A look at sheboygan historic odds and ends r gas constant kj


We’ve touched on odds and ends once before, those sundry bits of information not important enough, or in this case, not long enough for a larger story. Four favorites follow here. It’s not often that a community’s claim to fame is its pig fair. The relationship between pigs and people is one of the longest in our human history, nearly as longstanding as our relationship with dogs or horses.

The one difference is that although pigs are smart, they are also delicious, and in Cedar Grove, they became the center of a brisk business economy. For more than 75 years, Cedar Grove hosted a pig fair on the last Thursday of every month. Farmers from more than fifty miles brought their small pigs to bargain with buyers for good prices. The marketplace was held on Cedar Grove’s Main Street, a normally quiet street.

Pig day brought with it crowds of farmers and their trucks, light and heavy pouring in from all over, loaded down with grunting porkers. A news article described the event like this, “Bickering such as is heard in the noisy marts of the Orient takes place on the streets of Cedar Grove as these modern shrewd farmers hold out for what they consider a fair price.”

Quite wealthy, Ramminger’s fortune was thought to be near $100,000, yet he was terribly worried about his financial state near the time of his leaving. Search parties scoured the underbrush and woods near Ramminger’s farm. A posse of Boy Scouts and farmers searched further afield. A Milwaukee seer claiming to possess occult powers was even consulted. No success. Jacob Ramminger was in the wind.

Two months later, in late June, two kids fishing on the Sheboygan River about a mile south of Kiel found the upper body of the Manitowoc County man. Newspapers loved to report grisly facts in those days, so the description and supposition were graphic. After two months in the river, the body was certainly not in good condition. Identification was established by a missing finger on the right hand of the body.

Local farmers living along the river posited the idea that Mr. Ramminger may have used dynamite to end his own life. Coroner Kemper said the case looked like a suicide and an inquest would be held. One wonders how that suicide determination was made. Perhaps neighbors knew more about Ramminger’s personal life.

Story three involves musical talent. Our stringed friends, the violin, viola and cello were first made in the early 16th century in Italy. The earliest evidence for their existence is found in paintings from the 1530’s, though those instruments had only three strings.

The best known of the Italian creators was Antonio Stradivari. Not nearly as famous as the aforementioned master, Sheboygan has its own craftsman. In 1954, a Sheboygan Press article mentioned Sheboygan’s one and only violin maker, Al Smith. A violin maker, not a violinist, Smith seldom played. His talent lay in the creation of the stringed beauties.

For more than fifty years Smith cut, scraped, glued and sanded the pieces of wood needed using only hand tools. Born in Comstock, Wisconsin, the oldest of seven children, young Smith wanted a violin, but the family budget was too tight. So, he decided to make his own at age twelve. Though that first instrument was quite crude, it was good enough to launch a second career that brought him joy throughout his life.

In 1935, Mr. Smith sent President Franklin D. Roosevelt a birthday gift, a beautiful hand-made violin valued at about $1,000, slightly over $18,000 in today’s currency. Smith even customized the violin, designing a shield with an American flag and an eagle. A memorable visit to Chicago music houses left Smith speechless when he could enter a vault and pick up a Stradivarius valued at $40,000 ($735,000.00 today) made in 1690.

The storm covered the entire State of Wisconsin, knocking out communications, derailing trains and generally causing widespread havoc. Beginning in the early morning of Feb. 22, people were awakened by the sound of trees being shattered by wind and ice.

The Sheboygan Press reported, “a genuine March sleet storm (though it was February) with a heavy and steady downpour of rain came over the city Tuesday afternoon, and in less than 20 hours, did damage estimated to exceed $100,000 for Sheboygan city and country. The rain turned to sleet, freezing on wires and weighting them down until they snapped, isolating Sheboygan from the rest of the country.

"All wires of the Western Union and Postal Telegraph company were down. The next day brought even more devastation as a blizzard on the heels of the sleet storm brought up to three feet of heavy, wet snow that choked railroads and stunned the countryside. In between, it was ice."

After the winter storm, the Milwaukee Journal reported that no railroads, telephone or telegraph lines were open north of Fond du Lac and west of Wisconsin Dells. At Sheboygan, so much water rushed into the river that ice floes 2-feet thick were knocked loose and heaved up into jams at the city bridges.

On Feb. 23, The Press reported that “three inches of rain fell up to 4 o’clock this morning within 36 hours an unheard-of condition here at this time of the year. Millions of gallons of water could not seep through the frozen ground causing ice jams at various points in the river, backing up water into the flats and doing great damage. About 70 homes were isolated.