Sunday, October 21, 2018

Mining fever hits Cuba City

The tri-state area was long known for its prosperous lead mines, but by the early 1900s, a new mining boom had gripped the region. Improved technologies allowing miners to reach deeper ore, increased amounts of capital, and a skyrocketing market for another locally abundant mineral, zinc, spurred this new mining frenzy. 

This early image of Cuba City was printed in the Complete Year Book of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa Lead and Zinc Mines, published by Skemp and Conley in 1906. The photograph of Main Street, facing north, captures much of the town's business district, likely in the late 1800s or early 1900s. For a point of reference, H. H. Fiedler's hardware store on the right is Hindu's Corner Bar today.

The Year Book had this to say about Cuba City at this exciting time:
The thriving little town of Cuba City claims the distinction of containing within its immediate environments as many of the larger mining plants as any point in the district. It is a bright business spot in the best end of the zinc range and contains a population of eleven hundred people. The mining boom has struck the town in earnest and the coming summer will mark the construction of several hundred houses and a corresponding increase in population. One of the good features of Cuba City is the fact that it is not compelled to rely upon the mines alone for its thrift, but is in the richest section of the stock-raising district of southwestern Wisconsin. Cuba City is bound to become a prominent point in the new El Dorado.

Cuba City as seen in the accompanying picture is only an illustration of one of its busy days and the merchants and wide-awake citizens who make up its community know no such word as fail.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Scene on Webster Street

This image of the intersection of Main and Webster Streets was probably taken around 1913.

The building on the right is the Northwestern Hotel, located where Mound City Bank stands today.

The building on the left was likely a tavern when this photo was taken, and it is now occupied by Hindu's Corner Bar. There is a pool room and blacksmith shop behind the tavern, and enlarging the image reveals an advertisement for Old Virginia Cheroots (cigars) on the side of the pool room.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Harry and Anna Riker

On a blustery day like this, it is tempting to bundle up like Harry and Anna Riker.

Harry Riker, with his mother Anna, as pictured in the Cuba City Centennial history.

Anna Riker was, according to the Telegraph Herald, Cuba City's oldest resident when she died in 1939 at the age of 93. She sounded like quite a character and supposedly once told a magazine salesman when she was 85 years old that "she had no intention of reading her head off to put him through college."

Anna and her husband, Henry, lived in Dubuque for many years, but the couple had divorced by 1910, and she moved to Cuba City with her son, Harry. Henry Riker was an ice dealer and successful businessman and left behind a sizable estate when he passed in 1911. The Telegraph Herald found it quite "peculiar" that Henry left his real estate and much of his riches to the Protestant churches of Dubuque, while many of his family members received little by comparison.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Influenza outbreak reaches Cuba City

 Image from the Illustrated Current News (New Haven, Conn.), October 18, 1918. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine #101580385.

In 1918, an influenza pandemic spread across the globe, killing at least 50 million people.

By October of that year, the outbreak had reached Cuba City. Residents had just celebrated the lifting of the quarantine for infantile paralysis (polio) a few weeks earlier when they faced this new health scare.

The following notice was published in the Cuba City News Herald on October 11, 1918:


To whom it may concern: All public gatherings, dances, moving pictures, churches and schools are closed and persons are not to gather in the Post office lobby until further notice.

Spitting on the side walk is prohibited and if you do not want to be fined act accordingly.

The Board of Health advises the use of the face mask by all persons who are caring for the sick. An efficient mask is made by tying over the nose and mouth a double fold of cheese cloth, or clean linen. The germs of the disease find entrance into the body by the respiratory passages. A gargle used frequently of salt and water is a good preventative measure. The living rooms should be frequently flushed with fresh air. All discharges by coughing or sneezing should be deposited in cloths which should be immediately burned. Avoid chilling the body, overeating or drinking of alcoholic liquors.

All cases to be reported to the Board of Health within 24 hours.
Cuba City, Wis., Oct. 10, 1918.

By October 18, the saloons in town were closed. On November 1, a reminder of the continued quarantine was published in the Cuba City News Herald:


“In view of the fact that the epidemic of influenza (la grippe) throughout the state is still very serious, the state board of health officially directs that the local health authorities continue to exercise direct control over their respective localities and until further notice keep closed all schools, churches, Sunday Schools, theaters, moving picture houses or any other places of amusement, and continue to prohibit all public meetings. C. A. Harper, State Health Officer, Madison, Wis., Oct. 25, 1918”

Published by order of the Board of Health of the Village of Cuba City.
Dr. MacDonald

Doctors were kept busy during the epidemic. Cuba City's centennial history describes how local physician Dr. D. L. Brady "labored heroically to care for his patients in farm and city homes in that still horse and buggy day. While his livery driver drove, Dr. Brady got what sleep he could in the buggy."

I don't have figures on the number of Cuba City residents affected, but by October 4, two influenza deaths had been reported in Benton, and the Cuba City News Herald reported on October 11 that "it would be impossible to give a complete roll call of the sick this week as so many are down with the influenza."

The quarantine was finally lifted on the morning of Friday, November 8. Schools, churches, and other institutions that had been closed for nearly a month were allowed to reopen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Enjoying a day at the park

Three youngsters pose inside the bandstand at Cuba City's park around 1911. The water tower stood at the northwest corner of what is today known as Veterans' Memorial Park.