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Researched and contributed by Volk descendant: Gayle Volk



By J. Wesley Schaal
(1890 - 1978)

Written December 2, 1971

            My mother, Hannah Maria Volk was born 1850 in Oconto Falls and died in her farm home in Gillett, Wis. 1915.  Her mother lived till 1910, her father having died in a logging accident when she was 14.  She married my father at Gillett in December 1871 and always lived on the same farm till 1915 when they moved across the road to the farm now owned by Marvin Newman.

            My mother was a mild tempered, kind hearted, generous Christian, a hard worker and a true Mother.  I do not recall that she ever punished me but I do remember how so many times during the night she put me back to bed gently tucking me in when I would be walking in my sleep as I so often did.

            As a cook, she was unexcelled. I can still taste the suet puddings, chicken dumplings, black berry pot pies and large thick crusted apple pies etc. If short of bread, she could whip up and bake a mixture of wheat and rye flour the like of which I have never tasted any where else.  Of course she knit our socks and mittens and made many of our clothes and sewed carpet rags by the mile to have carpets woven for the house.

            My father, Ernest Henry Schaal was born in Germany Nov. 15, 1847 and came to America and Wisconsin in 1849.  His parents both died when he was four or five years old and his sisters took care of him till he came to Gillett to replace his elder brother Ferdinand Schaal who had been with the William John family while Mr. John was away in the army during the Civil War.  Ferdinand joined the army late in the war.  The John’s family lived near where the old Whiting cheese factory is located.  From there my Father worked for Rodney Gillett, founder of the City of Gillett, also stayed in their home.  In 1869, he purchased the land where I now live and worked it out ---$300.  for 80 acres.  He was attracted to this particular spot by the beaver marsh across the road that had been formed by the beavers flooding the area over the years.  The beavers dams were very much in evidence in my early life time.  I could still show you where the beavers had strategically located the dams.  Father cut the marsh hay stacked it and sold it to the lumber camps in the winter to feed the oxen used in their logging operations.

            This property is in Section 11, the NE of the SW and the NW of the SE Township 28 Range 18 East.

            Mat Finnegan was Mr. Gillett’s hired man and there my Father met him.  He was cradleling grain and Mr. Gillett took Father out to bind for him.  Mr. Finnegan turned and said “The man never lived that could keep up to me binding”. Father told him to go ahead and he kept up and grabbed the last swath at noon and bound it.  They were friends from then on.  I was shown many times how to make a band from a hand full of sheaf and tie the bundle but I never did learn the simple twist that would stay put in the handling of the bundle afterwards.

            Father had learned to drink while living with a brother in-law as a boy in a distillery.  There was a leaky spigot with a glass under it and they had to drink it to keep it from running over.  When working with a group of men up here, they passed the jug after lunch at noon.  He took a drink and said “Fellows, this is my last and he went to an I.O.G.T---Independent Order of Good Templars meeting that night and signed the pledge and kept it.  He always avoided saloon keepers and often said he would not hitch at their post nor water at their pump.

            As a boy he had never been to church or invited to go but on his own initiative, he went to the little red school house to hear a preacher by the name of Banty who was holding services there and was converted as was Mr. and Mrs. Gillett.

            …. These meeting bringing the preacher along.  My Mother was among the group and at the meeting recited the 13th chapter of First Corinthians.  It was there my Father met her and they were married a couple of years later, December, 1871.  They were at home at Beaver Meadow Farm named because of the beaver marsh.

            Father and Mother helped build the first Methodist Church started through the influence of Rev. Banty and later Hugo Yarwood.  I do not remember Rev. Yarwood but I do remember his widow who out lived him.  The first church was built on the spot where the present Methodist Church now stands, lot donated by Mr. Gillett.  Later it was moved won town to a site east of the bank and was used as a store.  The first church was heated by a large wood stove.  The pulpit was at the south end and the choir east of the pulpit. Back of the church as a long shed where the country folks could shelter their horses while at church. There was room for several rigs.

            Father was a general handy man, could build a stone wall or chimney, do cement work, shoe a horse as well as fit the shoes, do welding, rough carpenter work, handling a saw or hammer with either hand.  He devised many labor saving devices as for example, transmitting power from a tread power in the barn to a line shaft in the creamery that operated the cream separator and churn by means of an endless rope that made a right angle turn.  Incidently, he made and sold creamery butter.  In cool weather it was put up in two pound bricks and in summer in tubs.  Butter was shipped regularly by rail express to E.O. Erickson of Marinette.  Also supplied the N.J. Newald family of Gillett with a 8 pound jar at times.  Put up ice in spring, packed in sawdust for use in cooling cream and butter in summertime.

         The farm that is high ground was literally full of pine stumps left from the earlier logging operations by the big lumber companies.  The big job was to get rid of these stumps.  Dynamite was unknown for farm use so the stumps had to be pulled or burned out.  The latter being almost impossible, Father owned and used what was known as a stump machine.  Where he got it, I do not know.  It consisted of a high three legged tripod arrangement with a large central vertical shaft like screw extending from near the ground to the top and through a large nut like device with a sweep like arrangement reaching near the ground outside the tripod to which a horse was hitched to go round and round and gradually lift the stump out of the ground that had been hitched to the central screw.  The pulled stump had to be hauled away to be burned or lined up to make a stump fence.  The stump machine was equipped with large wooden wheels on two of the legs of the tripod and the third leg with a shoe device, for transporting to the next stump to be pulled. The machine was difficult to move but he did take it one time to Underhill and pulled stumps for Mr. Underhill.  My brother Oscar, 8 years older went along to ride the horse on the sweep.  In later years during my boyhood, dynamite came into common use and then the stumps were split or blew out so we quit using the stump machine and sold it to Louis Dietz who was clearing a farm just east of us.

            About the time of my birth, 1890, Father turned from jobbing and logging to a large degree and concentrated on dairying.  He built one of the first silos in this part of the country, hauled grain to Pulcifer for grinding to feed the cows. In order to better market the products made and sell butter, we always kept hogs, sheep and chickens.  Did the farm work with horses and raised an occasional colt.

            I should add a paragraph concerning the Ernest Schaal Scholars’ Trust Fund set up by Father.  It provided for each of his descendants to receive a total of $600 over a period of 2 years to be used in their college education.  Eugene had the certification of the applicants for the first many years and now Lawrence Schaal has charge of that work.  This financial assistance has benefited many and should continue to be a source of appreciated assistance to Father's descendants. (Important Note: The present status of the scholarship, and who to contact, is not known at the time of this posting. The scholarship part of this Memoir has been posted to honor the spirit of the scholarship, but not to give any present day false information.)

Not copyrighted
December 2, 1971