Transcript Index
Search This Transcript
Go X

ROSSE: (singing) Now sit you down in comfort, and hear what I'll confide, about two towns a growin' up, on a river side by side; They got their names from the Indian, who lived here long ago, to be driven out by the white man, who wanted room to grow.

STANLEY: The growing has been slow and comfortable in the towns we're talking about, the kind of growing that gives you a big easy feeling inside. The Germans have a word for this feeling, a word that rose out of your throat and rubs pleasantly against your tongue-- Gemütlichkeit. You'll find these towns a little south of where the Wisconsin River comes out of the Dells and sneaks around the Baraboo Bluffs out onto the prairie. This is the Prairie of the Sacs, who lived here peacefully with another tribe called the Foxes. They were driven out, but they left the name behind and the towns we are talking about perpetuate two versions of it--Sauk City and Prairie du Sac.


ROSSE: (singing)They got their names from the Indian, who lived here long ago, to be driven out by the white man, who wanted room to grow.

ANNOUNCER: The Wisconsin College of the Air presents a profile of Sauk Prairie, another documentary in the recorded series about Wisconsin people and places. Here is your narrator, Ray Stanley.

STANLEY: To tell the story of Sauk Prairie, the microphone will go figuratively back in time a hundred years and more. We selected a few episodes from Sauk Prairie's well-seasoned history, and we have taken a bit of so-called poetic license to bring to an audible life some of the people from these episodes. They will tell their stories as they might have told them had radio existed in their day. This technique will be supplemented by Ben Rosse, ballad singer, who will tell the story in the manner of the old river men.

ROSSE: (singing) Way back in 1832, on a dark and rainy day, Chief Black 2:00Hawk fought a losing fight, for the land, where he couldn't stay; they fought on a woody hilltop, where the warriors took their stand, to keep a thousand soldiers, from catching Black Hawk's band.

STANLEY: Along Highway 12, a mile south of Sauk Prairie, there is a sign bearing this inscription: "On the wooded hills southwest of this site, a force of about a thousand troops led by General J. D. Henry and Colonel Henry Lodge overtook Black Hawk and his band of Sauk and Foxes during a rain storm on the late afternoon of July 21, 1832. Black Hawk, with about fifty warriors, fought a holding action on the top of a hill to allow the rest of his band to get across the Wisconsin just beyond. That night after 3:00the battle, an attempted surrender failed because of the inopportune departure of the Indian interpreters. The war ended twelve days later at the Battle of the Bad Ax on the Mississippi, where the Indians were all but wiped out." That was the last serious Indian trouble in the Sauk-Prairie area. The Winnebagos occupied the territory for some time after Black Hawk's defeat, but in 1837, they signed a treaty leaving the land in the hands of the eager pioneers. To meet some of these pioneers, let's go to the site of the Sauk City Bowling Alley. Will you give us your name please?

HANEY: Haney, Barry Haney.

STANLEY: And could you tell us what this is you are building here?

HANEY: This is a dugout. We dig down about four feet and put on a few feet of wall over that, and 4:00then a roof of something that won't burn very easy and will keep the rain out, or most of the rain anyway.

STANLEY: Could you tell us the names of some of the people that are working here with you?

HANEY: Well, this first one here is James Emsinger and down at the end there is Tom Sanser.

STANLEY: What is the reason for building this dugout?

HANEY: Oh, that is in case of Indian trouble, of course. They say the Indians don't like us over on this side of the river, and well, I really don't expect much trouble, the treaty has been signed and I don't think the Winnebagos want to stir things up much. But it is always best to play safe just in case, you know. Mm hmm.

STANLEY: Yeah. And this is the first dwelling place built on Sauk Prairie, isn't it?

HANEY: That's right. We're the first ones to settle here, and we haven't built any houses yet. No women here yet, you see. We've got a lot of other things to do and we can get along with this for a while.

STANLEY: Tell me, Mr. Haney, isn't it?

HANEY: That's right.

STANLEY: How did you happen to pick this part of the country to settle in?


HANEY: Well, I've had my eye on the prairie quite a while now. I used to run a stagecoach route between Mineral Point and Fort Winnebago, so I have been up this way before. The land office is up there at Mineral Point, you know, and soon as I heard about the treaty, I just decided to stake me a claim.

ROSSE: (singing) A man named Barry Haney, drove a stagecoach up this way, and said to himself when he saw the place, I'll settle here someday. He brought a pick and shovel, and built a dwelling place, to keep him dry and keep him safe from Indians he might face.

STANLEY: Up to about twenty years ago, you could still see traces of the dugout built by Barry Haney and his friends in 1838. The site is now covered by bowling alleys. The dugout never had to do anything but keep 6:00out unwanted weather. The Indians caused no trouble. Neither did the pioneers at first. James S. Alban came equipped with a family, the first family to settle in the area. An ambitious fellow named David Crocker came and platted out the village of Prairie du Sac, but very few people came to settle there. The man who was still in Europe when Barry Haney staked his claim arrived in 1841 to set the colony in motion. Could we have your name sir?

HARASZTHY: Count Agoston Haraszthy, born in the comitat of Békés in Hungary, former member of the Emperor Ferdinand bodyguard, and later private secretary to the Hungarian viceroy. I came here to establish a city, the city shall be called Haraszthy. Is that all?

STANLEY: Why yes, unless you care to say something about your reasons for leaving Hungary.

HARASZTHY: By my own design, I became associated with the liberal movement, which is currently in the uncomfortable bad graces of 7:00Metternich.

STANLEY: I see. And how about your reasons for choosing this particular part of America?

HARASZTHY: Well, I originally planned to settle in Florida, but I redirected my energies after careful consideration of a diary, a diary written by Captain Fred Marryat during his travels in this part of the country. Another factor was the gentleman I met aboard ship, Mr. Adolph Rendtorff, from Germany, on his way to join a brother in Illinois. The Rendtorffs, as you probably know, planned to join me here in Haraszthy.

STANLEY: Do you have any definite ideas yet as to what you plan to do once you have settled down here?

HARASZTHY: Oh, I have innumerable ideas, all of them quite definite, any one of which I might choose. No, the important matter is to get other people to settle here. Once enough people are here, any pursuit is likely 8:00to be successful.

ROSSE: (singing) The Count was a handsome fellow from far off Hungary, with a big red sash and a stove pipe hat, an amazing sight to see. An amazing sight to see, an amazing sight to see; an amazing sight was he, an amazing sight to see.

STANLEY: And he made an amazing transformation in Sauk Prairie. He tried everything. He ran a store, he made bricks, he ran a ferry and a steamboat, and some say he also planted the first field of hops on the prairie. He gave his own name to the village that eventually became Sauk City. His enterprise attracted settlers. The Rentdorffs, whom he had met aboard ship, came to form the nucleus of a German colony, and the Yankees came to establish themselves in Prairie du Sac, on the land platted by David Crocker. The towns grew in a thin line along the Wisconsin River, and they grew together on the 9:00map, but not in the hearts of the people. To learn one of the reasons for this division, let's talk to one of the early settlers of Prairie du Sac.

[sound of hammering on anvil]

STANLEY: We are now in a blacksmith shop belonging to David Meyers. Would you tell us, Mr. Meyers, what it is you are making here now?

MEYERS: These are all horseshoes. Our business is practically all horseshoes. Some scrap iron for wagons and things, but mostly horseshoes.

STANLEY: We have been told by several people here that you set some sort of a record in horseshoe making. Would you care to tell us about that?

MEYERS: It's not hard to make lots of horseshoes when you know you can sell them all.

STANLEY: That record involves both making the shoes and putting them on the horses, doesn't it?

MEYERS: No, not at once, not on the same day. That would be pretty much in one day, both forging and setting. You can't do that on one day.

STANLEY: How many shoes did 10:00you make the day you set the record?

MEYERS: Uh, hundred.

STANLEY: And another day you shoed a hundred horses, is that right?

MEYERS: No, oh no, not a hundred horses. You couldn't shoe a hundred horses in one day. That's a lot of horses in one day.

STANLEY: It was resetting then?

MEYERS: It was twenty-five, twenty-five horses in one day. Yeh, that was resetting. That's different than putting them on for the first time, you see. And you don't have so many hoofs to cut, and the horses are generally tamer. And that was twenty-five horses in one day, the record. Resetting a hundred shoes, twenty-five horses, four legs--

STANLEY: I see. I get it, uh huh. Now let's talk a little about your coming to Prairie du Sac. Where are you from originally?

MEYERS: New York. Was Born in New York in 1822, Otsego County, New York.

STANLEY: And why did you come here?

MEYERS: That was in 1845, I came here.

STANLEY: Did you come here directly from New York?

MEYERS: No, no. I was down in Madison for a couple of years first, and then I came up here.


STANLEY: How did you happen to choose Prairie du Sac? For instance, why didn't you go to Haraszthy instead?

MEYERS: Well, they're a bunch of foreigners down there, mostly Germans, and they don't speak my language. Most of the people up here are from back East. I knew they were here and that's why I came up. They speak my language here. There's the churches, too. In Prairie du Sac were mostly protestant, and down there, you see, it is nearly all Catholic.

ROSSE: (singing) To one town went the people, who came from Germany. The Yankees found another place where they would rather be. They went to different churches and spoke with different sounds, so they couldn't get together on the way to run a town.

STANLEY: The Germans wrote to their fatherland, persuading friends and relatives to come, and the Yankees did the same to the friends and relatives back East. And each newcomer settled down with his own kind. That's man's way. The years had a tendency to wear such differences down and the two towns might 12:00have been one by now, except for a squabble in 1844 over the location for a county seat. For the details of that incident let's go back to Count Agoston Haraszthy.

HARASZTHY: Well, the affair is of no consequence to me, I assure you. But if you want the facts, I can quite easily supply them. Now what is it you would like to know?

STANLEY: Well, we'd like you describe a clause in a certain deed, which we understand was the beginning of discord.

HARASZTHY: Well, that, of course, was not the beginning. This county had for some years been attached to Dane County, when a few ambitious individuals petitioned the legislature for county status. The legislature assented, established a commission to select a county seat, and the commission put the matter on a competitive basis. This was the beginning of the dissention.


STANLEY: Would you care to tell us how you became involved in this competition?

HARASZTHY: Well, I became involved only because the villagers of Haraszthy involved themselves and demanded my leadership. The matter, as I've said before, was, well, trivial, and consequently of no importance to me personally.

STANLEY: I take it, then, that you would prefer not to discuss the matter?

HARASZTHY: I have discussed the affair, if you so desire. The commission, as I stated, announced a competition. The heritage of the county seat was to go to whichever of our villages made the richest offering on the altar of government. Well, we in Haraszthy offered a substantial house, which I myself had constructed. People of Prairie du Sac offered a few squares of land, which presumably valued greater. The deed--or rather, the deeds about which you have quizzed me pertain to this property. Now, 14:00the disputed clause required that the property revert to the original owners, to the original owners you see, if the county seat should move elsewhere. This appeared as trickery to interested persons in Haraszthy and at Baraboo, and in their combined angers they succeeded in having the county seat moved to Baraboo. Is there anything else you wish me to discuss?

STANLEY: We had hoped that you would tell us about your expedition into the interior of the county to explore other possible sites for the county.

HARASZTHY: I would prefer to consider that expedition merely a most unfortunate hunt, during which we bagged very little. You see, I only went along for the adventure. The establishment of the county seat at Baraboo was to me, at that time, a foregone conclusion.

STANLEY: Is it true that during that trip you were so hungry that you were even considering 15:00eating you dog?

HARASZTHY: My companions were considering it but, well, my own hunger had not reached such proportions. I then obliged the empty stomachs by shooting down the only deer we encountered on the entire preposterous trip. And in reference again to the county seat, it was brought to a vote and Baraboo was chosen. The end of the story so far as I am concerned.

ROSSE: (singing) Two towns along the river both wanted the county seat. It was to go to the one with an offer that the other couldn't meet. But the offers led to trouble and the voters had their say. The seat went up to Baraboo but the river's here to stay.

STANLEY: The river's here to stay, but its influence has changed. The river no longer carries cargo and passengers to and from the cities of Sauk Prairie. The rugged river men are gone. Only a few of their ballads remain and a few towns that show their influence. Such towns are Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, built 16:00along the river as if restrained by an insurmountable wall. But it wasn't restraint; it was attraction. They grew along the river when the river was an artery of commerce. Let's go back to the days of river trade now, and meet one of the men who brought color and sometimes a little discomfort to the citizens of Sauk Prairie.

ROSSE: (singing) My name is Buckskin Brown and the river is my home. I'll steer a raft wherever the river lets me roam. Three big meals along the way, and a drink or two at night, is all I need from day to day to keep my spirits right.

STANLEY: I wonder, Mr. Brown, if you could tell us something about this raft you are steering down the Wisconsin?

BROWN: Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown. Hm, that's the first time anybody ever called me Mr. Brown. Why don't you 17:00call me Buckskin. I think Mr. Brown is liable to make me nervous, mister.

STANLEY: O.K. Buckskin. But that isn't your real name is it? What's the name your mother gave you?

BROWN: Oh well, you know, I don't hear that much oftener than I do Mr. Brown, mister. If you really care to know, it's, well, it's Christian, Christian Brown.

STANLEY: How did you happen to get the name Buckskin?

BROWN: Just named after something the war [unintelliglble]. I got me a deer up here one time and got a feller in Fort Winnebago to make a jacket. Wore it till it wore out, wore it so much they started calling me after it.

STANLEY: Well now, how about rafting? How do you make a raft?


BROWN: Make a raft? Well, that's rafting in, we call it. You make 'em up in cribs around maybe sixteen foot square and eighteen inch deep. You latch the logs together with three grub plank and three with, three witch plank and nine grubs. There you got your crib. You make a raft six cribs long and two cribs wide and there you got your raft. Nothing to it.

STANLEY: Now where you going with the raft you're on now?

BROWN: This one is just going to Prairie du Chien. Ordinarily I just work the ones going all the way down, 'cause my home's New Orleans. This one's all done when 19:00she hits Mississippi.

STANLEY: You sell the raft when you get to the end of the line, don't you?

BROWN: Oh, yeah. We sell the raft and we sell the cargo. Sell the whole works and get paid off.

STANLEY: By the way, what is your cargo this trip?

BROWN: Nothing but shingles this trip. Shingles for the shacks in Prairie du Chien. Mister, we got just as many shingles as we had yesterday.

STANLEY: Is that unusual?

BROWN: Oh, yeah. It is today. [laughs] We mighty near sold a bale last night in Sauk City. [laughs] We were hankering for a little drink last night, see. We didn't have no money, and we got paid off on only one end of the line, you see. This was the wrong end. Well, anyhow, we took this bale of shingles into this tavern to trade it in for some drinks, and the feller said 20:00"Sure, sure I can spare you one drink each for that." I said "Did you say one drink?" and he said "Right, one drink each, and would you mind tossing the shingles out in the back yard, see?" [laughs] Well, mister, we tossed those shingles out and we each got us a drink. There was only three of us. One each, one drink each. You see, that left us wantin' a little more. The feller said, "Sure, sure, another bale, another drink." By this time I was just thinkin', mister, you ain't fixin' to have things your way. I said, "I'm goin' for another bale," but I didn't go back to the raft. I went to the back yard and got me that same old bale, you see, and he said toss it back out with the other one. And mister, we tossed that poor old bale out there eleven times. And when we left 21:00there we took the bale with us. And I'm settin' on it hard right now. [laughs]

ROSSE: (singing) Three big meals along the way, and a drink or two at night; That's all I need from day to day to keep my spirits right.

STANLEY: To the grown-ups on Sauk Prairie, the river was mostly a utility, a commercial contact with the outside world. But to small boys it was high adventure.

ROSSE: (singing) I rafted in at Portage, and I stopped at Prairie du Sac; I'm heading down to New Orleans and I'll take a steamboat back.

STANLEY: It's summertime and school is out, and you feel like being along for a change, for a little serious fishing and a lot of serious ten-year-old thinking. You bait the hook, you drop it into the Wisconsin, you watch the cork a minute, but it doesn't move so you're off on your travels. A raft comes down the river. She's the biggest raft you ever saw with big, tough and happy men aboard with their songs and all their 22:00beautiful, powerful curses that roll out across the water and into your heart. And you memorize them. You let one slip once at home, and you were confronted with a bar of soap, and since then you use them only on a few selected playmates, and sometimes on the trees back by the marshes. You waved to the men on the raft and they waved back, and you rip off your shoes and coat and swim out to join them, and away you go to Prairie du Chien, St. Louis and New Orleans. Then you are brought suddenly back to Sauk Prairie by a real raft with real men. It's coming into sight around the bend. The raft isn't as big as the one you travelled on, the men aren't singing, not even cussing like someone you heard before. But your imagination is all stirred up and you get to your feet when the raft is in the channel nearby, you wave desperately. He sees you, the man at the steering sweep, and he's going to answer:

RIVER MAN: Howdy shortypants! How's fishin'?


STANLEY: It hits you like a slap in the face, the kind where you suck your tongue afterwards to see if the blood is coming.

RIVER MAN: You got a sister, shortypants?

STANLEY: And you turn and run, to use up the kind of energy that brings tears. And you go to the trees by the marsh and spend all the cuss words you've learned, and then you go home to start a campaign for the longest pair of trousers your legs can fill.

ROSSE: (singing) I rafted in at Portage, and I stopped at Prairie du Sac. I'm heading down to New Orleans and I'll take a steamboat back. My name is Buckskin Brown and the river is my home. I'll steer a raft wherever the river lets me roam.

STANLEY: The river men sang mostly of themselves. Occasionally in their songs, they told stories of river towns, but seldom did their songs go back beyond the towns to tell of people who made their livings in the soil. It was a rare occasion when the land fever 24:00infected a river man with visions of huge profit.

ROSSE: (singing) His name was Jonathan Wood, at rafting in he was good; but he once went ashore down in Prairie du Sac, he there got hop happy and never got back. He stuck some poles in the ground and planted hops all around. He picked 'em and cured 'em and tromped them in bails, and went around bragging of dollars and sales.

STANLEY: And he has a right to brag, my friend, for this is the day of an agricultural bonanza. Look to the hop yards of Sauk Prairie for a fortune in the soil. For one summer's work, a mansion to live in and a trip to Europe.

[sounds of men working]

STANLEY: We're speaking to you now from the hop yards of Mr. Jesse Coddington about one mile west of the Sauk Villages. Mr. Coddington, would you 25:00describe to us what you are doing in the buildings here in front of us?

CODDINGTON: We're curing the hops. This over here is the kiln. You have to put them in a kiln first.

STANLEY: The kiln is what, the kiln is about 20x20?

CODDINGTON: Well, that's about--I think more like 24 long. 20x24. And eighteen high. That's including the vent on top.

STANLEY: It's a very strong smell. That's sulphur isn't it?

CODDINGTON: Sulphur, yes. We burn sulphur in a stove in the kiln. That's to color the hops. They stay in there about a day, and they go over here in the hop house. Then they cure until they are ready to bail.

STANLEY: How long do they require for curing?

CODDINGTON: About two weeks is enough for curing. Then you have to wait for a damp day that makes 'em soft so they won't drop lupulin when you bail them.

STANLEY: The lup--what was that word?

CODDINGTON: Lupulin. That's the gold colored stuff. It's truly the most important part of the plant. That's what the brewers use. You wanted to talk 26:00with some pickers. There's a few of them in with this load. Want me to call one over? Hey, Minnie! They come in with the wagon when there aren't any more poles to pick in the yard they've been working. Then they go out with the wagon to another yard. This is Minnie--don't even know what your last name is myself.

STANLEY: Well, we'd just like to talk with you a little bit about picking hops and where you are from and so on. First of all, Minnie, may we have your name?

MINNIE: Minnie.

STANLEY: Minnie--?

MINNIE: Uh huh.

STANLEY: Well, where do you live, Minnie?

MINNIE: Over there.

STANLEY: Oh, yes, that's the pickers' camp, isn't it, but what I mean is where is your home? I mean where do you live while you are not picking hops?

MINNIE: Mineral Point.

STANLEY: I see. And how did it happen that you came up here?

MINNIE: To pick hops.


STANLEY: Do you like picking hops?

MINNIE: Uh huh.

STANLEY: Well, tell us something about the process. How do you go about it?


STANLEY: I mean, how do you pick hops?

MINNIE: You just pick 'em and put 'em in boxes.

STANLEY: I see. Then what do you do with the boxes?

MINNIE: Fill 'em with hops.

STANLEY: Is it hard work?

MINNIE: Uh huh.

STANLEY: Well, how many boxes can you pick in a day? Ah, five fingers, I see, five. Is that right? How much do you get for a box?

MINNIE: Sixteen cents.

STANLEY: Sixteen cents. Minnie, what do you do at home in Mineral Point?

MINNIE: Nothing.

STANLEY: Do you go to school?

MINNIE: Uh uh.

STANLEY: Well, do you work then?

MINNIE: Uh huh.


STANLEY: What kind of work?

MINNIE: Eh, everything.

STANLEY: What does your father do?

MINNIE: I don't know. Never seen him.

STANLEY: Never seen him? I see. Well, how did you get up here to Sauk City from Mineral Point?

MINNIE: Walked.

STANLEY: Walked! Why, that must be fifty miles or so. How come you didn't take a coach?

MINNIE: My old man wouldn't give me any money.

STANLEY: Your old--oh, you mean your father?

MINNIE: No, my husband.

STANLEY: You're married? Well, what--

MINNIE: He mines lead. He's lead all over, lead in his pockets, lead in his feet, lead in his head--

STANLEY: Yes, all right, thank you Minnie. I see some more pickers are coming in now and I'd like to--

MINNIE: He's nothing but lead. He could come and grow hops and make some money, but no, he's just got to keep on mining lead, that's all.

ROSSE: (singing) September ripened the hops, and brought some fabulous crops, but hops must be picked e'er so gently by hand; so the pickers came in from all over the 29:00land.

STANLEY: But it is expensive business, bringing in pickers. You've got to send out a man to recruit them, and then you have to build barracks and put up tents for them to live in, and you've got to feed them; feed them better than your neighbor or they will go to work for him. And you've even got to put on dances for these pickers on Saturday nights. All that for a job that lasts only a few weeks. There must be a better way if you only had a machine.

[sounds of machine shop]

KELLY: Sam, the eccentric part is busted. Got to run it up to Mauston. Ain't a man here in Sauk Prairie can fix it. This would have to happen just when--there we are--that's that. The old eccentric part was made to stay put. Well, what can I do for you sir?

STANLEY: Well, first of all, could we have your name?

KELLY: Kelly sir, Hugh Kelly.

STANLEY: And you're the inventor of this machine?

KELLY: No sir, it was invented by a fellow named John Dean. I'm 30:00just the engineer. I did most of the construction, though. Now I'm helping with the demonstration.

STANLEY: Well, this machine is supposed to eliminate hop pickers? Is that right?

KELLY: Well, you see, it's not only the pickers. This machine will eliminate practically the whole curing process that's in use now. With this machine you don't need a kiln, hop house, bailer, or anything. It cures the hops and bails them, and all you need is a couple of men to run it, and some women to run along behind, tying the bails.

STANLEY: Well, that should look pretty good to the growers here at Sauk Prairie. I wonder if we could get a description of it, of the various parts and what they are for. This long arm like a steam shovel, I imagine that is what does the picking.

KELLY: Yeah, that's right sir. The shovel, or the hood as we call it, has eighty-four steel fingers. It goes up one side of the pole and down the other. Strips off everything. It is all dumped into the pipe there with a blower in it, and the leaves are all blown out. The hops go down into the drum underneath. The drum is 31:00heated, dries them a little, and they go from there to the sulphur drum for coloring. Back of the sulphur drum here is the bailer.

STANLEY: Oh, yeah, I see.

KELLY: Even puts bails in a sack. About the only thing it doesn't do is sew up the bail, but then the women can do that.

STANLEY: Well, do you expect this machine to completely revolutionize the hop industry in Sauk County?

KELLY: I expect it will if we ever get that eccentric part fixed, and if nothing else goes wrong. Can't see how it can miss if nothing else goes wrong.

ROSSE: (singing) September ripened the hops, and brought some fabulous crops, but hops must be picked e'er so gently by hand, so the pickers came in from all over the land.

STANLEY: After the machine comes the same song as before. The pickers continued to come in and most of them never saw the machine. The broken part was fixed and the monster managed to devour six acres of hops, but after 32:00that it was never used except to scoop some carp and bullheads out of the pond, where they were trapped when the river receded. But never since then has a machine been built to do half as much to a hop as the contraption that invaded Sauk County in 1867.

ROSSE: (singing) The hop yards grew every year, the owners had nothing to fear. Buyers were fighting for the price they would bring, and hop yards and riches all meant the same thing. [sounds of a tavern]

FARMER: [laughs] Riches! That's nothing. Thousands of riches! A million dollars riches. Dollars. [laughs] Throw them away! Burn them up!

STANLEY: You used to be an ordinary farmer with a few cows and some horses on a pleasant farm on Sauk Prairie.

FARMER: Oh, burn them up! Hops is the way to farm. Makes lots of money 33:00and somebody else does the work! [laughs]

STANLEY: You never cared about hops before. The old German down the road had a little hop yard, but he wasn't making much on it and you sort of laughed at him.

FARMER: A thousand dollars an acre. A thousand dollars an acre! Twenty-six acres, twenty-six thousand dollars! [laughs] All kinds of dollars! Throw them away! Burn them up!

STANLEY: It's like the Wisconsin River turning to gold overnight. The lice devastated the eastern hop yards, and by chance you have found yourself in the only other area in America where hop culture was practiced to any extent.

FARMER: Twenty-six acres this year, a hundred and twenty-six next year. [laughs] A hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars. [laughs]


STANLEY: The prices went screaming upward, ten cents a pound a few years ago, now fifty-five and sixty, even seventy. Next year a dollar, maybe more. Who knows?

ROSSE: (singing) Who knows the turns in the road, for crops that haven't been sowed? Nature has ways that men don't understand, and you gamble each dollar you sink in the land.

[sound of sawing wood]

STANLEY: May we have your name, please?

MILLER: George Miller.

STANLEY: This building you've almost torn down, this was a hop kiln, wasn't it?

MILLER: Yeah, it was. It's firewood now. Saw it up in little pieces and burn the hell out of it.

STANLEY: You are through growing hops?


MILLER: Through for good.

STANLEY: How many acres did you have this year?

MILLER: One hundred twenty-six. Last year I made 26,000 dollars on twenty-six acres, and this year I lost money on one hundred twenty-six.

STANLEY: I see, and what do you think was the reason for the failure?

MILLER: I think it was on account of the lice, of course. The lice got 'em. The lice ate the crop out east too, you know, a few years back. That's why we made so good the last couple of years. They didn't have no crop out east, but now they're growing them out east again now. They got rid of the lice and they are close to the market. They 36:00flooded the market this year.

STANLEY: How much were you getting for hops toward the end of the season this year?

MILLER: Oh, I could have got three, four, five cents a pound if I sold them. I left most of them on the poles. Can't even pick them for that price.

STANLEY: Well, do you expect to go back to general farming now?

MILLER: I reckon so, It'll never be the same though, once you've had money. If a fellow only kept it once he made it. [sigh] But you never know. You never know.


ROSSE: (singing) Who knows the turns in the road, for crops that haven't been sowed? Nature has ways that men don't understand; and you gamble every dollar you stick in the land.

STANLEY: The hop growing years were Sauk Prairie's golden era. It began its phenomenal upsurge in 1865, and in two years the Sauk County hop yards were providing one-fourth of Wisconsin's total crop, and one-fifth of the nation's crop. Hop growing was a two million dollar industry for Sauk County in 1867. In 1868 the lice hit Wisconsin's crop, and the eastern growers got back into business. And by 1870 the era was ended.

ROSSE: (singing) You can have your farmin' if you can make it pay, but don't give me no argument on what I've got to say. The river keeps on flowing, I always know it's there; I know just where it's leading me, but it doesn't let me care.


STANLEY: By the beginning of the twentieth century, river men were gone from the Wisconsin, but the river was destined to do far more work than it ever had as a travel route. A power dam was constructed near Prairie du Sac in 1914, and now the energy of the river is carried beyond the boundaries of the prairie by the Wisconsin Power and Light Company. The power dam is the largest industrial project on the prairie, and strangely enough, it provides the greatest obstacle to complete consolidation of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac. Earlier on the program, we spoke of languages and religious differences between the two towns, and of the squabble over the county seat, which drew them farther apart. But these factors are no longer of any consequence. The obstacle now is the tax difference resulting from the dam, which is almost entirely in the Prairie du Sac school district. The dam nets Prairie du Sac $18,000 in tax money, while Sauk City only 39:00gets $500. That's a tax advantage that no community would willingly surrender, and Prairie du Sac would have to do just that if it became one with Sauk City. The only material advantage the two towns share equally as a result of the dam is a golf course on Wisconsin Power and Light property. The course was started by John Radland, district manager for the Power Company, and it's open to any member of the community. There's another important factor in the community life of Sauk Prairie, not as tangible as hop yards or power dams, but equally as important--perhaps more so. Its beginning dates back to almost the earliest German settlers, and its influence has continued through most of the episodes included on this program.

ROSSE: One time when I was hungry, I heard a feller tell, that he was going to Freie Gemeinde and he liked it pretty well. I followed him to the meetin', to see what he would fry, but all he did was chew 40:00the fat, and I thought that I would die.

STANLEY: It is perhaps crowding the point a bit to suggest that a river man ever got involved with the Freie Gemeinde. But we can safely imagine that if he had heard the term, it would have sounded to him like something to eat. The Freie Gemeinde, or "Freethinker Society," stems from the humanist movement at the University of Prague. German settlers brought the philosophy with them to Sauk Prairie about 1850. The freethinkers had a reputation for being atheists, but it's doubtful if many of them actually were. They merely refused to adhere to any established religious dogma. They were characterized by intellectual curiosity, and there lies the basis of the Freethinker Society's contribution to community life. They brought to Sauk-Prairie outstanding speakers from all over the world. From Europe came 41:00Eberhart Faber, industrialist; the explorer, Gerald Rolfs; the German-American poet, Conrad Neis; Dr. Eugene Cunneman, a German exchange Professor from Harvard. From the nearby University of Wisconsin came such provocative speakers as Dr. Edwin Prochorscht, A.R. Hohlfeld and Professor Max Otto. The stimulation provided by such speakers went far beyond the membership of the Freethinker Society and it deserves at least a part of the credit for the fact that no less than eight writers have come out of Sauk-Prairie and three of them held Guggenheim Fellowships. One of the Guggenheim Fellowships went to August Derleth, Wisconsin's most prolific writer who lives in Sauk City and writes about Sauk City people. Although their intellectual influence remains, the free thinkers have declined during the past fifty years, partly perhaps as improved transportation has made it easier for people to satisfy their cultural appetites 42:00in larger cities. Perhaps Sauk City and Prairie du Sac face a similar decline, for their economy is definitely rural. They have little Industry beyond a few agricultural processing plants. Rural communities all over America are suffering from the migration toward industrial centers, and from transportation improvements which have eliminated the need for shopping facilities at every crossroads. But from that same outside world to which the young people of so many rural communities are turning comes an Influence that may preserve the towns on Sauk-Prairie, an influence described now by August Derleth.

DERLETH: Sauk City will not shrink, neither will Prairie du Sac because both towns are too close to Madison, They become an ideal site for residences, for people who work in Madison and many people now, there are carloads of people, travel from here to work in Madison. They live here. And we find a growing tendency of 43:00people to get away from such urban centers and come up and live in a small town not too far from everything and yet not so close that at any year they might be absorbed into the urban center. But if it were not for that, and if it were not for the fact that the atomic bomb, threatening atomic warfare, and particularly warfare directed at urban centers you see, has a tendency to influence people's thinking as to where they shall live, if it were not for those factors, I would say that this town like any other would tend to shrink.

STANLEY: And with that glance into the future by August Derleth, we conclude our profile of Sauk Prairie, a profile constructed from a few episodes designed to bring you the historical flavor of one of Wisconsin's oldest small communities.

ROSSE: (singing) Now sit you down in comfort and hear what I'll confide, about two 44:00towns a-growin' up, on a river side by side. They got their names from the Indians, who lived here long ago; to be driven out by the white man, who wanted room to grow.

ANNOUNCER: The profile of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac was produced by Carl Schmidt, narrated by Ray Stanley and written by Les Nelson. The ballad singer was Ben Rosse, accompanied on the guitar by Cal Meyer. Sound by Tom Dugan. The roles from history were acted by Cliff Roberts, Myron Curry, Carol Kohn, Carl Schmidt, Ken Ohst, Norman Burnhauer and Ray Stanley. The on-the-spot reporter was Bill Harley. This program is one in a series entitled "Wisconsin Profiles," a recorded presentation of the Wisconsin College of the Air. [music]