. Henry Jansen as treasurer. Sometime prior to the organization of the Mount Olive Aid a number of Lutheran ladies organized a society to assist in raising money to build a church and organize a congregation in the village. This first group was served by the following officers, Mrs. William Wagner as president, Mrs. E.F. Buss as vice president and Mrs. William Thielke as secretary/treasurer.

The church parsonage was built in 1929 and at the present time the congregation is making plans to enlarge the church building. Rev. Paul Westmeyer is pastor at this time.


BACK TO THE OCONTO COUNTY HOME PAGE