Saturday, October 23, 2010

J.R. Kay, lighting up Cuba City and foiling bank robbers

J.R. (Joseph) Kay was Cuba City's electrician in the early 1900s. The Cuba City Centennial book (1975) has this to say about him:

"J.R. 'Joe' Kay, if not the first city electrician in charge of the power plant and water system, was on the job very soon after these utilities first became a reality here. He carried on, doing everything including reading water and electric meters and being on the job 24 hours a day. He died about 1929 or 1930 and was succeeded by John Obel." [According to the village board minutes of 1917, J.R. Kay received a salary of $70 a month for his services. A relation of Joseph Kay's pointed out that this death date is incorrect. He died on May 14, 1936.]

Kay truly was on the job 24 hours a day, as the following anecdote from the Centennial book illustrates:

"Power distribution at first was limited. It was turned off at the source at 10 p.m. That was true as late as 1925 for street lighting here. This circumstance helped to foil an attempt to rob the First National Bank in that year.

A gang of yeggs broke into the bank in the early morning hours and blew the door of the safe. A relocking device on it worked and they could not open it, so they started to dig through the vault wall. Meanwhile, the late Alec Richardson who was asleep in his upstairs room in the bank was awakened by the explosion. He crawled across the hall to an office for which he had a key and called to J.R. "Joe" Kay, the water and light superintendant. Kay ran up Washington Street to the powerhouse. Richardson looked out his south window and saw the gang's lookout. Kay had thrown the switches and Richardson heard the lookout call to his pals, "Come on, let's get out of there! They are lighting up the town". Richardson watched the gang come out of the bank and walk down the alley east of Main Street. They got nothing but left the bank interior a shambles. They were never caught."


**UPDATE--According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article (November 9, 1921), the attempted burglary described above occurred in November 1921, and the Cuba City State Bank was involved, not the First National Bank.

E.A. Gillham, house mover extraordinaire

I received an email today from the descendant of one of Cuba City's prominent citizens of the past, Elias Austin Gillham. Gillham was Cuba City's first marshal after its incorporation as a village in October 1891. The Cuba City Centennial book (written in 1975) describes the work of the early Village Marshals:

"The Village Marshal was not the least of the municipal employees. Up until World War II, he did everything including shooting stray dogs as well as trying to insure domestic tranquility by mediating Maw and Paw spats and cooling off the now obstreperous drunk. He stoked the pot belly stove in the town hall and the furnace before the days of automatic oil burners and he mowed the grass in the park and tidied up the bandstand, in his spare time he might cut patches of weeds here and there on street corners and fill in the potholes in the roadway. If he worked more than a standard 8 hour day, that was all right too. He was not paid by the hour. When the Miracle of Detroit began to fill the streets with automobiles he was criticized for letting them dang speeders whiz around when the village fathers would not even buy him a horse for chasing them. All this and more he did without much pay, no Social Security promise and no tenure. After 100 years, it seems hard to imagine that this little village would have functioned and flourished without his services and it is fitting and proper he be paid this tribute in the centennial year."

The following was written about E.A. Gillham in the Centennial book:

"E.A. Gilham. An early resident. He was a house mover in a day when buildings were moved with a capstan, ropes and pulleys and horse power. He moved the old St. Rose Church from St. Rose Cemetery to its site on Clay Street using that method." [Unfortunately, the church is no longer standing.]

Below is a picture of Gillham from the Centennial book:

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Cash Store -- 1915

An advertisement from the Cuba City News Herald, November 5, 1915:

A. Banfield opened a grocery store called the Cash Store on Nov. 6, 1915. Its location is given as the Rhomberg Building, one door south of the William Marshall Meat Market. The Rhomberg Building is today the Dead End bar.

This was not the first Cash Store in Cuba City. In 1894, R. B. Luckey opened a business called R. B. Luckey's Cash Store in what is today Gile Real Estate and Insurance. I imagine that is why A. Banfield refers to his business as the NEW Cash Store.

Another advertisement from the Cuba City News Herald, November 12, 1915:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First National Bank, circa 1918

The First National Bank in Cuba City. This image is from a postcard postmarked 1918. The ground floor storefronts appear to be occupied by W. T. Lowe groceries on one side and maybe notions on the other? S.E. Smalley has his law office on the second floor and there is a sign for a dentist upstairs on the Main Street side.

A Halloween warning

From the Cuba City News Herald, October 23, 1914:

Notice to Hallowe'eners

Rowdyism and wanton destruction of property in the corporate limits of Cuba City on Hallowe'en must not exist. Offenders will be dealt with severely. Extra marshals will be sworn in for that evening. Look out, boys.

--Per order Village Board

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back when Cuba City was Western

Before Cuba City existed, this area was known by the landmark Western Hotel. The newspaper column below can be difficult to follow, but it contains some great information about the Western.

An article by "Old Timer," from the Cuba City News Herald, December 31, 1915:

An Old Settler Shows Up

A letter has been received from William H. Miller, but it would have sounded more natural if he had left the William H. off and signed it “Billy Miller.” But that seems to be a fault or custom of all of us when we get old.

53 years ago the Miller family owned and run the old Western hotel, situated on the spot where the Pascoe and Hendricks dwellings now stand. A large house and barn built by the Davies family in 1855, which for 20 years or more was one of the landmarks known by everybody from Milwaukee to Dubuque and Galena and this piece of territory then included all of America so far as we knew or cared about. The building took two years to be completed. Oak timbers a foot square for frame and all as we might say, home made, that is logs from the timbers squared on the ground by the woodman’s ax which was the most important carpenter tool of the time and any man that could handle it skillfully needed never be out of a job. No sawed timbers then.

Many times have we seen the big house, barn and even the yard filled to overflowing with the lead teamsters and the farmers from Highland, Montfort, (Pedlers’ Creek), and Mineral Point country. Everything heading for Galena and back loaded with merchandise and lumber. It was the social center, too, for 25 miles around. Dances and all kinds of home plays and us boys though we knew no more about dancing than a cow, used to steal off at night under some excuse or other and with bulging eyes and open mouth take it in and the hotel on account of its size and the first attempt ever known on the prairies to build so big an ornament. And if we knew them at all, no matter how far apart it was, in a sense, a close social or neighborly acquaintance each being called plain Tom, Dick or Harry, as the case might be.

The Davis family were the builders and landlords for a time. But hold on, we have lost the text. The Miller family consisted of the parents and five children, John, Sarah, Rebecca, Lucey and Billy. Jno. married one of the Pattersons from Georgetown. Sarah to Sanford of Georgetown way, Rebecca married DeLong of Belmont, Cottage Inn Billy enlisted in the army in 1862. The old people died soon after and the family scattered to the four winds as we say and now Billy wants to know what became of the rest of us. Says he is 73 years old, lives at Wall, S.D., farming and small store. Mentions the Reeds, Nicolas, Doyle, Bray, Banfield, Craiglow, Shoemaker, Donohoo, Faherty, O’Neill, Jenkyn, Day, Pascoe. Says, “wish I could be on the old stamping ground once more.” That there was always a warm place in his heart for his old time neighbors. To quote his own words their very names have been sacred to me.

But all I can find of his old companions is Sarah and Julia Banfield, Bridget Schroer, Art Doyle, Mrs. P.M. Donohoo, M. Banfield, Geo. Bray, John Jenkyn, Mr. & Mrs. John Stephens, Wm. Pascoe, Mrs. Goldsworthy, Harriet Stephens, A. Nicholas and they are all old and feeble. The writing of this taxes to the limit the strength of one of them, but excepting the Shoemakers the families are all represented here yet.    –Old Timer

View of Cuba City's Main Street, early 1900s

The dome of the First National Bank can be seen at the top of the street.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Moving pictures in Cuba

The building formerly known as the Auditorium, still located today on Main Street across from City Hall, used to be the entertainment center in Cuba City. It was the place to go for dances, plays, and movies in the 1910s. Below is a news article about improvements made by the building's new owners in 1917.

From the Cuba City News Herald, January 26, 1917:

New Picture Machine
Loeffelholz Bros. buy swell new simplex outfit

If you have been following the progress made by Loeffelholz Bros. at the Auditorium and noted the various improvements they are making from time to time, you will be interested to learn that their latest move is the purchase of a swell new Simplex De Luxe Projector. This is the real thing in motion picture outfits and has the unanimous approval of the United States Government war department and took the grand prize at the Panama-Pacific Exposition and the highest award at the San Diego Exposition.

The machine is driven by an electronic motor, thus doing away with the old style laborious operation by hand.

The boys are to be complimented on their enterprise and Auditorium patrons will not be slow in showing their appreciation of the efforts of the management on their behalf

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halloween in Cuba City, 1915

From the Cuba City News Herald, October 29, 1915:



From the Cuba City News Herald, October 22, 1915:

High School Notes – Miss Daisy Nicholas, Reporter

A hallowe’en super and entertainment will be given by the four classes in the High School and several of the grades on Friday evening, Oct. 29, at the High School. Everybody cordially invited. A few of the attractions will be the Goblins’ Cave, A Leap in the Dark, Fortune Telling, Fish Ponds, side shows and—don’t get excited and forget about the Eats! A short but interesting entertainment will be given in the High Room before supper. Come and enjoy this evening if you never have before. Special entertainment for young and for old.

From the Cuba City News Herald, November 5, 1915:


High School Notes – Miss Daisy Nicholas, Reporter

The Hallowe’en Social at the High School proved a great success. Minor entertainments were offered in apple grabbing and various ways of reading the future, the chief attraction of this kind being the ghost and witch who read fortunes from pumpkin seeds. The secret of the Goblin Cave with its ghost who told some very weird stories proved satisfactory to al who attended. Many souvenirs were obtained from the fish pond. A program consisting of extempore numbers from John Burns, Willie Cook, Dorothy Bass, Daisy Nicholas, the Goblins and the new C.H.S. Orchestra were fully appreciated by all present. After the amusements the last chief attraction of the evening was enjoyed in the form of a wholesome lunch. We as members of the C.H.S. and the teachers wish to extend our thanks to all who so kindly helped us in so many ways and we sincerely hope that more will take an interest and find pleasure in our future school events.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Florine's, circa 1953

Florine's Drug Store on Main Street in Cuba City. The building is currently occupied by Subway.

First National Bank, circa 1908

At this time, the bank also housed the Morgan Evans Co. on the ground floor and the office of lawyer Sherman E. Smalley above. This beautiful building no longer exists but was located on the corner of Main and Clay Streets.

First Methodist Episcopal Church, Cuba City


An early picture of what is today the United Methodist Church. According to the Cuba City Centennial history, this church was built in 1884, on the northwest corner of Main and Yuba Streets. It was moved south across Yuba Street to its present location in 1929 and has undergone a few renovations and additions since then.

Early Street Scene in Cuba, Circa 1908



Main Street in Cuba City. This photo captures Kittoe's Drugstore and Farmers Bank (now the Tri-County Press), Donohoo Splinter & Co. (now Antiques & Salvage) and the Cuba City train depot.