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Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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 town of Chase, Oconto County, Wisconsin

contributed by descendant: Julius Ryczkowski

Walentz Raczkowski was born in Poland, Jan 1851, coming to America in 1879.  His wife Victoria, also born in Poland,  immigrated in 1880. They were married in the United States in 1881.

The country of Poland had been fractured since the late 1600's and had been divided between Germany, Austria and Russia at the time of his birth. Few Polish citizens could afford to purchase land there and most worked as tenant farmers, paying high rent on the land they tended. These left generation after generation of family members too poor for a descent education or job. In the second half of the 1800's and early 1900's, a wave of Polish immigrants came to America with little or nothing, in hopes of a better future. They were hard working people with strong faith and close family and neighbor ties. Often they settled together, working with each other in building  successful Polish American communities.

According to family oral history,  the Raczkowski couple first settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Walentz  worked in the foundries to save money for a farm. They soon moved to Illinois. While there Walentz forged a blacksmith's anvil,  which was brought to Chase, Wisconsin, in 1890, where they began a homestead on the densely forested land claim. This homestead remains in the family.

Walentz set up a blacksmith shop at his homestead to make tools, repairs and utensils that were desperately needed by the members of the community. All the neighbors had come there with very little, and his work was paid for with produce rather than money. Victoria would bargain with the purchasers, and use what they could for their own growing family. Some was sold outside the community to help with what was needed to develop their own homestead. There was little money exchanged. He forged the spike nails for buildings on his own farm as well as those around him.

Starting with pigs, sheep and poultry, a low log barn was quickly built from trees cut and hewn on the land. When cattle were introduced to the farm, the log barn roof was raised to accommodate the needed height. By 1913 a new dairy barn was also built. The family first lived in a log cabin and this became part of the present modern home as additions were built.

Tour of the Ryczkowski Farm

Special "thank you" to the present private farm owners for kindly offering the energetic tour and information in this posting.

The log cabin is one of the few remaining in the area today.  It closely resembles the first home on the Ryczkowski homestead of 1890. That cabin on the farm was found in the walls of the present day home kitchen when electricity was upgraded for modern use some years ago.

Please click on each image below for a full size view.

The logged homestead land was filled with tree stumps and roots balls that must be removed before it could be used for crops and pasture. By the time the Ryczkowski family had claimed their land, this hand crafted dynamite box was carried out to set loosening charges. The year it was made is carved into the end, 1890.

This anvil was forged by Walentz Raczkowski when he worked in the foundries prior to moving to Wisconsin. He brought it with him and was a blacksmith as well as a farmer in town of Chase, Oconto County.


1890-91 Original Log Barn
on the Ryczkowski Homestead.

The windows were replaced in the early 1900's when the building was moved across the driveway, and metal roofing replaced the original cedar shakes.
Black and white arrows show  the numbers carved in each log before it was disassembled and moved. These were used to reconstruct the barn in it's original form. Note the hand hewn logs are squared using axes and the ends were knotched in a "dove tail" pattern so they would not slip outwardly as the building aged.

Windows (these are early 1900 replacements of the originals) were on the South side to bring in light to work and warmth in winter. 


The north facing side had one entry door, as did the west end.


The roof of the barn was raised a few years after it was first built. The original low roof was supported by the lower row of end timbers. It was originally used for sheep, pigs and poultry. The roof was too low once cattle were added to the farm stock and a second row of end timbers shows the new, higher, roof line. Concrete was used later as chinking between the logs in the reconstruction, after the move. Original chinking was lime mortar.


The white arrows show burn marks on the outside of the logs. Harvested on the farm, this log had been exposed to a forest fire which burned through the bark and scorched the wood. The tree was later cut to use in the barn construction.


The 1891 log barn is still used for shelter of beef cattle and this interior view shows parts of the inside construction features. The floor is hard packed dirt covered with straw, as it was when first  built. Roof timber support beams are "swamp cedar" also known as Tamarack. It was harvested from the wetland in winter so the work could be done on the frozen terrain. The wood is naturally highly resistant to moisture and insect damage. It is very dense wood and hard on cutting equipment. The trees do not grow large and thus make excellent support beams in buildings and fence posts.

A new barn was constructed by Walentz Raczkowski and his son to accommodate the growing dairy industry in the county. The boulders were dug from local quarries left in Oconto County from the last ice age over 10,000 years ago. They were hauled by wagon and set into place, with the flattest side outward, for the foundation. Between these larger stones, field stones were set. Each side had a double wall of stone and concrete made with lime and sand. The windows were set in place during wall construction. Fine "sugar sand" was quarried and hauled in to fill the space between the two stone walls on each side. This sand was insulation. In winter, body heat from the cattle was kept inside the foundation.

The arrow shows the year the new barn was built, 1913. Here you can also see the multicolored boulders and field stone cemented into the outer wall. Wagons were brought right up tight to the quarry walls so that large boulders could be rolled right on the bed. These heavy boulders were then rolled onto the partially finished wall right from the wagon, saving the farmers from having to lift them into place. That accounts for the large boulders used so high in the wall.