Home 
 Top 
Search

EGC-BIO-004 Elmer Culver First Biography

 

Boy Hood days

I spent the first three years of my boyhood days in a small frame house located in upper Wyoming Valley located on highway 23 midway between Spring Green & Dodgeville in Iowa County Wis. There was a saw mill near the the house and I can remember the noise the saw mill made in cutting the logs into lumber. From here we moved to New Helena located to the right of Hwy 14. The house was located near the rail road and this was my first view of a train. I can remember well of a Mr. Dave Farris living neard and he kept a cow and each night I was there when he milked the cow and he would give me a glass of milk. Naturally I thought a great deal of this man.

From Here we were moved to a frame house located near Clyde and county trunk C. This place was called Butterfield. There was an open well here with a rope windlas operated by a rope and a handle that as you turned the handle the rope would wind around a small log and bring up a pail of water. There was a large rock at the bottom that by using a rope we could let down a pail containing milk or butter to keep cool. We were moved here from Helena near Arena by a Wm. Campbell with a pair of mules. I rode on the back of one of the mules. My wife remembers this place as a few years ago we were picking black berries here and she got mixed up with some yellow jacket bees. She was stung several times.

Then when I was six we moved East a few miles on county trunk c to a log house. Here we had to carry water from a spring about a quarter mile away. One evening as I went to the spring to get a pail of water I heard a panther scream and our dog ran for the house. I was close behind and there was no water that night. The dog crawled under the bed and just growled. We often heard a panther scream and it is a hair raising scream. A neighbor gave me a small pig and I pulled weeds from our garden to feed the pig. I also had a small patch of corn, that I fed the pig in the autumn. During the winter the pig was taken to market in Spring Green and the procedes bought [illeg.] and buck wheat for pan cakes. It was here that I saw my first turtle. I ran to the house to tell my mother I saw something that carried its house with it and if you got close, it would go ito its house. Well my mother had to go see this, and she laughed and and said it was a turtle.

We mostley lived on fish and small [illeg.] such as rabbits and squirels. We were only a short distance from the Wis. river. In the fall of the year we ocasionally had venison. For cooking and heating we used wood. Here we lived for two years. Then again we moved to another log house on Snead Creek near a family of Henry Crooks. Now we had a cow and some Chickens. A neighbor let us pasture the cow in one of his pastures and I carried water to the cow. We had a pump here. My mother had an organ which she used to play. She played many church songs. But her favorite song was where the River Shanon flows. Here we lived for two years.

We again moved to a frame house in upper Wyoming Valley near a family of Joiners. This was a large house with fire places and shutters on the windows. This was by far the best house we had lived in. It took a great deal of wood to heat it. We lived here one year and again moved to a small frame house on top of a high hill near where the House on the Rock is located. This was a poorly built house. Two bed rooms a kitching and living room combined. Our water supply was a spring at the bottom of a high hill. In winter we had ice and snow conditions to contend with. Then in summer we had to be on watch for rattle snakes. We had three miles to school. It was here that my mother passed away. This was the sadest time of my life. My youngest brother was Adrian went to stay with a family of Pecks. My brother Raymond stayed at Henry Levakes. I went to stay at Henry Crooks. I stayed here one year. I then went to stay with John Farris. He was a farmer, traper, & hunter. This was the hardest work of my young life. I would be up at 5:30 in the morning to milk and do chores then run three miles to school. In the fall it was hunting and traping. At seven we would go Racoon hunting with the two hounds over the hills and through the brush until one thirty and carry three or four Racoons home. This would go on for six weeks. Then at 5:30 or six - up again and chores. We also had traping to do. Then off through two foot of snow to school. This I would not choose to do again. I stayed here for two years. We also had a log house, but it was large and comfortable.

Then my uncle John Tyrer asked me to come and live with he and my grandmother. I stayed here one year. This was also a log house. I then went to Richland Center & stayed with my Aunt Nellie Crary. I was able to get a job with Carnation Milk Co. The pay was seven and a half cents per hour. I paid five Dollars a week room and board. I managed to save enough money for books and rail fare to Bridgwater, S. D. where I stayed with my grandfather John Culver and went to school. The middle of my sophomore year my grandparents moved to Yankton, S.D. I went to Yankton and looked over the school and decided to stay in Bridgewater. Therefor I went back to Bridgewater and stayed with a family named Samples. They had the movie theatre and I ran the movie machine for my room and board. They had two daughters Gladys & Veda that were my class mates. I stayed with them for my sophmore & Junior Year. Then at the end of my Junior year I was informed by the school Board I would have to pay a 200.00 tuition for my senior Year. This was impossible and was the end of my high school days. I then went back to Richland Center, Wis. and worked for Carnation Milk Co. Until I entered in the (M.T.C.) motor transport corp on August 15th - 1918. I was discharged on June 25th 1919.

It was when I stayed with John Farris that I learned a great deal about nature. How the turtles would crawl upon the sand bars and lay their eggs in a hole they would dig in the sand and the heat from the sun would hatch them. They would lay ten to fifteen eggs. The wall eyed pike would swim up the creeks and lay their eggs on the ground bottoms. This usually took place in March and April. They also would spawn among weeds. The bass would spawn in late May and June. They liked weeds to spawn in. The northern and cat fish would spawn a little earlier. They also liked weeds to spawn. The ducks would nest in early spring and lay from ten to fifteen eggs. As soon as the ducks were hatched they were ready to swim and would follow their mother to water. The mother ducks would teach the little brood to feed on insects. Then when they were six weeks old they were ready to feed on the bottom of the ponds or lakes. The northern pike would catch a few of them. The mink and otter also would take their share. The ducks had a food call, an alarm call, and a mating call. I had a covey of quail I used to feed corn or wheat to in the winter months. I carried this feed in a pail, and all I would need to do was rattle the pail and the quail would be all about me. We had lots of grouse about the woods. The grouse are very alert and always ready to fly away when one came near. The skunk would come out of hibernation in February, as well as racoon. These were pretty animals. Both makes wonderful pets. But the most graceful and playfull were the otter. They would have a slide on the banks of a river and would spend hours sliding down these slides. They were a powerful swimmer. Their main diet were fish, and frogs.

The snake family I never cared for. I didn't dispise them. I usually stayed my distance. The rattle snakes were common in the hills, and during August they often times migrated to the lowlands to be near water as this time of the year it was usually dry on the hills. I was told when I was small I was on the lawn crawling as I was too young to walk. My mother came out of the house to check on me and there was a rattle snake right near me. She called to my father and he came out with a gun and shot the snake. I doubt if the snake would have bit me. I alway have felt this was a poor reward. I never feared the rattler, but I would respect them. When I saw a bull snake I knew a rattler was not near. The bull snake will kill a rattler.

There would never be a rattler near a hog. The hog will eat a rattler, and a rattler's bite has no effect on a hog. During July and August John Farris would look for bee trees. This meant honey for the winter. To locate the bee tree he had a pail lid fastened to a long stick that was sharpened on one end and on the pail lid he would have sugar &s; water. He would go out to a meadow where the bees were working on flowers. It would not be long until a bee would be working on the sugar and water. When they had their fill they would fly away to the bee tree. He would wait until the bee came back, and while the bee was feeding he would gently walk with the bees in the direction the bee had indicated, and again wait for the bee to return. He would never move while the bee was gone. If he did this the bee would not be able to find him. Some time the bee would bring more bees back. After a mile or two the bees would go straight up and there was the bee tree. The tree was marked and in late November he would cut down the tree and take the honey. Then the bees would freeze and starve. I always felt sorry for the bees. I never felt sorry when he would be stung by the bees. Many times he would get a large boiler full of honey.

I also enjoyed watching birds. The king fisher would perch on a branch high up in a tree and as soon as it saw a fish the king fisher would swoop down and catch a small fish in its beak and fly to a tree to devour it. The eagle would also perch in a tree and swoop down and catch a fair size fish in its claws and fly to a tree to feast on it. The eagle is a graceful flyer. They would fly high and sail along with the wind without moving a wing. The hawks were also a very graceful flyer. They would sail high over a field and soon would see a mouse and swoop down and catch the mouse. The would catch a mouse in their beak. These were my boy hood days that I always remember.

My mother Emily Tyrer Culver was from a family of seven. Namely Moses, John, Mary Ellen, Margaret, Jane, Cora, and Emily, my mother. I was only nine when she passed away and I can remember her very well. She to me was all the world. She did not have much to do with but she managed to feed us. I was very dispondent upon her death. I tried suicide by jumping out the hay mow door. It turned out I only received some bruises. Many of our neighbors told me she was an angel and I agree. My heart aches when I hear boys & girls snap at their mothers. If they only knew how fortunate they are to have a mother. May God bless her spirit. She is buried in Wyoming Cemetery — Iowa county on a high hill overlooking the Valley.

Moses married a Beem lady. John never married. Mary Ellen married a William Richardson. Margaret married Wm. Campbell. Cora married a John Farris. Jane married August Basthmeir. And Emily my mother married Charles Culver.

EGC-BIO-005 Elmer Culver Second Biography

 

Elmer T. Culver

I was born on February 3, 1897 in a small frame house located in upper Wyoming Valley. This house was located on the bank of a small fresh water creek, which was a trout stream. The stream was full of trout but due to todays pollution the only fish that inhabits this stream is sukers. My father was Charles Culver, and my mother was Emily Tyrer Culver. My grandfather was named John Culver, a son of Joshua Culver. Joshua imigrated from New York to Green Bay Wisconsin in 1832, and in 1833 he traveled down the Fox River to where now is town of Portage. From here he took the Wisconsin River to a place then called Helena, and is now Tower Hill State Park. Joshua Culver helped to dig the shaft at the top of Tower Hill some eighty feet to a canal off of the Wisconsin River. Above this shaft was built a tower thirty feet high. A heavy screen was place in the shaft and hot lead was poured through the screen and as these lead pellets hit the water they were cooled and scouped into the boats below, where they were carried down river to be used in the Civil War. The lead was hauled by Oxen from Mineral Point. My great grandfather Joshua operated a ferry and also built a hotel that was quite popular in those days.

The town of Spring Green did not exist at this time, but in later years the railroad was built and the people of Helena migrated across the Wisconsin River and settled in Spring Green.

There were many Indians living in the locality at this date. Early one afternoon an old Indian woman came to the hotel to ask for a few potatoes, and being kindhearted by grandmother went to the basement to get the potatoes. When she returned from the basement, the Indian woman had kidnapped my grandfather (John)!! He was three months old at this time. Later in the evening my great grandmother went to the wig wam and took her son John home. This scene was reenacted a few years ago at Tower Hill Park.

My father was a day laborer and this is the reason why we moved so often. He also played his bass viol at dances & earned some money doing this.

In the upper Wyoming Valley I had many good friends, that I will never forget, such as the Crook family; Ray, Myrtle, Alice, and Josie, the Metcalfs; Harland and Frank. The Hatches; Leman and Curtis, and Elizabaeth, the Levakes, Richardsons, Hickcox, and the Branders. The Buckners -- Olsons -- Kenneth & Stanley. The Daniels -- Ida and Guy -- the Hickoxes. Benoys,

At the time of my birth upper Wyoming Valley consisted of a general store operated by the Knickerbocker family. There was a black smith shop owned by Fred Schloemer and a saw mill. Now all that remains is a Methodist Church and a Town Hall. Once members of the church used to have an oyster supper . The price was 25 cents for all the oyster you could eat, pluse cakes.

This was a beautiful and prosperous valley. Many farmers lived here and worked hard on the land they producly owned. In these days Hill Side Home School was located two miles east on Highway 23. This was a credited school and many people from Chicago sent their children here to school. The school was operated by the Jones girls. I had two aunts that graduate from this school, Abbie and Bessie. The school had a riding academy and each Saturday the girls dressed in white blouses and would ride to Pacusion Rock. This is a high cone shaped rock about 500 feet from Deer Shelter Rock. The house on the Rock is built on Deer Shelter Rock. I lived in a log house at this time near by and I would take a pail of cool spring water to Pacusion Rock and the girls would pay me 5 cents each for a drink. In the winter I wasn't out of a job because I made axe handles of hickory that I sold for fifty cents each. When I was five I had quite an experience with a turtle. When I approached this odd creature it pulled in its head and limbs. I ran home and told my mother that I saw something that carried its house with it and when I came near, it went into its house. At seven we once more moved into the lower Wyoming Valley. Here we had spring water about a thousand feet away, it was my chore to carry the water from the spring. We had a large black dog that was my pal. One night while getting a pail of water from the spring, I heard a loud scream. It was very, a high pitched -- shrill like a child in pain. I was very frightened and the dog ran for the house and I after him. This was the first time I heard the cry of a panther. I heard their screams several times afterward, however today there are no panthers located in this area. There are a few Bob cats, or sometimes called lynx.

We moved from upper Wyoming Valley to a place near Arena, where it was close to the railroad, which by the was was quite a treat to us. I had never seen a train, and then I was four years old. One fourth of July a train came along all decorated in flags and streamers, this was a lasting remembrance. We lived near Arena for about a year and we again moved to a place called Butterfield, near a town called Clyde. This was a frame house with an open well about 30 feet deep. Here we drew up the water by a windlass; we had a separate rope with a pail to let down the butter and milk to keep cool. It was very quiet and sometime lonely as well as beautiful seeing that our nearest neighbors were a mile away.

During this time I knew all the hills and caves from Bogus Bluff to Coon Rock Cave near Arena. It is claimed that in the Early 1800s pirates used to use Bogus Bluff Cave. At this time the Wisconsin River was used by steam boats, but now the dams are built and it is difficult to get a motor boat up the river. I enjoyed the hills and caves. There were many rattle snakes in those days, and I was ALWAYS on the watch out. There still are a few in the hills, but not as many as years ago. In August I would pick black berries and huckle berries to sell to the farmers. I would gather walnuts and hazel nuts in August for winter. I still pick up walnuts but now they are for the squirrels. Metcalfs -- Harland and Fraul, Lawrence, Richard and Margaret Joiner and Guy and Ida Daniels.

In Lower Wyoming brought many friends as well, the Olson, Hickoxs, the Buckner and the Stuberuds. And my favorite of these was the Roberts Family. Each year they would give me a bundle of clothing that was much appreciated. All these families are very dear to me.

I went to a one room school house where eight grades were taught. We had a furnace in the basement, and this was something back then. Almost every day on my way home from school I would stop at the Olsons (Allen & Ivy) for a hand out of Safrin Bread. This was a real treat.

Lower Wyoming would have a picnic on July 4th and it was a big deal!!!! The picnic itself was in an open field near the Wisconsin River, here we are a large dinner and of course, all the lemonade one could drink. There was always a ball game and foot races for intertainment. I always participated and usually won first place in the foot racing event, the price was 25 cents. I would spend this on fire crackers. Iva Olson had a beautiful voice and sang THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER (My Country Tis of Thee).

My mother died when I was ten and my brothers Raymond, Adrian & I were all separated. Raymond stayed with Henry Levakes, Adrion with Mr. & Mrs. Peck. I was taken in by the Henry Crook family. I lived here for six months until my father was killed along with Mr. Smith moving a threshing machine Engine. They broke through a bridge on Highway 23 near Tailese [i.e., Taliesin], they were scalded to death when the steam pipe broke. They were pinned in the Machine and were not able to escape. I was eleven now, and I went to live with my Aunt Mrs. John Farris in lower Wyoming Valley.

Mr. Farris was a farmer, trapper and hunter. This was much harder for me to adjust to because I had my own cows to milk, farm chores, and a lot of field work and other chores. We didn't have the modern milking machines as now, so for adjusting I had my hands full as a boy of eleven. These were the days of four legged horse power, the hay was cut by a mower drawn by two horses, and stacked by hand with a fork. The corn was cut by hand, shocked, and later husked by hand. Then the foder was fed to the cows during the winter. It was a lot of backbending work. Then came November along with Raccoon hunting. Each night at seven o'clock we would start out carrying a kerosene lantern over the hills with our dogs. Climbing those hills and over rocks at night was hard work and hard to see where one is going, but if the stars were bright enough we would use them as our guide. But when we had cloudy and foggy nights we had to go by guess and by gosh to our where abouts. Many times on these trips we would see the Will of the Wisp, most often they were small ones about the size of cantaloupe but one night we saw one as big as a tub. This light up both sides of the hills so well that we could see the Hazel Bushes. The Will of the Wisp is caused by a gas from the low places and carried by the wind and in a short time dissaplate. If one has never seen one, it would be "hair Raising". After climbing over the hills through briars and Hazel Bushes until 1:00 in the morning we would go home carrying 150 to 200 pounds of Coon. Then it was off to bed, and back up again at six. After I ate breakfast, did all my chores, then I walked three miles to school. This was repeated every night until heavy snow would force the raccoons to hibernate. Then it was time for the trapping season; Fox, Mink, Muskrats, and Skunk, which lasted until April. This was a continuous routine until I was fourteen. I decided to go to Richland Center to work for the Carnation Milk Company, my pay per hour here was 7 1/2 cents per hour. I worked fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. I had to do this as I paid $5.00 a week room & board, I stayed with my Aunt Mrs. Eugene Crary.

I managed to save a little money to buy books and a few clothes. I finished seventh grade at Richland Center, and at this time my grandparents (John Culver) tried to encourage me to stay with them at their home in Bridgewater S.D., which I did. I had saved enough money for car fare to So. Dakota. Some of my money had to be spent on books and clothes as well, and I had a little trouble finding a job. leaning year my grandparents moved to Yankton, S. D. I got a job running a local theater movie machine, which was run by the Sample family. My hours here were from 7:00 evening to 12 midnight, seven days a week. During this time we ran two complete shows. The Samples were very fine people and treated me very well. They had three children, Gladys, Nora and Jud. In between shows while I was running the adv. slides, either Gladys or Vera would rewind the films for the second show. Gladys and Vera were also my school classmates.

Now came June and I did not have enough car fare to get back to my job at Carnation Milk Company. I was informed by Carnation Milk Company that I always had a job there. In the meantime my grandparetns moved to Yankton. The Samples told me they would give me room & board for operating the movie machine. This made me happy for now I was assured of a job and could continue school. This job was good for all concerned. The movie machine was hand cranked and the light was produced by two carbons and they were hot. We only had one small fire that did no damage. I had a school book in the booth and would study from time to tmie while cranking the machine -- but always having one eye on the picture to make sure it was in focus. This went on through my Junior year in high school, and at the end of my Junior year the school board informed that I would have to pay $150.00 tuition. This was impossible. I thought about once again going to the bank but I was afraid of being turned down so I did not.

This was the end of my schooling. I went back to work at the Carnation Milk Company, now earning 27 cents per hour. This was extremely well paid work in those days. At first I intended to keep working a year and then finish high school, but being that I could not finish with my class, I gave up. Which I have always regretted.

These are some of my high school classmates: Emma Mayer, Stella Mayer, Glen & Faye Harmon, Helen Coolidge, Very & Gladys Sample, Otto Kresman, Oliver Butts, Leo Gossman, Paul & Anne Hofer, Mike Welbus, Alvin Clausus, Ed Hoffer, Marion Hilton, and Marie Heckenliable.

In 1918 I enlisted in the army and from there I was sent to Kansas City, Missouri to the Sweney Auto School to learn Auto Mechanics. At this time there were about one in a hundred that could drive a car. We were taught to drive trucks the mechanics of a car. I specialized in ignition, as in those days the magnetos were used. After six weeks, three of us were shipped to El Paso, Texas, stationed at Fort Bliss. I had hopes of getting into aviation but it never turned out that way. I had the flue and I didn't report it when I left Kansas City. It was 105 degrees when I got off the train at Fort Bliss and I colapsed!! I was then taken to the hospital and I stayed for five weeks. When I was released the hospital was filled up with cases of the flu. [This was 1918, the year of the Great Flu Pandemic, aka the Spanish Flu, an outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus that ultimately infected an estimated half a billion people worldwide. With a mortality rate of between 10 and 20%, it killed an estimated 3 to 5% of the world's population, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. (There was a second H1N1 outbreak in 2009.) Specifically, of the 3,000 military attending the Sweeney Auto School in 1918, all stationed at Fort Riley, 2,300 (76%) ultimately contracted influenza. There were two outbreaks in 1918, the earlier in January, the deadlier in August. Grandpa having entered the service on 14 August would have been caught up in the latter wave.] After being released, I was put in charge of the warehouses. Here we stored trucks, cars, a few airplanes, tires and all parts for those items. On November 11th the armistice was signed and I expected to be out of the service by Thanksgiving. But come Christmas I was still in the service and I wasn't released until june of 1919. I made several good friends during this time. One was George Wassergerger who is now deceased.

After I was discharged I went to Richland Center in 1919 and again was employed at the Carnation Milk Company. I stayed here one year and then came to Madison. My first job here was installing heavy machinery for Bark River Culvert Company. Then I started as an electrician for Peterson Electric Company of Madison, from here I went to Dane County Electric to isntall Delco light plants and wiring on farms. I was always treated royally and the meals were always the very best. This lasted for two years and I met many nice farmers and their families. From here I went to Taylor Electric Co. At this date radios mfgs. were few, so our job here was to build the radios. At this time I met a very fine girl, Edna Gefke of Madison. We were married and had four children during the next few years. They are David, Ruth, Mary and Carol. Then Mr. Taylor took on Crosley Radio for Wisconsin. Mry. Taylor had a thriving business and was given Radiola for the state of Wisconsin. Then Mr. Benike and I took Crosley for southern Wisconsin.

My next adventure was going into the wholesale electrical business, we started selling these supplies in 1936. This lasted until 1967 when my son David was old and wise enough to take over the business. I then sold out to him in 1967. He still operates the business and I hope he will continue.

EGC-BIO-006 Elmer Culver Third Biography

 

Elmer T. Culver

I was born on February 3, 1897 in a small frame house located in upper Wyoming Valley. This house was located on the bank of a small fresh water creek, which was a trout stream. The stream was full of trout but due to todays pollution the only fish that inhabits this stream is sukers. My father was Charles Culver, and my mother was Emily Tyrer Culver. My grandfather was John Culver, a son of Joshua Culver, who imigrated from New York to Green Bay in 1832. In 1833 he traveled down the Fox River to where Portage is now located and from here he took the Wis River to a place then called Helena, now Tower Hill State Park. He helped to dig the shaft at the top of Tower Hill some eighty feet to a canal off of the Wis River. Above this shaft was built a tower thirty feet high. A heavy screen was place in the shaft and hot lead was poured through the screen and as these lead pellets hit the water they were cooled and scouped into the boats and carried down river to be used in the Civil War. The lead was hauled by Oxen teams from Mineral Point. My great grandfather Joshua operated a ferry and also built a hotel that was quite popular in these days. I have two brothers, Raymond and Adrian.

The town of Spring Green did not exist at this time. In later years the railroad was built north of the river and the residents of Helena moved across the river and a new town of Spring Green was farmed, and Helena became a ghost town.

There were many Indians living in this locality at this time. Early one afternoon an Indian woman came to the Culver hotel asking for potatoes, and as my great grandmother went to the basement to get the potatoes the Indian woman took my grandfather, later on my great grandmother rescued the 3-month old child. This scene was reenacted a few years ago at Tower Hill Park.

My father was a day laborer and as a result we moved about a great deal. He also played his base vile at dances and earned a little money doing this.

At the time of my birth upper Wyoming Valley consisted of a general store run by the Knickerbocker family. The blacksmith shop run by Fred Schloemer, and also a saw mill. Now all that remains is a Methodist Church and a Town Hall. The members of the church used to have an oyster supper once a year. All the oysters and cakes one could eat for twenty five cents.

This is a beautiful and prosperous farming and area. The farmers are proud of this valley and they should be. Highway 23 runs through this valley to Dodgeville. In these early years Hill Side Home School was located two miles east on Highway 23. This was a credited school run by the Jones ladies. I had two aunts, namely Bessie & Abbie Culver that graduated from this school. The school had a riding academy and each Saturday the girls with their white blouses would ride out to Deer Shelter rock. The house on the Rock is built on Deer Shelter Rock. A short distance from Deer Shelter rock is a high cone shaped rock called pacusion rock. The girls from Hillside School would ride horses on Satruday to pacussion rock dressed in white blouses & a red neck scarf. They were beautiful. At this time I lived in a log house very near and I would take a pail of cool spring water to Deer Shelter Rock and the girls would each give me a nickel. In winter I was never out of a job as I would make axe and hammer handles of hickory for sale to the farmer.

The old fishing days on the Wis River. During July, August & September I used to go to the meadows and catch a few grasshoppers, the green ones preferable. I would cut a willow pole along the river, tie on a line that I had wound around a stick put on a cork for a bober. Then hook on a grasshopper and walk quietly along the bank with the grasshopper fishing between fallen logs that lay in the river and I would always catch a nice string of small mouth bass weiging from two to five pounds. This would be repeated day after day. We would often fish wall eye pike and northerns with minnows from the banks. To catch the minnows we would take a pice of cheese cloth with a rock in the center. The net would be supported by a y shaped stick. This we would let sink in still water and chew up some bread and spit this in the water above the net and the minnows would come to feed and we would railse the net and have all the minnnows needed. We never had any trouble getting all the fish we wanted.

While living in the hills of Iowa County I learned a great deal about wild life, their habits, habitats and mating season. I also was alert to fish habitat and their spawning times and the food they prefered. I had a flash of quail that stayed in and about the brush piles nearby. One would seldom see them. I used to shell corn into a pan and go a short distance from the house and pound on the pan and the quail would come to feed as I would scatter the corn about and as soon as they had their crops filled they would fly away to their brush piles their refuge. The brush piles would offer protection from the fox and hawks. There were many grouse about but they were very wary.

The blue jays soon learned to come in with the quail. The quail would nest in the early spring, and again under the brush piles. There were many rattle snakes about in those bygone days. We never feared them, but always respected them. When picking berries in august we would keep a keen ear to pick up their warning rattles. There were also many bull snakes about. The rattle snake feared the bull snakes as a bull sanke would kill a rattle snake. We had a large pig pasture fenced in and no snakes would dare enter. The hog will kill and eat snakes. The hog was immune to a snake bite.

There were many foxes, skunk, racoon, otter, mink, muskrats and a few panthers. The spring season is mating time for most of these animals. The skunk fox and racoon would come out of hibernation in February. I have always regarded the racoon and otter or as the most playful. The young fox is also very playful. The otter always have a slide on a steep bank facing the water. I used to watch them on the Wis. river. The whole family numbering four to five would spend hours climbing out of the water and sliding down the slide into the water and repeating this process. When swimming down the river they would follow each other about three foot apart always down and up appearing as a huge serpent. They are a powerful swimmer and a good fighter, no dog would have a chance with them. These animals are getting fewer in number and should be fully protected. When taken when a small pup they become very affectionate and cuddly. The racoon are holding their own and also the skunk. The mink is not too bad off.

There used to be a sizeable number of bob cats. There are still a few. There used to be a few panthers, but now [piece missing] them on one hand. They are i nthe cat family and similar to the cougar. We used to hear one occasionally. Their screams would raise your hair. The scream sounded like a child in distress. (Oh my, oh Dear.) If you were to hear one you would never forget it. I used to study the fish and their spawning and habitat. The bass usually spawn later than other fish in late May and early June. They like the weeds to spawn in. All fish will protect their spawning beds. If you were to drop something into the water near their beds, they usually pick it up and carry it away and drop it. The are a good game fish and not good eating if caught in a muddy lake. I prefer to fish the sand lakes.

The northern pike also like to spawn in weeds. They protect their spawning area. The other fish respect the northerns teeth.

The wall eyed pike likes a rocky bottom to spawn in and moving water. The running water releives them from fanning the eggs with their tail.

The trout is considered the best of all fish for eating purposes. There are the rainbow brown, brook and steel heads in Wis. rivers. The rainbows and steel heards are the best and most sporting fish to catch. The brook or speckled are considered the best table fish.

There are two types of fly fishing. The wet fly is used under water and the dry fly is used on the surface when the may fly hatch is on, then use the may fly an imitation of the may fly. This fly must float. The finer the leader the better, usually a three or four x. It is highly recommended to study the type of fly that is hatching and use an imitation. If you use bait then the worm or minnow is best. In the early season the worm is considered best of you want fish and don't especially care about the sport. The various species of trout spawn at different times. The rainbow in early April. The brook usually in late April and early May. Night fishing and early morning I consider the best time of day to fish. But to catch fish you must go fishing. For walleye pike fishing I like evening fishing preferable after dark. Then fish the shore lines as the minnows usually come into shore in the evening. The walleyes will follow to feed on the minnows. I like a illeg.] minnow to fish them.

I used to visit the Indians that camped on the Wis. River not far away. I watched them build birch bark canoes. These canoes were very light and easy to puncture and one would have to watch out for submerged logs. they also would tip over very easily. The wigwams they built would shed the rains very well and seemed to stand the wind. They ate many roots and plants. The Indian turnip was very good when baked. But if you tried to eat one raw they would blister your mouth. To catch minnows tey would use a piece of mosquito netting fastened about a willow hoop with a long handle attached and a small rock in the center to submerge it. Then they would chew up some bread and spit it in the water above the net to attract the minnows. Then raise the net quickly and they would have all the minnows they wanted for bait. For a pole they would use a long willow with a line and hook. Occasionally they would thump their finger in the water to attract the fish. Many things could be learned from Indians. The gypsies used to scare me, and I stayed my distance from them.

EGC-BIO-007 Elmer Culver Fourth Biography

 

My Boyhood Days

I spent the first three years of my boy hood days in a small frame house located in Upper Wyoming Valley located on highway 23 midway between Spring Green & Dodgeville in Iowa County Wis. There was a saw mill near the house and I can remember the noise the saw made in cutting the logs into lumber. From here we moved to New Helena located to the right of Hwy. 14. The house was located near the rail road and this was my first view of a train. I can remember well of a Mr. Dave Farris living near and he kept a cow and each night I was there when he milked the cow and he would give me a glass of milk. Naturally I thought a great deal of this man.

From Here we were moved to a frame house located near Clyde on county trunk C. This place was called Butterfield. There was an open well here with a rope windlas operated by a rope and a handl that as you turned the handle the rope would wind around a small log and bring up a pail of water. There was a large rock at the bottom that by using a rope we could let down a pail containing milk or butter to keep cool. We were moved here from Helena by a Wm. Campbell with a pair of mules. I rode on the back of one of the mules. My wife remembers this place as a few years ago we were picking black berries here and she got mixed up with some yellow jacket bees. She was stung several times.

Then when I was six we moved East a few miles on country trunk C to a log house. Here we had to carry water from a spring about a quarter mile away. One evening as I went to the spring to get a pail of water I heard a panther scream and our dog ran for the house. I was close behind and there was no water that night. The dog crawled under the bed and just growled. We often heard a panther scream and it is a hair raising scream. A neighbor gave me a small pig and I pulled weeds from our garden to feed the pig. I also had a small patch of corn that I fed the pig in the autumn. During the winter the pig was taken to market in Spring Green and the proceeds bought [illeg.] and buck wheat for pancakes. It was here that I saw my first turtle. I ran to the house to tell my mother I saw something that carried its house with it and if you got close, it would go in its house. Well my mother had to go to see this, and she laughed and said it was a turtle.

We mostly lived on fish and small game such as rabbits and squirrels. We were only a short distance from the Wis. River. In the fall of the year we occasionally had venison for cooking and heating we used wood. Here we lived for two years. Then again we moved to another log house on Snead Creek near a family of Henry Crooks. Now we had a cow and some chickens. A neighbor let us pasture the cow in one of his pastures and I carried water to the cow. We had a pump here. My mother had an organ which she used to play. She played many church songs. But her favorite song was where the River Shannon flows. here we lived for two years.

We again moved to a frame house in upper Wyoming Valley near a family of Joiners. This was a large house with fire places and shutters on the windows. This was by far the best house we had lived in. It took a great deal of wood to heat it. We lived here one year and again moved to a small frame house on top of a high hill near where the House on the Rock is located. This was a poorly built house. Two bed rooms a kitchen and living room combined. Our water supply was a spring at the bottom of a high hill. In winter we had ice and snow conditions to contend with. Then in summer we had to be on watch for rattle snakes. We had three miles to school. It was here that my mother passed away. This was the saddest time of my life. My youngest brother Adrian went to stay with a family of Pecks. My brother Raymond stayed at henry Levakes. I went to stay at Henry Crooks. I stayed here one year. I then went to stay with John Farris. he was a farmer, trapper, & hunter.

This was the hardest work of my young life. I would be up at 5:30 in the mornings to milk and do chores then run three miles to school. In the fall it was hunting and trapping. At seven we would go racoon hunting with two hounds over the hills and through the brush until one thirty and carry three or four racoons home. This would go on for six weeks. Then at 5:30 or six up again and chores. We also had trapping to do. Then off through two foot of snow to school. This I would not choose to do again.

I stayed here for two years. We also had a log house, but it was large and comfortable. Then my uncle John Tyrer asked me to come and live with he and my grandmother. I stayed here one year. This was also a log house I then went to Richland Center & stayed with my Aunt Nellie Crary. I was able to get a job with Carnation Milk Co. The pay was seven and a half cents per hour. I paid five dollars a week room and board. I managed to save enough money for books and rail fare to Bridgewater, S.D. where I stayed with my grandfather John Culver and went to school.

The middle of my sophomore year my grand parents moved to Yankton, S.D. I went to Yankton and looked over the school and decided to stay in Bridgewater. Therefor I went back to Bridgewater and stayed with a family named Levakes. They had the movie theater and I ran the move machine for my room and board. They had two daughters Gladys & Veda that were my classmates.

I stayed with them for my sophomore and junior year. Then at the end of my Junior year I was informed by the school board I would have pay a 200.00 tuition for my senior year. This was impossible and was the end of my high school days. I then went back to Richland Center, Wis. and worked for Carnation Milk Co. until I entere the (M.T.C) motor transport corp on August 15th 1918. I was discharged on June 25th 1919.

It was when I stayed with John Farris that I learned a great deal about nature. How the turtles would crawl upon the sand bars and lay their eggs in a hole they would dig in the sand and the heat from the sun would hatch them. They would lay ten to fifteen eggs. The wall eyed pike would swim up the creeks and lay their eggs on the gravel bottoms. This usually took place in March and April. They also would spawn among weeds.

The bass would spawn in late May and June. They liked weeds to spawn in. The northerns and cat fish would spawn a little earlier. They also liked weeds to spawn. The ducks would nest in early spring and lay from ten to fifteen eggs. As soon as the ducks were hatched they were ready to swim and would follow their mother to water. The mother ducks would teach the little brood to feed on insects. Then when they were six weeks old they were ready to feed on the bottom of the ponds or lakes.

The northern pike would catch a few of them. The mink and otter also would take their share. The ducks had a food call, and alarm call, and a mating call. I had a covey of quail I used to feed corn or wheat to in the winter months. I carried this feed in a pail, and all I would need to do was rattle the pail and the quail would be all about me. We had lots of grouse about the woods. The grouse are very alert and always ready to fly away when one came near.

The skunk would come out of hibernation in February, as well as racoon. These were pretty animals. Both make wonderful pets. But the most graceful and playful were the otter. They would have a on the banks of a river and would spend hours sliding down these slides. They were a powerful swimmer. Their main diet were fish, and frogs.

The snake family I never cared for. I didn't dispise them. I usually stayed my distance. The rattle snakes were common in the hills and during August they often times migrated to the lowlands to be near water as this time of the year it was usually dry on the hills. I was told when I was small I was on the lawn crawling as I was too young to walk. My mother came out of the house to check on me and there was a rattle snake right near me. She called to my father and he came out with a gun and shot the snake. I doubt if the snake would have bit me. I always have felt this was a poor reward. I never feared the rattler, but I would respect them. When I saw a bull snake I knew a rattler was not near. The bull snake will kill a rattler. There would never be a rattler near a hog. The hog will eat a rattler and a rattler's bit has no effect on a hog.

During July and August John Farris would look for bee treest. This meant honey for the winter. To locate the bee tree he had a pail lid fastened to a long stick that was sharpened on one end and on the pail lid he would have sugar & water. He would go out to a meadow where the bees were working on flowers. It would not be long until a few bees would be working on the sugar and water. When they had their fill they would fly away to the bee tree. He would watch which direction the bee flew. He would wait until the bee came back, and while the bee was feeding he would gently walk with the bees in the direction the bee had indicated and again wait for the bee to return. He would never move while the bee was gone. If he did this the bee would not be able to find him. Some time the bee would bring more bees back. After a mile or two the bees would go straight up and there was the bee tree. The tree was marked and in late november he would cut down the tree and take the honey. Then the bees would freeze and starve. I always felt sorry for the bees. I never felt sorry when he would be stung by the bees. Many times he would get a large boiler full of honey.

I also enjoyed watching birds. The king fisher would perch on a branch high up in a tree and as soon as it saw a fish the king fisher would swoop down and catch a small fish in its beak and fly to a tree to devour it. The eagle would also perch in a tree and swoop down and catch a fair size fish in its claws and fly to a tree to feast on it. The eagle is a graceful flyer. They would fly high and sail along with the wind without moving a wing. The hawks were also a very graceful flyer. They would sail high over a field and soon would see a mouse and swoop down and catch the mouse. The would catch a mouse in their beak. These were my boy hood days that I always remember.

My mother Emily Tyrer Culver was from a family of seven. Namely Moses, John, Mary Ellen, Margaret, Cora and Emily, my mother. I was only nine when she passed away and I can remember her very well. She to me was all the world. She did not have much to do with but she managed to feed us. I was very dispondent upon her death. I tried suicide by jumping out the hay mow door. It turned out I only received some bruises. Many of our neighbors told me she was an angel and I agree. My heart aches when I hear boys & girls snap at their mothers. If they only knew how furtunate they are to have a mother. May God bless her spirit. She is buried in Wyoming Cemetery -- Iowa County on a high hill overlooking the valley.

Moses married a Beem lady. John never married. Mary Ellen married a William Richardson. Margaret married Wm. Campbell. Cora married a John Farris. Jane married August Bastheimer. And Emily my mother married Charles Culver.

EGC-BIO-008 Elmer Culver Fifth Biography

 

Elmer T. Culver

I was born on February 3rd 1897 in a small frame house located in upper Wyoming Valley. This house was located on the bank of a small fresh water creek. This stream used to be a tourt stream but due to today's pollution the only fish that inhabits this stream is suckers. My father was Charles Culver, and my mother was Emily Tyre Culver. My grandfather was John Culver a son of Joshua Culver. Joshua immigrated from New York to Green Bay in 1832. In 1833 he traveled down the Fox river to where Portage is now located and from here he took the wis. River to a place then called Helena now Tower Hill State Park. He helped to dig the shaft at the top of Tower Hill some eighty feet to a canal off of the Wis. River. A Tower was built above this shaft some thirty feet high. A heavy screen was placed in the shaft and hot lead was poured through this screen and as the lead pellets hit the water they were cooled and scouped into boats and carried down river to be used in the Civl War. The lead was hauled by axen team from Mineral Point. My great grand father Joshua operated a ferry and also built a hotel that was quite popular in those days. I have two brothers, Raymond and Adrian.

Spring Green did not exist at this time. In later years the railroad was built and the people of Helena migrated across the Wis river and this became Spring Green.

There were many Indians living in this locality at this date. One afternoon an Indian woman came to the hotel to ask for a few potatoes and as my great grandmother went to the basement to get the potatoes, the Indian woman kidnapped my grandfather (John). He was three months old at this time. Later in the evening my great grandmother went to the wig wam and took her son home. This scene was reenacted a few years ago at Tower Hill park.

At the time of my birth upper Wyoming Valley consisted of a general store, operated by the Knickerbocker family, a black smith shop operated by Fred Schloemer, plus a saw mill. Now all that remains is a Methodist Church and a town hall. Once a year the Church used to have an oyster supper put on by its members. The price was 25¢ for all the oysters you could eat plus cakes. This is a beautiful valley. Many prosperous farmers live here.

In those days Hillside Home School was located two miles east on highway 23. This was a credited school and many people from Chicago sent their children here to school. The school was operated by the Jones girls. I had two aunts that graduated from this school. Namely -- Abbie & Bessie Culver. The school had a riding academy and each Saturday the girls dressed in white blouses would ride to Percusion Rock. This is a high cone shaped rock and about 500 feet from Deer Shelter Rock -- which now the House on the Rock is built on.

I lived in a log house at this time near by and I would take a pail of cool spring ater to Percussion Rock and the girls would pay me only 5¢ each for a cool drink. In winter I made axe handles of hickory which I sold for 50 cents each.

My first experience with a turtle -- when I was five years old I saw my first turtle. When I went near the turtle would draw in its head and feet. So I went to the house and told my mother I saw something that carried its house with it and when you came near it would go into its house.

We moved from upper Wyoming Valley to a place near Arena. We were near the railroad and it was quite a treat to see the trains as I had never seen a train. I was now five years old. One fourth of July a train came along all decorated in flags and this was a lasting remembrance. We lived here for about a year and we again moved to a place called Butterfield near Clyde. This was a frame house with an open well about 30 feet deep. The water was drawn up by a windlass. We had a separate rope with a pail to let down to keep butter and milk cool.

Our nearest neighbors were a mile away. Then at seven we again moved to a log house in lower Wyoming Valley. Here we had a spring for water about a thousand feet away. It was my chore to carry the water. We had a large dog that was my companion. One evening just after dark, I was sent to the spring to get a pail of water and a panther screamed and my dog rant to the house and I was trying to keep up to the dog. The scream is a thrill high pitched voice. Sounds like a child in pain. Oh my, oh dear. This was the first time I had heard this. I heard this scream several times later. Today there are no panthers. There are a few lynx or bobcats.

My father was a day laborer and this was the reason of our moving so much. He also played a bass viola at dances and earned a little money doing this.

I knew all the hills & caves from Bogus bluff to Coon Rock Cave near Arena. It is claimed that in the early 1800s pirates used to use Bogus Bluff Cave. In those days the Wis. River was used by steam boats. But now the dams were built it is difficult to get a motor boat up the river. I enjoyed the hills and caves. There were many rattle snakes in those days, and I was always on the watch out and there still are a few in the hills.

In August I would pick black berries and huckle berries and sell these to the farmers. We would gather walnut and hazel nuts in August for winter. I still pick up walnuts, but now for the squirrels.

Lower Wyoming Valley is also very beautiful. Many steep & high hills with good valley farming. Lower Wyoming is not considered as prosperous as upper Wyoming. In upper Wyoming Valley I had many good friends. The Crook family Ray -- Myrtle, Alice & Josie. The Metcalfs, Harland & Frank. The Hatches, Leonard & Curtis. The Joiner family, Lawrence & Richard and Margaret. The Oscar Levakes, the Richardsons, Eddie & Eugene, Gorden Benoy, the Hickoxs, & the Branders. In lower Wyoming where I spent most of my teen age days were Allan & Ivy Olson, their two sons Kenneth & Stanley -- George Hickox -- Henry Bucner -- & Mildred, the Stuberuds, Guy & Ida Davies. And last but not least were the Roberts family. Each year they would give me a bundle of clothing that was much appreciated. I shall always consider all these families very dear to me.

I went to a one room school where all eight grades were taught. We had a furnace in the basement and this was something in those days. Most every day on my way home from school I would stop at Allen & Ivy Olson for a handout of safron wool.

Lower Wyoming would have a picnic on July 4th held in an open field near the Wis River. Here we would have a big dinner and all the lemonade we could drink. There were always a ball game, and foot races. I always participated and usually won 25¢ for winning a foot race. This would be my spending money taht was spent on fire crackers. Ina Olson had a beautiful voice and usually sant the Star Spangled Banner and my country tis of Thee.

My mother died when I was ten. The three of us were separated and each were taken by farmers in the valley. My brother Raymond stayed with Henry Levakes. Adrian with a family of Becks. I was accepted by the Henry Crook family. I lived here for six months. Then my father was killed along with a Mr. Smith. they were moving a threshing machine engine along highway 23 near Taliesin and broke through a bridge. They were both scalded to death as a steam pipe broke and they were pinned in the machine and could not get out. I was now eleven and went to live with an aunt Mrs. John Farris in lower Wyoming Valley. Mr. Farris was farmer, trapper, and hunter. This was much harder for me as I had my share of cows to milk, farm chores and everything that goes with farming. This was in the days of the four legged horse power. The hay was cut by a mower drawn by the two horses, and stacked by hand with a fork. The corn by cut by hand and shucked, and later was husked by hand, and the foder stacked and fed to the cows during the winter.

Then came November and racoon hunting. Each night at seven we would start out carrying a kerosene lantern over the hills with the dogs. Climbing the hills at night was hard work. On bright nights we would use the stars as our guide, on cloudy nights we would have to guess at our whereabouts. many times on these trips we would see the will of the wisp. Most often they were small ones about the size of a cantaloupe. But one night we saw one as large as a tub. This lighted up both sides of the hills so well we could see the hazel bushes. These will of the wisp is a gas that come out of the low places and is carried by the wind and in a short time dissipate. But for some one that has never seen one, would be hair raising well after climbing over these hills through briars and hazel bushes until one o'clock, we would head for home carrying 150 to 200 pounds of racoon. Then to bed and up at six, and after the chores breakfast and three miles to school.

This was repeated every night until heavy snow would force the racoons to hibernate. Then the trapping season for fox -- mink, muskrats, and skunk. This went on until April.

This went on until I was fourteen and I cecided to go to Richland Center to work for the Carnation Miclk Co. Here I received 7 1/2 cents per hour. I worked fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. I had to do this as I paid $5.00 a week room & board. I stayed with an aunt Mrs. Eugene Crary. I managed to save a little money to buy books and a few clothes. I finished 7th grade here at Richland Center. My grandparents (John Culver) lived at Bridgewater, S.D. and they influenced me to go to Bridgewater and stay with them which I did. I had enough money for car fare and here I was in S.D. Here I looked for a job to earn money for clothes & books as I pent most of my money for car fare. I at last got a job running the movie machine in a local theater. The Sample family ran this movie theater. This job was from 7 o'clock to midnight seven days a week. We ran two complete shows.

The Samples were very fine people and treated me very well. They had three children, Gladys, Vera and Jud. In between shows while I was running the adv. slides either Gladys or Vera would rewind the films for the second show. Gladys and Vera were my classmates.

Now came Now came June and I did not have car fare to get back to my job at Carnation. I reluctantly went to the banker and they loaned me car fare. I was informed by Carnation Milk Co. I always had a job there. In hte mean time my grandparents moved to Yankton. The Samples informed me they would give me room & board for operating the movie machine. Now I was assured of a job and could continue school. This job was good for all concerned. The movie machine was hand cranked and the light was produced by two carbons and very hot. The booth was lined with asbestos because of danger of fire. We only had one small fire that did no damage. I would leave a school book in the booth and would study some while cranking the machine, and always having one eye on the picture to make sure it was in focus.

This went on through my junior year of high school. Just before the end of my junior year I was informed by the school board that I would have to pay $150.00 tuition. This was impossible. I thought of going to the banker for help. I was afraid of being turned down so did not. This was the end of my schooling. I went back to work at Carnation and now was earning 27¢ per hour which was big money in those days. At first I intended working a year and then finish high school. But being I could not finish with my class, I gave up, which I have always regretted.

In 1918 I enlisted in the army and was sent to Kansas City, Mo. to the Sweney Auto School to learn auto mechanics. At this time there were about one in a hundred that could drive a car. We were taught to drive trucks. Then we were taught the mechanics of a car. I specialized in ignition, as in those days the magnetos were used. After six weeks of this three of us from Kansas City were shipped to El Paso Texas -- Fort Bliss. I had hopes of getting into aviation but no such luck.

I had the flue when I left Kansas City abut did not report it. It was 105° when I got off the train at Fort Bliss and I collapsed and was taken to the hospital. This was their first case of the flu. I was in the hospital for five weeks. When I was released the hospital was filled with cases of the flu.

After being released I was put in charge of the warehouse. We had trucks, cars, a few airplanes, tires and all the parts for all of the above. Then on Nov. 11th the armistice was signed and I expected to be out of service by Thanksgiving. Then xmas & still in service and was discharged in June of 1919. I met several fine fellows while in Serivce. One was George Wasserberger of Neilsville, Wis. I saw George several times in later years. He is now deceased.

I married a fine girl (Edna Gefke) of Madison. We have four children David, Ruth, Mary and Carol. They are all married and we have seventeen grandchildren. Our nest is empty, and we still live in Madison.

After being discharged in 1919 I went to Richland Center and again with Carnation MIlk Co. I stayed here one year and came to Madison. My first job was installing heavy machinery for Bark River Culvert co. Then I worked as a electrician for Peterson Elec Co. of Madison. Then for Dane County Elec. installing Delco light plants and wiring farms. Here I met many fine farmers. We were always treated royally and the meals were always the very best. This lasted for two years and I then wnet to Taylor Elec. Co. This was in the very early stages of radio. We at this time built most of the radios. Then Mr. Taylor took on Crosley for Wis. He did a thriving business with Crosley. Then later he was given Radiola for state of Wis. Then Mr. Benicke and I took Crosley for southern Wis.

My next adventure was going into the wholesale of electrical supplies in 1936. this lasted until 1967 when I sold out the business to my son David. He still operates the business and I hope he will continue.

Emma Mayer, Stella Mayer, Glen and Faye Harmon, Helen Coolidge, Very and Gladys Sample. And a few others I don't recall. Otto Kresman, Oliver Butts, Leo Gossman, Paul & Anne Hofer -- Ed. Hoffer, Mike Welbus, Alvin Clausius, Marion Hilton, and Marie Heckenliable.

EGC-BIO-009 Elmer Culver Sixth Biography

 

Elmer T. Culver

I was born on February 3, 1897 in a small frame house located in upper Wyoming Valley. This house was located on the bank of a small fresh water creek, which was a trout stream. The stream was full of trout but due to today's pollution the only fish that inhabits this stream is suckers. My father was Charles Culver, and my mother was Emily Tyrer Culver. My grandfather was named John Culver, a son of Joshua Culver. Joshua immigrated from New York to Green Bay Wisconsin in 1832, and in 1833 he traveled down the Fox River to where now is town of Portage. From here he took the Wisconsin River to a place then called Helena, and is now Tower Hill State Park. Joshua Culver helped to dig the shaft at the top of Tower Hill some eighty feet to a canal off the Wisconsin River. Above this shaft was built a tower thirty feet high. A heavy screen was placed in the shaft and hot lead was poured through the screen and as these lead pellets hit the water they were cooled and scooped into the boats below, where they were carried down river to be used in the Civil War. The lead was hauled by oxen from Mineral Point. My great grandfather Joshua operated a ferry and also built a hotel that was quiet popular in those days. The town of Spring Green did not exist at this time, but in later years the railroad was built and the people of Helena migrated across the Wisconsin River and settled in Spring Green. There were many Indians living in the locality at this date. Early one afternoon an old Indian woman came to the hotel to ask for a few potatoes, and being kindhearted my grandmother went to the basement to get the potatoes. When she returned from the basement, the Indian woman had kinapped my grandfather (John)!! he was three months old at this time. Later in the evening my great grandmother went to the wig wam and took her son John home. This scene was reenacted a few years ago at Tower Hill Park.

My father was a day laborer and this is the reason why we moved so often. He also played his bass viol at dances & earned some money doing this. In the upper Wyoming Valley I had many good frineds, that I will never forget, such as the Crook family; Ray, Myrtle, Alice, and Josie, the Metcalfs; Harland and Frank. The Hatches; Leman and Curtis, and Elizabeth, the Joiner family; Lawrence, Richard, and Margaret. There were the Levakes, Richardsons, Hickcox, and the Branders, the Buckners, Olsons, Kenneth and Stanley. Everyone was like part of the family and every day with each and everyone of these people seemed to never end.

The Daniels -- Ida and Guy -- the Hickcoxes, Benoys.

We moved from Upper Wyoming Valley to a place near Arena, where it was close to the railroad, which by the way was quite a treat to us. I had never seen a train, and then I was four years old. One fourth of July a train came along all decorated in flags and streamers, this was a lasting remembrance. We lived near Arena for about a year and we again moved to a place called Butterfield, near a town called Clyde. This was a frame house with on open well about 30 feet deep. here we drew up the water by a windlass; we had a separate rope with a pail to let down the butter and to keep the milk cool. It was very quiet and sometime lonely as well as beautiful seeing that our nearest neighbors were a mile away.

During this time I knew all the hills and caves from Bogus Bluff to Coon Rock Cave near Arena. It is claimed that in the Early 1800's pirates used to use Bogus Bluff Cave. At this time the Wisconsin River was used by steam boats, but now the dams are built and it is difficult to get a motor boat up the river. I enjoyed the hills and caves. There were manny rattle snakes in those days, and I was ALWAYS on the watch out. In August I would pick black berries and huckle berries to sell to the farmers. I would gather walnuts and hazel nuts in August for winter. I still pick up walnuts but now they are for the squirrels.

At the time of my birth upper Wyoming Valley consisted of a general store operated by the Knickerbocker family. There was a black smith shop owned by Fred Schloemer and a saw mill. Now all that remains is a Methodist Church and a Town Hall. Once members of the church used to have an oyster supper by its members. The price was 25¢ for all the oyster you could eat, plus cakes.

This was a beautiful and prosperous valley. Many farmers lived here and worked hard on the land they proudly owned. In these days Hill Side Home Schol was located two miles east on highway 23. This was a credited school and many people from Chicago sent their children here to school. The school was operated by the Jones girls. I had two aunts that graduated from this school, Abbie and Bessie Culver. The school had a riding academy and each Saturday the girls dressed in white blouses would ride to Pacusion Rock. This is a high cone shaped rock about 500 feet from Deer Shelter Rock. The House on the Rock is built on Deer Shelter Rock. I lived in a log house at this time near by and I would take a pail of cool spring water to Pacusion Rock and the girls would pay me 5¢ each for a drink. In the winter I wasn't out of a job because I made axe handles of hickory that I sold for fifty cents each. When I was five I had quite an experience with a turtl. When I approached this odd creature it pulled in its head and limbs. I ran home and told my mother that I saw something that carried its house with it and when I came near, it went into its house. At seven we once more moved into the Lower Wyoming Valley. Here we had spring water about a thousand feet away, it was my chore to carry the water from the spring. We had a large black dog that was my pal. One night while getting a pail of water from the spring, I hear a loud scream. It was very shrill, a high pitched shrill. Like a child in pain. I was very frightened and the dog ran for the house and I after him. This was the first time I heard the cry of a panther. I heard their screams afterward, however today there are no panthers located in this area. There are a few bob cas, or sometimes called lynx.

Metcalfs -- Harland and Frank, Lawrence, Richard and Margaret Joiner, and Guy and Ida Daniels.

In Lower Wyoming brought many friends as well, the Olsons, Hickoxs, the Buckners and the Stuberuds. And my favorite of these was the Roberts family. Each year they would give me a bundle of clothing that was much appreciated. All these families are very dear to me.

I went to a one room school house where all eight grades were taught. We had a furnace in the basement, and this was something back then. Almost every day on my way home from school I would stop at the Olsons (Allen & Ivy) for a hand out of Safrin Bread. This was a real treat.

Lower Wyoming would have a picnic on July 4th and it was a big deal!!! The picnic itself was in an open field near the Wisconsin River, here we ate a large dinner and of course, all the lemonade one could drink. There was always a ball game and foot races for entertainment. I always participated and usually won first place in the foot racing even, the prize was 25¢. I would spend this on fire crackers. Iva Olson had a beautiful voice and sang THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER (My Country Tis of Thee).

My mother died when I was ten and my brothers Raymond , Adrian & I were all separated. Raymond stayed with Henry Levakes, Adrian with Mr. & Mrs. Peck. I was taken in by the Henry Crook family. I lived here for six months until my father was killed along with Mr. Smith moving a thresing machine engine. They broke through a bridge on Highway 23 near Taliesin, they were scalded to death when the steam pipe broke. They were pinned in the machine and were not able to escape. I was eleven now, and I went to live with my Aunt Mrs. John Farris in lower Wyoming Valley.

Mr. Farris was a farmer, trapper and hunter. This was much harder for me to adjust to because I had my own cows to milk, farm chores, and a lot of field work and other chores. We didn't have the modern milking machines as now, so for adjusting I had my hands full as a boy of eleven. These were the days of four legged horse power, they hay was cut by a mower drawn by two horses, and stacked by hand with a fork. The corn was cut by hand, shucked and later husked by hand. The the fodder was fed to the cows during the winter. It was a lot of backbending work. Then came November along with raccoon hunting. Each night at seven o'clock we would start out carrying kerosene lanterns over the hills with our dogs. Climbing those hills and over rocks at night was hard work and hard to see where one is going, but if the stars were bright enough we would use them as our guide. But when we had cloudy and foggy nights we had to go by guess and by gosh to our whereabouts. Many times on these trips we would see the Will of the Wisp, most often they were small ones about the size of a cantalope, but one night we saw one as big as a tub. This would light up both sides of the hills so well that we could see the hazel bushes. The Will of the Wisp is caused by a gas from the low places and carried by the wind and in a short time dissipate. If one has never seen one, it would be "hari rasing". After climbing over the hills through briars and hazel bushes until 1:00 in the morning we would go home carrying 150 to 200 pounds of coon. Then it was off to bed, and back up again at six. After I ate breakfast, did all my chores, then I walked three miles to school. This was repeated every night until heavy snow would force the racoons to hibernate. Then it was time for the trapping season; fox, mink, muskrats, and skunk, which lasted until April. This was a continuous routine until I was fourteen. I decided to go to Richland Center to work for the Carnation Milk Company, my pay per hour here was 7 1/2 cents per hour. I worked fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. I had to do this as I paid $5.00 a week for room & board. I stayed with my Aunt Mrs. Eugene Crary.

I managed to save a little money to buy books and a few clothes. I finished seventh grade at Richland Center, and at this time my grandparents (John Culver) encouraged me to stay with them at their home in Bridgewater, S.D., which I did. I had saved enough money for car fare to So. Dakota. Some of my money had to be spent on books and clothes as well, and I had a little trouble finding a job. I finally got a job running a local theater movie machine, which was run by the Sample family. My hours here were from 7:00 evening to 12 midnight, seven days a week. During this time we ran two complete shows. The Samples were very fine people and treated me very well. They had three children, Gladys, Vera and Jud. In between shows while I was running the adv. slides, either Gladys or Vera would rewind the films for the second show. Gladys and Vera were also my school classmates. Now came June and I did not have enough car fare to get back to my job at Carnation Milk Company. I reluctantly went to the bank and they loaned me car fare. I was informed by Carnation Milk Company that I always had a job there. In the meantime my grandparents moved to Yankton. The Samples told me they would give me room & board for operating the movie machine. Thsi made me happy for now I was assured of a job and could continue school. This job was good for all concerned. The movie machine was hand cranked and the light was produced by two carbons and they were hot. The booth was line with asbestos because of the hazard of fire. We only had one small fire that did no damage. I had a school book in the booth and would study from time to time while cranking the machine—but always having one eye on the picture to make sure it was in focus. This went on through my junior year in high school, and at the end of my junior year the school board informed that I would have to pay $150.00 tuition. This was impossible. I thought about once again going to the bank but I was afraid of being turned down so I did not. This was the end of my schooling. I went back to work at the Carnation Milk Company, now earning 27¢ per hour. This was extremely well paid work in those days. At first I intended to keep working a year and then finish high school, but being that I could not finish with my class, I gave up. Which I have always regretted. These are some of my high school classmates: Emma Mayer, Stella Mayer, Glen & Fay Harmon, Helen Coolidge, Vera & Gladys Sample, Otto Kresman, Oliver Butts, Leo Gossman, Paul & Anne Hofer, Mike Welbus, Alvin Clausus, Ed Hoffer, Marion Hilton, and Marie Heckenliable.

In 1918 I enlisted in the army and from there I was sent to Kansas City, Missouri to the Sweney Auto School to learn Auto Mechanics. At this time there were about one in a hundred that could drive a car. We were taught to drive trucks & the mechanics of a car. I specialized in ignition, as in those days the magnetos were used. After six weeks, three of us were shipped to El Paso, Texas, stationed at Fort Bliss. I had hopes of getting into aviation but it never turned out that way. I had the flue and I didn't report it when I left Kansas City. It was 105° when I got off the train at Fort Bliss and I collapsed!! I was then taken to the hospital and I stayed for five weeks. When I was released the hospital was filled up with cases of the flu. After being released, I was put in charge of the warehouses. Here we stored trucks, cars, a few airplanes, tires and all parts for these items. On November 11th the armistice was signed and I expected to be out of the service by Thanksgiving. But come Christmas I was still in the service and I wasn't released until June of 1919. I made several good friends during this time. One was George Wessergerger who is now deceased. After being discharged I went to Richland Center in 1919 and again was employed at the Carnation Milk Company. I stayed here one year and then came to Madison. My first job here was installing heavy machinery for Bark River Culver Company. then I started as an electrician for Peterson Electric Company of Madison, from here I went to Dane County Electric to install Delco light plants and wiring on farms. I was always treated royally and the meals were always the very best. This lasted for two years and I met many nice farmers and their families. From here I went to Taylor Electric Co. At this date radio manufacturers were few, so our job here was to build the radios. At this time I met a very fine girl, Edna Gefke of Madison. We were married and had four children during the next few years. They are David, Rught, Mary and Carol. then Mr. Taylor took on Crosley Radio for Wisconsin. Mr. Taylor had a thriving business and was given Radiola for the state of Wisconsin. Then Mr. Benicke and I took Crosley for southern Wisconsin. My next adventure was going into the wholesale electrical buisness, we started selling those supplies in 1936. This lasted until 1967 when my son David was old and wise enough to take over the business. I then sold out to him in 1967. He still operates the business and I hope he will continue.

Other Elmer Culver Autobiographies

34a
34b
114ca
114cb
114da
114db
114ga
114gb
114gc
114ja
114jb
114jc
114jd
114je
114jf
114jg
114jh
114ig
114ih
114ii
114ij
114ik
114il
114im
114in
114io
114ip
114iq
114ir
114is
114it
114iu
114iv
114iw
114ia
114ib
114ic
114id
114ie
023t
023v
114ea
114eb
114ec
114fa
114fb
114fc
114fd
114fe
114ha
114hb
114hb2
023t
023v
114if
Hide Comments